Monday 31 October 2011


Friday and it was off to Hastings to do house tidying. With the wedding of the century (in my eyes, certainly) only a few weeks away and the family descending en masse it is vital that the house is tidy and clean. Having lived alone for most of my life it is amazing just how much clutter a body can put up with and how easily the human being gets used to unfinished stuff.

When I moved into this house more than ten years ago, the stair carpet was held in place by stair rods. It still is but there has always been one missing. This has been fine and something on my ever growing "to do" list. The principle of the "to do" list is that you have a list of things you need to accomplish and you tick them off as they are achieved. Although we both know that in reality every time you tick off one item it reminds you of several more. This way the list grows even longer and you would have to live to be a thousand years olfdor have no life outside the home in order to tick then all off.

So I have been searching the Internet and came across "Acme Stair Rods". A few key strokes later and "brass stair rod for the use of" was winging its way to my house.

I had been home but a few minutes on Friday when there was a knock at the door and a uniformed courier stood there with a slim cardboard tube.

"I came yesterday but you weren't in"

Could you not just post it through the letter box. It’s thin enough?

"No mate, have to get a signature"

He proffered an electronic signing machine.

"Can't find yer details. Can I just say you signed it?"

Er, yeah. With that he was gone. Leaving me wondering if that was the case why he didn't just post it through the letter box.

One down.

Next, the tiled floor in the kitchen. I have mopped and scrubbed them but they never seem to get clean. Having seen all the ads on early morning satellite TV channels - when not advertising step exercisers, support bras and funeral plans (with introductory free gift mental clock; count down your declining years to oblivion with our thoughtful present) - steam cleaners seem to be the new magic bullet. So off I went to Acme Electrical and bought one. Up and down the kitchen floor I chuffed like the Puffing Billy. Clean? Well, not really, but it’s nice to have another gadget in the cupboard.

As usual due to a combination of inertia and, erm, more inertia, I haven't been filing the CD's as I should. One excuse was that bottlenecks had occurred where I had too many of one letter which meant that the shelf was crammed and there was no room for more due to the proximity of the next letter of the alphabet. Bite the bullet, Lester, and sort this out. So I moved things around. Eventually after an hour or two I was done. Dusty and sweaty, I stood back to admire my handiwork. A letter pretty much to a shelf.

A. B. D.

My mind must have wandered and so there then followed another ten minutes or huffing and puffing before order was restored once more.

All this hard work called for beer. Into the newsagent and armed with the paper into the pub.

I should have noticed something odd about it when I was served by a woman with fangs wearing a rubber dress.

Finding a safe seat in the corner I regarded my fellow customers. When everyone is dressed for Halloween and you are not, you are the person who looks like they are in fancy dress.

Still as we know from any number of Zombie and assorted horror movies: darkness is the friend of the undead. They tend not to be seen sunning themselves on the Costa Brava and going to bed at 9pm after a couple of Sambucas. So I had barely taken a sip of my pint and scanned the headlines before the room was plunged in to darkness by the landlord; a scary man at the best of time, now rendered more terrifying as he was dressed as FranknFurter from The Rocky Horror Show.

No one even glanced as the creepy looking guy in jeans and a shirt tiptoed out of the pub with his unread paper under his arm.

Thursday 27 October 2011


It is getting close to that moment. The moment where the new Truckwriting Season is upon us.

Can't remember how it originally started. Like many ideas on the show I think it may have been a spontaneous reaction to something that was said on the programme one morning a few years back. Then reports starting coming in from people up and down the UK of odd slogans written in the dirt on the back of lorries.

We have had a variety of slogans over the years pretty nearly all of them meaning nothing at all. Which bearing in mind the nature of the show that has evolved over the last twenty years is pretty much what we aimed for.


This was the first and arrived as a result of requiring a slogan that meant nothing at all.

SCOF appeared as the result of an off-the-cuff remark when I was sitting in for Ken Bruce one morning which so enraged one listener that they sent me a very lengthy email detailing my shortcomings and referring to me as a : Swirling Cesspool of filth!

A while later a similar thing happened after I had been away and Tim Smith had been sitting in for me.

One thing this business has taught me over the years is that some people like you, some people don't like you, and most don't care either way. This is a thought many "celebs" should hold close. Their fragile egos may find it difficult to grasp but they are not indispensable and a short time after they have stopped appearing on the TV they will have been largely forgotten.

