Friday 19 November 2010


Busy week as it was time for another "Nerd Night". I have mentioned these in the past as this is when DJs from the radio industry get together to talk jingles, bloopers, donuts, day parts and "throwing forward", all of which - you will have noted by listening to the Best Time of the Day Show - I have not mastered in 33 years at the turntables.

For some unaccountable reason, women seem to be in short supply on these nights out. There are quite a number of women broadcasters and yet they always seem to be washing their hair the night the Nerds sweep into town.

This one was going to be in York and, surprise surprise, was going to be "curated" by a woman!

Had not done any organisation for the do myself other than trying to work out whether to drive or go by train. This was dependent on how the Dark Lady was feeling after her neck operation from a few weeks back. She is in pretty good shape now with most of the pain gone, although her left arm is still a little weak and her voice is still wheezy. Although, in order to keep the peace, I have stopped laughing at it now. (Wow guys I am such a catch!!)

In the end I elected to go by train. This was a rather uncomfortable and horribly expensive mistake. An off-peak walk-up return ticket London to York was an eye-watering £103.

What compounded the felony was the total lack of available seating. So yours truly spent almost three hours sitting on the floor at the blunt end of the train. Every so often having my toes would be run over by the buffet trolley driven by a poor bloke who had to spend his life negotiating luggage, sprawling legs, toddlers left to roam by uncaring parents and some bloke parked grumpily and plumply slap bang in the middle of the trolley turning circle at the blunt end of the train!

Got to York and had a monumental wait for a taxi to take me to the hotel where I was going to meet the rest of the gang. As is usual on these occasions, this is about the time of the day when the "regrets" start to arrive.

"Sorry can't make it after all, there's been a birth/death/illness in the family"

This time, however, there were a few recession based excuses that I can fully understand, particularly when

you take into account the parlous state of the British radio industry these days.

"Sorry can't make it, been told I have to work a double shift/been fired/broke"

Also there was the usual...

"Sorry dog ate my homework" excuses as well.

On this occasion the curator didn't come either (she being a woman, the "she" is a giveaway I think). This

reminded me of a friends 21st birthday when we were students. We arranged to meet in a pub and he never turned up as "he didn't feel like it". So that just left poor Charlie Jordan on the woman front for this Nerd Night. She is used to this stuff by now. Charlie is very highly regarded, not only for her talent and professionalism, but also the fact is she is always great company.

I can still remember working in darkest Yorkshire back in the very early 80's when the bloke in charge of the radio station referred to one of the women staff as "an honorary bloke". Being a PC person (well, I try....."phwooar look at the ti....." STOP IT ALEX) with hindsight it should really have been the other way round as she went on to become a very senior person at the BBC in Ulster and he....disappeared.

It was great to catch up with the usual gang and also see some new faces there, including Jules Bellerby who was a colleague of mine from 25 years back. He tells me he has a picture of us in those days in the attic. All his own hair and teeth (although I was gratified to note it was greying at the temples).

"Where's Julia?" Julia is his wife of many years and also a seasoned broadcaster in her own right.

"She didn't think she was invited."

She was no mug as I recall from the mid 80's. Obviously deciding an evening in front of the TV was infinitely preferable to jingle chat.

Beer, restaurant, then the standard trudge round the city to find the hotel where we could have a few more beers. The restaurant staff sent us the wrong way despite the protestations of my god son Michael, who is training to become an airline pilot, so was a dab hand with the sat nav in his phone.

In the end, Mathew Rudd decided that it was worth a chance dropping into a hotel we were passing to ask. His persuasive, smooth DJ patter reaped the expected dividend and 16 slightly tipsy blokes and one sober woman were invited in to drink beer and talk about donuts, music beds and "throwing forward". Until the bar shut at 2am.

The following morning it was back on the train for 11-ish. This time it was bliss (sort of); a seat (although the table was awash with stale beer and soggy newspapers). Not wishing to stereotype, however, but the train had just come down from Scotland via Newcastle.

Back into London to link up with the Dark Lady in time to jet off to Hemel Hempstead (home of the famous "Box 14" 35mm Kodak, film fans) in order to go to the pub to meet her mate Brian for his 50th Birthday. There was a cracking band and excellent food and a cake in the colours of Queen Park Rangers. (I had that last bit explained to me). Chatted with friends of the Dark Lady old and new. One slight hiccup when a woman asked me what time my show was.

"2 til 5 in the morning?? No-one's listening. Everyone's asleep!" she opined. She was obviously a "light" so had no understanding of the real world. So I let her off. Although mentally I was shovelling earth on her dismembered corpse.

Another late night but a lot of fun and Brian's Dad attempted to explain fly fishing to me.

From what I gather you spend a lot of time out in the cold and drizzle drinking beer and wine and eating sandwiches.

