Tuesday 18 December 2012


So more wrapping today and - having used most of the adhesive tape in the house - I set out yesterday and bought more.

This morning sitting at the kitchen table I was ready to resume.


Wrapping paper



All present.

Sellotape. .......Sellotape? ........where’s the blimmin Sellotape? ?

So down to the shops for more.

I've been joking with the Dark Lady every birthday and Christmas since we met that for a gift I want an aeroplane.

Having a Microlight pilots licence, I can think of few things that would improve my quality of life more than my own aeroplane.

DL the poor long-suffering woman smiles weakly as I trot out this old gag every six months. In truth it's more often than that but I'm not counting. I'm dreaming.

"When I win the Lottery" she gently chides.

She won about £3 the other week so she's on a winning streak. In fact she's won similar sums a couple of times before. So I'm guessing she's set up an "Alex's aeroplane fund"

With this run of luck I reckon the big win must be just around the corner.

Pic someone rolling around on a bed of banknotes.

I don't want to second guess here but I suspect the reason we've run out of sticky tape is that to wrap even a small flying machine takes a lot of paper and tape.

I'll keep you posted.

If I don't get round to doing another blog this side of Christmas and New Year. Have a wonderful time and don't forget to join me Christmas week 3-6.30 everyday except Xmas day.

Monday 17 December 2012


At last I'm starting to feel Xmassy.
Friday lunchtime and it was the Music Publishers Association lunch.
This is always a good time. Good food. Excellent company and funny speeches. It's also one of the few occasions where I don a suit and don't mind.

This year the entertainment consisted of a Swedish accapella group who sang with gorgeous precise harmonies. Admittedly in their native tongue so no idea what they were singing about.
Each year there is a theme. This year it was 20s/30s prohibition America.  So as we took our seats we were allocated a hat or a fascinator to get us into the swing of things.

However probably intentionally no notice was taken of gender. So to my delight there were a selection of burly blokes clumping around with feathers in their hair. Or if they had none. Just attached to their domes.
There was a comedian from Hove. Think his name was Steve. He'd been on the TV so I recognised him. Who did a good gag about CSI Hove. "41 deaths all from natural causes."
The final entertainment came from a French gypsy jazz group that featured a couple dancing nimbly. Sadly for them the booze had kicked in by then so they faced a wall of indifference.
Saturday and it was a charity do in my home town. A carol concert at St. Augustine's which is part of St. Michael's Hospice. I was there in my role as President of S.A.F.E which provides respite care beds.
Not blowing my trumpet but just think end of life care is very important and naturally I'm delighted and honoured to be involved.
Plus it gives me a chance to bore total strangers with clunky jokes and lumbering anecdotes. In order to ring the changes in future I may work up some choreography as well as maybe a song.

Friends Unlimited provided the music. They sounded excellent despite having various members missing due to colds.
Luckily for them it didn't impact their performance as it did the four girl dance troupe I saw in summer season on Eastbourne back in 85.
I noticed I was sitting next to a woman with a bandaged ankle. Turns out she was a quarter of the chorus line.

The curtain rose to reveal 4 doors on stage. As the music swelled each door opened to reveal a dancer. Until it was the turn of door four which remained resolutely closed. The trio tapped and pranced round the stage eventually forming up for that chorusline staple. The turning. Arms linked cross formation. High kicking around in circles to wild acclaim.
On this occasion it was a rather forlorn T shape that traced the patterns in front of us.
That's showbiz loves! 

Wednesday 12 December 2012


I've written of "man jobs" here before.

They are the bits and pieces you do around the house that are beyond the capabilities of mere women. No wonder Frank Sinatra used to refer to them as "frails".

Women tend to do the simple stuff:

Holding down jobs whilst bearing and nurturing children. Cooking. Cleaning. Balancing the family budget. Remembering all family and friends birthdays and anniversaries. Acting as go between. Diplomat in family disputes. Attack dog when family is threatened. Tireless community worker.

She knows the neighbours. All of them. She also knows all the teachers and juggles parents evenings with school trips. Sleepovers. Extra tuition

The sixth sense that can find an item of clothing or a school book long thought lost and fold clothes and wrap presents.