This particular listener much preferred Tim doing the show and he is not alone in that I am sure. So he wrote a lengthy email praising him which was nice and sounding off at how awful I am referring to me as a "buffoon". Trouble was he accidentally sent me the email rather than Tim. To compound the felony he sent the email to me twice. Buffoon was such a fun word that it was too good to lose. Thus that years Truck writing season slogan was BAG. Standing for "Buffoons are go!"

Last year we thought we would turn the slogan selection over to you. We had hundreds and decided on the acronym WALLOP! This stood for "We are Alex Lester's lovely overnight people."

Unfortunately one person took exception to this and complained that had there been an accident and the word was written on the back of the vehicle concerned people would be offended.

Unfortunately for us the BBC agreed and so we had to back-pedal slightly which meant we didn't get the season off to the best start.

This year the slogan arrived like the best ones do via a chance remark from you.

We have to hope that if someone complains this time the BBC will back us up and dismiss the objection.

Have a great weekend and standby for the big reveal on Monday morning.

Wednesday 26 October 2011


Sauntering around as I often do - although sometimes I trudge, if careworn - in determined mode, I march and approaching Friday and our regular date with the feminine side when we "Ramp up the Camp"; I have even been known to sashay!!!

I have noticed that from about now it is one long festive season. Our Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain friends are enjoying Diwali. This will soon give way to Halloween which in turn tips over into Guy Fawkes’ Night which then passes the celebratory baton to Christmas.

I have been noticing the Diwali Fireworks for a few days now and all the shops are crammed with overpriced pumpkins.

I still think that it is difficult to maintain the level of bonhomie necessary to take us through the whole festive season with this many events going on. Religious ones are selective, I do admit, although you may remember on the show some years ago we tried to start our own religion which would adopt all the holidays of existing Theologies, so that we could have as much time off as possible.

Unfortunately when we got a little bit deeper into our plans for the world’s slackest religion we realised that many of the festivals that the other more orthodox and significantly older beliefs systems had adopted involved having a fairly unpleasant time. Faced with months of fasting, scourging and walking on hot coals and sticking skewers through our cheeks we chickened out. Although in some religions even the chicken comes to a sticky end.

It seems to me that we are adopting more and more festivals from around the world. This may be in part to the ethnic melting pot that is modern Britain but there is also the financial imperative. Is it me or is Halloween and Trick or Treating (where you have to give spotty Herbert's sweets when they knock on your door or they pelt you with eggs) merely an American import? If it is, do we really need it and shouldn't we be thinking of exporting some of our festivals across the pond?

Such as Guy Fawkes night.

Just think of the fun the Yanks can have dreaming up new ways to blow up Congress or the House of Representatives. We have to prove to them that we have a history of being down on politicians. After all when it came to assassinating Premiers we were ahead of the U.S by half a century with Spencer Percival being gunned down in the House of Commons in 1812, whereas Abe Lincoln didn't buy the farm until 1865!

Just think of the fun our friends in the New World can have with "Stir up Sunday" on November 22nd when we make the Christmas pudding. Or Morris Dancing on May Day, which is dafter than a whole bunch of Arapaho or Sioux doing their traditional dances. At least ours is more inclusive and tend to end with fewer fatalities. (I have seen the films. Seems they always end up fighting the "Palefaces")

I am sure a revival of Kissing Friday (which was the Friday after Ash Wednesday) would go down a storm with all but the most PC. After all, had it not died out in the 1940's I would have loved the chance as a schoolboy to kiss girls without fear of punishment or rejection. Apparently - according to a website I stole this info from - in Leicestershire, Kissing Friday was also called Nippy Hug Day. If the bloke asked for a kiss and he was denied he could pinch the girl’s bum instead. Hmmm, I think I am beginning to see why this died out. No one seems to have any recollection of "Severe Bruising Saturday" that followed the day after.

Or could we export the audience from the "Last night of the Proms" on September 12th? Where highly trained musicians perform beautiful music whilst the audience of chinless wonders try and be "outrageous" with fancy dress and mock exaggerated weeping into enormous hankies? Wonder what the Americans would make of that?

Lock and load!

Tuesday 25 October 2011


After all the talk of slumber in my previous blog, I think I may have "auto-suggested".

