Thursday 30 April 2009


If you have ever listened to the show you will know how much of a fan of cartoons I am.
No idea where the love of them came from. Probably a long childhood spent watching Tom and Jerry, Roadrunner and Quick draw McGraw. (Sorry no Disney, too twee.) That and comics. Although teachers frowned on The Beano & Dandy in favour of Look and Learn and the Eagle. Who can forget The Trigon Empire? Although I never understood the sci fi premise of spaceships, ray guns and blokes riding around on horses like Romans amidst all this. Then Dan Dare's nemesis The Mekon who ruled his people "The Treens" with a rod iron whilst whizzing around on a floating bidet with no backrest.

I even ripped off another kid’s idea and sent it as my own work in an attempt to "Make Buster laugh" A native American man and woman facing each other across a ravine. The caption being "How?" If you must know, Buster didn't laugh and I never received my ten shillings.

What has this got to do with my current life? Clive Goddard is a well respected and very successful cartoonist and finds working at night a help to meet deadlines. He likes the radio for company. Notably Radio 2 and The Best time of the day show. We have emailed each other off and on over the years and he invited me to meet him for the first time at the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival. As I was up that way it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It is about ten years since I visited Shrewsbury which is a beautiful place, a lot of work looks like it has been done since my last visit and in the Market Square was a marquee housing several well known cartoonists busily making art with a Darwin/Science theme as Shrewsbury was Darwin's birthplace. I had a brief chat with another favourite of mine Martin Honeysett who actually resembles some of his characters. Bestie was there as well but hadn't turned up by the time I went into the wonderfully renovated Market Hall (built in 1596 but it has electricity and everything). Clive had kindly blagged me a ticket to listen to a talk by one of my cartooning idols Steve Bell from the Guardian. Whatever your politics he does the most wonderfully intricate and surreal cartoons as well as capturing the essence of politicians: George W Bush as a monkey, John Major with his underpants outside his trousers as a rotten superhero & Tony Blair with a manic eye, a feature he shared with Margaret Thatcher. Gordon Brown's mighty lower jaw, John Prescott as a dog called "Market". Not to mention penguins and a short-sighted French whale with an overactive libido and a penchant for mounting submarines! It was fascinating listening to him talk about how he builds a character and how sometimes he can't "get" someone and how frustrating it is until something clicks. In the case of Barack Obama it took a fellow cartoonist to point out his luxuriant eyebrows. Libby Purves was patron and introduced Steve Bell. Odd - I had only seen her a few weeks ago getting into the car in front on a cross channel ferry. Small world.

Last year I blogged about a fantastic gig I had been to. The Zombies had reformed to perform their "Odessey” (sic) and Oracle album to mark its 40th anniversary. It was such a success they decided to do it again, er 41 years on at a slightly larger venue promising this was the last ever ever ever. They were wonderful and the record holds up so well even after all this time with some wonderful harmonies. Last time I went with Libido Boy but this time I took TV Trish. She was well impressed , despite the juggling act we had to do with the drinks - no booze outside so I had to hang on whilst she rushed out for a gasper, left holding the rapidly warming beers in the plastic cups. The DVD of the 40th anniversary gig is out now, Rod Argent disarmingly mentioned from the stage at one point. Well they never did get the recognition and the cash rewards they deserved. The closest thing they got to Beatles-like success was er, using Abbey Road studio and their new fangled 8 track just after the Fab four had finished Sgt Pepper. I know which album I prefer.

