Thursday 31 December 2009


Whilst most were enjoying an extended, and well deserved Xmas break, the "Best Time Of The Day Show" continued cranking it out. However as this is scarcely what can be termed a ‘job’, I’m not going to go down the “poor me I only had one day off over Xmas, woe, woe”, route.

I have ‘worked’ over Xmas on many occasions during the last 30 years. Perhaps one of the most memorable was when I worked at a small station in the North East in the 80's. On the 25th there was just me and the newsreader; no-one else in the building. The Managing Director in an attempt at bonding, decided to come in to give us the compliments of the season. He duly arrived with a box of 6 mince pies. However there were two missing, as the half hour drive from his palatial country home, had caused him to become a little peckish!

After that morning’s programme, I returned home alone and had decided to cook myself the full main course of turkey and all the trimmings. A tiny turkey for one looks like a baby when you dandle it over the tin! The tin was actually too large for the oven so I had to place the bird on the lid of an ovenproof dish, (It was that small!). Whilst it was taking its several hours to cook, what did I do? Queens speech? The Great Escape? Open my presents? Nope I tiled the bathroom.

I was obviously not in the right frame of mind. Some weeks later when I had somehow managed to lure a woman back to my place, she called to me whilst having a bath and said: "Look at the pattern in the tiles?" She was right. The pattern left to right read: "down, up down, up, down up, down down, up!" Also, after all that work and cooking the turkey dinner for one, it took four hours to cook and only 5 minutes to eat. Merry Xmas!

However this year things were different. Since my mother died back in 2002, my sister has taken on the mantle of doing the-do. She had a great tutor and it is an acme of what a stressfree day should be. I provide a small selection of cheese and biscuits. My Dad brings a couple of bottles of wine. Nell does the cooking and John my excellent Brother in law does the washing up. Now that is teamwork! I turned up at about 11am and my Dad arrived about five minutes later. Here is the Lester/Jones recipe for the perfect day:

Cup of coffee

Salty snacks and gin


Big blow out meal with everything. This means ‘pigs in blankets’ two types of potato and three veg. Bread sauce, stuffing, gravy. Nothing is forgotten. Crackers with the usual terrible jokes: "What do you call a trembling ship at the bottom of the sea? A nervous wreck!" Nope - as I type, it still isn't funny. Xmas pudding, trifle brandy butter, custard. (My brother in law John is the world’s biggest custard aficionado, so it has to be spot on!)

Cheese and bickies.

Chocolates and tea

Wallace and Gromit or similar (optional). Usually more talking

Half-past seven and I am in the car on my way home

Along the way we have laughed a lot. Told stories, many of which we have heard before. There have been family jokes. We have spoken to relatives on the phone. It has been warm, unstressed, and above all, I am grateful for having such a terrific family.

As far as the loot was concerned, I was delighted to receive a laminator from my sister and brother in law. The reason for this will become apparent in 2010 as I have been ‘up to something’, over the past 12 months, and this will help in the future. I shall keep you informed. I promise!

This year’s bizarre gift was from ‘Pina the Filipina’ who I have mentioned before as we often go to gigs together, although she does have a curious musical taste which varies from dance to ‘X Factor’ contestants. She decided what I needed was a huge penguin.

Judging by this monster she has been secretly listening to the show for years. As you can see it has all the hallmarks of a ‘Best Time Of The Day Show’ penguin in that it is wearing a scarf! This became a feature of the programme some years ago when a friend of mine’s seasonal good cheer was replaced by festive pedantry due to the large proportion Xmas of cards he received, which depicted penguins wearing scarves and bobble hats. “They have blubber. They evolved to cope with the cold. They don't need to wear hats and scarves!!!"

This is the last blog of 2009. I hope you have had as good a time as I have over the last 12 months. There are changes afoot soon which I hope we can both cope with. More on that in a future post. Above all thank you for your continued support without you the whole exercise is one in futility I do appreciate all your input.

Enormous thanks also to Simon and Andy for their hard work and their unfailing good humour. Have an enjoyable and restful holiday season. See you on the other side! (By that I mean 2010. Who do you think I am Derek Acorah???)

Thursday 24 December 2009


Think I have done everything I need for the big day now. So was able to devote some of the week and the weekend to "leezure".

