Tuesday 16 August 2011


Serious stuff like riots and looting have been taking up a lot of our thoughts in recent days and the fallout from this ghastly business has had decision makers and politicos queuing up to out-tough one another with their solutions.

Whatever your thoughts, there does seem a fair amount of showboating going on…

"String ‘em up"

"Birch them, then string ‘em up"

“Spell in the army. Birch them then string ‘em up!

“Spell in the army. Birch them. String ‘em up and then give ‘em life, that means life!”

It’s a tough love version of Happy Families. Or, in this case, unhappy broken homes.

I for one won't enter into this debate as I would not really know where to start. If I was a Dictator I am sure the power would corrupt me totally within seconds so that, although my liberal conscience would be telling me that criminals need understanding, my other side would be executing people for whistling and tapping their pencil in the office and sentencing people to life imprisonment without parole for bad Karaoke.

Before some of our cities were put to the torch I travelled to Salisbury for another "Nerd Night". As I have mentioned in previous blogs, this is where people from the Radio Industry gather together to eat and drink too much and talk about jingles and the like.

These occasions are good fun (despite me knowing little - or nothing - about jingles). I don't know one end of a "doughnut" from a "dry sweeper". For me these occasions are all about one thing and one thing only.



Getting away from "the wife"?

Nope. Beer!

Having now been going to the gym regularly for about 4 months, the bod is coming on quite nicely and the Dark Lady has noted how firm I have become. (Steady!!)

The only downside is that the totally ripped physique is still hiding under a layer of blubber so in order to find it there needs to be a certain amount of propping and prodding; now I know how Vets feel!

Whilst the rioting and looting was at its peak, DL and I were in London's Regents Park where there is an outdoor theatre; never having been to this venue before it seemed like a good wheeze to check it out, particularly as there was a run of Crazy for You just starting which was a show within a show with all the music being by George Gershwin. The premise being a bloke goes to the wild west and puts on a show. Frankly, any performance that has tap dancing and a drunken mirror scene as inspired by the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup is a winner with me.

Luckily most of the bad stuff was going on some distance away but we were still aware of Police activity during the quiet bits.

Woman stage front singing:

"There's a somebody I'm longing to see"

In Background: Ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner!

"I hope that he..."

"Alright, sonny, you're nicked"

"…Turns out to be…"

"You'll never take me alive Coppa!"

"….Someone to watch over meeeeee"

OK, slight exaggeration but you get my drift.

However, the civil unrest didn't spoil our entertainment and we duly exited the theatre through the side entrance, as the park had shut for the night by the time the show finished.

We then walked round in a circle for about 20 minutes trying to find the DL's car. When I have been to a show during the week I am very aware that there is very little bedtime so it is always a desperate rush to get back to the flat for a few Z's before I am up and into the studio for another morning’s buffoonery.

The DL could easily be a top class rally driver, for once we were in the car and lashed in, it took only several seconds before we pulled up outside my place. A quick peck and I was hurled to the pavement and she sped off in the direction of the bazoom of her family.

A great evening and a show I had not seen for about 20 years.

Later in the week came another show I hadn't seen in 41 years….


When I was about 14, I had squired the wonderfully named Rosemary Pickup to Birmingham Town Hall to see Status Quo. Think it was for their "Pile Driver" tour. As I recall they were spectacularly loud. The place was a sea of denim and hair and we had a great time and my ears whistled afterwards.

This time round the lads were doing a special gig for us at Radio 2. They have lost none of their power but have had a few more hits since then. Surprisingly they didn't do "Rockin' all over the World". Still that is always the law of concerts. You go see an artist you like and they don't do the one song that is your favourite.

The place was a sea of denim and balding pates. We had a great time and my ears whistled afterwards. Hurried back to the DL's car. Seconds later a quick peck and I was hurled to the pavement as she sped off to the bazoom of her family.

