Sunday 15 March 2009


Last blog before a couple of weeks off. I have said in earlier posts that this year there will be no American Adventure on the grounds of cost and diplomacy. It is too expensive and who wants to listen to someone droning on about their exotic trips when they are not going to be going anywhere this year!

Hopefully if there are some "green shoots" (whatever they are supposed to be) , look out USA in 2010. I still hanker after the third and final road trip from Seattle to the Florida Keys.

Friend came down to see me the other day and I think she is trying to sabotage A) my "Man in black" (socks) aura of effortless cool and also B) "Blubberwatch". She turned up with a small gift of a screamingly loud pair and a frozen brick of chilli con carne which just happens to be one of my favourite foods and can be eaten with pretty much anything including when you have run out of rice and veg and you are on the last scrapings. It fits nicely in pitta bread with a slice of cheese.

The music is still coming thick and fast. Part of the fun is introducing people to new artists. After the success of the Polly Scattergood gig my mate "TV Trish" with the bellowing laugh was up for a trip to the Union Chapel in London's Islington for Melody Gardot the other night.

Since our last meeting she says she has found a "Face book" stalker. "Saw you at the Roundhouse with Janice Long and Alex Lester for the Scattergood gig the other night" (Cue music) "Eee Eee Eee Eee!". Janice is easily recognisable from all her Top of the Pops and Live Aid appearances. However Trish and myself far less so - two Episodes of "Call my Bluff", "The Boat Show" and the odd regional TV appearance in my case. "Sale of the Century" in Trish's. Although she did do a lot of TV continuity and I think some of that was in vision. Although she does have the most fantastic and very recognisable voice.

Melody Gardot was unfortunately run over by a car whilst out cycling a few years back and horrifically injured. "So she is flat?" said my mate "Libido Boy" when I told him I was going. NO! She now walks with the aid of a stick and has an enhanced sensitivity to light and loud noises. This resulted in her wearing dark glasses and singing the most wonderfully expressive songs….very quietly. Aided by a string section, horns, upright bass and drums (mainly brushes so not too noisy). You could have heard a pin drop. Her single "Who Will Comfort Me" which is on the Radio 2 playlist was about as loud as she got. She finished with a stunning version of Ray Charles "Hard Times (No one knows better than I)” which made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. TV Trish really enjoyed her as well.

The upshot of the gig was a late night so only two hours sleep before the show.

Been a lot of fun this week with you on form as ever responding to all the stupidity and daftness, although Andy the Producer and I have noticed a trend toward "Thread slippage", where you decide that you are going off-topic and so hijack the show. This is fine and has led to some very funny stuff from you.

Thursday morning and Francine turned up with the proofs for the new publicity shots. Due to the passage of time it is four years since I last had my official Radio 2 picture taken so it was time for another. Like a fool I have all the old ones framed on my bathroom wall so I can lie there in bulbous splendour and look at the havoc time has wrought on my face and body.

Francine arrived at 5.30am which was kind of her although she was rather red faced, coughing and flustered. Transpired she is allergic to cats, a fact she did not discover until two years after she got her pet. It had spent the night sleeping on her head causing a severe sinus reaction. Still, disease can be a force for good:

The previous afternoon I had re-met an old college friend Bryan. Not seen him for 30 years and he looks exactly as he did apart from the odd grey hair. He is in publishing and runs an organisation devoted to health matters in Africa. He was brought up there and visits often for work. It was really good to see him and it was like the years in between hadn't happened. We arranged to meet at a coffee shop and I found him sitting outside. "Outside? You don't still smoke, do you? "No, gave up more than ten years ago" "Did you find it easy" "Yes I got Dengue fever. When I came out of intensive care I didn't feel like smoking any longer!" Welcome back Bryan!

Off home to sit and watch cheap DVD's for a couple of weeks. So this is the last entry for the time being. Tim Smith will be keeping you entertained for the next fortnight. Thank you as always for the continued support. We (that’s the team and me not the "royal we") are, as usual, fawningly and pathetically grateful.

Thursday 5 March 2009


We have been covering the credit crunch and the ensuing recession in our own way on the Best Time Of The Day show over the last few weeks and months, making no apology for our constantly sunny and optimistic demeanour on the programme in an attempt to be positive when all around us we hear nothing but constant whining and negativity - which drags us all down and makes a bad situation worse.

