Wednesday 29 February 2012


Have been doing a bit of plotting over the last few weeks which came to fruition last night.

I have long been a fan of Randy Newman as has the Dark Lady. From his early stuff such as "Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear", "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" and "Mama Told Me Not To Come" which were hits for other artists, through "Good Old Boys", the album which included the powerful song about racism "Rednecks" (which unfortunately due to the language I have never been able to play on the show), through to his film soundtrack work with music for "Toy Story" and not forgetting his own version of the story of "Faust".

We had tried to get to see him on several occasions. First time he cancelled due to a bad back. Second time we were in America whilst he was in the UK and this time... well this time... I kept quiet.

I got a couple of tickets and told the DL that we should have a "date night". This as far as we are concerned is where we have the evening to ourselves, and we go out or stay in but just have the time with each other. No children, no friends, no relatives, just us. We each leave it up to the other. We take it in turns to surprise the other.

My turn this time, and all I said was that I would meet her after work and we would go and have something to eat.

I had booked a table at the Skylon Grill at the Festival Hall on the South bank of the Thames in London. The venue where a certain Mr. R Newman was scheduled to perform later that evening.

The thing was, would I be able to keep a secret?

Well, I had the tickets about my person and was able to steer her past several of the posters detailing the events. At one point a tout shouted


I coughed very loudly at that point and blamed it on possibly getting Dr Strangelove's cold. He was back this morning incidentally. Still dripping but in far better shape than Monday.

After we had eaten we still had nearly an hour before the concert started, so strolled in the cool evening air along the riverbank looking at the lights and trying to guess what the buildings were.

I nearly did it. I nearly made it. Just as we were entering the auditorium the Dark Lady still had no idea who we were going to see. The PA announcement had only spoken about the "performance" being "about to start". I was really hoping that I would be able to keep it under wraps until Randy strolled on stage and sat down at the piano.

Unfortunately there was a notice bearing his name by the entrance to the stalls where we were going to sit, which she saw.

One man and his piano had us rapt for close to two hours. He is nearly sixty nine and his raspy voice is a little croaky at times, but the quality of his songs and the force of his personality made for a fabulous evening.

By the time he had done the first of two encores I knew we were in for the "First Rule Ff
Concerts" that we have talked about on the show. This is where you go and see your favourite artists but they fail to do your favourite song.

I am delighted to say I was wrong and for the final number he gave us "Feels Like Home", the song which Bonnie Raitt performed on his album "Faust" and Edwina Hayes sang at our wedding last December.

Dark Lady wept and I got something in my eye. Damned dusty the Festival Hall!

Tuesday 28 February 2012


More fetching and carrying yesterday with a 200 mile round trip. Taking stuff from one place to another. Picking it up and offloading it. I would not at this point claim that makes me a bona fide member of the trucking and delivery fraternity. However, I can see how frustrating it can be to have to go from A to B then from B to A again with only a short break.

The plus side is that it was my stuff so I had a particularly vested interest. It did occur to me as I went through the barrier at the Dartford Crossing on the M25 for the second time that day that if you do this on a regular enough basis you may go mad.

Either that or it takes a very special kind of person. If you are a trucker or any other sort of professional driver you tell me. How do you pass the time other than listening to the Best Time Of The Day Show of course?

I tend to drive in silence most of the time. Although of late I have been trying to learn French so this has involved CDs and me repeating what I have heard or think I have heard. This must look unusual to people in adjacent vehicles. A middle aged bloke mouthing exaggeratedly.
They perhaps think I am on the phone to a call centre which is not based on these shores.
I have seen many strange things in over 35 years of driving ranging from the probing nose picker to a man in a supermarket car park biting his steering wheel. So a bloke making wild mouth gestures is probably not too unusual.
People assume that I listen to a lot of CDs in the car. I try, but can't really concentrate on them as I would like. So if I feel the need for music I choose songs that I am already familiar with and can listen to a track on repeat play for a hundred miles if I really like it. Although that does put me in mind of the Steven Wright routine.

"We drove across America. We only had one tape. We played it all the time. Can't remember what it was!"

Daydreaming is another way that I pass the time. Once with another failed attempt to learn French I inserted a language cassette into the player and drove to my destination. When I arrived I realised that I hadn't heard a word of it.

