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.