Friday 30 October 2009


Been a bit quiet on the live music front so it was with some delight that a pair of tickets came up for Michael Buble at the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, London, last week.

I pride myself on being open minded and, although not a huge fan, I thought it might be a good wheeze to pop along and have a look. It’s ideal for me as the venue is only a ten minute cab ride back and I can walk there from the rented flat. It started at 8pm and was all done an hour later which meant I was in bed by 9.15, giving me about 4 hours sleep before it was time to head to the studio for the ‘Best time of the day Show’.

Susan the finance, (don't hate her she's not a banker), came with me. She has broad tastes and recently has seen Gilbert O'Sullivan, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan, as well as some classical stuff. I still think Libido Boy and I can claim the most eclectic turnaround, one night seeing blues guitar hero Walter Trout and the next rap/dance artist Roots Manuva. However we did feel a little ancient sitting in the concert hall with our earplugs in, as the rest of the audience hopped up and down on the spot, with the crutch of their very baggy trousers dragging along the floor and their designer underpants on show above the waistband.

We had time for a bite to eat beforehand and found a small Italian restaurant not far from the BBC. Susan being assertive rejected the proffered table and pointed to one which was in a corner where we were less likely to get knocked by passers by. There is something comforting about sitting with your back to a wall. However the only downside of this was that we were next to a huge oil filled electric radiator. I switched it off at the mains but it didn't cool down much whilst we ate.

Michael Buble had his big band with him and was a consummate showman who was very entertaining and he engaged with the audience. I like a bit of banter between the floor and the artist. I’ve been to many gigs where the performer often appears to be doing you a favour by playing for you. Or in the case of Lucinda Williams (See earlier blogs), actually stopped and berated us.

He has a terrific voice which lends itself to standards. This is where the problem lies. I have railed against musical snobbery in the past on this blog and on my programme. "Purists" who only reference the acknowledged greats such as Sinatra, Bennett, Torme et al. tend to be rather dismissive of Michael Buble as a third rate copyist.

This was evidenced by the fact I received a roasting from a listener via email when I played his version of ‘Cry Me A River’on the show later that week as it was on the Radio 2 playlist.

Oddly though, the dissident voice pointed me in the direction of the Mari Wilson version. So I politely pointed out in my reply that this view was ‘cobblers’. Michael has won a Grammy and sold 20 million records so someone must like him. Also if I was going to get all sneery about his version of ‘Cry Me A River’ I would not hold up the Mari Wilson version as being the benchmark. That should go to Julie London. I know, I know it is the short man syndrome in me again.

On the way back something unusual happened. This has never ever happened to me before and probably never will again. I hailed a black cab. There are a lot of gags about London cab drivers never going south of the river, taking you the long way round, being spectacularly right wing and droning about immigration and paedophiles. However the 21st century is in evidence, so it is time to rethink that stereotype.

Since I’ve been back in London I have taken a lot of cabs back from gigs as it is the quickest way to get to bed before the show and often the Underground has stopped, so it is pretty much the only way without waiting ages for a Nightbus. On occasion I’ve hailed a cab and it has been driven by members of ethnic minorities, and on a couple of trips I’ve been driven home by women. So taxis are not the sole preserve of the reactionary white geezer.

We pulled up outside the block and the driver realised he’d forgotten to start the meter. "Aye aye" I thought, "what's this scam?" "Call it a fiver", he said, which frankly was cheaper than it would have been normally. I handed him a tenner. He looked at it for a moment and then said...."Nah forget it. Have it on me!" He drove away leaving me open mouthed. Doesn’t he know there’s a recession on?

Thursday 22 October 2009


After all the excitement of the last weekend, I suppose I should have expected it all to come crashing down…..can’t maintain that level of fun all the time! I suppose we need the dull bits to show us how good the good bits are. Why else would God have invented hangovers or diets? We have to take the rough with the smooth I suppose.

Although it was a fairly featureless week, as usual the show was fun with lots of input from you, including the tale of the man who had his leg stolen on the London Underground as he dozed. It did set us wondering, (In the best possible taste natch). It would appear that the limb was false so there isn’t a gang of crazed transplant terrorists, haunting public transport, ripping organs from dozing travellers.

