Thursday 26 August 2010


The dismal weather has put a bit of a dampener on things. Are we downhearted?

Who shouted "yes"?

At the weekend the Dark Lady fled to Majorca with her two children and had a bonus result upon arriving. She had been overbooked.

Now, this is not something that often ends in joy…but this did.

I can still remember as an eleven year-old when we first visited the Balearic's. This was the result of it snowing the previous summer on our annual holiday to Wales. My Mum put her foot down and so made Dad worked extra hard to save for the trip. Never before had my sister and I seen sea and sunshine together in the same place. Usually it was huddling for warmth in the drizzle under a damp towel, whilst my parents made optimistic noises such as: "I think its brightening up over there" and "The Sun'll be out in a minute" which, of course, was total lies designed to make us miserable kids feel better and stop grizzling.

We flew out of Elmdon airport (now grandly titled, Birmingham International) at about two in the morning wearing our best clothes

For some reason, that was the norm back then. Was it to ensure you didn't let the family down by appearing neat and tidy? Was it designed for maximum embarrassment, so that you stood out in a crowd rather like Mormon Missionaries? Or was it to ensure you were as uncomfortable as possible throughout the long and tedious journey.

Obviously this was going to be exciting. We were going on a jet plane!!!!

We arrived at the hotel at about 5 in the morning: hot, tired and dressed totally inappropriately for a transit from the pouring rain of the Midlands to the heat of Majorca. When we arrived we had been double booked with another family of Lesters from Walsall!

The first night was spent in a shared room. Also, as my Dad had booked as "Dr Lester" the word soon got round and throughout the fortnight a stream of battered, bruised, broken and boozy Brits would totter up to him as he tried to read a book by the pool or during meals:-

"You're a doctor aren't yer? Don't trust any of these foreigners. Can you just have a look at this boil on my bum?"

"Ooh Doctor after that beach barbecue last night I've come over right queer. It must be the water. Wasn't nothing to do with the six bottles of plonk and the eleven gins I had. Ooh, its nasty....both ends. I was up all night".

After that, if we went abroad Dad wisely went as "Mr".

I digress as usual. That was Majorca 1967. Fast forward to same island, forty three years on.

DL and the two children arrived tired and grumpy, after a long night journey from Luton and a stuffy coach journey, to discover they too had been overbooked.

So, a small apartment with no sea view and self catering is instantly changed into a similar apartment with a sea view and full board at a different - but equally nice -resort a few miles further up the coast for no extra cost.

Result! No cooking to be done by the DL and everything was included: food, ice cream, drinks. Fantastic!

As you can tell by the above, I have been left to my own devices this week. So, on Sunday I went to see some friends up in the Midlands. These friends happen to run a Microlight flying school at Halfpenny Green airfield, near Wolverhampton. There was an "event" on. This seemed to involve a number of things and it seemed pretty well-attended. The main draw, I think, was the helicopter rides. I chose to watch deeming it better to be on the ground looking up, than in the air looking down. Not sure if it is the result of the camera but I never realised Helicopter rotors flexed so much! They certainly seemed to beat the air into submission and it would take off, blowing a mighty wind into the onlookers faces, fly off and - five minutes later – come back, disgorge its 6 passengers, another 6 would board, and with another mighty wind it would be gone.

Meanwhile, a small biplane was taking part in a flour-bombing competition. The plan, it seems, was to buzz over the runway and fling out a bag of flour in the general direction of a small yellow van guarded by two marshalls, who must have worried that the bag would hit them. If it had, it would have raised a welt. I'll be bound. Not sure what practical use this exercise had apart from piloting skills. Maybe it evolved from the last war when Britain was in a dark place and under the threat of invasion:

The Home Guard with its one ancient biplane would be tasked to see off the invaders with anything to hand.

"Remember men. If the Hun isn't on the run after we have thrown flour all over them, use the castor sugar. If that fails, hurl Private Godfrey's sister Dolly's Upside-Down cake at 'em. That should see them back over the channel double quick. They won't be able to endure bakery bombing."

