Thursday 25 March 2010


Thought it would be a good idea to change my image slightly on the programme last week so, with that in mind, it was decided I should take Friday off.

My new alter ego is “Johnny Havoc”, although due a slight mishearing, “K..........” (she is still a little shy) thought I said “Hammock”. Things got worse when I mentioned this on the programme which made my bad boy persona even testier.

For the record it is “Havoc”! It is not “Hammock”, “Haddock”, “Ad-hoc”, “E-wok”, “Craddock”, nor is it “Dimmock”.

Being a rough, tough sort of “no-nonsense, don't mess with me, I say and do what I want, I am a maverick and a rebel, no-one tells Johnny Havoc what to do” type of guy, some weeks ago I emailed the management to ask if it was alright if I didn't show one Friday and didn't upset anyone too much.

So this “demand” was met and Richard Allinson kindly took over for the Friday. The plan was to rush off the moment the shoe finished on Thursday morning and high tail it to France with "K.........." for a romantic weekend a deux. (see, practically fluent!)

With the car parked outside the studio we were ready to run, leaving producer Ss, aka Dr. Strangelove, to tidy up the bad boy mess I had left: one waxed tea cup and four bits of paper (I had already tidied the CD's and my headphones away). "K........." and I legged it downstairs.

Last time we had headed for the Channel Tunnel we had arrived too late for the 6.50 train and had to wait half an hour for the next one. This time I had booked us on the 7.20 and, sure enough, we arrived at the terminal in plenty of time.

I don't know how these machines work, but no sooner had we pulled up than a voice read out said: “Welcome Mr. Lester you are booked on the 7.20 train”.

How did it do that? If you are a conspiracy theorist you will be loving the Big Brother element that enables a machine to recognise another machine.

I think obviously it is a subtle form of government mind control. The secret police can read our thoughts through CCTV and credit card details. Quick, get on the internet and post this as fact!

We had no time for anything to eat on this occasion.

Last time, we had time for a bacon and egg sandwich at a concession stand. This time, we were ushered straight down the ramp and onto the waiting train. It was only when it set off we realised we were on the 6.50 after all.

When I was growing up, we Brits were terribly dismissive of the state of European roads. However, the…erm, chaussure is on the other pied now. The French - perhaps stung by these criticisms – will now build a bypass round a parked car if it eases the passage through the countryside. There is less traffic, though, and more land to drive across so that probably helps.

This free flowing progress does come at a price, however, as many of the auto-routes are toll roads. Our 250 mile journey to Normandy probably cost us around £20 in fees. I left the paying to “K.........” as she was on that side of the car.

Before you accuse me of being a total cheapskate, I was the one who paid for the petrol. We are a democratic couple. So she allows me to tell you.

Thursday night, having been up since 1am and having driven over 300 miles we were pretty wiped out so it was a roaring fire a glass of wine half of Little Miss Sunshine on DVD, accompanied by a box of cheesy snacks and a Raclette.

If you have not tried this, it is fun and not quite as dangerous as a fondue. You cook your own meat and veg on a searing hot stone, whilst cheese is melting in little dishes underneath; I once did a holiday programme from a Club 18-30 trip to Austria (I was younger then and just in the target age range). Thirty marauding drunks yelling and having a fondue. That is the most danger I have ever been in, I think.: boiling hot oil, idiots and lager. Not a good combination.

Weather a bit dull on the Friday, but we decided to head towards Mont St Michel. However, not to visit the mount itself. Twice bitten twice shy.

First visited when I was about 12 and it was packed. Had another go in 1994 and it was even packeder!

It was like leaving a football match. You went with the crowd and your feet didn't touch the ground. Think it has deep historical significance but it is difficult to see above the throng, although you do notice the odd burger bar or Gaufrette stand as you are carried past in the crush.

Friday night: fish, wine, fire and half of Pink Cadillac on DVD.

When I was 19, I drove with two friends (yes, I was the gooseberry) to Spain and back in my Fiat 500. At one stage, we drove down the straight at Le Mans as used for the 24-hour race.

This time we headed for the old town. I never even realised it had one. Pretty impressive, although I kept wondering if they had missed a trick with the 24 hour race; I think they do motorcycles as well but why not other stuff?
After all, there are always charity races going on with people dressed as waiters and chickens. Why not run them over 24 hours and use the circuit? This would mean an increase in tourism. It is an iconic venue and also the roads everywhere else would not repeatedly have to be closed, meaning we could go about our daily business without being held up by straggling penguins or Daleks.

24 Heures du Zimmer

24 Heures du Tricycle

24 Heures du Pogo Stick

24 Heures du Hopping

See? The possibilities are endless

Saturday night: fire, wine, steak, and half of Anchorman on DVD.

