Thursday 25 June 2009


Rather like my Xmas thank you letters that get sent off in mid February much to my long suffering Aunt's disappointment, a few days past but here is my "weekly" blog once again.

Lot been going on. It was a friend’s birthday last week and so, what to get her? I like to tailor the gift to the person. Something that is not necessarily useful although that helps. However something that shows some thought rather than the last minute supermarket chocolates, filling station flowers or an odd shaped ornament from one of the shops called "gift" shops because they are there for people who have no idea what to get anyone.

This friend is a rather good cook and when I visit always prepares fab meals for a greedy boy like me. However she has had one massive failure which being a nasty little chap I never let her forget. She eats healthily and is always making Butternut and ginger filling wholesome soups etc. Once she tried me on Celeriac. I am sorry, but that stuff is just vile. No amount of coaxing could get more than one bite past my lips.

With that in mind, I went to a very well known West End store in bustling Regent Street here in London. These shops have "greeters" who I assume like waiters in LA are all out of work actors waiting for their big break. It must be a hell of a chore having to smile like that each day. I was in a tearing hurry: "Excuse me where do I find "Mr Potato Head"? "Second floor in the pre school section". Marched up the escalator to find the music playing rather inappropriate for the under 5's. Blue Oyster Cult - Don't fear the Reaper. Snatched up a box of the aforementioned plastic parts and legged it home. Then some time was spent with my tongue protruding from the corner of my mouth as I stuck and glued new labels on the packaging. Finished! Now down the vegetable section of the supermarket. So along with a card that proclaimed "Chocolate Slut" she is now the (proud)? owner of the latest toy to sweep the nation: "Mr Celeriac Head".

People ask me from time to time: When are you going to get "promoted" to TV? As I point out they are different disciplines perhaps a little like the difference between a Vet and a Doctor. Superficially they seem the same but in reality they are radically different. There are a few who have mastered both but not that many. The traffic goes both ways on that one. So much to my surprise I was invited to take part in "Eggheads". Hmmm not really seen the show so needed to have a quick catch up on YouTube to see how it works. Ah, specialist subjects and general knowledge. This could be tricky if I get the sport round. Worse if I get the Music round. Everyone always expects DJ's to be brilliant at music questions however it is such a huge field that the questions can often go against you. "Seattle Post Grunge" anyone? Or Gregorian Chants and Medieval Church Music? I was on the Radio 2 team captained by Paul Gambaccini. Suzi Quatro Richard Allinson, Clair Teal and bringing up the rear….me. Think it is going out in December some time. I am sworn to secrecy as to the result although it was a lot of fun and took a couple of hours to record with all the shuffling of chairs and us fooling about. They work pretty hard at it, recording 5 shows per day over two 6 day weeks to get an entire series in the can. I think it went pretty well however along with my two memorable appearances on "Call my Bluff" (what do you mean you don't remember?) co presenting the Boat Show on BBC 2 one year and also being on "Water world" , the canal boat show not the post apocalyptic movie with Kevin Costner. This is still being repeated on the Discovery channel even now about 8 years after I did it. Now to sit back and wait for the Hollywood offers to roll in.

They are taking a bit of time.

Tuesday 16 June 2009


The weather may be variable but that doesn’t' stop me from realising that summer is here. In one of my American Adventure blogs I mentioned that an obvious difference between our two ‘cultures’, is their insistence on looking for the good in things. - (Unless you are a gun toting white supremacist of course. In this case the glass is not half full or empty it is just plain empty and it is people with a different pigmentation who are obviously to blame for emptying the glass in the first place.)

We, on the other hand, jump backward through flaming hoops to wring the negativity out of events. With this in mind as we approach June 21st which is the longest day, we are ready for the onset of the gloomy thought process which begins with: "Ohh nooo the nights are drawing in, now it will soon be winter". However in the U.S their view is: "June 21st! Cool it’s now officially summer time". So as we have been saying on the show all this year, despite gloomy economic forecast and a terrible slump, MP's fiddling their expenses and don't even get me started on the BBC….! we are a beacon of light in a dark world and refuse to be downhearted no matter how odd it may appear. We are trying to see the good in everything which admittedly can be a mite tricky at times.