If you have been tuned to the show this week, you will know that I have been expecting the arrival of mobile phone handset no.6. The previous one that was guaranteed to work decided it would not send nor receive picture messaging. It was with some trepidation that I trudged through the pouring rain and entered the shop in order for the staff to set it up. The assistant seeing my current phone was waxing lyrical about how good it was, until I informed him that this was the third of its type that had failed to perform and I was here to collect a different handset.

iPhone4, to be precise. For some reason it has a smaller SIM card. After tussling with it without success, trying to transfer all my numbers from the old phone to the new, he produced a pair of scissors from a desk drawer and proceeded to cut the old SIM card to size.

There's technology for you. Billions spent on mobile phone development and the bloke in the shop takes a pair of shears to it!

Nuclear power plant gone critical? Don't worry, attack it with scissors.

Jenson Button's car not running right? Don't worry, attack it with scissors.

Jumbo jet plummeting to earth with a full complement of passengers and crew doomed to a fiery end? Don't worry ....oh actually do worry you can't take scissors on board...bye!

Not sure that the scissors actually helped but after an hour I left the store with a phone that has enabled me to tweet, message both text and picture and also email. Not had occasion to make a call yet......hmm!

After the phone "success" it was back out into the drizzle and on to my favourite record shop which had a sale on, in order to pick up a few albums for "Lester's Library". Already played a couple of them on the show and, as I type these words, I am listening to "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" by The Pilgrim Travellers. Uplifting stuff that may be inflicted on you fairly shortly.

Nice selection of Blues, Reggae and Rock, as well as a couple of Randy Newman albums that I was missing from the spare bedroom, make up the 15 that I squelched back to the rental flat with yesterday.

As I made my way in the deluge, I became increasingly irritated by the poor driving skills of pedestrian with umbrellas.

In the benign dictatorship that is my master plan for Britain when I assume control (sorry did I not tell you of my Napoleon complex?) there will be “Lessons For Some Things That You Didn't Realise Needed To Be Taught”.

Number one. Umbrella skills. They should teach these in schools. So from a young age children would know how to furl and unfurl a brolly without flinging water over others. How to negotiate busy pavements without blocking the path completely with an over sized golf job. How to control them in gust of wind so they don't turn inside out causing them to be waved wildly in any direction. More importantly, they would learn to keep them at a safe height so that others don't have to walk with a stoop to avoid losing an eye.

Also, thanks to the idiot who managed to entwine my hair as she walked twirling her brolly, perhaps thinking she was Twiggy from a 1965 Carnaby Street Swinging London fashion shoot. The rain police would inflict a draconian fine, confiscate the deadly item and she would be issued with a sou'wester. If you can't operate an umbrella in a safe and responsible manner you will be barred from ownership.

Incidentally to the people who sniggered as I wandered past: Yes, I was wearing my sandals as it is not September yet. Yes, my feet were wet but they soon dried out. As did the rest of my clothing.

Thursday 19 August 2010


Has it come to this? The part of your life that Terry Wogan has always been going on about: Where simple things become a problem?

Forget the creaking of the bones as you struggle to climb out of your chair. The old gags about the husband and wife:

"Carry me upstairs and make love to me"

"I can manage one but not both"

The standing at the top of said stairs - maybe alone or in company - and thinking:

"What did I come up here for?"

Carrying a selection of items to your front door. Basket or briefcase. Newspaper tucked under one arm shopping and your house keys dangling from one finger with a bottle of wine held in the armpit.

Why do you drop the wine when all you wanted to do was open the door?

With those thoughts floating around in my head and bouncing off the sides randomly, like one of those early video tennis games waiting for a player, it has been a week of memory lapses and imagined events. Or so I thought.....or did I.

The other morning, as I was exiting the rental flat at horrible o'clock, I noticed the smell of incense.

"Someone smoking an elderly aunt?" I joshed with another as we passed each other in the "common parts". It is my stock response to joss sticks et al I am afraid. It is the smell of lavender that does it. Sorry.