Still this is better than the original Quo gig. We got the bus home to my Mum and Dad's house and I don't think I even got a peck! I was so nervous that I probably would have fainted if I had!

Weekend and it was off to Hastings to do a few Weddingy things. The nuptials are but 4 months away and we have been hard at work organising things. Well, the Dark Lady has, and I have been mainly agreeing; not because I am not interested, it is just that it is more a girl thing and she is good with colours and stuff. I think I am doing OK for when we turned up at the venue to check certain things like seating plans and flowers. The woman who runs the place said I was one of the few grooms she had ever seen before the big day.

I am still sorting out the bloke stuff such as what I am going to wear. I have said it would be a suit of lights like a Matador but I think that idea is now taking a back seat to maybe a Teddy Boys drape jacket or a Frock coat. Passing a swanky tailors in London the other day I wandered in and asked how much it would cost to make me a jacket. The bloke - regarding me as if I was something particularly odoriferous that he had just scraped from his shoe – sneered, "Oh, about a thousand pounds for the cheaper material".

Sorry, it is the big day for two mortals. Not the Beckhams!

Meanwhile back in Hastings having sorted out the venue and not my clothes, a mild diversion was in order. Ever since I was a kid I have loved this town and one of the pleasures of it in the summer was to go on the boating lake. There were several dotted around town including one in Alexandra Park. Not seen any boats on there in many a long year sadly but the one on the sea front is still going. As a child it had paraffin-engined wooden motor-boats and the lake was vast. Parts of it have been filled in over the years so now it is far smaller and motor boats have been replaced by rather forlorn-looking Swan-shaped Pedalos.

We queued until ours (Number 16, incidentally!) arrived. I clambered in only to be asked to swap sides by the "wrangler". In the old days these guys had tattoos, a DA and chewed gum and smoked all at the same time. These were the rough boys my Mother warned my sister about. In 2011 the tattoos are still there but the head is shaved. Smoking is outlawed and so that only leaves the gum.

Apparently the Wrangler was taking exception to my fine muscular frame as the Swan was leaning drunkenly and alarmingly to one side....my side, whereas the DL's side was completely out of the water. This was - I assume - very similar to the last minutes of the Titanic (although the story would have carried far less weight had it been a tale of two lovers aboard a pedalo that hit a small chunk of ice on a boating lake in East Sussex!)

I swapped sides and the Swan floated evenly. Off we pedalled for our 15 minutes. It soon became apparent why my side was leaning: the poor old thing was so abused and battered that it was half-full of water! This was not aided by yet more arriving in the foot well on the Dark Lady's side through gaps in the mechanism. Luckily I had only stumped up for a quarter of an hour. Any longer and we would have had to walk back. As it was I think the creature bottomed a few times. The lake is only 18 inches deep so I don't think we would have been in any danger.

Then it was off to visit my God Parents, Auntie Stephanie and Uncle Norman. They are great fun and love to see our holiday snaps. Not seen them for a couple of months so they were keen to see how we got on in San Francisco on our trip in June. Plugged the computer into their big TV and away we went…all the while with one big nagging doubt.

"Had I erased THOSE pictures?"

If you read the holiday blog you will know that we visited Las Vegas and due to a combination of circumstances and happy accidents we were upgraded twice so in the end we had a suite; it included full laundry facilities, a Super King-sized bed, a living room with a marble-topped 6 seater dining table, an L-shaped leather corner suite, a fully-fitted kitchen, five TV's including an overhead projector, and a two-person Jacuzzi. Unable to resist, I took various pics of the room and the DL in the big bath covered by strategic bubbles! The only think I forgot was that if the bath is surrounded on all sides by mirrored walls it is better that the photographer is wearing more than a camera! It may look sweet if the photographer is 5. If he is 55, the pictures and their rather revealing reflections should not be shown to anyone. Especially an elderly couple who have know you since you were an egg.