On the subject of fish he said, segueing neatly (ah segues - we are back at Nerd Night again), to the following, when I was dispatched back to the rental flat with my luggage which now had the added bonus of containing two helpings of the DL's famed and excellent fish pie.

When I got back I discovered that there had been some leakage and so my clothes, bag and computer were soaked in fish pie juice.

It's a devil to get cod stains out you know. It also sets up quite a stench. So next time I go to a coffee shop or a library to use their Wi-Fi you will know it's me as I will be the bloke surrounded by cats.

On the Monday it was up to see my Dad, Sister and Brother-in-Law, John. It was his birthday at the beginning of the month so it was a chance to catch up and give him his present: a travellers' wallet. He is retired and my Sister is following suit in the new year, so maybe they will get more time to travel!

Dad, meanwhile, had been busy making stuff in the garage. I am still scarred by the wooden Spirograph he constructed for me when I was eight. At that age you want what all your mates have got. The store-bought stuff. Now I am immensely proud of him for his carpentry talents and wouldn't swap it for anything. Having said that there is a certain "Boy Named Sue" quality about it.

Obviously buoyed by the success of this, more than forty years on he has built a "Harmonograph". This apparently was all the rage in Victorian times. The paper is placed on a moving deck which is operated by a pendulum and the pen is attached to an arm which moves in a different direction via another pendulum.

Now you know where I get it from.

Am away next week as the Dark Lady and I are off to New York for a few days ....I have a few surprises up my sleeve. I shall report back. In the meantime, make Tim Smith as welcome as you always do as he is holding the fort. Supported by Dr Strangelove and his wide variety of hats.

While I am away, if you are pining for my the sound of my manly tones, don't forget you can hear my latest Audioboo, in which Dr. Strangelove puts forward those tricky questions you have asked (such as "what do you watch on the telly?") You can log onto Audioboo by clicking here. With the same login, you can also follow me on Twitter, and get the lowdown on The Adventures of Alex, as and when events happen.

And while I am away keep those suggestions for Listener's Library coming in. As it is the festive season approaching you may want a nice Christmas tune with jingle bells on, or to make a nice Christmas dedication...or to completely hijack the whole thing with some heavy rock anthem or an MC Hammer song. We are a broad church so all suggestions welcome. Visit here to submit your request.

Wednesday 10 November 2010


With the Dark Lady happily on the mend, I took time out from nursing duties to....

OK, in truth I did have a long standing arrangement to meet up with my mate, Libido Boy, to go out and paint the town a middle-aged red. As someone said on the show the other morning, "when given a choice of sins, you choose the one that gets you home early". This baffled producer Dr Strangelove, as did another suggestion from you: "You can dress as young as you like but you will be found out by a flight of stairs"! His face was a picture.

Yes friends, it is true that sometimes people’s mouths just drop open as they struggle to comprehend what is going on. Still, he can always beat me with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Madonna, Westlife and Elias and his Zig Zag Jive flutes.

So leaving the DL howling in pain....

OK, she was in some discomfort as the healing process has started and her vertebrae are starting to fuse following the removal of a badly slipped disc in her neck.

Her son Jamie had pointed out (somewhat unhelpfully) that - as it was Halloween - she could go Trick or Treating with him and she wouldn't need any make up as she had a Frankenstein scar on her neck. He will go far that boy. Not sure where but certainly a long way. The scar, by the way, is fading fast; my suggestion of a tattoo by it reading "Cut here" didn't go down that well, though.

Odd as I have seen that tattoo many times on blokes over the years. Never women though. Although I have seen cat paw marks tattooed onto their breasts which must have seemed mildly amusing at the time; thirty years and three children later it may not have seemed such a corker of a wheeze.

DL gave me her blessing and waved a misty-eyed and stoic goodbye as I left to meet L_Boy and she rushed inside to catch X Factor and Strictly, her two guilty pleasure TV thrills.

We had arranged some time ago to go and see Mary Chapin Carpenter. One of the draws was that she was being supported by Tift Merritt who we had seen and enjoyed with Teddy Thompson a year or so back

We had to get to London's Barbican Centre. Being the weekend a lot of the Tube lines are closed for maintenance work, so we decided to walk. We strode out towards the Thames and, after an hour, arrived at the Embankment when I realised that perhaps the Barbican was not really the Festival Hall; I had become confused as we had been to both in the past. So we needed to be.....erm, in fact, some long way further North-East. In truth, not all that far really from our original starting point. Doh!

We were also running out of time as the concert was due to start at 7.30. We needed a cab. Everyone else had the same idea as we wandered fruitlessly round Euston and Kings Cross stations surrounded by young people in fancy dress off to Halloween parties....mainly it would appear by cab!