When I arrived at the studio and woke up Dr. Strangelove who, as usual, was asleep under the desk. Curled up dormouse-like sucking his thumb. Never sure what he dreams about but his leg twitches and I sometimes hear him mutter "Disco" under his breath.

Probably having that old Tony Manero Saturday Night Fever dream that we all have from time to.......erm. Anyway where was I?

Ah yes. When he was fully awake, I asked him about the joss sticks.

"What joss sticks?"

"The ones I was given the other day"

"Were you? I don't remember.”

"I told you I was given some joss sticks."

"You didn't"

"Didn't I?"

Oh. I was convinced that I had been given a packet. So I checked with the DL.

She knew nothing of these Pimpernels of the incense world.

Friday and once more it was "Nerd Night". I have detailed these before. This is where a load of radio DJ's get together eat drink and tell stories. Last one awake wins.

This time we went to Swindon. Stopped in to see my mate Tony who runs the BBC station there. He was on good form and, although he wasn't able to come along for the whole evening, he kindly offered to take me to the hotel where I was going to meet the rest of the gang.

I had passed the Travelodge on the way from the railway station which was only a stones throw from the radio station. As I arrived in reception a text arrived from "MATTHEWWWW".

He is a tall and Tigger-ish man who has, as the monkey on his back, an abiding and deep love of football. He has tried on many occasions over the years to interest me in the "beautiful game". Although, as he is an Hull City fan, I have watched his mounting excitement as the "Fish/ Bees/ Falcons/ Tigers" (fill in the correct creature here.) compete on the field.

As a football philistine, I gather true fans don't refer to the team by their proper name but by calling them after animals. Not totally sure why, but I think it helps with the name calling and the choice of mascots.

MATHEWWW has grown in stature as Hull City made their way to Premier League status. We have also watched as his nails became bitten to the quick as they teetered in the relegation zone for two seasons until the inevitable drop.

Already back among the mortals in the league below they have been thrashed 4-0 by the Rochdale Aardvaarks (or some such. I told you I was a Philistine).

He is on his way to being a broken man. He is smaller, thinner, and his rich booming voice is nearly reduced to a croak. Poor man.

Anyhoo. He sent me a text as we stood in the foyer of the Travelodge.

"In the pub over the road".

One slight problem. There was no pub over the road. Still that would have to wait. The guy on reception was having difficulty locating my reservation.

"L-E-S-T-E-R.” I spelt the name for him as many spell it as in the city.
I used to say "As in Piggott". However, anyone under thirty-five has no idea who I am talking about these days.

L-E-S-T-E-R "As in Young"

L-E-S-T-E-R "As in Maddocks!!"

This was going nowhere.


"Which pub over the road? All I can see is a selection of boards surrounding a building site and a car park"


"Can't see any roundabout"

"BIG ROUNDABOUT ON AN INDUSTRIAL ESTATE. PUB WHERE WE ARE AND THE PREMIER INN IS NEXT DOOR" he boomed. Imagining himself in the stands two seasons ago as the Hull Axolotls were promoted for the first time in their history.

"Premier Inn, you say?"

No wonder. I was at the Travelodge! Tony bussed me up there and the evening started in earnest. Food, drink and excellent people. New friends met. Very old stories told and, all too soon, it was 3.30am and we headed back to the EconoHolidayETAPLodgeInn.

In the morning I tweeted that "Shields were at 70%".

Matheww (slight hangover, so quieter) found this reference baffling until I explained that had he not wasted his life on football. He would know the reference as I had wasted my life on "Star Trek". We could combine the two and he could support the Hull Tribbles, or the Grimsby Farenghi.

Back on the show, after two bouts of amnesia in the space of a few days, I was furious to note on thursday morning that I had been sold a "pup".

In attempt to stave off the effects of hours and the nerd nights, Dr Strangelove and myself force ourselves to drink a smoothie every morning. Normally, we stand in the studio at the end of the programme, hold our noses and pour them down in a sort of "suicide pact".