We blokes on the other hand have to do the tough stuff:

Opening jars. Changing light bulbs. Watching tv whilst seemingly melded to the sofa. Drinking beer and eating food. Shouting burping and farting and we mustn't forget scratching. Lots of scratching. Mmm scraatchiiinnnggg!

Frankly ladies you are lucky to have us!

So today I had to undertake a huge man job. This was going to be arduous it was going to be tough. I'm a man though so I was up to it.

The Dark Lady got up. Roused the children. Got them breakfast and took them to school then went off to work as I slumbered on preparing myself for the big man job.

I had to let two guys in who had come to replaced the rotting patio doors.

They arrived on time and started work as I sat and watched "Graveyard carz" ."WWII in colour" and "Air crash investigation".

I also wrote some Xmas cards and surfed the internet.

Two hours later the door men were finished. Dark Lady came back from work. Checked that she was happy with the quality of the job. Signed all the finance documents made them tea and then scuttled back to the office for a series of meetings.

After the blokes had cleared up and left. I ate the rest of the biscuits that had been left for them and I'm now writing this in the pub.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that being a man is easy. It isn't, it's exhausting!

Tuesday 11 December 2012


Papers full of pictures of Rio Ferdinand the Manchester United player hit by a coin during the match with Manchester City last weekend.

As you know I'm not a sports fan and have never understood the anguish that people go through supporting their team.

Dark Lady is a QPR fan. I've offered to go to games with her but she tells me no as she knows I'd hate it.

My mate Mathew who is a Hull City nut and rarely, if ever, misses a game home or away. He'll drive from Hull to Portsmouth. Watch them lose and then drive back. This apparently constitutes a good day out.

Former producer Samantha when the show came from Birmingham was a lifelong Birmingham City season ticket holder. When they were promoted to the premiership some years back she was delighted.

"What does this actually mean"?

I asked.

"Season ticket prices will go through the roof and there'll be fewer home games".

She replied.

Obviously as has been pointed out by many. Including you in the past.

I just don't understand!

I'll tell you what I definitely don't understand. Why anyone no matter how cretinous feels it necessary to hurl coins or make racist gestures at blokes playing a game.

I know crowds at gigs are not perfect sometimes but having had the good fortune to see the late Muddy Waters a couple of times in the 70's. No one felt it necessary to throw bananas on the stage nor make monkey gestures.

I don't know. Where does this behaviour come from?

Maybe one source:

Went to watch my Stepson Jamie play with his team last Sunday.

I didn't get there til just before the interval. He was the sub and they were already 1-0 down.

However he's a game maker and a utility player. So he played for most of the second half first as a striker then at the back.

He didn't score but his work rate really lifted the team. So much so they eventually won 3-1.

The equaliser was disputed but stood. They then scored two more so the result wasn't in doubt.

So tell me why it was necessary for the manager of the opposition to stride onto the pitch shouting the odds and then stand on the touchline bleating

"What's the point. What's the point"?

These were 13 year olds! When the match finished. Jamie went to shake hands with his opposite number who brushed him aside and walked off without a word.

After the post-match debrief we looked around and the other team had gone.

Bad sportsmanship and tribalism seems to start early.

Is it chicken and egg?

Younger players and management ape the behaviour of their Premiership idols. Or does the action and attitude of idiot management of kids sports breed the coin throwing and hooliganism at senior level?

If you are a fan you'll be able to explain this to me.

One thing it reinforced though was that I wasn't going to become a football fan anytime soon.

Maybe we should look to baseball. Dark Lady and I have been to a game.

Totally baffling admittedly but it was a capacity family crowd enjoying the spectacle. Fans all sitting together. No segregation by team.

Don't think we'll see that here any time soon!

Monday 10 December 2012

Santa's On His Way

Dark Lady is now in Christmas overdrive. December is a military operation. Now we are a team. I am trying to help. Although I think I may be hindering more than helping.

Most of the cards have been written. Including ones to my friends and relatives. Many of whom haven't had the pleasure of meeting her yet.

My handwriting. Never good has deteriorated over the years so now everyone including me finds it illegible. So she wrote them and I dictated the addresses. This is teamwork at its best.

The house is festooned with lights and decorations and all that was needed now was a tree. Not any old tree. It has to be 6ft tall and bushy. An even shape all the way round.

I was despatched to Acme Trees to buy one. I think I've got just the one. The whole transaction taking under five minutes.