Thursday 23 April 2009


Back over to France last weekend to see how my friend the Widow Edith was faring with her second knee replacement. The answer is: "Getting there slowly with some nerve pain up her thigh" Her car was missing so in my halting French I asked if she was still too unwell to drive and so was it at her sons house? "Its dead" came the stark reply. No idea what sort of vehicle it was but she has had it all the time I have known her which is getting on for 20 years. I think it was some sort of French vehicle that never made it over here. We will call it a "Citroen Parnassus".
Hmmm there could be an alternative career in this inventing names for cars. How hard can it be? We all know of the times that motor manufacturers have cocked it up and somehow ended up marketing an offensive car. Then again that could also be a good earner too. Why not market the name badges with a "difference"? They would be a must have for lairy blokes who have been pimping their rides. Instead of having to scream around the estate after dark in a feeble Vauxhall Nova (doesn't that mean "won't go" in Spanish?) with the thudding drum and bass soundtrack. Spinners, stripes a whippy aerial and a little pair of football boots hanging from the rear view mirror. All well and good but to top it off and be cock of the walk you need the sign on the back which reads "Vauxhall B*%""*$ks". Perfection!
Back to Edith. Her son is currently sourcing a new car for her. Can't wait to find out what it is. I like to think that this 75 year old woman will probably be driving round in a disgustingly offensive car any time now.
Took the tunnel over and the ferry back as I did last time. That way I get to my destination three or four hours earlier than I would just by taking the ferry. On the way out by tunnel for a second time no one looked at my passport.
On the way back through Portsmouth I was behind a large pack of motorcyclists. They approached the passport control handed over their documents didn't remove their helmets and were waved through. I thought it would be like a bank or an office. They have signs on the doors saying "Please removed helmets before entering". I asked on the show why this was and your reply was that their passport photos probably had pictures of them in their helmets! Not sure that is entirely accurate but it is a view!
Bit of rain but was able to do a bit of sightseeing and stopped off in a small town and there was the ultimate slacker vending machine. This offered 24/7 hole in the wall pizza. However being France this was just the name of the machine as it wasn't working. Rather like the supermarket chain "Huit a Huit" 8 til 8. Which closes for two hours at lunchtime and is never open on Sundays. You've got to like their attitude sometimes. A rough translation being "Le bloody mindedness".

Sunday morning woke early and felt rather erm "odd". A visit to the bathroom soon told me all was not well in the internal economy. Got to the afternoon ferry and went to bed and for the next 6 hours felt very grim achy and unable to sleep. This was a bit of a blow as we docked at 9.30pm and so didn't arrive back at the rented flat in London until close to midnight. This gave me under 2 hours in bed there. Normally this is not a problem as I am sufficiently rested to do the show then head back to bed.
The programme staggered through with me rushing to the khazi every few minutes. (a 4 minute record is sufficient, dysentery fans).
Then I had to take my companion back home to the Midlands, go see my Dad, leave the car and hop on the train to London as I was due to meet up with my concert-going school friend, the now legendary Libido Boy. We were off to see P.J Harvey. I felt so grim that I handed the tickets over and said "tell me about it tomorrow" and went to bed.
Slept like I had been clumped over the head with a baseball bat and woke up feeling more or less 100% the following morning. This has not stopped Richard Allinson referring to me as "Thunder pants" every day this week as he does a fine job sitting in for Sarah Kennedy.
Went back after the show to find Libido boy awake and keen to tell me about the night he had. "She's really sexy". So you enjoyed the gig then? What songs did she play? "She had on this white dress". Did she concentrate on new material or were there a lot of our favourites in there? "She had this silver thing in her hair and looked gorgeous". You can see the way things were going. I went back to bed and when I awoke the boy had gone and left me with a picture.

As producer Andy Warrell noted looking at the picture and knowing that Libido Boy is involved in the leather and shoe trade :

"He draws shoes rather well".

All is now normal in the world of Alex Lester and his internal economy. His teeth are OK too. Annual check up due last Wednesday. I am fortunate in that I have an NHS dentist!!!!!!!
When I arrived I nearly knocked the choppers out of a tiny little old lady who was hovering inside the waiting room about to leave as I flung the door open. The handle was nearly at gum level. "Ooops nearly knocked your teeth out. Still, you are in the right place for repairs" I yocked. She eyed me coldly and said: "Are you the taxi man"?
The credit crunch has obviously worked its way up to Dentists. For the first time in three years of visiting this particular bloke he remarked on my old amalgam fillings. "you want those replacing for cosmetic reasons?" Naah they are fine I think. "We've a special offer on".

