Tuesday 31 January 2012


Have done a few hundred miles over the last few days and so to coincide with the return of Top Gear (which, as we know from the Best Time of the Day show, is merely Last of the Summer Wine) I thought I would take a leaf out of their book.

Interestingly we've noticed that since we pointed this out a while back other shows and journalists have either had the same idea or have taken ours. Not for the first time I may add, he muttered darkly!

This week our intrepid trio end up leaving Hammo stranded in a bath somewhere on the Yorkshire Moors. (Sorry that should read Noble M600 in Italy).

So in order to repay them I have decided to act a little like the Stig. This I may add doesn't mean blurting out my identity as it is readily available to all and sundry



Or flouncing off to write a tell-all book. Incidentally, did that one actually make it to the bookshelves? If so it had better luck than my "memoirs". They were all ready to go until the publisher pulled the plug on them as there was a "recession on" Grrrrrrrrr!

No, as he is roaring round the airfield he usually listens to something calming or improving. So I have been puttering up and down the M1 and M6 lately listening to a French course that the Dark Lady gave me for Xmas. The plan is to improve my schoolboy French so I am able to have a conversation without stammering and making wild gesticulations.

"Je peu preparer le manger!" I'll have you know!

It is a 12 CD set and so far I am halfway through the second CD. I need to travel more. Perhaps to France!

Went out to visit a journalist friend, Claire Woodward, who is a big cheese at the Sunday Express and we arranged to meet at a restaurant near London's Piccadilly Circus.

She was running a few minutes late and popped out and ushered me in to meet her lunch companion, Sandro Monetti

He lives in Beverley Hills and is a well connected man about the LA showbiz scene. He is also among other things a UN Ambassador and I can't remember if he said he had various Doctorates or if he was a Pastor for various churches. When I asked how he came upon these august titles he replied

"Simple. I buy them off the Internet"!

So that is the answer then. You can fork out about £40 and become a UN Ambassador. Wonder if that entitles you to sit in the big chamber we see on the TV with the name of your country in front of you. Looking at the members there that is a lot of £40 worth.

Maybe better still if you buy your title from the Internet you are also awarded your own country as well. This could be a useful source of income as it must be pretty tricky for the big countries to keep track of all the smaller ones. Especially as they keep changing their names.

If you've ever seen the early Woody Allen comedy, What’s up. Tiger Lily? you'll know part of the plot involves a country that is not on the map and has no land. So the population are being kept in crates until some space becomes available "Hopefully somewhere sunny".

After seeing Claire and having a grand old chinwag about the state of broadcasting and journalism generally I headed off to the gym, having ingested precisely one glass of fizzy mineral water. I have run out of the cologne that I have used off and on since I was a teenager and my Aunt gave me a bottle after a trip to Italy. I think it must be the equivalent of the great smell of Brut; I can usually only find it in small chemist shops as it is so grotesquely unfashionable that no self respecting parfumier has ever heard of it let alone stocks it.

A couple of years ago I bought some from a shop in Piccadilly so headed down there to buy some more.

"Aqua di Selva?” I asked after being buzzed in to the shop that had an electric lock on the door like a jewellers.

"No.... but we have Aqua this and Aqua that and Aqua a whole lot of things that smell pungent and begin with the word Aqua"

This wasn't the exact conversation but you get the gist.

"You used to sell it a couple of years ago".

"We are the new owners and have only been here a few months"

Looks like it’s the Internet to replenish my supply.

However: how much to buy? My old History teacher at school used to write in purple ink. When he got wind that they were going to cease to make it he wrote to the manufacturers asking how much they had left. He bought the final gallon. Shortly after that the poor bloke died leaving behind nearly a full container of the stuff that presumably his relatives are still using to this day about thirty years later.

I feel OK but then again so did he. Best get a smallish bottle just in case!

Monday 30 January 2012


After another week without the booze in another attempt to "healthy-up myself" it was off to Hastings.

Various people have (rather sourly, I thought) noted that I keep attempting to lose weight and failing. This is not strictly true as I do lose weight but something happens and I put the weight back on again.

The "something happens" is finding myself in the pub with the newspapers about 5 in the evening and then going back home again and over-eating. No-one ever went out for the evening and passed the chip shop desperately looking for the greengrocers.

"I've had a few beers. Now, what I could really do with is an apple"!

