Thursday 29 July 2010


Been a very quick week, this week. So speedy that nothing of much interest seems to have happened outside of the show. We have been enjoying National Underwear Week on the programme and we also appear to have an audience well-versed in the ways of the Cosa Nostra, as we decided to try and live in a Mafia stylee.

This is all very well, but we are somewhat squeamish about the whole horse’s head in the bed thing, so we have been driven to leaving hobby horses or dismembered Care Bears in situ, or even chickening out completely and just sending a virtual head via email.

This does smack slightly of the school coward who dances around the edge of the crowd shouting "Fight! Fight!" very loudly.

Still, it may be due to our British sense of fair play and our love of animals.

After boring you for weeks about my mobile phone woes, I am now in possession of a handset that works, and it is an "android". I can download "Apps". I feel so vital, thrusting and modern as I type these words.

The DL showed me some of the apps her children had downloaded onto her iPhone and it did set me thinking; it is only a short leap now from what is going on until children no longer leave their rooms ever and interact with the real world, choosing instead to sit and fiddle with such enticing things as virtual bubble wrap. Seeing how fast you can make your fingers move on the screen in a virtual foot race. Drinking an imaginary pint of lager. Or turning your phone into the flashing lights of a police car.

Don't try and tell me this is useful in emergencies. It won't be noticeable from very far away. I equate this with the signs people have in the back of their cars reading "Caution show dogs in transit" or "Baby on board". They are there for show offy purposes.

Yeah, yeah, I have heard the argument about if there was a crash the emergency services would be alerted to the possibility of a child being flung from the wreck. However, how many people can honestly say they only attach the sign when Jr is inside. All the work is undone if the cops and the ambulance people waste time looking for a non-existent baby because people forgot to take the sign down.

Marginal as that is. I have yet to hear the convincing argument for the dogs on board one.

Wonder if there is an app for that, or pretending to be Mafiosi?

There is an app called "iFart" which does pretty much as its name describes. This, however, is a cost option, worth 99c of anybody’s money as - lets face it - no matter how old you are, fart gags are still funny!.

I haven't stumped up the cash though.....yet!

The phone came with a foam rubber pouch to keep it in which, ofcourse I lost – ironically - whilst making a phone call. I think it may be a middle-aged thing. Try holding more than a couple of things in your hands at the same time without dropping what is under your armpit.

I had car keys and a newspaper as well as the phone and the pouch. Something had to give. Luckily it wasn't the phone.

So it was off to London's trendy Camden Market to try and find a replacement rather than creeping back to the shop to source an overpriced replacement.

I have lived and worked in the capital off and on over the years, but I am still the boy from Walsall. So I still find it exciting, crowded and horribly expensive.

As I tweeted at the time; “I never knew there were so many things on sale that I didn't need.”

There was everything from bongs to sleeves of fake tattoos. From rude belt buckles to 100 varieties of joss stick. The whole place screamed "Student" at me.

1000 T shirts enticed me: "10 ways in which a beer is better than a woman". "Nobody knows I'm a Lesbian" or even "Hitler European tour 1939-45".

I trudged around the indoor markets thronged with tourists and people with artfully shaped purple hair and piercings. One or two shops did sell phone bits. However, nothing seemed to be plain enough for this dullard. Was I going to settle for something with a marijuana leaf emblazoned on it? Or maybe I could plump for a Deaths Head with bejewelled eyes.

I gave up and went to the shop that you suggested. I now have a plain leather pouch and, note to self: Keep your eye on it in future.

During American Adventure 2 in May I decided to have another crack at growing a beard, the first one in 15 years. This one turned out OK although for some reason has a lot more grey in it than the previous one.

The first one didn't last due to a girlfriend at the time insisting it was her or the facial fungus. Well, I stood my ground for several seconds and was then in the bathroom with scissors, clippers, razors, knives, forks and spoons trying to get the damn thing off. Nearly lost my upper lip in the process.

This time the far more discerning Dark Lady said she liked it and it should stay.

Now, as a beard novice, it needs to be kept in check as it keeps on growing and so a decision had to be made as to what length it would remain at. I didn't want it to be a ZZ Top, nor a Captain Birdseye. Similarly I am several million short of the George Michael designer stubble. This time - so far - nobody has shouted "Beaver" at me in the street, like last time (Apparently, this was a game beloved by schoolchildren before the discovery of the PS3.)

So somewhere in between seems to be the best bet.