Went to bed at the usual time having phoned - and failed - to get my mate, Wilksee, the flying instructor. He works pilot hours. Which, like boatmans’ time, means you call people as and when necessary and you work until the job is finished. So just in case he called back around 11pm, I turned the ringer off on my phone.

If I am staying with the Dark Lady I always try and wake before the first of the 3 alarms set on my mobile and then cancel any remaining so that I don't disturb her or the rest of the family as I ablute and tiptoe downstairs out into the fresh clear morning

On this occasion I had omitted to reset them.

Most days I awake with a song in my heart. Very often "Does your chewing gum lose it's flavour on the bedpost overnight?" is a favourite. This morning for some reason I awoke to the strains of "Uptown uptempo woman" by Randy Edelman playing in my head jukebox

I glanced watch expecting it to be around 12.45 as is usually the case.

It was 1.20!

I flew into my clothes and into a passing cab, texting Strangelove as I did. It is important that everyone knew what was going on in case I didn't make it in time. Janice Long could carry on and I would then take over when I arrived. After this happens there is the round of grovelling apologies to Janice. Then Mick, her producer. Management. You. Even Strangeo!

I have failed to make it for the start of a show three times over the years. Twice by oversleeping. Once when I overslept and missed the start of a show that began at 10am! Another time at Radio 2, when Katrina (of “and the Waves" fame) was doing the slot which Janice now occupies. They noticed my studio was empty but didn't think to call as I was "never late". Also for some reason no one could find my phone number until 15 minutes after I was due to start. The other time I was late arriving for a 6am start and station opening. I rushed in. Started the station’s opening theme. Got into the news which came from London (I was at a radio station in Leeds). Went to retrieve my bag from outside the front door and heard the door click behind me! I had to wake the landlord of the local pub and borrow a screwdriver to force the lock.

Huge grovelling to bluff northern Programme Director who dismissed the whole sorry episode in one word:


Monday 24 October 2011


Friday after the show, had a bit of a sleep and then it was time to head up to the Midlands to see my Dad. I say "A bit of a sleep"; working these hours as I have done for more than 20 years now my sleep patterns have changed a bit. Time was that I would just close my eyes and I would be out for the count until the alarm went in the small hours and off I would go again. As I have always divided my sleep into two parts - pre and post-show - the pre-show was always the easiest and most restful time and the post show would be rather intermittent and broken rest. These days it seems to have swapped so now even if I go to bed at the same time of around 8pm I can be awake an hour or two later. This must be the effect of aging and it is only a matter of time before I need a nap after lunch. Hang on a second, I DO need a nap after lunch and on a Friday I can be asleep in my armchair the moment I turn the TV on.

It is generally accepted that older people don't require as much sleep so in some ways this occupation should be getting easier.

First stop was Halfpenny Green Airport to see my friends in the aviation world, perhaps if there was a moment to hire the C42 and half-an-hour or so flying in the local area. With flying as with many hobbies that require "stuff to be tinkered with", the ratio of time spent tinkering or talking about it and the amount spent actually doing it are hugely disparate. I was there most of the afternoon chatting and drinking cups of tea and at no point did I leave the ground. It really doesn't matter as I can watch aeroplanes taking off and landing for hours.

Then it was to the pub for a relaxing couple of pints and the newspaper and maybe even a bag of pork scratchings. (See video of previous visit on my Facebook page.)

Had just settled myself in the quiet lounge at the back of the boozer when two young women arrived with their two young children. The kids then proceeded to run riot squealing with delight and being encouraged by their Mothers. Peace shattered, I retreated to the front bar. Now at the risk of appearing a Victor Meldrew character, I have never understood when people have to make such a lot of noise and if they are children why they are not kept in check by their doting parents. Is it me? I expect it is. If the words “grumpy old man” spring to your lips, let me tell you: I have always been a curmudgeon, even as a teenager.

I was obviously missing the Dark Lady who was out on her Hen Night. She was having a right old time she told me later, although there were no fat suits, no L plates and no Strippergrams. She did have to take part in a Mr and Mrs type quiz. Weeks ago one of her friends had contacted me and asked me to supply answers to a variety of intensely personal questions.

Delighted to note that she got them all right apart from one which was:

"Who was Alex's best childhood friend"?