This time I like to think I may have cracked it for a couple of reasons:

I have discovered nourishing soup that I have always liked and that satisfies the food craving without too many calories.

There are a couple of TV shows that I am enjoying at the moment so I get back to watch them as well as having a number of boxed sets that are crying out to be viewed.

Most importantly is trying to stay healthy for my wife.

I am probably worth more dead but she is not (she assures me) rubbing her hands at the prospect of a massive life insurance windfall should I cark it.

Also, I don't want to hear people whispering

"What's Jabba the Hutt doing with that hot woman?"

Dark Lady looks great and makes the effort to stay so. As a result I think it’s only fair, I think, to return the favour.

However, I have to lose the weight to try and look reasonable.

Friend of mine who had a bad case of rhinophym

before he had surgery to fix it was out one evening with a friend of his who just happened to be a model.

Two lairy lads sitting at the next table couldn't understand how he could be out with a woman that gorgeous.

Eventually one of them rudely leaned over and said to her

"'Ere what do you see in that bloke. He's dead ugly?"

Quick as a flash she riposted:

"He has an enormous penis and knows how to use it!”

So Friday night I was alone in the pub with the newspaper having a well-earned break from the dietary tyranny.

Woke up the next morning and felt terrible. I am out of practice obviously.

Saturday night and back with the Dark Lady again it was on with the glad rags and out to Sheen to a pub to meet up with friends. It was a 40th Birthday party and there were lots of people I knew and liked there. We had some fab food and lots of water to drink as I was driving. My mate, Steve Evans (who I have mentioned before in the blog and on the show), is a Truck driver and seems to be made entirely from boulders.

At one point he came over and as his wife, Annie, looked on said.

"Put your hand in my trouser pocket"

"Erm....I seem to remember a schoolteacher...erm"

"Go on," he said fixing me with a stare which said "remember I am made of rocks"

"Er, I work for the BBC and we do have people of all…erm..."

"GO ON"!!

I felt gingerly in his pocket out pulled out this:

"Its Uncle the Ant eater"

Steve drives a lot at night and so rarely misses a show and had homed in on the ant counting methods we were devising with your help last week. It looks more like a guinea pig to me but was I going to argue with a man who even has muscles in his hair?

We were late home that night and so Sunday proved to be a lazy day with the Dark Lady whomping up a fantastic spag bol using her slow cooker.
We left it bubbling and went off to the ice rink so she could try out the skates that Santa had brought her at Xmas but she hat had a chance to use as her injured finger hadn't healed sufficiently. Last week at the hospital the specialist told her with refreshing honesty when she asked about skating

"No worries, you can fall on it without doing it any harm"!

We were stuck in traffic and she was worrying that by the time we arrived there would only be about 40 minutes left until closing time.

Being Sunday the ice was packed and as I have found with my new skates. After about 15 minutes your arches are screaming for relief. By the time we were ushered off the rink, the DL and her dainty feet had had enough for one day. However the new skates were deemed a roaring success. The big question is when will she have enough time to get back out there and start taking lessons as I do?

Back home by about 5pm and there was just enough time for me to shovel down a bucket of the excellent Bolognese and sit slumped through another Harry Potter before it was bedtime. Two Potters down. 6 more to go. They are very long, aren't they?

In for the show and telling Janice Long about the Harry Potter saga as to why I am watching them so I will be all clued up for the themes park in Florida this summer with the DL and the children so I will "enjoy it more"

"Whats that game they play.......Chappaquiddick"?

Thursday 26 January 2012


Up the hospital with the Dark Lady first thing to see how her damaged finger is healing. Would she be signed off so that she could go back to the gym and start skating?

She was adamant that I could stay in bed and not worry about fighting the traffic trying to get to the hospital and then the nightmare that is trying to find somewhere to park.

Her appointment was at 11.30 in the Hand Clinic. Just as I was walking in the entrance I lifted the phone to my ear after dialling her number and at the exact moment received a text telling me she was already there waiting.

These are the moments when you think "Wow. We are so in-tune. We think as one.We are one".

This is the moment when the cynics start to go a little green around the gills prompting one Mary Little to write

"A youth with his first cigar makes himself sick. A youth with his first girl makes everyone sick".

Made my way to the first floor and there she was reading a magazine.(DL, and not Mary Little, if you were getting confused. I have looked on the Internet and can find no details for Mary Little.)