Friday I was invited to a posh do so had to put my suit on which frankly seems to be a little tight at the moment. I think the dreaded "tailor moth" has been at work. If you are unaware of this little known insect, they tend to hide in the wardrobes of the middle aged as they like the mix of cloth on offer and remove strips of material for their nests. However as a secretive species they repair the items after they have stolen so that the hapless owner does not suspect and go after them with massive amounts of swatters and deadly chemicals.

I was taken to the Hilton in London for the "Music Publishers Association" 50th anniversary lunch.

Lots of tables, lots of food and wine and speeches from luminariees from the industry who I did not recognise but judging by their suits were important, and they talked about others who I had not heard of apart from Tony Hiller who co-wrote "Save your kisses for me".

Everyone was a lot of fun and one of the best things about it was the impatience of the crowd wanting to get stuck into the food and drink. The end result was to hurry things along by blowing up balloons and releasing them so they shot around the room with a selection of satisfying farting noises.

Hugh Dennis was the after dinner speaker who gave an amusing speech and his best joke in my opinion was probably non PC as it dealt in a regional stereotype: "Any one from Norfolk here?...yes? Give me six!"

Then a rather florid Tony Hadley took to the stage and after a false start a backing tape began and he gave a stirring rendition of "Gold" then left to catch a plane. We went to the bar where I was horrified to discover a glass of red wine cost a wallet-weakening £7.

Got talking to a load of people including a selection of excellent old jazzers, who talked about the old days and bands they had been in and musicians that we all knew, including Malcolm Mortimer who I remember from Gentle Giant who I saw supporting the film "Jimi Plays Berkely" at Bradford St George’s Hall in the early 70's.

Another few glasses, luckily bought by others, and it was time to leave as another office party was filing in. I discovered it was 6.30pm although it felt like about midnight.

Up with the lark and then one of those things that you can't legislate for. Putting my sock on and suddenly "ping" - my back went. Scarcely wrenching it lifting a car to help someone trapped underneath, nor saving children from a flood hanging from a branch with an arm outstretched. Told a mate of mine and he said "this is the way it’s going to be"! Thanks!!

Went off to Hastings on Saturday morning by train, saw some friends in the evening and had a conversation with a man who had obviously been in the pub a long time. "what time you working in the new year Alex?" ‘2-5, then it will be Sarah Kennedy’. "Who will be on after you?" Sarah Kennedy. "What time is Sarah going to be on?" 5-7. So who is on after? Chris Evans. "What time is Chris Evans going to start". This went on for some time. Never sure what to do under the circumstances as it is always good to be polite but it can be teeth-grinding.

According to the travel info I saw trains running normally back to London on Sunday although no one had thought fit to tell the train operators or perhaps the public or perhaps somebody who knew who to talk to. No trains had run all day due to the weather so had to get he bus to Tunbridge Wells where the trains we were told were starting. When we arrived we were told that none had run all day and it was Tonbridge, two stops further up the line and we had to wait for a connecting bus. Then there was the wait at the station until the train eventually arrived. So it was a cold and rather irked me that made it back to the rental flat in London after 5 hours in transit. Compared to many of you I had it easy.

Sent all the cards off in advance and on time and so far have had only one from someone that I didn't send to. Odd as I thought we were both dead.

Family Xmas is well organised so have bought the cheese and biscuits as I am cheese monitor. My Dad is wine monitor, my sister does the cooking and it’s always marvellous and my brother in law does the washing up. This way no one ever gets too stressed which is a boon for a relaxing festive season.

Presents are wrapped and so it is time for me to go until next week.

Merry Christmas and here is hoping for a happy and peaceful new year to one and all.

My thanks to you for making the "shoe" what it is with all your input over the last 12 months and also very special thanks to the superb production skills of Andy Warrell and Simon Tester.

Unsung heros of the backroom so I thought it was only right that you should get to see and admire them:

Thursday 17 December 2009


Just been reading in the paper a selection of small interviews with celebs and what their Christmas plans are . Awful lot of people "jetting off" or on cruises to exotic places.

Having been away for the last couple of weeks you may be intrigued to find out exactly what spectacular locations I "jetted off" to.