How could she have not remembered my imaginary mate when I was 5: Mrs Helmet!!??

 Dad was as usual particularly busy when I dropped by his house on Saturday morning. He has been doing Winter gardening which seems to involve huge quantities of brushwood and leaves and his industrial-strength shredder. He has bought a new suit for the wedding. Judging by his description this will be the first suit he has ever had that fits him properly. He has always been thin and his suits have always been baggy. If he ran upstairs the trousers would bounce up and down on his braces like he was a human Slinky.

Back to London to meet up with the DL as we due at the Royal Festival Hall to see Glen Campbell on his farewell tour. You may have read that he is now tragically suffering the early stages of Alzheimer's so it was with some trepidation that we took our seats. I had noticed something slightly amiss a couple of years ago when he did Friday Night is Music Night for Radio 2 and some of his introductions were a little wayward and repetitive.

His band contained 3 of his children and - with their help and an autocue - he could read the words from the screen. He was magnificent and apart from the odd hiccup you wouldn't have noticed anything amiss at all. The love and affection for their father was evident. They were willing him on as much as we were.

Producer Dr Strangelove was there with a Senior Radio Industry figure. He does move in exalted circles these days. After the gig, Strangelove headed off to a club to see X Factor winner, Matt Cardle. However, as he was immediately shown to the VIP area where he chatted with a variety of luminaries,including Matt Lucas, he did so conveniently forgetting to remember to mention the excellent comedy show that Matt and I had done a few months ago for "2 DAY" where Radio 2 threw the schedules out of the window and we all ended up doing different stuff. As for Matt Cardle. Strangeo blew him out as he was on in another part of the club. Obviously not important enough!

Dark Lady and I made our way home on the tube and encountered a group of very gay Geordie's singing lustily. As they left the carriage one of them told the DL something that I already knew and delights me every day when he said to her "You are very pretty". Then an unwelcome deafening busker got on with a guitar and proceeded to murder a selection of Johnny Cash and Elvis classics. Talk about the "Million Dollar Quartet"? Let’s not. DL gave him some money.

Bearing in mind what I have said about intrusive noise earlier, I naturally didn't'!

Thursday 20 October 2011


Been a pretty quick week, all in all. The wedding is a few weeks away and the Dark Lady is in organisational overdrive.
There are lists. There are suppliers to contact. There is music to sign off. There are speeches to prepare. There are clothes to fit. There are vows to write.


Apparently so. We are going for the secular option, so no churches for us. However, it seems vows are something that need to be thought about. Being a cynical old Hector, I hadn't thought about any in case they are so cheesy I fall to the floor weeping with mirth. The promissory equivalent of having "Angels " or "I Will Always Love You" played at your funeral.

So far I haven't been able to think of anything other than "Your eyes are like limpid pools". That and maybe I should promise to obey.

All this for what is going to be a very low key affair with mainly family. No children (well, with the exception of The Dark Lady's children, ofcourse!) No dancing and an early night. We are off to New York the following morning about 3 so not sure we'll be propping up the bar until the taxi arrives.

People are asking if I am getting cold feet. Not a bit. Can't wait in fact. It will be a fabulous day. Just how we wanted it. However, even a relatively simple ceremony like ours takes a lot of organisation. How the Beckhams or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arranged theirs I have no idea. They must have used a party planner. What they both had in common was thrones. Cut the throne and that's a whole heap of trouble sorted.

What has this got to do with the blog title? It's all about constraints of time.

I have been trying to keep up with my flying. Am currently converting from the German made Ikarus C42 (who said the Germans have no sense of humour?) to the Australian Jabiru.

Have had several lessons with instructor Keith in Upminster. All going well but just waiting for a run of decent weather that coincides with our diaries.

Last couple of weeks wind has been too strong. Got an hour in yesterday but still a little gusty to be allowed up by myself.

Dark Lady has said she wants to be my first passenger. Odd but am in no hurry. I am ok flying alone. I have a very strong self preservation instinct so have no desire to make a smoking crater in the earth. However, it seems a lot more serious when there are two of you. Especially someone as precious!

Hmm. "You will always be my precious"

How does that sound for a vow?

Wednesday 19 October 2011


After the success of the breakfast party yesterday, I was awake rather earlier than normal so went home and got stuck into the post. The post was like any other post: comprising bills, circulars, pizza parlour fliers and letters for other people.