Say what you like about the NHS. It is not perfect but I have yet to see anything that betters it and it should be protected and cherished.

11.30 on the dot and the physio arrived, ushered us in to his clinic and had a good poke around at the DL's hand.

He asked a few relevant questions and replaced the splint with a tiny bit of elasticated bandage and that was it. We were free!

She is now able to resume the gym and we are going skating together this Sunday so she can try the skates that Santa bought her at Xmas.

Her hand has healed sufficiently so she can fall down if she wants to. Although I would imagine if anyone is going to do any falling down it will be me.

She has to massage the finger regularly with cream and do various finger exercises and hopefully shortly it will be back to normal. It may take a while for the feeling to come back as the nerve was severed but they, she and I are very pleased with the result and the care and treatment. I suggested that as it was one finger she could do the massaging with my help rather than enlisting the help of a tall Scandinavian masseur called Sven.

It is a shame that only the NHS horror stories make the headlines. It must be very demoralising to all those Doctors, Nurses and ancillary workers to open a newspaper in the morning and find yet another article attacking them.

It must feel a bit like working for the BBC

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Wednesday 25 January 2012


Another day and another half-hour on the rink with my thighs aching and my insteps protesting as Shirelle, the Instructor, is fighting hard to improve my skating technique.

PIC 1 Mine (I will send you a load choose the ones you like)

I can go forwards pretty well once I am in the groove with a modicum of elegance. However, if you watch them on the TV they spend a lot of time going backwards at great speed.

I can now go backwards slowly and carefully and it makes my arches ache!

The best way to do it she has realised is to try and take my mind off it. So we talk about other stuff like when the Dark Lady is coming for her first lesson. Her damaged finger is healing nicely and she'll find out if she can go back to the gym and start skating once she sees the specialist this week.

"You better than her, do you think"?

"Erm, not really. Although I may be slightly better at the moment, but give the DL a couple of lessons and she'll be way ahead"

I am skating backwards quite freely now having impure thoughts about the Dark Lady in a little skating dress whizzing backwards. (Come on guys this is the only reason we watch it. Just as we watch beach volleyball and gymnastics. Just as women watch the men's diving and the athletics.)

We are simple base creatures at heart.

Normally when I go skating it is during the day and during the week which ensures the rink is nearly empty.

Today, however, it is rather busier.

"Knock-on effect from Dancing on Ice. Always happens although this year it is not as pronounced," says Shirelle.

TeeVee has a lot to answer for: Wimbledon means it’s impossible to get a municipal court for weeks after.

The "Delia Effect" means the shops sell out of cranberries when they are featured in one of her recipes.

Perhaps that is why we have so many battles going on around the world at the moment due to televisions’ preoccupation with warfare:

WW1 in Colour and HD

WW2 unseen footage in colour and in HD

Hitler's Henchmen



The list is endless. For my sins I think I have spent longer watching documentaries about WW2 then the actual conflict lasted. Luckily the only casualty was my settee which has a capacious bum print from years of sitting, snacking and gawping.

Meanwhile back on the rink…

Progress is being made but at a slow middle-aged man’s rate. Don't expect me to be doing toe loops anytime soon. I have yet to master the sudden change of direction which - if I can - will mean that I can skate forwards suddenly turn and skate backwards.

Rictus grin. Bum out. Burning arches! You go, girl!!

The annual farce that is my car insurance comes due shortly and so it was the reminder from the insurance company. Last year, you may remember, I bit the bullet, owned up and phoned the company that specialises in "older people".

As usual I had a couple of flyers from other companies begging for my business and promising a better deal than "AcmeKar".

I phoned a couple and only to be told that it was not on due to my occupational loading; being on the Radio has many advantages but also the odd disadvantage namely that insurance companies assume you are a drunken, coke-fuelled cretin about to drive your Bugatti Veyron packed to the gills with superstars the wrong way down the motorway during the rush hour.

I am more of a Reginald Molehusband sort of a guy.

Incidentally if you get that reference its probably time you phoned "AcmeKar" yourself as you are doubtless over 50!

Final stop was a well-known motoring organisation that have their own brokerage arm.

They ran my details through their computer and announced:

"Well, I'm afraid the only people who'll insure you are "Acmekar"". (The people who insure me at present).