The worry with that is that you can't remember any of the journey, so you have to hurriedly and guiltily check the front of your vehicle for dead stuff.
Producer Dr Strangelove, who has been laid low by a cold has gasped, bubbled and wheezed that he should be back in the saddle again for Wednesday's show. I am rather hot typing this so have had to remove a large quantity of clothing. I hope it is not the beginning of the cold that Strangeo has been spreading around the last few days. If so it will be very timely as I am off next week. Er Thanks!

A side effect of typing in your underpants whilst logged on it does mean that friends and relatives who are also logged on think it would be good to call up for a SKYPE chat. So they can not only hear me but also see me in all my glory. Still it never bothered some people.

Monday 27 February 2012


The chores continued through the first part of the weekend which was a shame. There are various domestic bits and pieces that need doing, so unfortunately had to cancel a trip to Sheffield in order to commune with nerds. Yes another Nerd Night had come. This you will remember is where DJs, journalists, authors and affiliated occupations get together to try and out-bore each other with tales of when the industry was better. 

Whilst they were eating and drinking, I was packing stuff into boxes and only later in the evening did I take my weary and thirsty body to the pub to ease my troubled mind.

The moment I sat down I was inundated by drunken abuse from my friends in the north. I once had a mobile phone which I am sure asked you before it sent the text. That way it was possible to censor yourself before you made a complete fool of yourself. It was also useful to inhibit drunken rages about presumed slights, and most importantly to nip the worst problem with drunken texting - the clumsy flirtations and the pleading with ex-partners for another chance. (NB important to note: they dumped you once, what makes you think they are more likely to take you back if you are drunk?)

Saturday and it was back to the bosom of the family. There was a roaring fire to be sat beside. There was a monster chili to eat. There was wine to be drunk. There were yet more DVDs to be watched.

We wept our way through "Mr Holland’s Opus". The tale of a composer who due to family and financial reasons had to forgo his life long ambition and become a music teacher in a small American town. Right at the end after thirty years of teaching, the school perform his masterwork. It struck me that after all that time the resulting tune wasn't very good and quite short. He had obviously made the right decision to become a teacher.
We laughed in places at "The Cowboy Way" and "The Commitments". We also proclaimed ourselves baffled at "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues". With a soundtrack by k.d. lang and starring Uma Thurman, it promised much and delivered nothing. River Phoenix’s sister Rain was in it. I note she has a sister called Summer, as well as a surviving brother Joaquin and another sister Liberty. Over the years we have talked about names a lot on the show. Obviously her parents, realising the pitfalls of naming all their offspring after weather patterns and seasons, chose some slightly more conventional names for their other children. I can only imagine the consequences for the child's self esteem should they be called Drizzle or Smog.
Sunday came and off we went to the ice rink for our first joint lesson. As I have rather more daytime than the Dark Lady, I can swan up to Alexandra Palace in London where there is a cracking rink and avail myself of the expert teaching of Shirelle. This time we booked for half an hour each. DL went first as I skated around "warming up" and trying out my er… "moves"! This in effect meant trying and failing to turn backwards on a sixpence and also to skate in reverse.

By the time I have any momentum, my insteps and arches are beginning to ache for some reason so I have to stop. I am either not doing it right, my boots are still too tight or more likely old age has made me less than supple.

DL of course proved to be a natural. Whirling around the ice like she was born there. When it was my turn we did a few turns and Shirelle remarked that my look of concentration resembled the expression of discomfort and shame of someone who had just soiled themselves.
However, I was taught a different way of skating in reverse. This apparently is known as "Big Boy Backwards"! Not sure why but the way my mind works it sounded like the name of a long dead bluesman.