Sunday it was a leisurely drive up through Falaise to Caen and ferry back to Blighty.

This is a good way of getting as much time away as possible, although it is a more expensive trip.

The journey takes 6 hours, so we arrived in Portsmouth at 9.30pm.

Through customs with the usual slightly guilty and haunted look that I reserve for authority figures, although they didn't stop us. I was comprehensively searched by the French some years ago who were taking the car apart until they found a bag of dirty washing and immediately stopped and waved me on my way.

Terrorists take note: we in the West are frightened of underpants!

Made it back to the rented flat in London for 23.30 so had about an hour in bed before the bad boy show started again: Grrrrrr, this is Johnny Havoc saying, “stay bad”.

Wednesday 17 March 2010


“So, you are having another Nerd Night and Charlie Jordan is going to be she still as tall?”

Thus quoth Mark Plant, who is Janice Longs' producer.

Short (sorry, cue Drums of Pun) of her suffering a terrible accident, Charlie is in fact a head taller than me. Also, she is younger so has not started the long inexorable slide back towards Tiny Town that people do after a certain age.

That is a thought to embrace; the height loss. Perhaps pensioners should affect short trousers and a water pistol to make themselves feel like it was the first time round.

Nerd Night, as I have blogged several times before, is a terrifying meeting of Geeks that occurs within our industry every couple of months; a selection of DJs, producers, journalists and others in the Radio and TV industry get together to try and out-bore one another over food and drink.

It is becoming one of those events in the calendar that could soon be up there with the Boat Race and Royal Ascot. “We see Mrs. Shilling in the Royal Enclosure wearing another ridiculous hat....yes, it appears to be in the shape of a 45rpm disc.....I think its Juicy Lucy's version of "Who do you love" that reached no.14 in the charts in 1970. On the Vertigo label no lesszzzzzzzzzz”.

Normally, what happens is that loads of people say “yes, I’ll be there”, then realise how awful it is going to be so back out at the last minute, leaving the rump of Ubergeeks: “The Magnificent Seven”.

However, on this occasion we had an amazing turnout. About 20 people showed up which was excellent and a lot of fun to see the new faces.

The hapless city chosen was Birmingham. Having been born and brought up in the area and been at college in the city, as well as broadcasting The Best Time of the Day Show from there for 13 years, I am familiar with it and how it has changed during my lifetime.

It is now a hopping town which has suffered from comparisons with Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Bristol and other major British cities in the past. It is unpretentious and has never been favoured by "style" nor "music" journalists, despite having an atmosphere all of its own.

Booked into a small room in a quite big hotel.

Then after a couple of drinks in the bar we headed off to Broad Street to a restaurant that Charlie - who knows food - had chosen. Around the World in 80 Dishes is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Those four words, "all you can eat" are, of course, a challenge so I resolved to see how far around the world I could eat. Before bursting. That would be a cheap and effective way for impecunious students to spend a gap year. Instead of piling on the carbon emissions flying off to Peru for "good works" they could just sit at home with a recipe book and pretend.

Now, without being picky, I noticed a glaring omission in the premise, “Around the World in 80 Dishes”. Admittedly, they never say the diner will travel the world sampling cuisine from every country. I think Phileas Fogg may have been a mite disappointed with the “map of meals”.

The food was very good but I didn't count many nations.

There were burgers and hot dogs. USA.

Pizza and Lasagne. Italy.

Curry. Indian and Thai.

Wraps. Mexico

A good selection of dishes from China

There were chips but they were labelled "French Fries" so that tagged them onto the North American continent.

Had they had three trays one labelled "Fries", one "Frites", and another "Chips", they could have ticked three or more countries. I say "or more" as you could include Belgium and their French-speaking colonies. Likewise Anglophone parts of the world.

Their website never makes the claim that it is representative of many countries, just that there is a large number of food items on its menu.

I suppose that good taste precludes them from putting certain things on offer. Plus, some would be rather difficult to source, I suppose.

"Got any Missionary?" 'Yup, you want South American rain forest cannibal style or Comedy 1970's Central African?" “Just past the shrunken heads next to the North Korean barbecued rats.” “Sorry, we are all out of Japanese Puffer fish but I think we've got some Monkey brains left.”

Rather tellingly I didn't notice any good old British plain fare.

"Sorry mate, Pot Noodles are off."

I stuffed in as much as I could, visiting each country in turn so went from burger to lasagne to curry to wraps, including on the way some very hot and very red chilli shrimps. The sauce made a good dye as well. So my fingers looked like I had just voted in a third world election.