However, it does sound the sort of thing that could be made into a Hollywood blockbuster. Set in the grim future when the world has run out of oil. Population growth is out of control and there is not enough food to go around. Hang on, I think that was on the news this week, so life could be imitating art. We just need a big action hero movie star to be in politics and we......Aaeeiiiiii run for the hills: we are doomed!

However the week was not entirely without event in that if you have been following the show you will know, that along with a couple of friends, I have been trying to work my way through every whiskey on sale in a certain pub in central London. I’m not really a big fan however, one per visit, and I could get used to it, and maybe even find one I really liked. The original plan was to sample one per week and be all done by Christmas. Erm about nine weeks to go and we have managed three. This place boasts 74!

I think we may be looking at next Christmas for possible completion. We have asked the landlady not to mix the bottles up. My fear is that we will lose our place and have to go back to the beginning.

Weekend was a bit of a wasteland with not a lot happening, but it did mean I was able to do a little CD filing, and catch up on some of the TV I had recorded. Maybe it’s a boy thing or just men of a certain age, but I love documentaries that involve old black and white footage, particularly those wonderful Ministry of Information films. So I am watching a series of those at the moment. That and a new US show called ‘Eastbound and Down’, about a former baseball star down on his luck. His best years behind him but his ego is still horribly intact. I know a few people like that.

Tuesday 13 October 2009


So it was the time they had been waiting for, with much trepidation, anxiety, organisation and doubtless expenditure. I was going to see the deed done have a good time and hopefully catch the bouquet.

Decided to split the journey so train from London and then from Birmingham to Darlington by car. As I’ve noted in a previous blog, there is the danger of falling asleep on the train and leaving stuff behind. This time I was extra vigilant for my little bag contained my washing kit, sundry underclothes, the wedding shirt and the invite. Plus a pair of sunglasses and an emergency smoothie!

Arrived at Birmingham Snow Hill station, collected my belongings hang on no, I didn't collect my belongings. By the time I realised, the train had chuffed off back down in the general direction of London. A quick consultation with a staff member, a speedy phone call and SAVED-ISH! They would keep my bag at Lost Property in London for me to claim during the week.

Plan B; I had odds and ends lying around in the Midlands so with my belongings in a stylish carrier bag, I lit out for the North East. On the show I’d been asking for ideas as to what to give the happy couple. I wanted to go "off list". It had to be romantic: You suggested a wheelbarrow. Ever the fixer, a phone call had been made to YARM DIY the previous week, and “yes” they did wheelbarrows and could deliver. I had to go to the shop to pay however.

Result! A choice of two fine builders barrows in a shed outside. They even let me use their loo as it had been a 160 mile journey with no stops and a traffic jam near Derby.
Then I checked into the hotel where the reception was being held.

This is where the crazy rock 'n' roll part kicked in:

"There'll be a wheelbarrow arriving shortly, send it up to my room please"

Receptionist:- "?"

"It’s nothing kinky" I said, by way of unhelpful explanation.

As it happened the shop had forgotten their van was somewhere else so it had to be sorted the following morning.

A nice evening in the bar with some of the other wedding guests and the nonchalant, and quietly terrified, groom. The parents and the blushing bride turned up as well.
A wheelbarrow was mentioned but I don't think they believed I would go through with it. Also looking at their faces they had something up their sleeve.

The morning dawned misty, but it soon cleared, and I wedged myself and the reserve shirt a sort of nasty nylon sub-Simon Cowell V neck into the "Sunday go to meeting" suit.

To the tiny church which was jam packed with well-wishers and a jolly female vicar. When it got to that bit where she asks: “Does anyone know of any reason why these two people should not be joined in holy matrimony?" someone in the audience had a prolonged coughing fit. I swear the colour drained from the grooms face.

When the bride’s father was asked who was giving her away, he sprang to his feet like a man being fired from a cannon and barked very enthusiastically: "I WILL"
We exited the church to the bells being rung by one guy who was obviously a one man band during the week, as he managed to negotiate 3 different ropes using his hands and one foot.

Back to the hotel for a slap up feed and the speeches. That is when the happy couple exacted their terrible revenge....