Then by a supreme stroke of good fortune we found one, leapt in and off we went at breakneck speed (11 mph, this is London - home of the traffic signal and grid lock). Arriving with seconds to spare we threw ourselves out of the taxi, hurtled up the stairs, past a display featuring a De Lorean car for some reason and a smiling usher. Libido Boy was convinced that he said "Hello Alex" when we came in and that he knew me. There was no look of contempt on his face so I doubted that was the case and he must have misheard.

In keeping with our rough, tough, hard men out on the town image we stopped at a concession stand and selected a bag of sucky sweets and arrived at the door just as it slammed shut for the first song by Tift Merritt. We waited and then in we went. We had seats high up in the gods so the figures on stage were in plain view, but with no discernible facial features. Whatever happened to opera glasses that you rented by popping 6d in the slot and removing them from the bracket in front of your seat?

Not sure what has happened to Tift Merritt either but she seemed to have gone all introspective and was given to agonised vocal swoops and mumbling which was a shame as I love her records.

Barbican is a very civilised venue with polite applause, little whooping and - strangely for these times - few people trying to record the gig or take pics with their mobile phones.

The headline act came on and we settled down for some quality music and more sucky sweets. Neither of us had seen her before but we knew her stuff. She didn't disappoint. Great band, wonderful songs brilliantly sung and some interesting and amusing introductions to the tunes, including one about kissing a dog which provoked a resounding "eeeeewwwww" from the refined crowd.

We enjoyed it a lot but it was a somewhat detached performance.

During a quieter song I was aware of the man sitting next to me. Obviously a music journalist who had been taking copious notes, had stopped his frantic scribbling and was snoring gently head back notebook about to slide to the floor.

Wonder what his review read:

"After a cracking start with some old favourites Mary moved onto tracks from her new alb..........................................................................................."

Once the show was over it was town painting time which meant we had to get from The Barbican to Camden in order to cram ourselves into the Elephants Head pub with the bright young fashionistas, all trying to look like Lily Allen, whilst older and eminently more sensible people played Reggae, Ska and Rockabilly on the Wheels of Steel.

First we needed a cab. The streets were thronging with Devils, ghouls, zombies and Draculas. Never realised that Transylvania’s most popular mode of transport was the Hackney carriage!

Plunging a stake through the heart of the nearest…well, we learned that drunken vampires don't move very quickly, we managed to flag a cab and off we went at breakneck speed (between 5 and 11mph due to drunken ghouls flinging themselves in front of the vehicle trying to flag it down, not realising the yellow hire light was unlit)

As we disembarked the driver looked at us smirked and said, "You'll be lucky to get a quiet drink here tonight, Camden's always mad on a Saturday but this being Halloween as well..."

This is the part of the evening we particularly enjoy in true middle-aged fashion. Libido Boy is addicted to crisps and has to have a packet with every pint. So we stand there waiting for a seat to become vacant, guzzling beer and eating crisps as he worries about his salt intake and I worry about my units of alcohol.

He is also very gregarious and will talk to anyone as he is genuinely interested in people. On one occasion he tried his halting Spanish on a Catalan couple who seemed interested in his efforts, albeit nonplussed as they spoke perfect English.

In between sets he struck up a conversation with the woman DJ. Didn't catch her name but she was from San Francisco originally so we knew a few of the same Radio guys out there. She was also an artist who found her most creative period was at night and so listened to the show which was nice to hear.

Then it was swap over time and tall thin DJ came over to chat and we talked music and the radio whilst Libido Boy continued to worry about his salt intake. By this time I had forgotten about my units.

We were satisfied to note that by the time last orders came round at 1.00am we were the only people left; all the Lily Allen and Pete Doherty clones having tottered off to bed...or so we thought. A blow for the stamina of the middle aged man! However we soon realised by the bedlam in the streets outside outside that they were in fact all going off to clubs or parties.

Nothing for it but a burger from our favourite street corner vendor with L-Boy asking for "English Mustard", as usual, from a baffled man whose first language isn't English. He pointed to the two sorts of dressings on offer for his burgers; "red stuff" and "yellow stuff". Two Cheeseburgers with red AND yellow stuff, hang the salt intake!

Then a lonely walk home through the deserted streets with one rock and roll thought in our minds.

"Wonder if there is a bin to discard the wrappers on the way home"

Don't forget to add me to Twitter @alexthedarklord (click here to do so) and also use the same login to hear the latest Audioboo (click here).

Also, still keep your Listener's Library suggestions coming in. As we are approaching Christmas, maybe your favourite Christmas song or - even better - you favourite anti-Christmas song! Or maybe a nice dedication for 'im or 'er indoors, awww. Visit here, I look forward to seeing - and hearing - your suggested records.