Don't forget I am now on Facebook, you can find me here. I am also on Twitter (ooh, get me!) you can add me @alexthedarklord or visit here .
And if you want to hear a record on the shoe - maybe one you haven't heard in years, one that means something to you or just a darned good record you think would sound great, then I would love to hear from you. Submit your suggestions here.
And - last thing - make sure you download this week's Oddcast; the funniest bits from the week all mixed together in one bite-seized chunk. Click here.

Thursday 4 August 2011


I mentioned in the previous blog that I would tell you about Producer Dr. Strangelove's new "executive" status.

Due to the unique way the BBC is funded and various regulations and agreements made with Governments and politicians (Incidentally I have no say in any Corporation machinations or decisions and so a lot of it I struggle to understand. I doubt most senior BBC executives would know who I was if I spontaneously combusted in front of them!), for a while now various programmes have been put out to "tender", be they TV or radio. After more beer and sandwiches in smoke-filled rooms, the faceless executive decided that more were needed. So the Best Time of the Day was one of those selected to be farmed out.

What would this mean? Who would it be? Would I be wined and dined by potential suitors? Would we like one another? Would the try and change things?

It felt a bit like I would imagine an arranged marriage could be. I have a suspicion I was the Bride. This worried me. Would I like him? Would he be fat and sweaty? Would he try and do unspeakable things to a pure and unsullied creature such as I?

What would happen to Dr Strangelove?

Despite my constant ribbing of the physical ruin that is Strangeo we have worked happily together for over a year now and he is pretty good at his job when he remembers what day it is. He has a slight problem grasping date and day so Christmas day in his house this year will be on Sunday 26th December. He will counter that I occasionally play the same record twice. (In my defence, I happen to like Big Mountain "Baby I love your way" so thought it deserved an airing 8 minutes after I first played it! Ahem).

So there was the added worry of us being separated like two naughty schoolkids. Would he disappear off into the bowels of the BBC and be last heard producing Good Morning Mansfield on a local station or Burkha or Burnoose on the World Service? Worse still, Hot Hit 20 with Binky on 101 The Bun or Lukewarm FM in Lampeter.

What would that do to the creative powerhouse that is the Best Time of the Day show? The programme that has brought you such highlights as Tri-Team Football, Strategic Fainting and the enchanted land of Nocturnia. I feel very proud as I type these words that so much nonsense has been broadcast over the last 20 years. Liberally sprinkled with fart gags. To think I started out as a temporary filing clerk at the DHSS. My "career" may not have been a runaway success but I have been very fortunate and still am to be doing this.

I wonder what it would have been like to have had a stellar time of it:

"Listeners’ fury at Sachsgate. Brand and Lester sacked"

"’I've had enough’ rages Jordan as she splits from Alex for the fifth time"

"Animal rights fury as Lester attends Grammy's wearing meat trousers"

On balance, I think I prefer what I have.

So we were left to stew as the show was put out to tender.

A phone call from the Controller and the deed was done.

So for the last month we have been produced by a company called "Wise Buddah". They do a lot of shows for 2 including Johnny Walker and Terry Wogan so I am in the best company.

Their master stroke was in hiring Strangelove as my producer. So he works for them and I work for the BBC. It seems a pretty good system. It also seems we get a better deal as there are other bits and pieces they can do for the show that the BBC can't and also they have promoted the Dr to "executive" status.

He not only works on the show but he has other "responsibilities" which he is rather vague about. I am watching his behaviour like a hawk in case this change in status goes to his head.

Over the years I have suffered at the hands of people who developed a power complex.

Once at a station we got a new Programme Director who in the space of a few weeks managed to totally demoralise what was, up to then, a happy ship. Stomping around and issuing orders. Whereas the previous incumbent would gently prod and cajole and - realising that there was little money to be had - praise people and in return got total loyalty and commitment. This guy ended one meeting with the words. "You either do as I say or you can leave". So I did along with a lot of others.