Things are very difficult for many but life goes on. So one of the things we have been talking about is the need to resurrect stuff that had been consigned to the attic or in my case, the garage. Hence the first picture is of a Hi-Fi rack system I bought in 1978. It has been mouldering for a few years unloved and forgotten.

When I worked in the North East of England in the mid 80's recession with massive unemployment, we ended up dragging old clothes out of the wardrobe rather than buy new. The passage of time means that they have long been reduced to dusters and also I am too fat to get in them. Imagine though, mid 1983/4, wobbling down the Stockton high street in ten-year-old platform shoes and split-knee Loons!

To this end I thought it would be good to get the stereo out, dust it down and restore it to pride of place. This made better economic sense than rushing out and buying something brand new. Not sure my ears are still good enough for a top of the range bit of kit that the swanky hi-fi shops sell. (N.B That ringing in your ears and the feeling that your head is swimming and you are going to faint is all down to the fact the salesman has just told you the price of this machinery which will be obsolete by the time you get it home - not the massive volume and crystal clear sound).

Dragged it upstairs to the spare room and plugged it in. Yaaaay! It worked. The turntable -"check". Tuner/amplifier - "check" CD player (later edition, pedantry fans, as CD's were not around in 1978) "Check". Cassette -"fizz crackle pop…dead" Seized. Still, who needs a cassette in 2009, anyroadup.

I can now enjoy my vinyl collection again. There is a still a lot on the shelves that I have not seen on CD yet, lagging far enough behind to not want to download from the internet. I like to see the sleeve and feel the disc in my hand.

From recorded to live : Met up with my friend, Television announcer and voice-over artist Trish Bertram, who I have known since the days of BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting) when we were both announcers on "Galaxy the entertainment channel. Coming next…"Danger Bay".

She - in her own words - is the poor man’s Joanna Lumley in the vocal department and has a spectacularly loud laugh. We went off to the Roundhouse in London's Chalk Farm - an iconic venue if there ever was one and one that I had not visited before- to see Polly Scattergood. I have featured her on the show a couple of times and she is a sweetie. Very young girly with quirky songs with the darkest of themes. She has also done a session for Janice Long who we linked up with whilst we were there. Janice is tipping Polly for huge success.

Trish was recognised by a former colleague who she had not seen for 35 years since they worked in theatre together. I think it may have been the laugh ripping like a sonic boom across the bar area. Turned out she was there as her son was in the support band. It was another standing venue but as it was a shortish show it wasn't too hard on the feet. It was also in a side room so only small. The room was actually sponsored by a footwear company. So it seems only right that there was no seating.

There is music everywhere these days if you look. Saturday night I was in a pub near Birmingham and it was time to enjoy the work of "Tanya" - a "soup in a basket" singer. She turned up lugging a small PA and her CD player and microphone and a small mixer. Set it all up whilst being ignored by the patrons.

She then disappeared behind a curtain and came out with the obligatory sparkly "Jane MacDonald/I Will survive" frock on and after a bit of difficulty cranked up her machinery and warbled quite nicely through a selection of Pop hits from the "70's 80's 90's and Today" whilst being ignored by the patrons.

She got a smattering of applause but most of the pub carried on talking, drinking or due to the shape of the room sat with their back to her. I gave her a few winning and encouraging smiles and she smiled timidly back. It dawned on me that she might think I was a dirty old man and my warm grin was a leer. At that moment it seemed a good time to leave and get some chips.

I think she would have had a bit more luck if she had some stagecraft. I am not talking choreography and thunder flashes here. Although a friend of mine texted me to say he was in a pub in the south watching a "Kiss tribute act which boasted a very overweight "Gene Simmons" a smoke machine and one firework during their act. She had a nice voice that was in tune but seemed a bit embarrassed about being there and her announcements mainly seemed to consist of telling us the name of the artists song she had just covered : "Cyndi Lauper..thank you".

There are probably fewer more dispiriting musical jobs, I would imagine, than singing your heart out to a room of people who aren't all that interested. Well maybe there are two at the bottom of the scale: Cocktail pianist. You are there to provide background wiffle which probably explains why to my ears all cocktail piano tunes sound the same - a variation on "Fly me to the Moon" Worse still - the shopping centre/Underground station busker. Everyone in a hurry. You are blocking the way and if you have a dog on a string with you it gets more admiring glances.