Friday 18 February 2011


The big deal over the last week or so has been my Aunt's 80th birthday. My Auntie Daphne is my Dad's younger sister who has been a music teacher all her working life and still teaches to this day, despite having been officially retired for the best part of two decades.

She tells wonderful tales of early morning organ practice as a student in London, when each note would bring mouthwatering smells pouring from the pipes. (This was due to the bellows being placed in the basement next to the kitchen where they were cooking breakfast.)

This strikes me as being a great way to learn an instrument, although it could be argued it is a similar method that animal trainers use: when the dog has finished leaping through hoops of fire and running backwards through the trainers legs, or when the horse has finished a clear round at Hickstead and they are given a sugar lump or something similar.

In my Aunt's case this was a full English.

Not sure if the music reflected impending meals and treats, or even it it was possible to alter the make-up of the odour. If you look carefully at the stops on a pipe organ they are labelled exotically with names that roll off the tongue, for instance: "Diapason", "Gallery Reeds" or even "Bombard".

Does make you wonder what her Organ lessons sounded like though:

(Cue crazy-haired shabbily dressed be-corduroyed eccentric teacher possibly of Eastern European extraction):



After qualifying, my Aunt moved to the lake district and took up a teaching post at Kendal High School for

Girls which - sadly - was nothing like St. Trinians, she tells me, and probably never had a Head mistress who was a man in drag called Miss Fritten.

She taught piano, flute and also choir. Her whole life has been steeped in music. She regularly tunes in to the Best Time of the Day show but does admit that not all the music I play is to her taste.

Having said that I am - without doubt - her nephew.

Whenever I play the current playlist song by The Pierces, Dr. Strangelove the producer says: "They sound like Fleetwood Mac" This repetition is becoming similar to the mantra chanted by tourists eating frogs legs, or maybe even marinaded shark, for the first time:

"Hmmm, tastes like chicken!"

So we have now ascertained that Bach's "Toccata and Fugue" tastes like a full English and The Pierces' "You'll Be Mine" tastes like Chicken.

Having just re-read those paragraphs it may at first appear baffling, but there is a tortured logic in the music = food argument, however baffling it may at first appear.

So it was to the Lakes we went on the Saturday morning to meet my family in a pub for a birthday lunch for Auntie.

Dark Lady and I drove up her wondering what the rest of my family would be like and if it would be wise to flee now, before I put the ring on her finger. Wedding planners note: this is the second ring. She already has the engagement ring. It is odd that once that arrived everyone seemed more interested in her ring finger than the rest of her. Lovely as it is, the ring seems to have taken centre stage lately with friends and family.

I don't know the history of weddings and wedding jewellery but I can tell you one thing; if things had been different they wouldn't be flashed around in public I can tell you...

Take Buttock adornment, for example:

"Hitch up yer skirt and show us yer ring"

(That looks worse written down than I expected. Apologies.)

When we arrived the whole family were there:

My Aunt and her best friend, Norma. My Dad and his hot squeeze, June. Nell and John - my sister and brother-in-law - and also my Aunt Pat and Uncle Maurice.

The DL has expertly wrapped the present from Nell, John her and myself: a Metronome. Her previous one is nearly a century old and has expired as the weight had taken to slipping down the stick (technical term, Metronome fans) so that as you played the rhythm became faster. End result? Some of her pupils could perform the "Minute Waltz" in under 40 seconds!

Unless you place it in a large box the shape of a Metronome, it is always is going to be a bit of a give away.

As we handed the gift to Daphne. Maurice piped up:

"Looks like a metronome"

There then followed several minutes of punching, pulling of ears and tweaking of nose and digging in the ribs ands stamping on feet, as well as a little light shin kicking. A bit like a Laurel and Hardy or a Three Stooges routine.

Just before we carried the bloodied and bruised body of Maurice to the table there was one final gift. Yours!

You have been very helpful in the past what with your advice on wheelbarrows for wedding gifts and Snorkels for my Dad.

As my Aunt is a musician, it needed to be a musical-type offering. The suggestions came rolling in. Sousaphone was a mite heavy. A Ukulele was a possibility. No idea where I could lay my hands on a musical saw, so a finely tuned and economical Triangle was decided upon; a welcome addition to any household. If you can't play it, you can always stand at the door and rattle it to herald meal times like Granny did in The Beverly Hillbillies.

"Come and get it!"

The DL was pounced on in turn by family members and given the third degree. Luckily I am blessed with a terrific family so no worries anywhere on that score (unless they were trying to talk her out of marrying me!)

At the end of the last blog I told you I had purchased a special turntable that transfers vinyl to CD.

When I started as a boy broadcaster, technology was very different and I would play vinyl and the occasional 78. Then came the new fangled CD which took a while to get used to. Now, of course, it is all downloads and hard drives. Since the programme moved from Birmingham to London in 2008, I have not had access to a turntable in the studio so a lot of wonderful music is lying in my spare room, unplayed outside of my home.

I had seen similar machines advertised but they only connected to a computer so you could load them that way. I need CDs. Saw just the thing in a shop and, as it was a mite expensive; a few minutes on the internet and one swift phone call later and I had ordered an ex-demonstration one from a "Good as new!" type site.

It arrived and I plugged it into my vintage 1978 rack system in place of the existing turntable so I could hear what I was playing. All I heard was a very distorted low-level version. I had no headphones with the correct-sized plug socket, until I remembered somewhere I had a small speaker that I used to plug into my cassette Walkman during the 80s (this was so that I could listen to music whilst in the bath!)

It worked well enough for me to hear what was going on. So it was with some trepidation I loaded B.B King's 1972 album, Guess Who? into the flash memory. Loaded a blank CD-R and pressed the button marked "burn".

Did it work?

Judge for yourself by checking out last Monday's Lester's Library tracks on the BBC iPlayer (click here to get it)

Next time there may be some St. Valentine's tomfoolery and - yes - another "Nerd Night" is occurring, a night where DJs and broadcasting types converge on a city and try and out-bore each other. This time as the train drew into Norwich I thought I could see long lines of refugees with their belongings on carts and prams lining the road, fleeing in the city before our arrival.

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. Think of a track you haven't heard in ages, or a track that is special you would like to share, or just a darn tootin' good song that you think I should play. Visit here, I look forward to hearing - your suggested records.


DamoIRL said...

"Hitch up yer skirt and show us yer ring"

Don't make a double entendre when a single one will do!

Jon Russell said...

80 already, many happy returns to Aunt Daphne! Will have to send her a little something from the Equator via my mum.

ChiKiSpirit said...

I should like to meet your aunt and play a duet with her!

mwhite229 said...

I wonder what kind of wedding presents you and the DL will get considering the stuff you have given out in presents - eg what will the couple who received the wheelbarrow get for you? The "wedding list" will be interesting - is there a shop anywhere that would have the kind of stuff you like