Wednesday 15 April 2009


You can feel it in the air. Also I noticed over the Bank Holiday doing the extra hour up until 7am, which is frankly a far more civilised time, that it is now getting light in the mornings. This puts a noticeable spring in the step and I stride with renewed purpose across the park after the show. Gardens are looking nice too. On my way through the other day one of the park keepers suddenly leapt into a flower bed and snatched something from the middle of the bed of red ones (who do you think I am - Alan Titchmarsh? I didn't learn plants at school. I can recognise roses and tulips and that’s about it). He wrenched something from the bed and handed them to a passer by. Three yellow ones. Must have been planted there by mistake. I suppose it feels a bit like a vain person plucking out any grey hairs they spot using the mirrored walls of the lift whilst ascending to the 6th floor of the BBC first thing in the morning. Hmmm wonder who that could be?

I like this time of year. It makes me feel more positive about the coming months. Having said that I nearly found myself a victim of crime last week. I was off to see ABC at the Royal Albert Hall and was going to meet my friend "Finance Susan" who works in the money industry - but is not a fat cat bonussed-up banker, before we start hissing at her - for something to eat before the gig. I needed some more cash so put my card into an ATM which promptly swallowed it. When I examined the machine carefully I realised someone had stuck a plastic "fairing" over the card slot. It didn't take much to prise it off and there was my card. I handed the bit of redundant plastic to the person behind me and warned them about it and headed off. It was only later that I realised that they were probably the felon trying to steal unsuspecting people’s cash cards.

Be careful out there!

ABC were reprising their "Lexicon of Love" album. I have always liked this record ever since the first time I played it on the Hi fi system pictured in a previous blog when it was released and suddenly feeling the hair on the back of my neck stand up as it was so wonderful. Martin Fry was in great voice and it was a truly wonderful concert. There was just one vitally important thing missing…..the gold lame suit. For an encore the band ripped through "The Look of Love" again and Fry bounded onto the stage wearing the aforementioned suit. He is now a suit just as Madonna is a conical bra and George Michael is a public convenience. Which is a shame as so much of what makes the headlines tends to detract from the artists’ achievements. I am still not sure I would accept a lift from George though given his record for being found asleep at the wheel. Finance Susan said midway through the encore. "Do you think it is an original, that suit. I think it is….it’s a little tight".

Liz Kershaw turned up as well and I hadn't realised she was an ABC fan. She was, but admitted to being more of a "Spands" girl and was looking forward to seeing the reformed Spandau Ballet later this year. We had lunch the other day and were sitting outside a cafĂ© in the sunshine when a man came over and asked if anyone minded having their picture taken. He had obviously recognised her, I assumed. This was a woman who has been "gunged" on Noel’s House Party so she is a visible presence! Turns out he was from Google Earth so is probably a bit more careful after the chastening experience his colleague had the other week being politely berated in a very British fashion in a small village when he tried to photograph it. The story as covered by the Jeremy Vine show. So if you go to the website and type in "Clipstone Street London" you should find us mid chow.

As we are still trying to be positive despite all the terrible things happening here and around the world I thought what we needed was a picture that showed some creatures just don't have a care in the world. The new Radio 2 website is looking good and we are particularly proud of the show page. There will be a new picture there soon but we wanted there to be images that reflected the show. Hence a set of traffic lights. A megaphone, a pair of boxer shorts and a kitten in a boot! That may not make a lot of sense but we feel that by listening to the show maybe it will……eventually.

Now for a feel good picture of Dad’s cat sitting on the bonnet of my car. Aaaaah!

Tuesday 7 April 2009


Time and inertia are a constant battle with me. So here we are a week after the holiday eventually blogging once more. Apologies for the delay. A thin excuse that was used on the show concerned the fact that I had forgotten the lead from my camera phone to the computer. Andy the producer came up with a "politician’s excuse" for the lack of application on my part by ordering me to tell you that :

"In order to uphold the quality of the material we are minded that the new blog should be postponed until next week. This will ensure that our usual high standards are maintained" .