Monday 1 November 2010


Sorry for the lack of blog type communication over the last couple of weeks, but I was ministering to the Dark Lady who - having been laid low by a prolapsed disc in her neck - has been in hospital on huge amounts of pain killers until the Doctors decided it was best to operate.

This is not something to be undertaken lightly. You don't really want anyone messing with your spine, especially not in your neck. You can imagine all the horrible thoughts that want through our heads.

Then the night before the op there was the consent form to sign. This listed all the possible complications. These were far worse than the ones our overactive imaginations had already listed.

Up to that point, the care had been spectacular and the staff wonderful. Nothing was too much for them.

The DL was then transferred to another hospital to be prepped for surgery. We were told it could be 8 hours in theatre. So with me telling her as she was in theatre she was the "star", I left them to it and went home and stared at the wall. Four hours later the phone rang and she was back on the ward.

The Neuro Surgeon had done an excellent job. The terrible agonising pain had all but gone. She could wiggle her toes and move her hands and had a small dressing on the front of her neck where they had gone in to remove the disc. However, she had been left with a very wheezy voice which is a cross between Marge Simpson and the old guy from The Dick Emery Show.

Next day, however, things rather deteriorated. We had been aware of someone in a ward nearby who seemed to be channelling the late Senor Wences and his puppet, Pedro. Ironic really, bearing in mind the potential horrors of the operation was a head in a box.

The patient and the nursing staff went through the whole






"Close a the door pliz"

The surgeon had told her she could go home within 24 hours of the operation. DL felt too wiped out to go so opted to wait a couple of days.

After the umpteenth time, the staff tried to change the dressing and failed to remove the sterile film from it correctly so it wouldn't stick. One time there was even a search to find a wound on her back to dress that didn't even exist.

"Wheres the wound?"

"On my neck"

"No, its not you had spinal’s at the back"

"The Surgeon went through the neck"

"Why did he do that?"

"How am I supposed to know? I am not a surgeon!" (followed by a lot of wheezing).

Food was interesting too.

"Onion soup, please"

"There....the pasta you ordered"


"Cup of tea?"

"Yes, please"

"Here you go"

"That's coffee!"

DL decided to discharge herself 24 hours early fearful for what they would do next.

One thing that was evident was the care and good wishes from you, friends and family.

Barely an hour went by without another bunch of flowers being delivered. At one point I was dispatched to the Nursing station with a large box and told:

"Please take these off us.....we can't manage any more chocolate."

DL loves flowers and said it was like a florists.

I am not so struck due to the overpowering smell and so think…Undertaker!

She is now at home and still has a wheezy voice which is slowly getting better. The pain is there but is nowhere near as bad and hopefully will go completely soon.

She has been very brave and rises more in my esteem everyday.

Life is sort of getting back to normal.

Susan the Finance (Don't hate her, she is not a Banker) and I went off to the Radio 2 Electric Proms last week to see Elton John and Leon Russell. Susan will always be someone who I am indebted to as she introduced me to the DL in the first place.

I wanted to see Leon Russell. She wanted to see Elton and we both wanted to see Rumer and Plan B.

Elton came on and ran through a few of his songs hits and album tracks and introduced Plan B who did a rather strange version of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”. Susan and I looked at each other!

Then it was Leon's turn. We were sitting on the far side of the auditorium from him so all we could see was a shock of white hair and beard, dark glasses and a piano. Some very acceptable noises came out of the speakers but we weren't sure if was actually real; he could have been a dummy.

Rumer came on and did a cracking version of "This Masquerade"

Then it was back to Elton who announced they were going to do the whole of The Union album they have just made; a former Radio 2 Album of the Week. Track by track and in order.

I like the record but it is a bit heavy going listening to 14 songs from a CD which is new and largely unfamiliar.

Susan looked at me and I looked at her.

By the time they got to "Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)” Track 13, Susan looked at me and I looked at her and we headed for the exit.

After waiting a while longer than normal on the show and with increasing numbers of inquiries from you, Dr Strangelove and I decided it was time to kick off the 2010/11 Truckwriting season.

We opened it up to you and in came the suggestions.....all inventive. Many too rude to broadcast!

Steve the Cabbie came up with the one that we deemed most appropriate:


"We're Alex Lesters' lovely overnight people".

You are and I thank you for that. Long may we all continue.

Sightings have already been reported which is excellent thank you.

Wallop away, lovely overnight people!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (click here) and, using the same login, you can also hear my Audioboos, sort of like a DVD extra of the show (click here).

Plus, let me play you a song! Think of a song you haven't heard in ages, maybe a rare album track you think we would like to hear or a song that reminds you of a particular time in life, maybe make a dedication, or request a song you just love to sing out loud to, or one that will have us all LOL-ing. Visit here to do so, I look forward to hearing what you come up with.