We headed off for a canal side pub called the Tap and Spile. Friday night in Birmingham city centre gets pretty crowded but we did manage to get a couple of hours in the pub before the nightclubs shut, as this particular boozer closed at 4am apparently, but the last two are probably bedlam. Security is tight which means that the boozer was policed by door-staff in high viz jackets who seemingly, no matter where I stood, moved me out of the way as I was blocking a fire exit.

It may have been the fact that I had shovelled so much food down me that I was suffering from an outbreak of "Gulliver". Went and stood outside on the canal towpath for a while to get some air, although I was surrounded by smokers.

It brought back a host of bitterwseet memories of my youth, and also when I lived for ten years on my canal boat "The Blue Pig", I was offered a residential mooring just by this pub in Gas Street basin. Thank goodness I never took British Waterways up on their offer choosing to live at Hockley Port a couple of miles away as the noise would have meant I would never had got a wink of sleep.

With that in mind we grabbed three cabs back to the quite big hotel.

The turnout had been pretty impressive, I reckon more than 20 dweebs made it which was terrific and good to meet a lot of new people. So far it had been a cracking evening without any overt Nerdiness. However, once the remaining ten of us made it back to the hotel the restlessness was beginning to show. It’s like a disease with these people.

When we had the previous outing to Brighton, the hotel bar stayed open all night, which was fantastic. We were promised that this place would do "lounge service".

What they actually meant was they had some bottles of beer and some soft drinks that they would go and get for us if we really insisted.

I pointed out that one of the conditions of us booking in the first place was that we would be able to have a drink when we returned.

My Paddington Bear "hard stare" as usual made little difference. So we managed a bottle of overpriced beer each and, bizarrely, some biscuits.

Little did the night porter realise that he was faced with ten mild mannered polite people who were stuffed to the gills with food from other countries. We were fully loaded.

A little tickle of the uvula and they would never have got that place clean!

Revenge came in the form of fellow radio nerd, Simon Hirst, an all around top man and terrible nerd.

He whipped out his mobile phone and suddenly we were in the middle of a chart related pop quiz.

Matthew Rudd, a freelance DJ, is the man you need if you are ever doing a pub quiz. I think he got every question right. He also knows and writes about football and TV, so he would be good with the sports and showbiz rounds too.

John Foster, from BBC Tees, after a shaky beginning statred to get a lot of the answers until we realised he had the same "app" on his phone too. So he was cheating.

Needless to say bringing up the rear!

3 o'clock arrived and I repaired to my small room and for the rest of the weekend the song "Just One More Night" by Yellowdog roared around my brain. That song being my one correct answer.

Still, I gather that Hirsty had "A Little Peace" by Nicole going round his. So there is justice.

That’ll learn him. However, I doubt it will.

Next one is slated for June in Liverpool. I bet there is a Beatles-related quiz.

Thursday 11 March 2010


Friday evening I went to meet some lovely Jewish friends for Friday Dinner. This involved prayers and me wearing a yarmulke, the skullcap which Orthodox Jewish men wear to cover their heads.

A superb time was had. Although I had to have the custom of not mixing meat and dairy explained to me. I love Jewish humour and my Dad's favourite joke is the one which ends with the punchline: "He had a hat!!”

This is far cry from the time back in the early 1980's when I went to a Synagogue for an "Open day". Judging by the rather frosty reception I received I don't think they meant for it to be open to me. Also, I was disappointed because the "Automatic Rabbi" machine was out of order so I never found out what it did or what it sounded like.

Went back to "K..........."'s and tried to watch What’s up, Tiger Lily? but fell asleep halfway through. We are good at that.

Hastings on Saturday. Met friends in the pub, then back home for pie and Best in Show DVD. Managed half that before we fell asleep.

Sunday morning, Mr Tibbs the carpenter arrived with a mate of his to install more CD shelves in the spare bedroom for Lester’s Library. They should keep things in order providing I can get round to filing them all; they may even outlast the format. Back to London and a spectacular traffic jam. I tried to navigate us out of trouble but just succeeded in taking us on a tortuous route right to the very back of the queue.

"K.............." was very patient. Think I am going to get a road atlas for Christmas. Back at the rental flat we started to watch Harold and Maude. Fell asleep halfway through.

Monday dawned and with it the Radio 2 "Get Connected" campaign. This is designed to make us all interactive. I still prefer to pay utility bills by cheque so I have a way to go.

It did mean the start of my new Twitter account. You are helping with it. Although I am finding there seem to be a selection of bits of "Netiquette" which seem rather baffling and a bit pointless.

We are slowly building followers and I think I will find it useful for the show as there will be another way to interact with us. Although I don't know that I am that interesting to want to tell you what I am up to most of the time when I am not on the air.

Tweet: In the lavvy.