On Thursday there was no time as I had a train to catch. Whilst on the train I reached into the man bag (carrier, I am cheap) for my health-giving concoction and glanced at the lid.


I was furious. How could a shop have such lax hygiene regulations to allow them to sell perishables more than a year old? I was going to have a word with them when I was back in London.

It was only when I was relating this tale of woe to the DL that she pointed out my confusion.

"04/09." She told me gently "means 4th of September. Not April 2009"

Saved from more embarrassment. I shudder to think what would have happened had I marched into the shop waving a perfectly good in date smoothie at a baffled shop assistant demanding to see the manager.

So the brain is softening. I am easily confused. Can't remember stuff and, to put the tin hat on it, am returning to schoolboy status:

I suppose it coincides with our "Student Essentials" campaign.

After playing "On the Road Again" by my hero Willie Nelson as part of "Lesters Library" on Thursday morning, I opined that you could never "have too much Willie."

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a purple-faced Dr Strangeboots fall to the floor. And then I was off.

A 54 year old man had regressed 40 years in the space of a sentence. We howled. You can hear it on the iPlayer and doubtless it will turn up on this weeks "Oddcast".

Still I suppose it keeps us young.

So, what next? Turning up for the show in my Cosijamas or trying to pay bills with chickens?

When I got home I was turning some stuff out of a carrier bag and there, nestling at the bottom: a packet of Joss sticks.

I wasn't dreaming after all.

Oh, we haven't had this for awhile....

Thursday 12 August 2010


Occurred to me the other day that I have hardly been to the cinema in years. When the show came from Birmingham I used to go regularly for the 10.30am "pensioners special".

This was designed to have the placed packed with "seniors" with cotton wool in one ear, smelling slightly of Wintergreen, whooping at Betty Grable re-runs. Actually this is a nonsense stereotype. Apologies. Try again:

Designed to have the place packed with lithe, fit, snowy-haired men and women who have taken time out from a very active sex life to catch up on the latest films, before their children and grandchildren had a chance. At the same time taking copious notes using the "free Parker pen" they received for "just calling" to enquire about the funeral expenses plans advertised by Annette Crosbie on Daytime TV.

In truth, very often I would enter the cinema buy the obligatory snacks and venture into a totally empty auditorium. On one occasion I went in and waited for the feature to start.

By "feature" what we mean these days is half an hour of ads and trailers for stuff coming up next year.

Time was when you would get two films and a newsreel as well as an usherette and the woman who marched purposefully down the centre aisle between pictures with the tray of ice cream, lit by a glow worm of a bulb. The order was always the same: "Two choc ices and a tub". My Mum used to take myself and my sister from time to time.

First occasion was to see The Sword in the Stone, the B-picture being The Scarecrow. This was so frightening for a 7 year-old that I spent most of the time hiding under the seat, so I don't remember much about either film. Nor the choc ice for that matter.

I do recall laughing so hard when Norman Pitkin (Norman Wisdom who else) came down the stairs at the beginning of The Earlybird and took all the wallpaper off with his sleeve. I practically had to be revived by the St John Ambulance representative that always seemed to be in attendance. Not seen one for years at a cinema. Maybe films aren't that funny any longer so they are not needed.

I did get my First Aid qualification when I was at school. Shortly after "qualifying" I was sauntering past the Odeon in Birmingham, when I noticed two security guards ministering to a punter lying prone at the foot of the sweeping staircase. This was my moment to shine!!!! I rushed over and said airily to the two members of staff - who were frantically trying to revive this poor bloke - "I'm a first aider"

Briefly pausing in their ministrations, one of the pair glanced at me and uttered the following memorable piece of advice which I have taken to heart and it has stayed with me my whole life:

"F*$^& off kid!"

I'll not forget your face, buster! I retired from the front line medical service at that moment. Frankly I think he did me and you a favour.