The nice, slightly overly-familiar chap on the end of the phone then quoted me a figure which didn't make me happy.

It was identical insurance from my own insurer and somehow was £300 more expensive than my direct quote.

Something I pointed out to him politely:

"You do realise this makes a mockery of the whole insurance process, don't you"?

"Yes, Sir"

Click Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Tuesday 24 January 2012


...Of course it isn't.

You are right, but I decided it would be a good idea and only fair to attack the large pile of CD's that have arrived since the new year. Record companies are now sending me stuff that will be released in March so it can easily be the case that some gems could be lost if I didn't buckle down and get a-listening!

When faced with a huge pile of records, I know that it will be impossible to listen to everything and every track so a selection process has to take place.

This is not science, I will admit, and I will also admit to certain personal prejudices that occur when faced with a huge pile.

A quick scan of the cover and the press release that accompanies the track gives me a first inkling.

Artists I recognise and like get put on one side. Artists that I know are core Radio 2 artists also, even if I am not necessarily a huge fan of their work - ditto.

The show is not about me, it’s about playing the music you like and hopefully introducing a few more musicians and singers into your repertoire via "Lesters Library".

Does it picture smiling kids leaping in the air?

Yup? Sorry that's for the teen market, not us.

Does the press release contain the words:

"Has received airplay on the Hoppy Hopson show on 105 The Glove, West Bromwich"

PR guys: this is not a big selling point. They are probably friends and so were played as a favour

"Got a huge reaction after being played on Radio 1"

Wrong demographic again and I know from experience if I play a track and get a "huge reaction" this is an online campaign from Facebook and Twitter "friends". We know how many people are listening and the level of appreciation we get from you for new tracks.

(Unless it was Bjork in which case ignore the above and all bets are off. Only Dr Strangelove and I liked that record; we are big enough to admit we don't always get it right.)

I have had to email the record companies or the artists themselves in the past to tell them to pass the word along to their fans that all this does is ensure that any future releases go to the back of the pile.

Does the CD arrive with a gimmick such as a picture of me on the sleeve? (this has happened). Or an enclosure like a bag of sweets or a plastic whistle?

Put to one side; the music is probably poor so has to be bolstered by a "free gift". Rather like teen magazines.

Does the artists come from a TV talent show?

Back of the pile although they may end up on the Radio 2 playlist so there is no need for me to feature them as part of the Library. This is my personal prejudice showing through.

Does the artist have a "tragic back story"?

"She was crushed by a piano at Primary school and when she was recovering she took up the zither"

Back of the pile. It’s the music, stupid!

Charity records.

This is a very sensitive area. I regard this as a form of blackmail.

"You must play this record!! It’s for charity!!!!"

I have only ever heard a couple of charity songs that I liked and it can be argued that Children in Need aside (which is the official BBC charity) if you play one charity single should play them all. There are certainly enough of them going round.

A sub-genre to the above is the artist who sends you a song with the accompanying letter:

"I'll donate any proceeds from the sales of this disc to charity"

Sorry, Buster, I'm too old and cynical for this ploy. You just want to get your music played on the radio!

When all those have been weeded out there are still quite a lot left.

Thrash Metal. Gregorian Chants. Tuvan Throat Singing and Religious music.

(Talking Hymns here rather than Gospel as - despite being an atheist - I like the noise it makes.)

Again, see "not exactly science".

Back of the pile. Hey PR guys, have you actually listened to the show? Do you know the sort of music we play?

Whilst I have been typing this blog and having cups of tea, doing some laundry and generally tidying the flat, I have managed to wade through about 50 CD's and listened to just over half of them.

There are some gems coming your way over the next few days for Lesters Library.

Starting tomorrow with Strictly X Come runners-up those lovable nine year-old Orphans, "Disturbing Moppets" with their charity single, "It’s Awful But Buy It" in aid of "Feed the Hamster".

If you would like to make a suggestion of your own for Listener's Library (see, it's not all about me!) then do so here. I look forward to hearing and possibly playing your suggestions!

Monday 23 January 2012


Step-fathering milestone on Friday evening:
Dark Lady still at work so it was up to me to ferry the brood over to see some friends and their children for Steak Night.

I have blogged about visiting the BBQ paradise at Fran and Greg's in April of last year and, with their busy lives, we have been plotting a rematch for some considerable time.