"6 footer"?


"Bushy but even"


"No that's straggly at the top"


"Can you get that one out of its mesh wrapper please so I can see it"




It's now in the shed as the tree doesn't go up in our house until the last minute.

The seasonal over-catering has started. Although traditionally my input is largely appreciative.

Xmas morning I shall set off from DL's house. Drive to the Midlands. Collect my Dad. Drive him to my sister and brother in laws house. Have my annual gin and tonic and the full festive Monty.

Er. ..quite. Then in the late afternoon back down to London to hoover up more fabulous food before bed.

This year despite the big day falling on a Tuesday. I'm not on the radio that morning. Roger Royle will be seeing in Christmas morning. Rest of the week however it's going to be me 3.00 til 6.30 and hopefully you!

Don't miss a second. Just like the food. You get bigger helpings this time of year.

Wednesday 5 December 2012


I've found my niche in life after 35 years in radio. It's what I was meant to do as frankly any other occupation and I would be even more of a liability. Apart from maybe that of a politician.

Let’s face it how hard can that be?

Kissing a few babies.

Shaking a few hands and looking "concerned" from time to time whilst blaming everyone and everything else for your own incompetence.

I have a fairly low key lifestyle which meanders along quite nicely most of the time. Long may it continue in a similar vein.

I am called upon to do "man jobs" at home. These include changing lightbulbs. Emptying the dishwasher and checking the tyre pressures on the car. Though there was a big middle class chore to do today and that was to change the canister on the water filter!

This morning the plan had been to drive to Birmingham to see my Dad. I set off around 6am and ran into light snow. A few miles further on it became heavier and started to settle on the carriageway. So wisdom dictated I turned round and went home.

Dark Lady was getting up for work and getting the children off to school with the aid of a whip and a chair.

I decided that as I was going to be sitting at home it would be a good opportunity to clean the stair carpet which has acquired a few stains due to spillages and the children not wiping their feet properly.

Although I will admit the pedal extremities that clumped dog do through the house did in fact belong to me although until I owned up poor old Jamie was getting it in the neck from his Mum.

I'd borrowed my father's carpet cleaning machine and soon the stains on the stairs had been replaced by damp patches. So not sure as I left the house to go back to the flat how successful I've been.

Dividing my time between more than one location can mean you end up with no clothes in one venue and a log jam at another.

So it was with some surprise I counted 16 pairs of pants in my drawer in the marital bedroom.

So I stuffed a dozen pairs into a carrier bag and headed for the bus stop. As I waited in the cold I mused about how different my life must be compared to that of "celebs":

Can you imagine Sir David Frost walking along the street with a bag of Y fronts instead of his top of the range briefcase?

Daniel Craig emerging from the limo for the premiere of Skyfall with a bag of undercrackers. Shaken not stirred, naturally.

Prince William leaving the private hospital after visiting the Duchess of Cambridge waving at crowds of wellwishers with a sack of monogrammed undergarments in his waving hand?

I thought not.

As I left the bus I made extra sure to look both ways before crossing the road. Had I been flattened by a passing steamroller I bet for one of the very few times in my life I would make the papers.


Tuesday 4 December 2012


It's started. The countdown to the big day.

Normally I'm not too fussed about the festive season. I've worked many December 25ths and 31sts so in many ways they can be like any other day of the year albeit quieter.

One year back in the days of cheque books, I stopped to buy petrol one Christmas morning and absent mindedly asked the cashier what the date was.

One year whilst working in the North-East I did my radio show, went home and decided to cook myself a proper Christmas meal with all the trimmings.

I bought a tiny turkey. Stuck it in the oven and whilst it was cooking went and tiled my bathroom. Several hours later I went into the kitchen. Removed the tiny bird from the oven and ate it all in about ten minutes.

Admittedly that was a depressing year!

Last year, due to my wedding, I wasn't really prepared. So by the time we'd come back from honeymoon it was only a couple of weeks to the big day and so never got round to doing half the things I should. No cards were sent as a result. This year things are going to be different.

The Dark Lady has already written 90% of the cards. So I just have a few to do.

Gifts are a different matter. On my side of the family it's always been easier to ask people what they wanted and then go and get it.

However, I also like to surprise people so I've been wracking my brains to think of things to get people.