Tweet: Now having breakfast

Tweet: Going shopping

What do you reckon? Let me know what I am supposed to do with it. Not leading a glittery showbiz lifestyle. Things can get a tad mundane.

I could always lie:

Tweet: In Groucho Club having champagne with Brangelina

Tweet: My private jet is taking me to LA to take drugs with the some other A-listers

Tweet: Just playfully pulled one of Cheryl Cole’s hair extensions off. She punched me.

The Blog keeps you pretty much up to date with that stuff.

So with your help we can make Twitter a useful and hopefully interesting addition. You can add me @alexthedarklord.

Monday it was down to the BBC for a showcase. John Butler Trio from Australia did a short set for us. I have played them on the programme before so it was good to see them live.

It must have been a little odd for them as Platinum-selling artists in their homeland, to play in front of 35 people. 25 of which were scarfing up the free food. I always like to arrive early to get the food in before the turn starts so I can give them my best attention. They were excellent....burp!

Rest of the week has been a bit of a blur of not very much. Been doing a lot of typing and listening to music.

Although I really needed to get out to buy essential things for the kitchen. It is only since "K.............." has come on the scene that I realise how Spartan my weekday existence is:

In the flat, I have neither bottle opener nor corkscrew. I had to get the guy in the off-licence to open the wine for me the other evening and wandered like a wild eyed derelict back home waving it.

I have one sharp knife unfortunately it is not sharp. So will cut nothing.

I have a pan but no utensils other than forks in order to cook with.

I have two tumblers but not wine glasses

I have four mugs one of which is cracked so it leaks.

My Name is Alex Lester. I am 53 and a student.

Thursday 4 March 2010


Bit of a quiet week all in all. So was a bit taken aback when I received a phone call after the programme from “.............”.

Although she is now slightly less shy and so has allowed me to reveal that her name is in fact, “K............”.

Just got back to the rental flat when she called and said, “I have one word to say to you”. My mind raced. Was it going to be “love”? “sex”, “wedding”, “hat”, “food”
“sex" (look, I am a bloke we think like this. Sorry!)



“You said on the radio this morning that yesterday had been "featureless". Have you forgotten something?”


“Who did you see yesterday?”

“I went for lunch with my friend, Janine, and we had onion soup.”

“I know this”


“You told me when I came round to the flat!”


“So you forgot about me coming to see you?”


“You are a very naughty boy. How could you forget? Hmm, this may require a severe talking to”.

“Whimper Ulp. Ulp Whimper”

Gentle reader, we are not heading in a Max Moseley direction here.

“I was protecting you as you are shy and so I thought you would not want everyone to know what we were doing”

“Watching Anvil on DVD!"

“What I mean is, compared to going to see a gig or going on a holiday, it was a fairly featureless day. I was lucky to grab you for a few minutes on your way home as you had to pack your kitchen up before it was ripped out by the fitters, who are going to install a new one starting this weekend. As much as I loved seeing you compared with a weekend in a hot air balloon or swimming with dolphins it was a pretty ordinary day”.


Oh no, were we heading for our first argument? Would this end with tearful recrimination. Crockery thrown. Phones being slammed down?

Then she started to laugh and laugh and laugh. This woman may be fabulous but I think she has a big teasing streak.

I have had a week of teasing, although it is nice to know that the Best Time of the Day Show punches above its weight in terms of the world at large.

We may be tucked away at 2 in the morning, but we know that we are listened to by a lot of other DJ's. Many sitting note pads at the ready to write down the ideas and use them on their own shows.

So Ss aka Dr Strangelove, my producer, tipped me off that we had turned up on the Scott Mills show on Radio One in his Oh!Whats Occurring? feature.

From what I gather, he and a woman sidekick get some baffled youth on the programme (it’s Radio One, remember) and ask them a question about someone else and how many times they will say something.

So, the baffled youth was faced with the BTOTD show and the fact that it now has the term “shoe” as part of its lexicon, due to the self-satisfied nature of many radio programmes where the DJ delights in reading out messages of undying love from the audience to whit “love the show”.

Due to you, and your finely tuned pomposity antenna, you will have no truck with any of that, hence you decided the way to burst that particular bubble was to take the mickey by referring to it as “shoe”.

So, Scott Mills, his giggly woman sidekick (I think there is a factory that manufactures these people) and baffled youth on phone listened to a tightly edited selection of links from the programme. All of which contained the word “shoe” or similar. The baffled youth guessed 27 but was out by 12, the answer being 39.

Giggly woman and Scott seemed to think that I was a madman.

As we know there are still a few non-believers out there.

They just don't understand. They will, given time. Keep spreading the word.

Remember: “No one else. Nowhere else!”

Hmmm, I feel this blog needs another picture. I have nothing else to give.

I know, it's been awhile...enjoy!