Pride of place under a very intricate table setting was the above, which was taken in 1983 when I worked at a radio station nearby. This is when, as a child, the groom got interested in the radio and met me at the age of 14 in a Middlesbrough department store, having badgered his long suffering parents to take him.

To me the flowers make it look like a picture of some Eastern European dictator whose picture has to be displayed everywhere on pain of torture, and possibly death by, a fiercely loyal and loving populous. Another guest; an impossibly attractive woman in a tiny dress who appeared far too young for me told me that the bride said I looked like Bob Carolgees! Hmm if she remembered Bob Carolgees perhaps she wasn't too young for me after all! I tiptoed to the top table and spat at the bride. (It was a puppet mime hygiene fans).

Then it was bar, nerd talk with other DJ's and the odd outburst of ‘Dad Dancing. Also, as with these events, it’s the law that there has to be a child dancing with his or her mother. The child has to have its feet on top of the mothers who is walking them both round the dance floor. It was a terrific day and everyone had an excellent time. It’s also the first time I have been to a wedding that boasted two best men one of whom was a woman. Also by the time the vows had been taken the bride had the same name as the bestman/woman. Confused? I will explain at the end with a handy equation.

I will treasure the memory and particularly the expression on the hotel staffs' faces, as I requested a damp cloth to wipe my wheelbarrow down. Also, one of the guests who passed me on the stairs as I was wheeling my barrow, who just said, "I won't ask".

The gift was a huge success as it also managed to fit all the other gifts in, making it easier to transport them after the reception. So thank you for your suggestion. I think hotels have been missing a trick all these years.

We now take heated trouser presses. TV's, tea and coffee making facilities, minibars, irons and hairdryers for granted. To steal a march on their competitors hotels they should boast:

"Wheelbarrow in every room"
So how did the groom end up with the bride and the best man/woman without being arrested for bigamy?

John Foster of BBC Tees marries Anna Lee of BBC Five Live

Best man/woman is Anna Foster of Metro FM

Anna Lee becomes Anna Foster and Anna Foster remains Anna Foster


Sadly though, I never even saw the bouquet.

Thursday 8 October 2009


Suddenly it was the weekend again and it was time for some more music.

Not seen him for a few weeks so Libido boy blew into town for the Eleanor McEvoy gig at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, London.

We were both very excited because we are big fans of her work. Also I got a hug last time and Libido Boy only managed a peck on the cheek!

Autumn is now upon us which is a shame in many ways as another very brief year draws to a close and the evenings get darker. Which for us night workers is not too jolly a prospect, waking and working in the gloom.

There is another slight problem which I had not addressed. More on that later.

He made it several hours before the concert so as usual we went for a walk, passing as we did a restaurant with possibly a name they will come to regret given the association with death and destruction.

"I'd like to start with the carnage. For the main course, massive destruction and disease and for pudding I think I will go for the mud slide" - thank you.

We headed off for Greenwich where the smouldering remains of the Cutty Sark lie surrounded by boarding. Hopefully it will be restored to its former glory soon. We used the foot tunnel under the Thames and enjoyed the spectacle of some skaters whizzing past us.

There was also a flea market. It had little to interest me plus I find it very tricky to buy stuff and lug it around all day in case I forget it. Once I walked about 8 miles in an afternoon with a boiled crab in a carrier bag, terrified in case I left it anywhere and it was quite heavy too!

Libido Boy homed in on a stall which was selling knives as he wanted a new pen knife, the last one having been confiscated as he tried to board the London Eye a couple of years back.

He then turned his attention to a toy gun!

"Erm, you are going to find that a little bit of a handicap if we are stopped and searched by the cops".

"Just going into the Irish Centre with a knife and gun officer, nay bother!"

It took a while but reason prevailed in the end.

We wandered around so more then in the gathering gloom headed for the Docklands Light Railway and the Underground to the venue.

Unbeknown to me in the dark I had picked up an unwelcome passenger.......

I thought something was distinctly odd when we were sitting on the tube. People were looking around and seemed troubled.

LB was unconcerned. Well he was slightly. "What if she thinks we are gay?"

"What does it matter? You have a hot new squeeze. Eleanor has a long time partner and I am 'between relationships' (God, I hope so!)