Last Friday it was on so into the car:

"We're leaving at 6.50pm sharp," said I in my best don't-mess-with-your-Victorian Stepfather voice (which normally is ignored).

However, at the appointed hour two children were in the car all strapped in and waiting for the off. They were looking forward to the evening as much as we were not only because of the excellent company but the meat feast that is provided by "Mr Steak" Greg who, once again, provided a fabulous hunk of meat for me to gnaw on. It fell apart as I brushed knife against it, exposing a juicy red centre. Cooked to perfection.

“The secret is in the sauce,” he said; the result of a marriage between a Chinese woman and a Jewish man (or maybe the other way about). The sauce is worth it for the name alone without even starting on the taste…

Soy Vay!

We were there for hours surely outstaying our welcome and headed back home in the small hours and fell into bed. (Well, in our case fell up into bed. The bed we have is rather tall and is at waist height so it has to be clambered into.)

Saturday and it was up to the Midlands to see my Dad and to catch up with mates at Halfpenny Green airfield where I learned to fly. Too windy to get airborne so spent three hours drinking tea, eating biscuits and just yarning about all things flying and a lot of stuff not concerned with flying.

Beer O'clock and into the pub for my first alcohol for a fortnight.

Dark Lady doesn't drink during January and this year I have been sort of accompanying her in that when we are together I won't drink either. I am delighted to report it is not a hardship and the bonuses in money saved and weight loss have been quite an eye-opener.

I made up for it: beer, newspaper and fish and chips ended a very pleasant but solitary evening.

The following morning I hurried back to London to the bazoom of the family

Dark Lady was out with Jamie at his football. Everyone arrived back at the same time and it was time to set to shovelling the Lasagne that she had made for us. Excellent! She is such a good cook and I am such a willing helper in terms of helping her dispose of these creations. This is what makes us the perfect team in my view.

We like a DVD or two on a Sunday afternoon at home. Part of our routine and, often if the film is right, we will watch one together all four of us which makes me feel all warm inside and very grown up as I never expected to have a family as such. So to be a Stepfather is quite an honour and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

I have even enjoyed saying to Ella, who is a very self-assured and mature 15 year old as she was going out one day, done up to the nines for important event in her teen social calendar:

"Where do you think you are going dressed like that? Wipe that muck off yer face!”

I was ignored in the nicest way.

As she'll soon be 16 we have decided that this summer will probably be the last time we have a family holiday all 4 of us so we are going to push the boat out.

This means Dark Lady has organised 2 weeks in Florida which includes 3 days at the theme parks in Orlando. The main reason for visiting is the Harry Potter experience.

I once saw one of the films and wanted gnaw my legs off with boredom. However, I am in a minority of one in this. So in order for me to get the most from the experience it has been decided that I should watch all of the films.In order.

So we sat down to watch Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone.

It is going to be a very long time ‘til summer!

Thursday 19 January 2012


Off up to the rink yesterday morning to meet with instructor, Shirelle. She was just finishing off a lesson with her son who was amazing. He jumps, he goes backwards, he does the whole routine and would win X Dance Come Jungle easily, in my opinion.

Still, in my role as destroyer of dreams as he exited the ice, I gave him a bit of friendly advice:-

"Watch me, kid, and I'll show you how it's really done!"

He shot me a withering glance as I wobbled out onto the ice.

Second outing for my new skates. I am now a pocket rocket in the forwards stakes. However, as the leather has yet to mould itself to my feet, they make my arches ache. Particularly when attempting backwards.

So backwards was attempted, as were some changes of direction and cross-overs. It all looks very easy when others do it. I think this is going to take some time!

Dark Lady is champing at the bit waiting to try out her skates and get some lessons in. Her damaged middle finger is recovering well. She no longer has to wear the comedy splint all the time. Just as well. Being flesh coloured it looks like she is making a "gesture" if you catch her from the wrong angle.

On the way to the bus I met the reason why Britain’s businesses are in such a poor state; a young thrusting tycoon-type strode toward me and demanded:-

"Is the London Business school along here?"

"What's the address?" I asked

"No idea" he boomed and strode off!

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Plus, get your requests in for Listener's Library by visiting here and don't forget to subscribe to the weekly Oddcast by visiting here.

Wednesday 18 January 2012


Some, or all of the above, self-inflicted I will admit. I am not going to plead poverty but neither am I about to fly out to my private island in my personal jet.