I have got myself a beard trimmer and my mate Jim who sports a fair set of whiskers himself suggested the most hygienic way of going about it is to trim your growth at the kitchen table over a sheet of newspaper. This means you don't end up with stray whiskers everywhere.

Being a middle class boy, anything involving a kitchen table not to do with cooking usually means having to wear a vest and I don't.

Naturally being a bloke I ignored his advice and stood at the basin in the bathroom. End result: floor, sink and my chest covered in itchy, scratchy offcuts.

What is it with us men that we can't take advice nor criticism?

Incidentally, as a bloke, don't diss my driving or my sexual technique either.

Erm, the first part of that sentence is designed for all parties. The second bit – men, just ignore it wasn't intended for your eyes.

I think it is about right but probably like teenage girls applying makeup it will be a learning experience and will take some time to get right.

At least my Dad hasn't barked at me as he used to at my sister:

"Where do you think you are going looking like that?"

Imagine if he had:

"CAMDEN!" I would shout, slamming the door.

Thursday 22 July 2010


My old Mum used to have a saying: "One day I'll have a really good go".

I think what she really meant was: "One day I may get round to it, although I have too many other far more important things to do before I get to this."

We used to give her videos for Xmas and birthdays and she would place them very carefully by her chair. This meant that the pile grew higher and higher over the years. It became a standing joke in our family that eventually the pile would touch the lounge ceiling.

My brother in law has shelves of DVD's of stuff that he wants to watch but is too busy doing more important and interesting things so he now just says: "I know they are there if I need them". We continue to give him yet more so eventually should he need to he can have "a really good go".

I have found that the Dark Lady and myself are getting like that. It is a fine relaxing way of passing the time to sit down with a glass of something and a snack and watch a good fillum.

Trouble is the amount of "fillum" is now outstripping the time available to "have a really good go".

We have managed to work our way through half of certain films such as:

"What's up Tiger Lily?", "The Ladykillers" and "Harold and Maud".

So it was with some trepidation that the other night we sat down to watch "Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World".

The joy of catching up on old films is the bits you had forgotten from when you watched them as kids. (I don't remember Spencer Tracy being in it!).

Also they are fairly cheap to buy.

Earlier I had caught half an hour of "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" which was being shown on the TV and had wallowed in nostalgia and half -remembered bits.

(I don't remember Willie Rushton being in it!).

There is also a slight non-PC frisson in old films such as this. Which somehow adds to the fun.

In it the French are sly and lecherous. The Germans are crisply efficient (I had forgotten the pilot was called "Rumplestrosse" - deep joy!). The Italians were stupid with huge families and the British were pompous buffoons.

Things have changed and we tend not to think that these days, do we? Unless you are a tabloid headline writer or a football commentator, probably not. Although for the purposes of pub or workplace jokes old habits die hard.

Another shock in this nostalgia fest was that half way through the film there was an intermission and we had forgotten to buy any ice cream. Films seem to be better value for money back then...well they were certainly longer.

I remember once going to a cinema in London to see a Top Gun spoof that was so short they had to bung on a Mr Bean short first. Not a big Bean fan so nearly left the cinema before the main feature started as Rowan Atkinson mugged his way through an exam with a lot of searching for pencils and dropping things.

We watched the film over two nights and then moved on to a couple of Woody Allen's.

I used to be up to date with his work but now I am about ten years behind.

The next day we went off to Bexhill which is gradually trying and perhaps succeeding in shaking off the "God's waiting room" tag that it has laboured under for years, like many south coast seaside towns.

When I moved to Hastings in 1989 the estate agents would helpfully tell would be purchasers that a property was: "Within a level walk of the shops".

The De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill is a magnificent art deco construction on the sea front and venue for innumerable editions of "Friday Night is Music Night". It has been refurbished in recent years and although it is rather stark, it is light and airy.

For the time being the roof terrace has been given over to an exhibition of "Bodies" by Anthony Gormley, the sculptor who is responsible for the "Angel of the North". The weird and sometimes wonderful fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, which whenever I passed it usually had someone sitting in a picnic chair with an umberella up looking rather bored, now that is over, these days the plinth sports a rather fetching ship in a bottle.

He also did the "Iron Man" up near the Town Hall in Birmingham which I rather liked for a couple of reasons probably not connected with the art itself.

1) It really annoyed people who thought art should look like photographs and sculpture should be all men on horseback or women in flowing gowns staring into the middle distance.

2) It reminded me of "Gort" the robot in "The Day the Earth stood still".

Still back up on the roof..