It can be a tyranny. Someone I knew was so stumped come the eve of the big day that he rushed out and bought his wife.....a small wooden box!

I hope to do slightly better than that. It's not easy to match the person to the present. I once joked how naff socks as a gift were to an elderly and rather haughty grandmother of a girlfriend as I opened a parcel containing a pair from her.

The next year she gave me a cheese knife!

It is the first week in December and I've already bought one item. I feel good.

Monday 3 December 2012


OK....who's had it? Where did the year go? Last December 3rd it was a Saturday and we were at Rye Town Hall ready for our nuptials. The Dark Lady was worrying that there weren't enough candles and I was worrying that the superb Edwina Hayes had been delayed and so wouldn't be on hand to sing her definitive version of the Randy Newman song "Feels Like Home".

(You can watch a special wedding "vimeo" by Neale James by clicking here.)
We've had a wonderful year. Not without drama. Dark Lady managing to lacerate her finger spectacularly on Boxing Day. We spent much of the afternoon in the hospital waiting room. At least we spent it together.

We had our first proper family holiday in Florida with my two excellent step children, Jamie and Ella. I was probably the worst behaved of the four of us!

We've seen the cycle of life with friends and family from births via Bah Mitzvahs to weddings to sadly funerals.

We've had our fair share of worries about business about job security about future planning and a couple of health issues that luckily turned out to be minor.

All through this we've had each other to lean on.

In case you are starting to hear violins and heavenly choirs and you are feeling your gorge rise and are looking for the sick bucket….

…we've had a lot of fun and mischief and I don't think I've ever laughed so much.

What have we learned over the last twelve months?

DL has learned that I'm incapable of any domestic chore after I've taken my shoes off.

I've learned that if we are in a shop DL has to pick up, examine and comment on every item of stock. In the China department this is a white knuckle ride as I know sooner or later - maybe not this store, nor the next or even the one after - one day she's going to drop something!

If every year is as good as this one, even with its upsets and worries, I can never complain. I am blessed.

OK cue the sick bucket. ..

Wednesday 28 November 2012


Having travelled in a rather worn and slightly hungover state from Scarborough to London on Saturday morning, I had little opportunity to relax.

There was just time to have a good soak in the bath before it was time to get the glad rags on as we were due to go out to a Bah Mitzvah.

This is the second one I've been invited too and, as non-Jews, The Dark Lady and I consider it a great honour to have been invited.

Matthew had reached 13. He was on the verge of manhood. I'd missed the ceremony at the synagogue earlier in the day. DL went and she had to wear a hat this time as she was now a married woman. This, she told me, pleased her no end.

Proud parents, Adam and Hannah, had hired a hall and a slap-up feed and a disco had been laid on.

There was wild dancing.

There was eating and drinking

More wild dancing

Yet more drinking and eating.

There were prayers and blessings in Hebrew.

To us brought up C of E (retired) and Catholic (lapsed), it was baffling.

There was hammering on tables at one point and I thought back to my childhood. Any body who made the slightest sound during the Sunday service would have got a clip round the ear.

Then the Rabbi left the event and so I gather it was then permitted to dance, men and women together. Up to that point we had whirled in segregated circles.

Then it was time for speeches. Dad, Mum and Bah Mitzvah Boy, Matthew, all made funny and tender speeches. Friends chipped in and for hapless Matt. He had to sit there being "roasted" by his mates.

Then the disco struck up and we whirled some more. What looked like a canoe full of confectionery passed among the dancers. Had I been Fred Astaire I would have wondered why my enthusiastic tapping wasn't sounding right as I got a rogue marshmallow stuck to the sole of my shoe.

The evening rounded off with an outbreak of Gangnam style with all the kids doing the moves. Finally proud Dad, Adam, led us through YMCA

Disturbingly he knew all the moves!

I was wringing with sweat by the end but my hangover had gone.

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Tuesday 27 November 2012


Lest you think the DJ nerd night in Scarborough was a horrible experience it was quite the opposite. The accommodation may have been poor but the rest of the evening was a lot of fun. We met in the bar of the hotel; it was immediately apparent this is where all the pensioners were kept.

They had discount drink vouchers. I'd like to think that this will become government policy by the time I reach that age.

Bus pass. Check

Free TV licence. Check

Winter fuel allowance. Check

Discount drink vouchers. Check.

