Thursday 14 April 2011


Dark Lady and I went off to see hot ticket Rumer the other night.  Not the BBC Radio 2 special gig as that was a little late for me; being live on the Jo Whiley Show so it didn't start until 9pm, which was a bit of a shame really.


She has a gorgeous voice although some keep drawing a parallel with Karen Carpenter.  Still I have been told I sound like everyone from "Diddy" David Hamilton through to Ronnie Corbett to TV journalist Julian Warricker, so I suppose we all like to take refuge in comparisons.

The main trouble as that she only seems to have one speed and that is "floaty ballad". Norah Jones and Alison Krauss also having beautiful but light voices are rather hampered too, in this respect, as well.  The end result is that a little goes a long way.

She is an engaging personality without a lot to say and seemed a little shy and embarrassed at times but she does have a fabulous voice.  Trouble was we were just a teensy weensy
(this is a well know phrase used by music critics the world over incidentally e.g "The recitative was a teensy weensy bit rushed") bit, well, er, bored. Dr Strangelove my producer went to both gigs, the one at the Royal Festival Hall and the Radio 2 Abbey Road special. Rumer was far better with guests such as Rick Astley and Sandie Shaw so by all  reports it was a stormer of a gig.

Surprise hit of the night though was an act who blighted my Saturday nights as a teenager.

Many is the time we would as a family be sitting around the TV watching the big blockbuser variety show of the day, be it Morecombe and Wise or The Two Ronnies.  Suddenly it would be time for the musical interlude and, sure enough, a dark cloud would descend over the living room as a beaming man would ask us to "welcome...The Swingle Singers!".

There would then follow seemingly hours of beaming men and women ba-ba-doo-ing through their rictus grins as we concentrated on the food.

"Ba boo booo boo ba doo ba doo"

"Anyone want any more pork pie?"

!Oo oo oo oo oooo!" 

"Another slice here"

"Baa dooo baa dooo baaa dooo"

"Don't talk to your Mother like that. What do you say?"


"Biddly doo biddly doo biddly doo"

"Thats better"

"Woo whah woo whah woo whah"

Later on as perhaps they realised they were becoming figures of fun or maybe just that they began to realise that they sounded faintly ludicrous to us in the 70's Midlands unused to such sophistication they discovered....words!

"Ladeez and gennleman please welcome "Swingle II"

They would then proceed to murder a classic song all the while smiling.

"When I gayt older losing my haaaar...."

"Anyone want another slice of pork pie?"

"Many years from naaaooooowww"!

Since those days they have certainly dropped off my radar so when they were introduced - I will admit - my heart sank. However, they started with a Nick Drake song and sailed effortlessly through a selection of classic songs with the most wonderful harmonies.

We were captivated. They still smile a lot.  However, this old curmudgeon didn't mind (although I did think I could taste pork pie at one point for some odd reason).

As you will know by now - if you have been following these blogs over the years and months  - my permanent mid-life crisis has hit and continues to hit in a variety of ways;  be it the replacement of a car with a more powerful one when the previous version decided to burn itself to death at Oxford Services on the M40 about four years ago, or my decision (after being given a trip in one) that I should learn to fly a microlight.

Having now incredibly passed the test and all but one of the exams, the only obstacle remaining was the Radio course.

You can of course fill in your own gags at this point: How embarrassing would it be for someone who makes his living talking on the radio to fail a course where you have to talk on the radio etc..

This, however, is a little different.  It is all about regulations, clarity and brevity.  This goes some way to explain the rather curious way that pilots speak when you are sitting on the plane as it heads to Tenerife.

There were two parts to the test.  The first being a written exam which I passed with a reasonable mark, for some odd reason only getting questions wrong that I had answered correctly in a mock exam a little earlier.

The big test was the oral.  Could I manage to work my way through the MATZ penetrations, the QDR, the PAN call and still remember the call letters of the aircraft and not mix my "Roger's" with my "Wilco's"?

I was surprisingly nervous as I sat in a tiny room with an uncomfortable seat and a view of a pile of rubbish on the grass outside.

The stress was obviously getting to me as my voice was growing hoarse and I was started to have trouble regulating my body temperature.      

It felt a tiny bit like being in the language lab at school. We had a rather rudimentary one at my school which, if I remember, had been bought in a box and installed one holiday period by the science master. He was a whirlwind of activity who one year built a science lab in the school gym during the summer holidays. They didn't exist side by side, I hasten to point out, as another better gym had been built elsewhere. Dances were held there and you can tell the period of history as there was a sign at the door which read: "No Stiletto heels allowed on this floor"!

Back to my Radio course and Andy, an impossibly young man who - when he is not flying for an air line and doing air traffic control - finds time to run this course as a certified instructor and examiner and also finds a little time to do aerobatics. I think he likes flying.

All went well and my responses seemed none too hesitant until this voice in my headphones said.

"Shouldn't you be lost by now?"

 Oops! One of the calls on my route was to ask the local air traffic here I was due to a "temporary loss of position". i.e. “You are in this tiny little aeroplane all by yourself flying around somewhere and you have not an earthly clue where you are in the world." This is when you are supposed to stay calm and check the ground features against your chart and then comes the awful realisation that none of them make any sense at all.

 A quick call to the relevant authority (Andy in the room next door) and he had triangulated my position and I was back on track.

 I passed although was "rather halting" at times. He should hear the show!
 By now the shivering and the croakiness was getting worse. It wasn't stress, it was…

 MAN FLU!!!!!


Actually to be frank I think it was proper flu as I have not felt as rotten in years, complete with comedy sneezing which - had I not been carefully knitted together - bits of me would have flown off. I used to work with a bloke years ago who sported a rug, false teeth and lifts in his shoes. He was known as "The Kit"!

 Being the trouper I am I soldiered on and merrily hockled, wheezed and coughed my way through the next few days shows.

 Luckily by Friday I had recovered enough for the Dark Lady, Jamie (her birthday boy son, who was 12 that day) and I to pop round for the first BBQ of the season with our friends, Fran and Greg, and their children, Theo and Hannah.

This was hardcore BBQ. There was shrimp and there were the best steaks I had ever eaten.

What was even more impressive than this was the team work. Big food and big drinks were seamlessly passed from indoors to out and empty plates and glasses were passed from outside to in.

Greg was IC BBQ. He has lived in the USA so has a good grounding in "big food". Watching his expertise was a delight.

I have never worried about being IC BBQ. The Dark Lady is a terrific cook and if she wants she can do as much cooking as she likes. I am a willing dustbin.

We sat outside in the garden in the gathering gloom under the Heathrow flight path and yarned.
As we talked I watched the planes coming in to land and wondered if any of the pilots were wondering if the radio call they were about to make was the correct one, or would it send Air Traffic Control into a blind panic.

There was cake too. Wonder if the crew could see us as they passed overhead.

"Speedbird 452 to Heathrow approach. Birthday cake, 6 o'clock low"

We sat out in the gathering darkness by the candlelight and talked until nearly midnight.

It was only on the way back I realised something.

Greg had managed to BBQ for seven whilst still maintaining the conversation and had done it all without the need to wear a comedy apron which made him look like he was wearing women's underwear or a French Maids outfit!

Don't forget to make a song request for the Listener's Library. Think of a track you haven't heard in awhile, a track that is special you would like to share, or a song for Feelgood Friday. Visit here, I look forward to hearing your suggestions. And 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).


Martin Lower said...

So you're a willing dustbin then, Dark Lord? That screaming sound I can hear, must be blubberwatch diving nose first into the briny!

Chocks away!

Anonymous said...

That's an ultralight. A microlight is a different beast altogether.