Apparently the pieces are all of Anthony Gormley and they are bent into uncomfortable looking shapes and placed seemingly at random in a health and safety nightmare.

To be frank I don't understand art and have often thought that if you have to tell people what it is and why maybe it is not so good after all.

Then again it may be that art is designed to provoke a reaction.

Who can forget the Tate bricks?

We remember the reaction to it though:

"I'm paying for this????"

The DL said it looked to her like something terrible had happened as all the bodies appeared to be in pain.

I said it reminded me of the excavated remains of Pompeii.

To complete the anguish we met up with my old mate Clive in the pub later and chatted about old films & municipal art until the karaoke started.

I tweeted about it. Along with art that is something that I have never understood.

Singing badly along to a backing track.

We fled.

Having just written those words I am colouring slightly when I think of the times I have sung badly to a backing track.

In my defence this was for Children in Need. Well it was for charity, surely that is different. Or am I just digging a deeper hole here?

In the words of Neil Innes introduction to "Protest Song" : "I've suffered for my music and now it's your turn".

Thursday 15 July 2010


Relationship milestone. The Dark Lady was bringing her children to stay for the weekend.

It was also her birthday so had to make sure that our first anniversary-type event was a success and as stress free as possible.

I had - in a true "cloak over the puddle" romantic stylee - given her a food mixer for her main present, as she has just had a new kitchen fitted and is a brilliant cook so really wanted one.

Her friends were disappointed that I had not showered her with jewels.

If they had checked out the previous blogs they would have been satisfied that she didn't get a wheelbarrow, like my friends did when they married at the tail-end of last year!

What is it with women and jewellery, anyway? Why does a sparkling rock mean more in some quarters than a Magimix?

I did get some other more romantic type stuff as well, including a painting which I bought at the St Michaels Hospice arts fair. This is an event where local artists exhibit and sell their work and the Hospice gets a fair percentage of the sales. I have been involved with them for years now and always end up buying a picture or two. I am running out of wall space so friends and family are starting to expect pictures.

The "other romantic stuff", by the way guys, did not include service station flowers and some items from the Ann Summers catalogue. I like to think I am better than that. Although you may argue, a foodmixer is not going to cut it in the romance stakes.

Not aware how many items of white goods and general kitchen equipment actually do.

"Oh Rhett...Rhett. Will we ever get back to Tara?"

"Frankly madam, without a Kenwood Chef...I don't give a damn!"

Friday night we went to see a tribute band the "Kings OV Leon".

Ella (14) and Jamie (11) are huge fans of the real thing so it was going to be interesting to witness their views.

Tribute bands seem to come in two forms: The ones who look like the band. And the ones that sound like them.

It is considerably easier to be a Queen tribute act, for instance, if you have a camp lead-singer with a white jacket, half a microphone stand and a big moustache.

I heard of one tribute act who was Alice Cooper AND Meatloaf. Just hope that he wasn't eaten by his snake halfway through "Dead Ringer for Love".

Saw a poster for a tribute act the other night who was Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse.

A witty combination, no doubt climaxing with her falling drunkenly out of what little clothing she is wearing.

They were late on stage but before they had even played a note, drunken women were dancing down the front.

The Kings ov Leon had a northern lead-singer, which was a little disconcerting when he did the stage announcements. I bit like hearing a Yorkshire Willie Nelson.

"T'next tune's "'ello Walls...'appen".

They did sound pretty much like the originals, though, and got a qualified thumbs-up from Ella and Jamie, with Ella pronouncing that one of the guitarists (not sure which one he was meant to be) was "hot".

Saturday and it was off in the sunshine to enjoy the fleshpots of Hastings. It is a terrific town for children as it has miles of seafront and a funfair as well as cliff lifts.

So it was to the fair and the Go Karts. I had forgotten how competitive children can be as the two of them tore round the track until there was a shunt, complete with equal and opposite recrimination.

Then it was to some huge ride that makes most people’s hearts sink.
It was called the Equinox.

The effect I imagined would be like someone trying to tear your limbs off in a spin dryer. Whilst simultaneously attempting to twist your head off.

Ella's eyes lit up. She loves these rides and I think probably wants to be a base jumper or a test pilot when she is older. However, she didn't want to go on it alone.

Jamie declared "I'll go on it later".

(I know your game, buster. You were wisely horrified at the thought of being spun through the air until your brains seeped out your ears. You are no mug!)

The DL refused point blank.

Three sets of eyes swivelled in my direction with an audible squeak.