Meanwhile, back in the deserted cinema, I waited for the feature to start. After about twenty minutes the lights dimmed and nothing happened. Had they packed up and gone home? It was only 11am. After another ten minutes I fumbled my way to the exit and went to the foyer where I asked if they had to have a certain number of punters in to make it worthwhile using that much electricity to run the film.

"No, we run it even if there is no one in"

They had forgotten to press "start"?

So that answers one of life’s imponderables. The other being, "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around, does it still make a sound?"

"If Norman Wisdom films run and there is no one around to watch them, do they still all have the cloyingly sentimental and buttock-clenchingly embarrassing bit in the middle where he develops a crush on the leading lady played by Liz Fraser?"

In the two years the show has been back in London, I have managed to catch one movie: The latest incarnation of Alice in Wonderland. It was enjoyable although I did get the impression that the fact it was in 3D meant the3 director kept adding whirling, swirling, whooshing things to make the best use of the technique. This became slightly tedious after a while as I was waiting for it to happen and trying to spot something that might suddenly fly at me.

The Dark Lady, her eleven year old son, Jamie, and I decided to head for a cinema to catch Toy Story 3.

It has been praised to the skies and everything I have read about it warned the softie in me that it was going to cause the odd tear to course down my cheek.

I had booked online and so we arrived with a few minutes to spare and then went to sort out the carb-loading for the feature. The deal was I booked the tickets and the DL bought the snacks.

I got the best deal I think. We were in Walsall in the West Midlands not in central London. How do three hot dogs, three drinks and bag of sweets come to nearly £25?

Being greedy and time running short we order three XL Hot dogs. As I have blogged in the past, who do they think they are kidding when the advertise "Large and Extra Large" when they could also advertise the same products as "regular" or "large". To my certain knowledge these were the only two sizes available.

There was only one XL turning slowly on the dog warmer so I pulled rank (OK the DL gave in, after I whined sufficiently) so I got the big dog (Yes, I am the big dog daddy!) and Jamie and K had the "large".

I have seen the previous two in the Toy Story franchise and have loved them both. This was equally wonderful made even more poignant by the fact it is the last one.

There was a lot of whirling and whooshing of stuff at the start. However, I became so absorbed that I stopped noticing after a few minutes.

If you have not seen it I will not spoil it for you.

Yes, I wept at the end. Yes, I welled up when Randy Newman sang the theme song. Yes, I had kept several napkins from the hot dog for such an eventuality.

When the lights came up, we looked around lots of people seemed to have got something in their eye. Must be very dusty in there. I had red eyes with curious mustard and ketchup eyeshadow.

I tweeted that I had found it very affecting and also mentioned seeing it on the show. I was delighted to find that I was not alone. One person claimed they were saved from exposure by the man behind them sobbing loudly.

Only one dissenting voice came from a listener who described themselves as "The Hairy Scotsman" who told Dr Strangelove, the producer, and myself to; "man up".

Oh, and an eleven year old boy of my acquaintance who claimed that he hadn't cried.

"Well maybe one small tear" he said trying to make me feel better.

Thursday 5 August 2010


This week, we decided to make it National Boredom week as our national week on the show.(Hmm, lot of weeks in that sentence). Self-fulfilling prophecy for things personally this week. Other than the show, I may add. You always make that entertaining with your increasingly bizarre contributions.

The “4.15 One off canteen” is proving a big hit with people explaining their USP in order to get a mention. Someone claiming their legs were made entirely out of baked beans had our antennae twitching. What they hey! If it was true, that person would be unique no doubt about it.
The show hasn’t been dull. Bizarre yes, surreal yes, but hopefully not dull.

We have for some time now been adopting a “National week”. This is an attempt to invest our little show with some sense of importance. We don’t get much attention normally, tucked away at 2am, so we have to try and punch above our weight. This is obviously leading to delusions of grandeur.