I have an excellent post lady. However, when she is on a day off that is when the problems can occur.

My address is fairly straightforward but it is similar to some of the streets around which means there can be the odd bit of confusion. So I frequently get mail for houses from surrounding streets and this morning I actually received a bank statement for the previous occupier of my house. Bearing in mind I have lived here since 1999, I am surprised the bank have not realised that the guy has long since departed.

One day I spied the Estate Agents Nark putting a “For Sale” sign up on the house next door. So I did what I am sure most people do (I hope you do anyway!). I phoned the estate agent to ask how much the house was worth as it was very similar to mine.

"Er, that is not the address of the house for sale," said the agent.

"Well your guy is putting the sign up next door and he is leaning on the street name sign as he does it!"

The council get confused as well. And it’s their street.

One day the street lamp failed. So up popped the council and put another one up next to it. This didn't work either. They eventually turned up, removed the original one and fired up the new one. A week or two later they came back and removed it and replaced it with an older looking one in the same place. Maybe it was all a cunning plan. People criticise the BBC for inefficiencies but we are not alone.

Pizza fliers you just have to live with, but on one day I heard an almighty thump and spotted a young lad dumping several dozen pamphlets for a nearby hairdressers’ through my letter box.

I wasn't having this so gathered them all up and popped round the corner to the shop and handed them to the barber, thinking he must have paid a company to deliver them for him.

I was wrong. As I left I heard the man shout "Erriiiiccccc!!!" as he called to his son. I think we can guess what was going on there and who wasn't going to get any pocket money ever again.

My Dad once noticed a kid dumping a bale of free sheet newspapers over his garden wall and wrote to the distribution company suggesting they weren't getting their money’s worth.

Two sides to every story though. I was once told the story of a leaflet distributor who was leafleting cars in a multi-storey park by putting one under the windscreen wipers of the parked vehicles. He was grabbed by the scruff of the neck by a furious man and informed that if he went anywhere near his car he would be dismembered and the various bits would be ground up and sold for dog food. Discretion being the better part of valour he dumped the remaining paper in a nearby stream and headed for home.

What has this to do with the title of the blog today: "Night Moves"? Well, after my early start it was an early night. That for me is round about 7.30pm. This always make 8 year-olds laugh as they stay up way past my bedtime. I like to think that having a child's bedtime keeps me young (although I do draw the line at wearing a school cap and shorts!) Having said that, it never seems to have harmed the careers Angus Young of AC/DC or Ruxton Hayward for that matter.

About 11pm and in a deep sleep I was rudely awakened by a high pitched "peeping" sound. The smoke alarm had decided that it was low on battery power. Along with chiming clocks - which you forget to silence - or a full bladder, there are certain things that you can try and ignore but in the end they will defeat you.

The alarm did just that. I stood it for about half an hour but in the end I realised that it was no use and had to take the battery out.

Accomplished and back in bed and I heard a distinct "peep"!

I have two alarms and had removed the battery from the wrong one.


By the way. Hope you are enjoying the new style blog and thank you for the advice on the € symbol which I was unable to access before due to computer ignorance.

€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€ Ha! I Sooo can do this!

Tuesday 18 October 2011


With Christmas approaching, Guy Fawkes night and the American festival of Halloween, there is a lot of whooping to be done.

This year even more so with Dark Lady wedding her Dark Lord (AKA Dark Dork, Duff Fader, Tub of the Pub and also "//:;(())!!!" all being used to describe me from time to time). There are of course other events to be held; rather against our will I refer, of course, to Hen and Stag parties.

More on them shortly. First to this morning and a 60th birthday breakfast bash for Barry. DL used to be married to Baz and they still get along famously and, as the father of her two children, he is very hands-on.

So as he was 60 there was a re-run of his 50th in a cafe in London's Soho.

This involved gifts, cake, a glass of champagne and a fry-up as it was breakfast time. All very civilised as people had to go to work and children had to go to school.

The cafe owner was a jolly man although bent low with arthritis. If we reconvene for Baz's 70th the poor chap’s nose will be touching his shoes!

The Dark Lady who, like me, is the shy retiring type has just discovered that on Friday some friends and colleagues are throwing her a Hen party.

She is very touched but a little concerned that it may be a tabloid TV tale of drunken excess.