Yesterday down to Damyns Hall Airfield for the first flight of the New Year. A glance at my log book told me I had not been up since 20th October.

If that sounded like a double entendre then shame on you. It is difficult enough to stop Producer Strangelove from turning into a sniggering adolescent whenever we decide it's time for some Willie (Nelson, that is!) without you starting.

The weather was near perfect as Keith the instructor and I took off and headed out toward the Thames. Good visibility. Calm dense air. How much had I forgotten? Not too much in truth. For those not familiar with my Biggles-ing, I have a licence but am converting to another type of aircraft so need to get enough practice in before I can go solo in this one.

We flew round for an hour practicing take offs and landings and Keith pronounced himself satisfied and if I wanted to take her up alone I could. I decided that the day had gone so well I'd wait for another day when I felt fresher.

I find my brain fries trying to remember everything and also you have concentrate rather hard as there is the ever present-danger of making a smoking crater in the ground.

Remember: I'm the guy that often plays the same record twice!

Back at home the bad news started to trickle in:

For some reason my finances are so arranged that everything arrives at once at the beginning of the year.

So the post brought the Christmas credit card bill. It also brought the car insurance. Dark Lady and I are still paying off the wedding Electricity bill. No idea what the next one’s going to look like as I noticed that Herberts had shinned over the fence and turned on the lights in my garden. Due to the odd nature of my house I can't readily see it so they could have been on for days.

Then the boiler gave up on me. It needs a new pump and that's before anything else on it needs sorting.

"pilot light won't light so there's definitely a bigger problem," beamed the engineer.

Man came round to talk to me about secondary double glazing. I have rattley sashes. (Uh-oh. Strangeo's off again!) Oo-er Missus!

"HOW MUCH?????”

Don't think that's going to be happening any time soon.

Oh nearly forgot; The Tax Bill.

I did forget it completely one year. That was the year I spent most evenings at home with the lights out and the bailiffs turned up.

When I was growing up in what would now be a deeply unfashionable middle-class household, we always knew when it was getting close to payday as biscuits and cake would disappear and more offal would arrive.
In answer to MWhite who left a comment on yesterday’s blog asking if I wash posh and of "nobility": Nah, but I was born with an EPNS spoon in my mouth!

The ever-present threat of liver, Kidney tripe and ox heart ensure that wherever possible I don't live beyond my means.

Tuesday 17 January 2012


We had been thinking for a while of changing the odd bit of the show. As we listen to it everyday we are acutely aware (we like to kid ourselves) that not every feature lasts forever and hopefully things change before you are fed up with them.

So at the tail end of last year Dr Strangelove and I started thinking about a replacement for the 4.15 Confusion Hareem. I like to think of content, Strangeo wants it to rhyme!

Hence we have just published the second edition of the 4.15 Buffoon magazine.

The idea was to turn out our own headlines with your help.

Over the years and many producers the show has changed. It has evolved into the monster it is now. When I first started going it 20 years ago if I had an idea I would throw it out and wait a couple of days for any reaction to arrive, if there was any at all. Not every idea is a rip-roaring success. There would be a yawning tumbleweed filled silence.

I had to wait to see what the postman would bring.

Now with the advent of social media reaction from you can be instantaneous. This can be a double-edged sword as often there are too many emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook postings to do them all justice.

So we felt that a virtual magazine would be a fun thing to try. Just like a newspaper or periodical, it would have different features: Blaring headlines, ludicrous made-up stories, showbiz gossip. In fact, it would be a mickey take of the world of publishing.

So to that end over to you. What we are looking for is original thought and ideas. Anyone can do puns and recycle old jokes. We know you are better than that as the first two issues of The Buffoon have proved.

So listen out each day for the contents page and get your submissions in. We will be delighted and grateful.
Dr Strangelove will also be beside himself with joy if the headlines rhyme!

Monday 16 January 2012


There was a show on Radio 4 where the usual suspects got to do stuff they have never done before.

I say the usual suspects, for if an alien arrived on earth and decided to land here rather than in the backwoods of Nebraska at midnight (and abduct the stupidest person for a thousand miles as they usually tend to do based on those satellite TV shows: "UFOs are they real? Compelling evidence" followed by blurred footage of hub caps, frisbees and witness statements from idiots and the gullible), they would - after a cursory glance at the TV - realise that the world is ruled by one man and a coterie of sycophants. Step forward the ubiquitous Stephen Fry; a hugely talented man who has cornered the market in, er, everything!