So it was that we clambered into the seats and the safety cage/harness was lowered over our shoulders to lock us in position so we couldn't fly out. Further embarrassment came when the operator had to force my safety harness shut as my stomach appeared to be in the way. Too much centrifugal force and they would be hosing down Hastings Old Town for weeks after.

Off we went and it was truly, truly horrible. Up, down, sideways, backwards.

I wisely kept my eyes firmly shut the whole time.

After an age it slowed seemingly to a halt. "Thank God for that".

Then bugger me. It started off again.

If you ever want a value for money ride try The Equinox It lasts for hours and hours. Or that may just be my take on it.

Feeling slightly queasy, and with Ella beaming broadly, it was time to find some other hideous torture.

Dodgems. These I can cope with. I was cool, I was in control.

Bit disappointed that the blokes running the ride appeared to be about 15 rather than the tattooed gum-chewing stereotypes with the quiff and the permanent fag drooping from their lip. That is all part of the Amusement park experience.

I deftly weaved in and out of the other traffic. Mainly, but not always, avoiding being smashed to a bloody pulp by an eleven year-old boy with an evil grin who kept appearing out of nowhere.

"Beat you" said Jamie, when the ride was over.

I may have 43 years on the little chap but some things offend my middle-aged dignity.


There! I think that told him!

Up the East Hill funicular railway for a lay down on the grass and an ice cream.

After that it was back to the house, stopping off for a paddle in the sea which was surprisingly warm and we reckoned it was far warmer than our dip in the sea at Asbury Park at the tail end of "American Adventure 3" in May.

This proved, like the ride, to be another mistake.

This year I have been suffering from terrible Hay Fever and the grass pollen finished me off.

For the rest of the evening we sat, watched TV, and I sneezed.

Dressed some crab that we bought from one of the many fishmongers in the Old Town.

…and sneezed.

Watched Police Academy 2…and sneezed.

Had some chocolate...and sneezed.

Watched Nacho: Libre on DVD...and sneezed.

Ella hid in the spare room downloading the bulk of my CD collection on to her iPod.

I sneezed.

Jamie talked about Tanks and Militaria and I sneezed.

Had a glass of wine and sneezed.

The DL gave me most of her tissues. The ones that Mothers keep in their bags for wiping children with....and I sneezed.

Then I had a brilliant idea:

"In my estimation, this sneezing is actually due to a deep-rooted allergy to fairground rides. So sorry I can't go on any more again as they make me ill"

Thursday 8 July 2010


We were only a few miles from the festival.

The DL and I had been invited to Cornbury in Oxforshire. Remembering my last few festival experiences with camping in the pouring rain at Reading in the Seventies, staying in an hotel in Guildford for "Guilfest" a few times, and a day spent compeering a festival in Nantwich (during which Elkie Brook's son came to blows with the promoter) I was understandably chary.

So rather than rough it we opted to hire a "PodPad".

This struck us as a good compromise.

Carpet, flooring, electricity, quiet location with its own showers and toilets. Ideal for a middle-aged man with no sense of adventure and a love of creature comforts, despite having an altogether more adventurous other half.

It was a Wendy House!

Still, it had an airbed and a useful shelf. Good place to put a lantern and the cough mixture.

Trouble was, every time the DL turned over she caught the shelf with her bum. She is not exactly over-endowed in the derriere department. However, it is enough to give a girl a complex.

We had arrived on the friday although there was not due to be an official start to the music until the following lunchtime.

We settled in and met our neighbours. A couple of women who seemed very nice but a little unsure about my hacking graveyard cough.

This had been with me for the better part of a week and had shown little sign of improving.

"Alcohol should fix it" opined one of the women.

Being someone who has always been aware of other peoples’ space and with a desire not to upset anyone, I was concerned that I would disturb our neighbours.

There may have been slightly more sound insulation than that of a tent. However, you could still hear every sound. I was certain that I could hear peoples’ hair growing at one point.

The following morning we upped and washed and headed off the half mile or so to the arena to catch the opening acts.

Tiffany Page was a rather nervous and self-conscious opener and, by the time she had got to the second line of the first song, she was so out of tune it brought an audible gasp from the DL.

She soon got into the swing of things but, to this old ham, I do think that artists should think not only of the music but also their interaction with the crowd.

If I had a £1 for every time anyone uttered the word "awesome" during the weekend I would have had enough to pay the cost of the PodPad. That includes the use of the word myself in a "tweet" about the festival later that day.