Not for her a fat suit, bridal veil, fairy wings and L-plates. Perhaps a well oiled strippergram briefly dressed as a traffic warden, plus a selection of sparkly sex toys, each gift accompanied by drunken shrieking. All of this before the evening ends with her being arrested for kissing a policeman after being sick in a flowerpot outside an Essex nightclub.

So far luckily no one has mentioned the dreaded "S" word. Not sure I am the right guy to go off to Amsterdam or Prague for the weekend with lairy mates in rugby shirts with "Al's European Tour" printed on the back. The lagers flowing at the airport at 6am and culminating 22 hours later in a urine-soaked back-alley with vague recollections of bars. Hooting. Fighting and unprotected sex with a large hooker called Hildegarde with a suspiciously deep voice and a Swastika tattooed on her left buttock!

However there is another DJ Nerd night coming up on 11th November so to head off any thoughts of it deviating from its intended purpose, which is to ensure that anyone within earshot will lose the will to live more or less instantly. To that end, everyone is under the strictest instructions that any conversation other than jingles and who was on Drivetime at 108 "The Grate" in 1987 is strictly Verboten!

Verboten!!!! Oops! Hildegarde is that you?

Monday 17 October 2011


Went off to France at the weekend, as I often do, to see friends and generally bask in the tranquillity. Blissful silence, save for something in the roof marching up and down and creating a terrible smell at times. These are Stone Martens, apparently. They take up residence. Chew through everything. Make a terrible racket and are protected species. There are a lot of them. Think they may be in league with the roofing profession!

As the Dark Lady was unable to come with me this time, I decided to do the ferry there and back from Portsmouth. Normally we will leg it after the show and take the tunnel. However, it’s a 300 mile drive in all, so we keep each other awake. Really we should share the driving as she is a far better driver than me. However, I am a bad passenger so we haven't reached an elegant compromise yet, other than I have no qualms about her driving my car providing I am not in it at the time!

The six hour crossing enables me to grab some breakfast, read the paper, then retire to my cabin for a snooze. The only bugbears with this are occasionally during school holidays hordes of excited kids running up and down the corridors. They fling you out of the cabin half-an-hour before you arrive. Night-crossings are even worse as they play an irritating "morning" folk tune an hour before landing which - no matter what controls you fiddle with on the in-cabin sound-system - you cannot shut off and it goes on for ages. Bit like a Matt Cardle record!

In the last year the French have opened a new stretch of motorway which lops about twenty minutes off the journey. However, for the first few trips it added about thirty minutes to the excursion as my sat nav is rather out of date, and so it would go berserk and tell me I was driving across ploughed fields and heading anywhere but the right direction. Now I have the hang of it, although I am still using the old sat nav but now just ignoring it at certain points.

The motorway is also a toll road, a "Peage". As a result, after a few miles you pull up at a tollbooth to fork out 3 Euros 50. (I have a Euro symbol on my computer but don't know how to activate it).

Therein lies a small problem: alone in a car driving on the wrong side of the road, how do you hand over the money to the attendant without getting out and walking round?

Simple. The attendant pokes a shrimping net through the window. You pop the cash in and away you go.

On the way back Sunday afternoon the ferry was blissfully un-crowded. Sleep would be no problem and with the ferry arriving at 10.15pm; I would be up in London in time for a few minutes bed rest before the show.

Into the cabin, clothes off and lie down.

"RRRRR donka donka donka RRRRRR donka donka donka RRRRR"!

There was a terrible vibration from somewhere nearby.

Clothes on and to the information desk.

"There is a terrible vibration. Can you give me another cabin, please"

"We have no more 2 berth inside cabeeens" (Perfect English but with a French accent, you understand)

"That is not really my problem. The cabin you have allocated is not suitable for purpose," I retorted pompously. No wonder we have marched around the world making enemies over the centuries!

So without a further murmur I was upgraded to a 4 berth, which frankly was little different but two decks higher. Quiet with a hint of muzak playing in the corridor.

Slumber ensued. Then instead of half-an-hour before arrival 45 minutes ahead of time, the PA announcement told us we were going to be late arriving by 15 "Minewts". Again perfect English with a French accent.

As I drove up to the passport control I realised I was on the right of the booth so would have to get out of the car to walk round and hand it in. Unless they had a shrimping net, of course.