Shortly after, Karma lovers, the station was bought and he was sacked. The Managing Director - a fairly benign creature - was similarly tainted, he also tried to get in on the act by decreeing that everyone had to wear suits to work as anything else would send out the wrong message to advertisers. There are certain jobs where suits are not appropriate and 80's DJ's didn't wear them. I turned up wearing a boiler suit and the matter was quietly dropped.

So would I detect any change in Strangelove?

As a boy broadcaster just starting out one of my jobs was to look after guests for an all-speech current affairs breakfast show. The presenter - a very posh man in a threadbare suit - would turn up each morning at 6am with his briefcase and upon lighting the first of several hundred cigarettes wheeze.

"Special tea boy". So round to the tea machine I would go. Then to the newsroom, open his case (which was totally empty apart from a bottle of VAT 69), empty some of the tea and replace with Scotch.

I soon learned I could control him. One morning the teas were so "special" he started to drool whilst reading the introduction to a big interview with a local MP who, upon exiting the studio, asked: "Someone had a party in there?"

Strangelove gets tea. However, it is Green Tea as we could never trust the milk and green tea has supposedly health-giving properties and he realises his job depends to a great extent on keeping this DJ alive.

There are a legion of stories about Broadcasters being crocked by food poisoning. One guy was so queasy that he had to keep vomiting into the waste bin during the records whilst another misjudged the state of his bowels and had to do the rest of his show wearing a bin liner (Hopefully there were no guests that morning!) Whiskey and cigarettes would have been a welcome stench compared to the niff emanating from that studio!

So far he has been pretty much the same as usual. Although he is not able to spend as much time in bed as he used to as he has "responsibilities".

So he now spends a similar time in the gym pretending to work on his legs but in actual fact he is doing his "guns" as usual. They are coming on so much that a couple of the female producers, as well as a couple of the men, admired them in the Playlist meeting the other week, I am reliably informed.

However he no longer has the luxury of seemingly endless amounts of sleep as he has to go and do various "meetings" and do "presentations". He is probably a "mentor" too. This is a role that has changed significantly since I started back in the 1970's. From my rather hazy memory, "mentoring" usually meant middle-aged grubby men would hope to try and get the knickers off young interns.

I also recall as a young intern retaining full control of my underwear as no one appeared interested in a badly-dressed spotty student who lived at home with his Mum and Dad.

I will watch him like a hawk. Tin-pot despot characteristics include:

Trying to appear taller.

Affecting a military bearing.

Shouting for no reason.

Terrible rages over nothing.

Refusal to listen.

Inability to discuss anything.

No clear idea about anything.

Assertions such as "We always do it like this"

Sudden introduction of ludicrous rules and regulations.

"From now on I want you to add the word "Crustacean" to every link"

e.g "Online on digital and 88-91fm Crustacean this is Radio Two from the BBC"

Changes in dress to military uniform with masses of self-awarded medals.

Being surrounded by nubile interns who are "guards".

References to himself now always in third person:-

"Strangelove doesn't like this. You forgot Crustacean YOU BLOODY IDIOT!!!

So far he has exhibited none of the above traits. Although I know he has been online a lot looking at the Boloxnia site. (You may remember a few years back we invented an imaginary eastern European country which was landlocked yet had a huge navy, ruled with an iron fist by President for life, General Blokoff, who decreed that every year would be 1957 as he was a huge Bogart fan and that was the year Humphrey died. He may be getting a few tips…)

Keep listening to the show with the sharpest of ears in case you notice anything untoward creeping in such as "sense". Dictators have to be resisted.


Don't forget I am now on Facebook, you can find me here.  I am also on Twitter (ooh, get me!) you can add me @alexthedarklord or visit here .

And if you want to hear a record on the shoe - maybe one you haven't heard in years, one that means something to you or just a darned good record you think would sound great, then I would love to hear from you. Submit your suggestions here.

And - last thing - make sure you download this week's Oddcast; the funniest bits from the week all mixed together in one bite-seized chunk. Click here.