Dr Strangelove and I (he is the one sleeping under the desk) are obviously beginning to lose our grip on reality. Not sure how far we can get with this before we are removed from the building.
Keep an eye on the webcam over the next few weeks in case we suddenly turn up wearing military uniforms and start spreading maps of the world all over the place.

We are both under 5ft 7” so the “small man” syndrome is very much in evidence.
No wonder Sarah Kennedy refers to me as “Napoleon.”

Unfortunately, the Dark Lady was very busy this week in meetings and being a “tycoon” so we have only managed to grab a few minutes together. Therefore, I had to make my own entertainment.

Monday was spent in the bazoom of my family. Sister and brother-in-law turned up at my Dad’s house. He is looking very chipper these days and also rather stylish. We attribute this to his hot new squeeze, June, who is putting a spring in his step and ensuring he appears less rumpled.
My Dad has thirty years on me but I know only too well how easy it is to succumb to dishevelment.

It is in the Lester genes. No matter how expensive suit, haircut, shirt shoes and tie etc. within ten minutes of donning the apparel there is an audible “Sproing” and we look like we have stolen the clothes off the back of a tramp.

June did ask if we thought it OK to try and smarten the old man up a bit. Everyone - especially my Father - agreed it was about time he had some new clothes.

The only worry was that he would re-appear in jeans. I may be wrong here, but if you are 83 years of age, jeans don’t really work unless you are a Texan mending fences on your “spread”.
There was also the slight concern that he may affect a neckerchief.

Didn’t fancy turning up and seeing a man that I have loved and idolised all my life looking like a cross between Terry Thomas and Patrick Cargill in Father, Dear Father.

No. All was well. A pair of smart but casual trousers, new sweater and a blue shirt.
Everyone was looking pretty good except me. I am the cover photo for this month’s issue of Society Scarecrow (Incorporating Modern Hobo).

No idea what your excuse is if you are permanently rumpled. Mine is “the hours”. That is why I am still with the “No socks ‘til autumn” routine; who wants to try lacing things up at 1.00am? Sandals R Us at this time.

Up…teeth… shorts…T shirt…Sandals…Out the flat and into the car five minutes after the alarm. Sorted.

Did a bit of CD hunting for “Lester’s Library” on Tuesday and have managed to track down a few of the songs that I heard on American Adventure 3 in May (which now seems a lifetime ago). Was unable to get some of them as they had not been released. Now, however, they are available on import. Trouble is, due to the poor exchange rate they are cripplingly expensive so I am going to have to buy them a couple at a time.

Wednesday and a gentle stroll along the canal towpath to trendy Islington to meet my friend, Charlie Jordan. She is a DJ and a Poet and has, over the years, been heard on many stations including Radio 1 and 2. Unfortunately, due to pressure of poetry, she won’t be able to make the next “Nerd Night” where radio DJ’s get together and try to out-bore one another. She may, of course, be lying as she can’t bare another one.

Charlie is very tall and thin and has also modelled in the past, yet she has an addiction to cakes. No idea how her metabolism works but she never puts on any weight.

I always hang back when she suggests meeting at a cake shop as I have no willpower.

This place was packed full of Islington “Yummy Mummies” and I can tell you, without any shadow of doubt or fear of contradiction: August is pregnancy season in this part of town. Charlie said she wasn’t and I’m certainly not, but everyone else was about 8 months gone.

I think - but won’t swear to it - that I heard a rumour that London Mayor Boris Johnson was thinking of introducing “buggy lanes” on the roads hereabouts, in order for the aforementioned Mummies to be able to waddle to and from the shops and ante natal classes, pushing last year’s model in the expensive three-wheeler pram without holding up the other vehicles.

As I left, the traffic seemed to consist mainly of taxis that were refusing to pick up a bloke who had a small cardboard box containing a lamp.
As yet another screeched off with the driver nodding, I suggested he jot the licence number down and complain.

The average licensed London taxi can hold 5 people. Or one Yummie Mummie an expensively dressed child and lots of designer shopping. Surely they could have fitted one thinnish looking bloke holding a small box containing a lamp?