They didn't. However, the lady officer looked at my three year-old passport complete with "convict" photo. (I had pulled my hair back in case it fell out during the life of the passport or I was venturing into some of the less sophisticated U.S States by direct flight at any point).

"You look a lot younger than you do on your photo," she beamed.

I preened and then realised it was dark and I now had a beard covering a multitude of age-related sins.

Thursday 13 October 2011


Success: the tiles arrived. So with that triumph at the forefront of my mind I skipped lightly to the bus stop in order to go to a meeting with other BBC Presenters and Senior Production staff which was to be chaired by Director General, Mark Thompson.

The way these things work is that the famous TV Stars stick together and I talk to Ken Bruce whilst sipping a glass of usually-not-very-nice wine.

There is usually a short-ish pep talk about the state of the BBC, then a couple of people we don't recognise ask a whole slew of questions which usually veer off the subject until everyone wishes they would shut up so that we can get back to the wine, as there is only usually enough for two glasses and in between the first and the second we have forgotten how rank it was

"Weris Hngrlane"?

Asked the foreign-looking gentleman also waiting at the bus stop.

"Hanger Lane"?

"Ys. Hngrlane"

He responded.

"You definitely mean Hanger Lane"?

"Ys" He assured me.

"Well" (using the old punchline popularised by Black Country comedy duo Aynuk and Ayli years ago)

"I wouldn't be starting from here"!

"WherHngrLane"? He entreated.

I have been a stranger in a strange land where my language was not the one spoken so I knew how he felt. Bearing in mind we Brits have a reputation for being kind to foreigners (providing they don't actually try and settle here!) it was my duty to help.

Firing up the GPS in my phone I showed him that at the very least he needed to be at the bus stop over the road as this was going in the opposite direction towards central London.

The wild pointing then started. This way, that way the other way and some directions that would take a rocket or a mole as a means of transportation or certainly as a guide.

"Hngr" he repeated for the umpteenth time. There is only so much help a body can give and patience was beginning to wear thin.

I was tracing the directions for him on the phones screen when I became aware of something: the bus had tip-toed up to us and at the moment I noticed it. It slammed its doors and drove off.

Well I now had another 20 minutes to wait so there was plenty of time to sort this chap out.

Trying to stifle my impatience I went for broke.


"Ys: H.E.N.D.O.N"!

He spelled with obvious satisfaction at this command of an unfamiliar language and the reaction of his new found friend.

"£$%^&*("! I spelled out slowly and carefully in my mind.

I pointed him up the street to the turning. He would be able to walk it and would be there before my bus arrived.

I was late. Half-an-hour late. However, not as late as a woman who also arrived late and to make up for lost time launched into a diatribe about staff quotas. No idea who she was. Obviously important.

So glad I am but a simple Disc Jockey!

Wednesday 12 October 2011


We have been sorting out a new bathroom. Or should that be updating a little. New shower and taps, towel radiator and some tiling.

Simple? Er…no!

Went to the big orange DIY warehouse and bought a shower we liked. Unfortunately they didn't have matching taps in stock. Went online and found them at another store. Reserved a pair and rushed off to collect. Then another simple job: tiles. Er…no!

Went to Acme Tiles and selected the ones and the amount we required. None in stock; however, the way this operation worked was that they would phone from head office and take the money, then they would deliver the tiles to the store.

"We've received your order if we could just have your credit card details" chirped the cheery chap on the phone.

After this portion of the transaction he asked, as so many companies do these days:

"Can I ask you on a scale of 0 to 10 what you think of the service for Acme tiles?"

"Erm…can't really give you an answer as so far you have only taken the money. When I receive the tiles and check they are the ones I ordered then I will be in a position to give an opinion.”

"Erm…oh yes," he said, sounding a little chastened.

As I was arranging the taps and the shower in the boot of the car ready to take them home from the Dark Lady's house, I noticed some handwriting on the box which had been sealed with a security tag at the shop: "Parts missing"

Feverish hands opened the container to find only half the bits and no instructions. Grrrrrrr!

Back to the store.

None in stock. However, Andy (for that was his name) offered to collect a replacement from a nearby branch the following day.

So now I had the right shower. The right taps and the phone has just rung and the tiles have arrived.

Now to get them fitted!