When we arrived we checked with the promoter and had a quick chat with Eleanor before the gig.

Then it hit me. Aaaarrrggghh - dog turd on the banana shoe.

So try and imagine the scene. The three (or four) of us. Deep in conversation:

For shorthand purposes the protagonists will from now on be described thusly:-

EM : Eleanor McEvoy

LB : Libido Boy

ME : Me

DT : Dog Turd.

As far as I recall the conversation went along these lines:

ME : So you have been travelling a lot since we last met.

EM : I went to Uganda as part of an initiative with Oxfam Unwrapped. Then I was in Poland for a while, and fairly shortly I’m off to Spain.

LB : I have two children you know.

DT : Niff

EM : I am touring the UK in the early part of next year.

ME : Excellent we will have to come and see you. You bringing the band this time?

EM : Maybe for some gigs, not decided yet.

LB: They live in the US though as my EX-WIFE was an American.

DT : pong

EM : Did you listen to any of the late night radio when you were in the US?

ME : I listened to a lot of country and drove along weeping.


LB : One lives in LA and the other in Boston

EM : Difficult to get further apart!

LB : I take it in turns to visit them


ME : Think we had better be letting you get ready. See you later.

EM : Thanks for coming along tonight. I really appreciate it.

LB/ME/DT : We are fans!

The three of us headed out to find a pub and I made a feeble attempt to divest ourselves of the unwanted third wheel. (obvious gag "turd wheel" - thank you and goodnight)

This involved finding a patch of grass and scraping and scraping and scraping, to little effect in truth as the ground was bone dry and there were no puddles. The banana shoes also have a very complicated tread pattern so everything was horribly wedged.

You may be wondering why Libido Boy was unconcerned about my discomfiture and in fact found it hilarious. Not sure I have seen him laugh so much in ages. Still, having me as a friend is probably no laughing matter. I will tell you at the end. No peeking.

When we got back to the gig Eleanor was just about to go on.

The three of us bought a drink although it may only have been 2 and half of us by then. I resolved to keep my foot firmly on the ground to try and keep the smell squashed between the banana shoe and the floorboards.

Eleanor started with a sublime version of "You've Heard Better Songs Than This" which I had played on the show that morning, marred by some idiot who, realising he hadn't switched his phone off was trying to silence the text tone so that a loud "peep" echoed round the rear of the room.

After an all-too short set and only a couple of encores we sidled up to her as she was selling CD's and talking to other fans in the foyer.

ME : (Shamefaced) "Sorry about my text tone going off during the first song".

EM : "You were fine, I didn't hear it"

LB : "My girlfriend......

DT : (Interrupting) STENCH!

When we got off at the tube station near the rented flat, Libido Boy pointed out a shop sign which said it all as far as my life/predicament was concerned.

"So Mr Holmes how did you deduce that the butler did it????"

Libido Boy has no sense of smell.

Thursday 1 October 2009


Been a fairly quiet few days, rife with speculation as to what is happening in the New Year on Radio 2. What impact if any it will have on the "Best Time of the Day Show" etc. If you know anything please let us know.

Fevered message board speculation and conspiracy theories as ever by people who need to get out more.

As far as I can ascertain from a quick trawl: Chris Evans did not land on the moon after all with his Dixieland jazz band, although he may have been responsible for 9/11 by not playing enough Ella Fitzgerald. However in compensation she’s been offered Drivetime despite being dead. Although he must definitely take the blame for the recession. Oh and did you know "Dog" is "God" backwards?

Suddenly realised that I was getting live music withdrawal symptoms not having been to see anyone for seemingly ages. So it was with relief that I linked up with my friend Susan "the finance" (remember- don't hate her, she is not a banker).

Susan likes food so we always go and have something to eat beforehand. This time she met me at the tube station with that slightly haunted look women have waiting on their own hoping they are not going to be chatted up by some drunken bloke who fancies his chances. These lairy blokes are known as the "2 pint Clooney".

She had done her research and we ended up in a Lebanese place. Luckily they did things other than lamb. I am not a fan. Not because of the woolly gambolling but the taste. A whiff of mint sauce and I can start dry heaving. Still, poor old Paul Gambaccini suffers from a cheese allergy so there is something to catch us all out. In my Mum's case it was crab.