"I was born down in Alabama in a one room country shack. I was one of fifteen children. My daddy was a sharecropper and we all helped out on the farm. I saved up enough nickels from collecting old empty Coke and beer bottles to send off for a Sears Roebuck Guitar. I didn't have no formal teaching. I just learned from listening to the old Victrola and picking out tunes by ear. Wasn't until I started playing juke joints and meeting other musicians that they told me I was playing my guitar upside down. I was playing it strung right handed with my left hand. Too late by then as I knew all the chords the wrong way up. That's how I came to be known as "Big Boy Backwards"!
We both had a fantastic time and can't wait to go again. Even though it is quite hard work and I doubt we will ever reach Dancing On Ice standard, it’s just a fun thing to do and quite good exercise.
Spare a thought for Dr Strangelove who due to too much exercise has another cold. He barely shakes one off before he starts another. It’s a rather red faced version of chain smoking I think. Producer Sunflower (so called because he is tall and cheerful) will be in the production chair Tuesday whilst Strangeo shivers and sweats at home. Wondering when he'll be well enough to go back to the gym and over train thus starting the whole cycle off once again. He won't be told that boy!

Thursday 23 February 2012


It should have been a fairly simple process - after all, I had done it countless times before. Giving an estimated reading for the gas and paying. When I picked up the post I noticed a letter from ACME Gas entitled "It’s time for your next bill", informing me I hadn't given them a reading and so they were going to take a sum they whipped off the top of their head "based on the value of the energy we think you'll use in a year divided by four".

Bearing in mind that meter readings have become a nightmare since they changed my account number, I have not been able to make them understand. I have left automated readings which have been ignored and have tried to give readings that have only half happened (being both electric and gas with ACME). It’s enough to make you steam.

So what was this about, I thought? Still, may as well give them a call and leave yet another reading.

"Tell us your account number using your telephone keypad,” intoned a bored recorded voice.


"I'm sorry, we didn't get that."


Try again.

"Now give us your meter reading from left to right ignoring any numbers in red and to the right of a decimal point"


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that."


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that."


"I heard 4567, is that correct?"


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that".

"YESSSSS!" I bellowed.

I think that with this voice automated system, it is merely on speaker phone in a crowded office providing amusement for the workers who are busy doing other jobs like trying to sell people services they don't want.

"Listen to that guy going ballistic on the phone hur hur hur hur, can't wait to play it to my co-workers at coffee time".

"Would you like tickets to the football?" No, I want lower prices.

"Vouchers?" No, I want better service - why not hire some extra staff you cheapskates?

"Discount weekend breaks in hundreds of hotels?" You are just not getting this. Do the job for crying out loud! I want to give you a gas reading and pay a bill. I don't want to go to Benbecula to stay in a Yurt!

By now I was beginning to fume.

I tried again typing in the meter reading.


"I'm sorry, we can't process your reading at this time."


So I tried remaining silent, hoping I would get a human.

"If you haven't got your account number to hand, say ‘I don't have it.’"

"I don't have it."

“I'm sorry?”

"I DON'T HAVE IT!" I raged.

Bet they were howling and clutching each other for support in the office by now, overhearing this gradual meltdown by the umpteenth customer of the day.

"Please hold and we'll connect you to one of our advisers"

Cue endlessly wiffly music of some sort. I don't know about you, but every time the tune ends I expect someone to answer. When they don't it’s another slap in the face and I die a little more.

Having tried to give them a reading four or five times using their automated system, surely there must be someone at the other end of this phone?

"We are experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic at this time. Please hold or try again later."

Cue several more wiffly tunes.

"We are experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic at this time. Please hold or try again later."

Every so often there would be an exhortation to try using their website. I was beginning to think that they were doing this on purpose so that eventually all transactions would be via the web so they could sack the twenty remaining staff they have whose job it is to service the needs of eleven million customers.

Cue more wiffly music.

Suddenly the music stopped... at last... I could get this sorted out once and for all.


"Click Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"!

Wednesday 22 February 2012


Another rushy rush rush day. Leapt into the car after the show and its rather bizarre discussion about chameleons.

OK so I didn't leap anywhere. I opened the door and gently let myself down into the driver’s seat. Checked my seatbelt. Started the engine. Checked all warning lights. Mirror. Good look round. Signal. Another good look round. Checked my mirrors once again, and gingerly and slowly moved away from the kerb.

Formula 1 with me in pole position would be a whole lot safer and more sedate. It would also be better value as the races would last longer.

On the way home I noticed that one of the brakes was squealing when I applied them, but would cease with a little further pressure.