This festival isn't dubbed "PoshStock" for nothing. There was a Starbucks, a Jamie Oliver food stand as well as a Waitrose and plenty of Organic and Holistic type food and the obligatory Veggie stuff. All with the added festival price hike.

Things really took off when Buddy Guy took to the stage mid-afternoon. (excuse the poor quality pic, if you will)

Not seen him since I was a young man at a concert with the late Junior Wells in London in the 70's.

This was not a happy evening as I recall; I think they were both off their faces on something or other and spent much of their time howling with laughter and not playing very much.

He may be 73 years of age but from the first note he had us. He is a showman as well as a fantastic musician. He also boasted the largest drummer I have ever seen. He was huge and looked like he was playing a child’s drumset.

Cornbury may be described as a "family-friendly, chic-boutique festival" but it was still fun.

It ran like clockwork as well, with one act on the second stage ready to go as the one on the main stage finished. This meant a certain amount of traipsing about but it was worth it. Highlights of the first day for us were Buddy Guy, Dr John and Squeeze.

We sat outside one of the bars and had a drink as the sun went down and headliner David Gray came on.

I saw him a few years ago when he did a special show for Radio 2 at the hallowed Abbey Road studios in London. New album about to be released and he was amazingly...dull. What has happened to him?

He is very popular and I am sure his new record will sell by the lorry load. DL looked at me and I looked at her and we headed off back to our Pod in the gathering dusk. We were not alone as we trailed through the wooded park. Hundreds of other festival goers had a similar idea. It was like a tide of refugees carrying blankets and camping chairs look for safety.

Back at camp it was to bed for a fitful nights sleep. Me, wheezing and coughing and the DL bumping the featured shelf as she turned over trying to get away from the noise. Of my hacking.

In the distance we heard a resounding cheer as David Gray concluded his set. Sounded to us like a roar or relief that it was over.

In the morning the water didn't work in the toilets and the loos themselves reminded me of Reading in 1975. They would flush but that just stirred the deeply unpleasant blue soup that was already in there.

Jon Allen was the opener on the Sunday and we both really wanted to see him. As we joined the throng heading for the arena, a marshall stopped us.

"Where are your white wristbands?"

"This blue one and the red one was the one were given when we arrived"

"No white wristband, sorry no entry"

"Where do we get one?"

We had to trudge all the way back to the entrance to join a lengthy queue of people buying day tickets, or people like ourselves who had not been given the correct passes.

We just made it as Jon was taking the stage.

He started with a couple of acoustic number and then brought his band on. He just gets better this boy.

We were aware of a change in atmosphere since the day before though. There seemed to be more security. We noticed some "Tim-Nice-but-dim" characters lurking up by the coffee franchise. One was actually heard to say, "The fillies at Glasto this year were far superior to here". The DL nudged me.

He was wearing deck shoes! I blame the jugs of Pimms that were on sale.

We knew we weren't going to be able to stay too long on the Sunday so we were going to miss Jackson Browne, the headliner, as well as the Feeling as I needed to get back for the show.

We caught the Lucinda Belle Orchestra and witnessed the first two numbers by the Blockheads. The material is classic and ageless but Ian Dury is irreplaceable.

The lead singer was laying the Cockney thing on with a trowel and it didn't work for us it seemed forced, rendering them a tribute act. We headed off. As we strolled through the park, we noticed the dreaded Morris Men jingling in the opposite direction.

Phew! We were free and not a moment too soon!

Heading back to London we reflected on the weekend.

We had seen and heard some great music in beautiful surroundings. We had been blessed with glorious weather. The line-up had been patchy but it was not time wasted.

Jon Allen tweeted that David Cameron had put in an appearance on the Sunday, which may explain the extra security.

With that news, any last vestige of teen festival-goers rebellion immediately was extinguished like a bucket of water had been poured over it.

Although we are not sure where they would have got the water from.

Thursday 1 July 2010


Dark Lady and I went off to the Midlands over the weekend to see some friends who run a flying school; there was a special event on at Halfpenny Green airfield near Wolverhampton to commemorate 100 years of aviation in the area.

The sun shone and planes of all shapes and sizes buzzed around the skies. It..(koff)...was a good day to be alive!

We were there for most of the weekend and, for most of that time, a man was mowing the grass. As you would imagine on an airfield there is a lot of the stuff and it has to be kept down.

Over the years I have become rather more sensitised to grass pollen. This is divine retribution for my schooldays when I would scoff at my red-eyed, wheezing friends and tell them to get a grip. They are laughing on the other side of their purple faces now, I can tell you.