So as it’s now the onset of summer, I realised it was that moment where wardrobe change occurs in the Lester household and last years dodgy cheap sandals are replaced by the new seasons offering. (Trinny and Suzannah, Gok Wan et al take note; they are the same as last years. They are very cheap and I don't care what you think.)

I have taken the new shoes for a couple of trips in the park and they seem to do the job admirably however if I walk too quickly in them I can feel the onset of shin splints. Give me a few miles and they will be broken in and ready and raring until the autumn. The added advantage of this mode of footwear is there is no need to raid the sock drawer (unless you are a Vicar or Scoutmaster). So less washing and wear on the hosiery means the "Cotton Rich" can keep safely grazing in their fields before they are turned into "socks black for the use of" by a selection of sweat shop workers in the Far East.

Another advantage is that it’s less of an effort to climb into them at 01.30am. I have been getting up at this time solidly since 1992 and have been working nights in one form or another since 1986 so I think I have it down to a fine art. The concept ‘less is more’ - if you’re a night worker you may sympathise. Up and out the house with the minimum of fuss and unpleasant bending. So no laces, no buckles and no miles of buttonholes. If I was brave enough I would opt for a one-piece jump suit in say a modish and high visibility orange, along with the cheap slip on shoes. Hmmm now where have I seen that uniform before….?

One radio station I worked at years ago the Managing Director said that everyone had to dress smartly…. and in suits so as to create a good impression should prospective advertisers be shown round the building. It was very unlike another station I had worked where in my contract it stated: ‘Presenters are allowed some eccentricities of dress.’ The MD was adamant that suits it had to be. I can still see the look on his face when I arrived wearing an old brown boiler suit. I am sorry being childish and pedantic all at once, but I pointed out that he never said exactly what type of suit had to be worn. Soon afterwards that regulation was quietly dropped. Which brings me back to the BBC via my first ever report on my progress as a boy broadcaster in 1978 which stated: ‘Alex shows flashes of maturity that I hope he will develop’. 31 years later and err…. the jury is still out on that one.

Home at the weekend to a glorious sunny south coast so with the fleshpots of Hastings and St Leonards-On-Sea at my sandal clad feet there was only one or two options for a young man about town like myself: telly and the spare bedroom.

Fridays are always a bit of a wipe out due to the cumulative effect of 5 nights on the show. So the start of the weekend usually comprises a trip to the pub with the newspaper, takeaway and the TV. Trying to catch up with all the stuff I had recorded and not had time to watch during the week. I watched the third and final instalment of a weather documentary on BBC 4 this time "SNOW". Yes, back in 1991 I think it was, the railways came to a halt because of the wrong type of snow. Widely jeered at by the press and pubic alike, it was demonstrated that there are in fact many different types of snow and this particular type had short circuited the electric motors of the railway locomotives. So we now sit corrected. However, leaves on the line though we can still jeer at.

Not sure if you do this, but many is the time I wake up drooling on the settee with the TV suddenly tuned to "Sexcetera" or "Babe station". Not through choice, he added hastily. Although I am not entirely sure of the attraction of a selection of marginally attractive bottle blonde women exhorting blokes to part with their hard earned cash to get a mention on these programmes when the sound is appalling and echoey and a load of texts scroll along the bottom of the screen: "Gaz says show us yer bum". How did I get onto this. Ah yes I know. In the morning I return to the beginning of the programme I nodded off during and spool through it until I discover the bit where I don't recognise the plot any longer. It would appear I fall asleep in about 20 seconds. A recent documentary on the Blues had me nod-off within moments of a piece of archive footage of Son House.

Saturday and the sun was out so, as I have people coming to stay this weekend, I needed to tidy the house so I rushed around with a vacuum cleaner. White tiles in the bathroom show up just how much I moult! Then I realised I had to file all the CD's I had bought, been sent, and had played and not returned to the shelves. The little pile pictured above went back to March that is how lax I have been. How long did it take to file that little lot to its alphabetised place? Three long hours. I am realising also that I am running out of shelf space. By the end of the year it may be time to call Mr Tibbs the carpenter and get him in to make me a CD ‘island’ in the middle of the room. That should keep me going for another couple of years.