I'll ask in the next show if I remember. You are bound to know why. Perhaps it's my shins!

I had to get to Rye Town Hall, scene of last years wedding triumph, in order to collect two boxes of fairy lights that the Dark Lady had purchased to decorate the hall.

We had left them until Twelfth Night so that others could enjoy them. Now they were cluttering up the office. I had to get there before 1PM as the office closed at that point. 12.35 and I was exiting with aforementioned lights. Today was going to be a positive day, if a bit of a rush.

After that success, it was off to Hastings Old Town to a furniture shop.

When I was a kid this part of Hastings was a treasure trove of grimy junk shops selling all sorts of err… junk. Now in common with so many places, it has been gentrified and so the same shops have been renovated and now sell "antiques". In other words very expensive junk. "Driftwood anyone"?

Last weekend I had espied some shelves that I thought would be ideal for the marital home.

"Go and get them" exhorted the DL.

"I'll get them later in the week"

"They may have gone by then".

"Nah they won't. No one will want them. They're a bit tatty. Anyway, I've taken my shoes off now. You know I can't do anything once the shoes are off."

So I pulled into the car park near the shop. Paid an outrageous parking fee and ambled gently down the street. Or "trucking right" as we hep music types like to call it. (You can learn a lot from old 10cc records.)

When I arrived I marched over to the part of the shop where the shelves were… !?

Trouble is they weren't! Someone else had obviously got there first.

I hurried around the other shops in the high street without success. Nothing fitted the bill. However, I was delighted to see the spirit of the junk shop still lives on in one emporium. Among the odd bits and pieces and the bijou and expensive bits was a police riot shield. A snip at a very un-junk shop price of £120.

Before you even think about going down that route, The Dark Lady is a saint and will be sanguine about my shelving failure.

I did wonder where they got it from though. Did they pick it up after last summers disturbances? Did they find it lying in the street? Had a careless copper left it and wandered off, perhaps distracted by the thoughts of the upcoming policeman’s ball?

Maybe times are so hard the cops are now selling off their equipment. If so, put me down for a helmet. It would look good on the shelf… that we… er… don't have.

Tuesday 21 February 2012


Today has been a rush.

After the shoe it was a rush to the railway station to get the only train that is off-peak in the morning. This costs £11. The next costs I think £133,445,621. That is standing room only, as it is full of businessmen. First class is a lot more.

Then ninety minutes later it was a rush to the bus. £1.90. Now this is value, although you don't get to have much of a snooze. Two reasons - you may miss your stop and drooling on a stranger. Oh, the third being schoolchildren screaming at each other in a language adults don't understand.

"That's really sick". "Grody to the max". "Far out"

It matters not which generation you are attached to. Teen language is supposed to be a code and one that we live to regret.

Did I really refer to women as "chicks"?

Or my girlfriend as "my lady" when I was 15?

(The answer to that last part is no, as no self-respecting lady nor chick would give this pustular apology a second glance)

Meet my dad. He is off out so quick cup of coffee. Rushed biscuit. Hands me documents and keys to new steed.

Into car and off for buns with Liza who used to produce the show latterly when I was in Birmingham. She now does something impressive with "The Archers".

With all that rural stuff going in I wonder who nicks the studio out.

Then into car and back to London.

Been a bit of a rush really!

Monday 20 February 2012


Quiet weekend in the main with a multitude of chores.  I am one of these people who providing I get on with it can get a reasonable amount done. However when procrastination strikes, inertia follows which translates into too much TV and too many sandwiches.

Dark Lady was busy being a "Soccer Mom", so it was down to me to get a lot of stuff done at home.  First thing was to arrange car insurance for both of us on my dad's car.  He has decided that at eighty-five he doesn't feel confident enough to continue driving.  So what to do with his car? To save him the hassle of selling it and the worry about people turning up on his doorstep at all hours, I have decided to buy it off him as we need a family runabout. If you have been reading this blog and listening to the show for years you will know my car "The Ford Mid-Life Crisis" (even though it’s not a Ford) only had two seats and I would rather not relinquish it. Plus, stepson Jamie is a car nut and likes to be dropped off at school in it.  Stepdaughter Ella doesn't really care as long as there is a vehicle available to ferry her to and from various social engagements if necessary.