The premise of the show which, after starting on radio like so many ideas, was snatched by TV. Although he didn't present it he was a guest on one of the episodes.

I've never seen I've Never Seen... so can only guess that the "star" (from now on known as “the Fry”) gets to experience things they never have had before.

It is nice to try new things and I am a firm believer that new experiences keep us alive.

Having said that, Dr Strangelove the Producer, had Friday off as he was trying a new experience. He had been invited to the Brits. He, as you know from listening to the Shoe, is well-versed in the ways of the VIP but this was a first for him, within the narrow confines of Strangeoworld which revolves around the gym, important meetings, schmoozing celebs and the areas in nightclubs behind the coloured rope where us mere mortals are not allowed.

It must have been quite a weekend as judging by the look of him this morning he had been carousing solidly for 72 hours. (Possibly a new experience)

Dark Lady and I had had a peaceful and relaxed and tranquil weekend in comparison as we headed off to France. Oddly (certainly for me) we ate and drank sparingly; in fact not a drop of alcohol passed our lips (unlike Strangeo!).

We lit the fire and watched some DVDs, from the sublime Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. (a Guy Ritchie film that I really enjoyed - a new experience!) to an Adam Sandler film that we hated, Billy Madison (a new experience also).

Sunday morning we woke up and peered through the window and to our delight a first for the Dark Lady and only my third sighting in 20 years a red squirrel was sitting in the tree outside.

A new experience for her and a nearly new experience for me.

What would be a totally new experience however for everyone would be to peer through the window out into a frosty Normandy morning and see Stephen Fry sitting in the tree. Although I expect he has done that already, or the TV show, Fry's Wood, is already at the pilot stage.

Wednesday 11 January 2012


It always amazes me how long it takes before things settle down to normal after Christmas and New Year.

Every year we grumble about how Christmas is starting earlier and earlier and yet not sure we make the same distinction with the post-New Year period.

As I outlined yesterday being a bit of a curmudgeon and having suffered from curmudegeonliness for many years now, I quite like the year as it runs without any sudden changes brought on by Bank holidays and Festivities.

Before you leap down my throat at my lack of joy I may tell you that I am trying to get Curmudgeon classified as a bona fide medical condition.

"What is it Doctor"?

"Bad news....I'm afraid you are in the early stages of Curmudgeon."

"Can you do anything?”

"I'm afraid not....it’s progressive. Early symptoms include railing against Bank Holiday traffic jams, then it progresses through to how Christmas was better when you were a child and how people knew the value of things. Eventually, I am afraid, you'll be shouting at Trick or Treaters and won't find Del Boy falling through the open bar flap in Only Fools and Horses anything other than profoundly irritating."

"How long have I got?"

"Depends when the run up to Christmas starts"

If I get this off the ground there could be scope for good, honest, hard-working people to dig deep and fund the research which I would selflessly undertake in the Cayman Islands.

I would also try and get the news of this awful condition out there by getting people to retweet me on Twitter so that we get

#curecurmudgeon trending.

That and maybe a selection of Z-listers will get together to make a charity record of stunning awfulness. However, as it is for charity, radio and TV will be forced to feature it.

You can get that trending too


However, now that everything is turning to the usual post New Year drudgery it also meant that I could try out my Christmas present.

Dark Lady bought me a pair of skates.

As you are aware - if you read the blog regularly and listen to the show - I have been having secret skating lessons with instructor Shirelle at Alexandra Palace in London.

She is very long-suffering as she stopped me crashing to the ice on many occasions and still does. She also doesn't shout at me when my attempts to turn or skate backwards fail miserably. Her skills are remarkable as she has managed to get Chico sufficiently well-trained that he is now on the latest series of Strictly X Ice Come.

However, it may be beyond her to get me up to that standard.

Although having said that....I was out on the ice yesterday in my new boots having had hired ones up to that point. They are such a difference; like rocket sleds so I can fail to go backwards or turn far faster than I ever did before.

As we were skating along two teenage girls skated up and one said:

"’Ere Mister. You bin on the telly?”

"Er, well yes (puffing himself up with pride at the recognition). I've been on Eggheads and have also done two episodes of Call My Bluff among other cameo roles!”