Probably the opposite will be the case.

The upside of this establishment is contrast. In other words if you are surrounded by the elderly, as a middle-aged person you appear a pimply teen who's face has never seen a razor in comparison.

Although as one of the oldest in our party, if you extrapolate, I felt I was running a crèche.

After a couple of drinks we headed in to town to a Chinese restaurant which was very nice and ticked all the relevant boxes.

Food. More beer. Then it was time to hit another bar. This is where these events usually falter.

All the effort goes into the food but after we've eaten the conversation is flowing and we end up wandering aimlessly round whichever town we are in trying to find a bar.

Usually they end up being a deafening boozer rammed with lairy drunks and nowhere to sit. Too noisy to converse and about to close anyway.

This time we hit a casino. A few people were gambling. Music was low as you don't want it too loud in case it upsets the high rollers (although this being Scarborough I'm not sure the stakes were enormous.)

"I'll raise ya, Mr Bun the baker"

"North Yorkshire hold 'em" may not have the same cachet as it's Texas equivalent.

So we sat and yarned. Stories were told. Rumours were spread and eventually there were only a few of us left.

"What time we meeting for breakfast"?


What's the time now"?


I went to bed and hardly remember turning out the light. I was there on the dot of 8.30 bright eyed and...actually let's just leave it at "I was there at 8.30!”

Thoroughly excellent evening that raises the bar for the next event in Gloucester in February

Monday 26 November 2012


Every four months DJ's of my acquaintance and often new friends get together to talk 'shop' and generally try to top each other’s stories of bad behaviour and industry maltreatment.

We travel the length and breadth of the land in search of cheap food drink and lodging. The venue this time was Scarborough.

The last time I visited was in 1983. So it was a long overdue return trip. The hotel in which I stayed on my previous visit was sadly no longer there, having slipped down the cliff and been destroyed not too long after my visit. The foundations may have been undermined by a spectacular graveyard cough I contracted upon my arrival that was so violent I saw spots before my eyes and developed an agonising pressure headache. Also the earth shattering screams when I discovered a horrible brown mark on my face the following morning. An attack by the poo fairy?

Er no I'd gone to sleep not noticing the complimentary chocolate on the pillow.

On this occasion we'd booked into a cheap hotel which looked spectacular in the photographs. Upon arrival the reality was somewhat different.

I must stress that budget hotels are fine with me; provided the sheets are clean and it’s a reasonable temperature and quiet, I'm happy.

For the price I wasn't too fussed that my single room was two floors below ground level with no window. No phone and no mobile signal. I texted the Dark Lady my room number so she could contact me in emergency and went into the bathroom to freshen up.

Not sure what happened there but someone had smoked a couple of gaspers and bunged the dog ends down the pan.

I mentioned this on Twitter @alexthedarklord and also uploaded a video onto my Facebook page.
One of the comments left was by someone who had worked in the hotel industry telling me I should have mentioned this to a member of staff rather than complaining on Tripadviser (which I haven't).

A good point but to what end? The reception area was crammed with the elderly on a budget break. So the queues whilst not too long were taking a time to move. One flush and the problem was solved. It could have been a one off. Plus, if I was going to complain about that, there were far more important and pressing things to complain about of which the staff could do nothing.

Whilst queuing on a staircase with thirty others the following morning and eventually reaching the front of the line, I was told I'd have to find somewhere to sit as they didn't reserve tables. Looking at the faded décor, the worn Formica tables and general tiredness - albeit with a spectacular sea view - I felt a stirring of some deja vu. I'd experienced this before. The queues. The rigid regulation and the general grubbiness. .

Butlins Skegness 1985! I remember being on first sitting. The table set for two meals and accidentally having a cup of tea then a coffee in two separate receptacles. The tablecloth (at least they had one) a sea of brown due to an earlier gravy boat accident.

"Look. You've muckied another cup!" said the waitress.

A little research told me that the hotel had once been owned by Butlins but had changed hands a few years back.

I suppose that a huge hotel in a town no longer attracting visitors to stay in the same numbers it had back in Victorian times is going to struggle to attract people. Investment has obviously taken place but there still needs to be a lot more. I thought places like this had long since ceased to exist. It's a shame as it’s a wonderful building in a really nice seaside town.