Leaving the best time of the day "shoe" in the more than capable hands of the lovely Lynn Parsons my first stop was Hastings. I spent several days camped out on the settee watching not wildebeeste coming to the waterhole to drink as would be the case in a Blue Peter special report in Kenya but catching up on the stuff I had recorded and forgotten about on the telly. Rather like finding one last crisp or chip at the bottom of the bag, I even managed to cop one episode of Star Trek Voyager that I had never seen.

However I was adequately provisioned. In my humble opinion providing a person has enough sandwiches they can survive anything. I recently learned that when Charles Lindburgh flew from the US to France solo he took sandwiches with him but only had a bite of one of them. Frankly if I was alone hundreds of feet above the icy water of the Atlantic, food would not be uppermost in my mind either. After all how many tales of derring do have you read where the menu is as important as battling the odds?

"Currently hiding in a culvert 100 metres from enemy. Waiting for darkness so we can blow the ammunition dump. Operation in jeopardy as only one pork pie left between the three of us" The Heroes of Telemark.

After a few days of R & R & R: Rest recuperation and Roswell I was able to stir myself and head for the Midlands. Here I linked up with friends and we visited the Flight show at the NEC. What we didn't realise was that it also coincided with the Bike Show and also the Good Food Show. End result : transport chaos. It took nearly an hour in the queue to get from the National Exhibition Centre concourse to the rail link at Birmingham International. No extra trains apparently had been added so we were reliant on the scheduled services. After that we needed a drink. So arriving back in Birmingham City centre we headed for the German Market.

This is held every year in New Street and features sausages, chocolate, fancy glasses, and beer. It was with the latter in mind and "Gluhwein" for the laydeez that we started to work our way towards one of the bars.

There was the five of us: Jo, Steve, Debs and Jim. Oh and me.

Steve went to get the drinks in as it was his turn. As we stood stamping our feet in the cold it began to look like we were going to go thirsty. He just could not catch the eye of the bar staff. So Jim went to assist.

It is probably fair and rather shaming to say that I have spend several years of my life in or around licenced premises and in common with Steve when it comes to being served we seem to don the mantle of invisibility.

Having worked as a barman you would have thought I would have some idea as to how the psychology operated. Nope. Never cracked it. I have tried "catching the bar staffs eye". I have tried "proffering a banknote" I have tried "Smiling and waving". I have even tried rapping the counter with coinage. (Don't ever try that it is the worst and guarantees you never get served....the only thing which is perhaps a more heinous crime is to rap the counter and shout "Any danger of a drink in here?" The answer to that is always going to be a big fat NO!)

So Jim went into bat. Five minutes later he was back with the drinks. Is he 11 feet tall? Does he have a huge booming voice? Is he perhaps armed with a pump action shotgun? Nope. Jim is a perfectly normal looking middle aged man - with a secret gift, which he cannot explain or maybe he is an "annointed one". Whatever his secret he worked his magic several times that evening in a succession of crowded boozers.

He is for ever after known as "The Predator" after that invisible cove who kept eating people in the film with Sly Stallone.

If you are out for the evening believe me, everyone needs a Jim.

A few days in the Midlands which included having lunch with the Radio 2 "rump". Friends and colleagues we left behind at the BBC in Birmingham when the programme relocated to London in April 2008.

They are well and working on a variety of different projects from "The Archers" to the BBC Asian Network with the "Organist Entertains" thrown in. However there also seems to have been an outbreak of breeding as well. So round the table there were a lot of women and a couple of babies thrown in. This provoked a fair amount of cooing and dilated pupils among the assembled company. My opening conversational gambit to one infant: "How’s it going, kid?" seemed to provoke a negative response in the doting Mum. Perhaps I am not cut out to be a father.

Hastening back to Hastings in time to see my appearance on BBC 2's "Eggheads" (which we lost) and suddenly in the pub I am a Microcelebrity. Quite a few people had seen it and the woman behind the bar whispered; "next time you are on the TV tell us about it first". Well judging by the regularity with which my starring roles on the boob tube arrive, I am next due to trouble Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton or Simon Cowell in late 2019.

Well would you Adam and Eve it! Suddenly we are back on the "Best Time of the Day show".

It is always nice to have time off even if I do sometimes just fritter it away. However genuinely it is always nice to be back.

Thanks to Lynn Parsons and also to Tim Smith for holding the fort.

Here’s to next week then Christmas and the New Year.