A career in Government awaits that young man!

Excuses over. Beginning of the holiday started with a couple of gigs. The by now legendary "Libido Boy" came to stay and we trooped off to the University of London to see Icelandic singer Emiliana Torinni. She was late arriving on stage due to being "stuck in the wrong dress". Which as excuses for lateness are concerned takes some beating. She was excellent and a high spot was her rendition of "Jungle Drum" which I had featured on "Lester's library" a couple of times and eventually made the Radio 2 playlist. Just before the end however, a rather large lummox of a student lumbered in front of us much to Libido Boy’s annoyance. ULU is a standing-only venue and as I have mentioned in the past, being short, this creates problems. Libido Boy was fuming and was about to tap this boy-mountain on the shoulder in order to tell him to get out of the way. I intervened and pointed out quite reasonably and with self-preservation at the heart of the matter that it was probably wise to let the matter drop as it was the last number and also the guy obviously had suffered enough as he was cruelly deformed, so we should make allowances. For some reason one ear was situated far higher on his head than the other so he was affecting a bizarre retro 80's slight ‘Phil Oakey / Human League - long one side, short the other’ hairstyle to compensate and disguise the higher ear. Not wishing to be killed taking a photo of this bloke, I have reproduced here my interpretation of his back view from where I was standing.

After the gig it was off to the pub where we linked up with TV Trish, my television announcer friend, where we had beer and crisps. Libido Boy’s eyes started to twinkle but before he could pounce it was last orders and we had to go.

Monday and it was off to see Sugarland. Suffering as I do from a "Napoleon" complex - I think it is height related - I am now going to make the wild and extravagant claim that after bringing back Sugarland and Taylor Swift albums from my American Adventures to play on the show (the blogs are still there by the way) it is I and I alone (see what I mean) who is responsible for their success : Taylor having had a top 5 album and single and Sugarland deciding to dip a toe in the UK waters by coming over to do a couple of gigs.

Went with my friend Clair from the Sunday Express who is a terrific writer and does a very funny and acerbic blog called "The Urban Woo". She is like many a "country sceptic" however she really enjoyed the gig and we ran into Radio 2 producer Al Booth there as well who knows far more about the genre than I do. They were terrifically energetic, a great band and - unusual for American artists that I have seen lately - no mention of politics at all. Even more surprising for a country act - no mention of God either. They did a wonderful cover of Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town".

Then it was off to France for a few days to see some friends of mind including "The widow Edith" who is great fun despite not speaking a word of English and me still - despite my many visits -having comedy French that would make Officer Crabtree out of ‘Allo ‘Allo sound like a native. She was not her usual ebullient self having just had her second knee replacement operation. The first one was a breeze so she was a bit downcast and in some pain as the second was not as straightforward. I thought that perhaps if I explained that "you should have had the second one first. That way the one you have just had would have been a lot easier" that may bring a little levity. Looking at her face and examining what little grammar I had at my disposal I thought it easier to give her a tin of chocolates instead.

The weather was terrific, bearing in mind it usually rains constantly, and it was soon time to return. My sister had put in a request for some beer. People in the office also wanted a few things so the car was full of goodies for others when I returned, including a bottle of wine for Bob, the new Controller of Radio 2. I shall place it on his desk like an apple for teacher.

Went up to see my Father which is always fun as he leads a particularly active and full life so much so that we have to book an appointment as he is usually doing something more interesting. This is a man with always a dozen projects on the go. One small side project is that he is working his way through a 157 CD boxed set of works by Brahms I think. A form of music that to his chagrin I don't "get". Then again he is not big on Cartoons or the TV, full stop. I knocked on the door and got no reply. Then I remembered he was up in the loft clearing it out. Rang the bell loudly and a dust-covered figure opened it.

I remember thinking that’s not my lovely Dad, that is Hubert J Farnsworth from Futurama!