“Nah , I said 'ave you ever bin on telly?”

With that they skated off. Unaccountably my feet started to ache at that point so I went home.


Tuesday 10 January 2012


After the honeymoon it was headlong toward Christmas and New Year. Dark Lady is a big fan of the festive season; I am not fussed. I am more of the Grinch in that it is expensive, crowded and raises unrealistic expectations. To me Christmas day is a day like any other. This may be due to spending more than 30 years working (Yes, I know what I do isn't really work) over this period and not having children meant that it was a day when the roads were quiet and everything seemed shut and so it was impossible to go down the pub in the evening.

Having said that this year was going to be slightly different in that I had a ready-made family. Jamie, my Stepson (who you can see and hear in the video - click here - giving a bit of his speech) wanted dumb bells from me for the big day. So I had trudged down to a sports store and dragged 25kg of weights back home and wrapped them best I could. The only proviso is that he doesn't drop them on the floor of his bedroom as they will doubtless go straight through into the living room beneath. Bearing in mind I have already damaged the ceiling once by removing a troublesome smoke alarm and replacing it with a new one…in so doing tearing a strip of paper off the roof where the paint had stuck it to the unit. I am wary of causing further damage directly or indirectly.

Ella, my Stepdaughter, is artistic and so I bought her an easel and some paint and brushes. The proviso here being that she didn't try and re-paint the house (even where I had damaged it!) Nor did she try and repaint her younger brother no matter how annoying she thought he was!

Dark Lady had skates which turned out to be a tad too small so I had to take them back to the shop.

Christmas Eve dawned and it was a family evening with a groaning table. DL likes to cook nearly as much as she likes to over-cater.

After the show it was off to the Midlands to collect my Dad who - at 85 - has decided to stop driving. Other than that it was business as usual: he provided the wine, I did the cheese and biscuits, my Sister did the cooking and my Brother-in-Law did the washing up. This is the perfect division of labour, if you ask me.

I took several pictures but unfortunately this was the best of a very bad lot. My Sister is the nose on the far right. There is a little more of her in real life, otherwise she would be touring the halls in carnival or being studied by scientists.

After filling myself up with gargantuan portions of food it was into the car and back down to the Dark Lady's house.

"Are you hungry?” she asked, as I opened the door.

...I ate some more anyway.

After the show the following day I went back to bed as DL slaved in the kitchen and the children did whatever children do in their bedrooms. I think as adults we know the sort of things that they do as they are pretty much the same as we did when we were their age, but nowadays there is more electricity used.

The idea was that we were going to have a slap up buffet feed and my gorgeous wife was in over catering mood once again. She loves to cook and prepare food with attention to detail. She is also the world’s biggest fan of avocados, maybe even more than our own Alan Dedicoat who is also a huge fan. This proved to be her downfall.

You may remember the film Oh God starring George Burns as God and John Denver who he has decided is going to be his messenger on Earth. In a conversation, Denver’s character asks if he made any mistakes when creating the world.

"Avocados. Made the stones too big. Ostriches. No damn use to anybody".

About noon I was awoken from my slumbers by a scream from the kitchen. At first I thought it may be one of characters in one of Jamie's “shoot ‘em up” computer games. It wasn't; it was the Dark Lady. In attempting to remove the stone from an avocado she had sliced through her middle finger.

There was blood. She was holding a towel over her hand. There was then a car and a drive to A&E. I had to drop her off in order to find somewhere to park. When I arrived in Casualty she had already been assessed:

"Is it hanging off?”


"Wait over there."

We enjoyed our Boxing Day together. The two of us. Although there were quite a number of strangers about. Some moaning, others groaning and some - like the DL - being stoic…

We were there for four hours.

When she had been patched up it was back home for the rest of the day.

Her middle finger had suffered such a slice that it is now numb as the nerve has been severed, but luckily the tendon only suffered minor damage and the artery was unscathed. This was discovered during an operation the following Thursday where surgeons with very big glasses realigned and stitched the nerve sheath and generally tidied things up. No driving for a month and think this will put the skating on hold for a similar period as well.

Just so that they knew which hand to operate on they marked her forearm. I am not a surgeon but would think any medic worth his/her salt would tend to go for the hand with the bandage, that generally being a clue as to where the injury lay.

When we got home we threw the avocado away.

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