Thursday 4 June 2009


Time to link up with Libido Boy again as I hadn’t seen him for a few days and he is always entertaining. He dropped by in between the usual round of wooing. He was wondering about hats in the sunshine thinking it would be a good idea to wear one, but he couldn't make up his mind which one would suit. Baseball caps he said made him look an idiot. Despite spending a year in the U.S where his children now live, he was never drawn to the baseball look.

Taking a straw poll of young things in the office (Lisa Smith). maybe one of those sunhat type canvas things that fishermen wear or maybe a flat cap in black or grey but not check she opined. He said he was thinking of heading in the direction of a straw boater. Noooooo! You will end up wearing a stripy blazer and white shoes looking like a chinless ninny from the 1930's: "Anyone for tennis oooh I say"! He admitted that he already possessed the shoes and the blazer! No Simon it is just plain wrong. How about a fedora or a big straw sunhat? Nope you will end up looking like an elderly cricket fan the type that stand at the bar jingling their car keys and talks about "the little woman" and asks "What's your poison?". He had a top hat when he was 15. I borrowed it for a photo that you can see on the MySpace page which was taken at the Reading Festival in about 1975. - when we were both slim enough to model the "Artful Dodger" look. Any suggestions as to what ‘Headgear He Should Adopt’ comments gratefully received.

He had arrived so we could go and catch Toots and the Maytals. (Pressure drop. Monkey Man. 54-46 that’s my number) We are both big reggae fans. Nice diverse audience at a very hot Academy in London's Islington. As a standing venue we were concerned as ever that we would not be able to see. However the stage is very high and we were leaning against the bar, so the view was pretty good. The sound was good. The beer was expensive and the atmosphere was electric. We suddenly noticed mid way through that there were two middle aged men skanking like good un's. It was us. We looked ludicrous but wearing Straw Boaters or top hats we would have look far, far worse.

Later that week I got the chance to link up with American Singer/songwriter Nell Bryden who breezed into town after a short and generally successful short tour around the UK. Although she said that one gig she did coincided with there being a hen night party in the audience. So she was forced to play as a crowd of drunken young women screeched and cackled and threw dildo's at each other and her and the band. Hmmm perhaps that is what they mean by an "intimate venue".

It was good to catch up with her as I have had a present to give her for several months now. Being a worldly wise New Yorker you would have thought she had seen and done it all even at her tender age. No he noticed that her 'Briddish' swearing was not up to par. So as all performers know there comes a time occasionally when there is the need to face down a restless crowd so she needed to be able to give as good as she got. With this in mind a friend of mine Rory McAllister from BBC Berkshire who is well connected within the world of comics, managed to get me a personalised copy of a spectacularly rude book from the lovely people that write, draw and publish VIZ. You may have seen a copy on a top shelf in your local newsagent. The people at the magazine had very kindly drawn some of their most famous characters in the flyleaf especially for her. She was very touched.

If you are of nervous disposition don't go and check it out you will be offended. I can still remember during the 80's when a friend of mine worked for "Mayfair" magazine a rather more obvious top shelf publication. One of his journalistic jobs was to compile the jokes page. My Dad told him a joke that he hadn't heard and he published it in the mag. My Father relayed this info to my Aunt and Grandmother with the words "don't go looking for a copy. It is not your sort of thing" fell alas on deaf ears. Shortly after that Granny sent a stinging rebuke to her son which contained the immortal words: "I was so disgusted that I felt like putting it at the bottom of the dustbin with quicklime on it and apologising to the bin men!”

The weather in most parts of the country has been exceptional in the past week and I have made full use of it walking too and fro across the park after the show, and when I come back into the office during the day, for as I outlined last week for some gossiping and Machiavellian scheming. I have had a chance to observe nature in all her glory. Which means squirrels magpies and acres of sizzling human flesh sprawled on the grass.

Popped home to Hastings on an early train. This is always a bonus as I can ‘scarf’ up all the newspapers that commuters leave behind on the inward journey. This meant that I had a free paper fest heading to the coast until I got to about Battle. I then promptly fell asleep. Missed my stop and ended up at the end of the line. This meant a mile walk along the seafront. It was glorious and it made me realise why I love the place so much. I toyed with the idea of having a swim. Dismissed that and then toyed with the idea of having a paddle. Nah. Went home and watched an episode of 'My Name is Earl' instead.