So I (stand by for restaurant review phrase:) "plumped for the chicken".

There was several tons of it and an accompanying salad that seemed to be the contents of a fruit and veg stall.

As I ate I thought of the BBC news blooper from many a long year ago: "Lesbian forces invade Israel....ahem.. I'm sorry that should be Lebanese".

After the meal we grabbed an armful of the Hammersmith and City line and headed for Shepherds Bush. Not sure if it is the status of the artists that I enjoy or just coincidence but many of the gigs I go to are at either the Empire or the Bush Hall.

Last time I was at the Bush Hall it was with the fiery Scot to see Booker T where we nearly melted in the heat.

This time it was still sweltering but bearable.

This was a low key one-off with Chris Rea. This was ideal for me as a midweek gig. No support act. He hit the stage at 8pm sharp was totally magnificent with a selection of blues, worksongs and his hits. Played for 90 minutes and was gone.

You can usually tell what you are going to get with Chris as his guitar work and his voice are so recognisable. I had never seen him before and it was an ear opener as he slightly altered some songs, extended them or changed the tempo, without spoiling the familiarity.

For the first time despite playing him a gazillion times on the radio over the years I was able to concentrate on the lyrics as well. He didn't say much but the music said it all as he swapped guitars with abandon and the sweat dripped off the end of his nose. Not just us who were hot.

Susan the finance had seen him at the Royal Albert Hall and pronounced this performance to be far superior, even adding: "If he wasn't ugly he would be the perfect man!". Err praise indeed?!

Time for a quick drink before we went our separate ways. We found a pub that I had been too before but had been refurbished since my last visit. Needed to use the facilities and hurried to the Gents. They had been refurbished too. Nice mirror and basin although something didn't seem quite right. When I exited a red faced howling finance person just pointed at the sign on the door unable to speak.

Why had they swapped the Ladies and the Gents? Just as well she guarded the door. Due to my "certainty", I would doubtless have been in harrumphing pomposity overdrive pointing the error of their ways to any woman who entered as I was in mid ablute.

If you have been listening to the "shoe" as it is now called over the last few days you will have heard the problem I encountered recently with my "yaffles" or "readers". Originally I had two pairs of prescription glasses. However as I have had the same strength for 5 years I have not needed to upgrade. Trouble is, the two pairs have gone.

The first I left in a bar in Yuma on American Adventure 2 last year. The second I left on the train having suddenly woken at my stop and hurried off leaving not only the glasses but a book of my scribblings to boot.

Rather than fork out for more when I may need new ones next time I have my eyes tested, I bought cheap ones off the peg in the chemists, then went off to see some friends in the Midlands the other weekend and left the replacements in the studio.

When I realised my error I was on the train and it was too late to go back. So hitting the local supermarket I scored a £3 pair and I was good to go - until I left them at a mate’s house on the Friday night. Back to the supermarket and another £3 was forked out.

They are now all safely gathered in. This means I am once again able to read the small print on the back of CD covers as part of "Lesters Library".

You have been advising me what to do at my next big social event. In a couple of weekends’ time I am off to the North East to the wedding of two friends of mine. Where will I be seated, I wonder:

"Bride or groom?" "BOTH!" However as I now seem unable to tell the difference between ladies and gents I could be sitting anywhere.

The big question is what to get them for a gift? I am all toastered and fondue set-ted out after years of other peoples weddings. A myriad of suggestions from you - often brutally but amusingly cynical.

However the suggestion I liked the most was one that was not only romantic but practical: A wheelbarrow!

This may be just the thing although it won't fit in my car. You even suggested that I had it delivered to the church so that the groom would at the critical point be asked "Who wants this wheelbarrow?" to which he can reply "I Do".

I will report on that after the event.

Off to see one of my all time favourite artists Eleanor McEvoy tonight with Libido Boy who is also a huge fan. Poor woman, everytime she sees us she must think "here come those star struck eejits who go all giggly and unnecessary when I say hello."

Don't forget our weekly Oddcast and the new Cartoon that is now on the website courtesy of the excellent Clive Goddard.

Thank you for your continued support. Daftness will warm us this winter.

Have a good week.