Sunday and we headed off down to London. The DL was keen to know how England were getting on. We stopped at Oxford services on the M40 and, as we walked into the main building and saw the slumped and dejected public sat staring at strategic screens, we knew it was not going well.

"One- love. Er Love" I said, with my usual grasp of footballing regulations and scoring. I'm sure they'll pull that back. I remember back in '66 when...." I was shot a look which said it was wise to stop now when I too was only "one - love".

By the time we got home it was 4-1. Maybe I am becoming a fan after all but by now, I was feeling distinctly wiped out and crawled into bed feeling rather "worn". Perhaps it was the disappointment of our dismal showing that made it feel like that.

In the morning the voice had gone croaky and the coughing had started.

Damn that pollen.

Sea air was what was needed so I headed on down to Hastings after the show to let the ozone blow away the cobwebs.

With the weather so nice obviously it was time for a stroll along the front. First, I had important work to do: CD filing. After putting half-a-dozen on the shelf I felt too knackered to do any more and my favourite displacement activity rose to meet me.


I had two episodes of Chuck, a BBC 4 documentary called Rude Britannia, as well as Frost on Satire to watch. It contained an interview with one of America's last-surviving liberal voices, Bill Maher, who delights (along with Jon Stewart) in pricking the pomposity and exposing the lies of the establishment.

We need more of that sort of thing here, in my opinion. It was amazing to watch archive footage of the That Was the Week That Was and to look at the topics they covered.

Can't think of anyone who is doing that these days apart from Bremner, Bird and Fortune and - correct me if I'm wrong - they don't seem to have been on for awhile.

By now the hacking cough had been joined by a cold and comedy sneezing.

I was not alone either. The DL started to go down with it and, listening to Chris Evans, Moira Stuart was also croaking her way through the news. Still, I was first, I thought. This was borne out by Aled Jones thanking me for giving him my germs.

I comforted myself with the thought that, top man as he is and talented too, if it resulted in just one fewer rendition of "Walking in the Air" my work here on Earth was done!

Wednesday and I hauled my aching cough and cold ridden body along to see a showcase by The Unconventionals, a 6-piece close-harmony group. I have featured them on Lester's Library in the past and their first album is about to be released. I am in awe of music and musicians. It is often said that DJ's are failed musicians and, in my case, this is certainly true.

They were terrific, if slightly kitsch in their delivery. They went down a storm with the battle-scarred cynical audience of media types.

It had us bemoaning the lack of TV variety shows. There are few outlets for acts of this type any longer. Back in the day they would have been a staple of Seaside Special and Pebble Mill at One. They are due to make an appearance on GMTV soon. By then the Lester germs will doubtless have reduced their fine vocals to a thin croak.

A listener noted that on Twitter the other day that I didn't live "The high life" as I mentioned a terrible laundry failure at the flat I rent. I am extremely fortunate in having a job I love. However, not for me are Limo's and Personal Assistants or even an "entourage". I am a bloke so I don't need any of this stuff, I even do my own washing. (My Mum died 7 years ago so, alas, she is no longer around to pick up after her "little soldier".)

So duly loading the weeks smalls and not quite so smalls into the machine it was with some consternation that upon my return at the end of the cycle. The machine was still full of water and had halted mid-cycle. No amount of wrestling with the controls made any difference. Gathering my bath robe and all the towels, I had opened the door and tried to mop the suds.

Another cycle and the same thing happened. By this time, I was wringing stuff out in the bath in an attempt to find any textile that would absorb liquids.

One last go…and the machine worked a treat and has performed without complaint ever since.

Perhaps I have a new power brought on by the coughing, the sneezing, the germs and the pollen.

"Alex Lester...White Goods Whisperer!"

Excuse me if you think this is far-fetched. Peter Parker got his Spiderman powers after being bitten by a radioactive arachnid.

Thursday, and after another wheezing and coughing morning "pulling the triggers on the 45's" and another (failed) attempt to boost my profile - this time by turning myself into a "shock jock" - it was back to the flat.

Where I live is not at the high-end of London rented accommodation. It is a nice flat in a block of similar one-bedroom abodes. However, I think that in order to make as much as they can, landlords cram a lot of people into the apartments.

There were a dozen or so people milling around in the street when I arrived, an ambulance and four fire appliances also.

One of the flats had caught fire whilst I had been at the studio and its occupants and those of the flats either side had taken refuge outside.

So it was to bed in a flat that smelled of bonfire. Although, for some reason, it didn't make my cough any worse!