What to do with the DL's 15-year-old VW?  A quick trip to the local used car lot and the man doubtless got a bargain and we got £350 in notes.

Then it was to the spare room, as energised by this successful chore and having done a load of CD filing the other weekend I attacked the large bags of CD's - eventually whittling them down to just the one.  Everything else was now safely on the shelves.  Whilst I was doing this I got my turntable out of storage that can burn vinyl onto CD, so some of the stuff that I don't have on CD I can now play for you on the show.  Dr Strangelove the producer reckons I have now burned about six albums onto CD.  Whilst I was setting it up and burning Procol Harum's "Salty Dog" album onto CD I noticed the receipt.  I have had the machine since February 2011.  So that works out at one CD every two months.

As a reward for all my efforts I bought the newspaper and headed for the pub.  A couple of hours and a few pints later I headed out and then it happened.


It was dark.  I was going from a brightly lit environment into a dimly lit street.  There is one quite sizeable step down to pavement level from the pub doorway.  I was looking ahead of me not down, so I didn't see a little boy dressed in black on a scooter.

I certainly felt him though as I somersaulted through the air and landed face down on the pavement.  He had been hurled onto the road by the impact.

He was face down and wasn't moving.

"Are you alright?”

Silence and no movement.

I've killed him!

"You OK?”

Silence.  However, he was starting to move.

"Didn't see you. Sorry!"

He looked at me as his mother collected his scooter.

She looked at me too.

"Everything alright?”  I tried again.

They hurried off into the night without a word.

I too hurried off into the night and thought ‘who's fault was that?’

Did he run into me as he wasn't looking?

Did our paths just happen to cross at just the wrong moment?

Should he have been riding on the pavement?

Should he have been riding on the pavement so close to the doorway that anyone stepping out would have had no chance of seeing and/or stopping in time?

Why did they not say anything despite my repeated enquiries?

Hmmm, wonder if I can get a whiplash claim going here.  I did graze my knee and the knuckle on my right hand.  That has to be worth a few quid.

Aauugghghhh, the pain, the pain!

Thursday 16 February 2012


Just relaxing over a sandwich and cup of tea in London's capital of vice Soho. Well, it used to be. When I first arrived in London 25 years ago it certainly was as I timidly hurried through it on my way to the railway station. 

Women would shout from doorways and upstairs windows. Hot jazz music would drift upstairs from basement clubs. The air would be heavy with the smell of reefer!

Things are markedly different these days. The streets are lined with recording studios and facilities houses. The cafes have gone up market and corporate logos are very much in evidence. 

As I was passing some underground lavatories an elderly man on a mobility scooter asked me to descend the stairs and ask if anyone in there was called John. What was I to do? He was unable to walk. 

So down into the er bowels I went. Two or three guys were in there doing what they were supposed to do. 

"Anyone here called John?" I beamed. 

Every one turned to look at me and I heard some scrabbling from the cubicles. I felt somewhat of an intruder.

My mission accomplished I headed up and out. 

Reminded me of a friend who had come out of his house opposite a similar set of conveniences to discover his car tyre was flat and he hadn't the strength to remove the wheel. 

After a few minutes a large muscular chap descended the stairs. Shortly after emerging at some speed having obviously witnessed some thing that the signs in the one I had just visited warned was an offence. 

"Cooee you look strong" said my friend. 

At this the muscular man started to run and kept on running until he was out of sight!

Wednesday 15 February 2012


So how was your Valentines day all in all?  Did you get the champagne and chocs?  Did you get the romantic meal out?

Or did it turn out to be as dull as usual with no excitement?  Was it the same as last year and the year before and the year before that?

A friend of mine had a spectacularly predictable husband who she complained always took her to the same place every year and frankly wasn't very erm "active" in the trouser department.

She always knew where the "surprise" meal was going to be as the restaurant would phone her every year at exactly the same time to ask if the booking still stood, as he would make it way in advance and then forget to confirm it closer to the date.

"Why don't you surprise him with some massage oil or something?"  I counselled. "That may fire him up a bit"

"How did you get on?" I asked next time I saw her.

"Disaster. Midway through the prawn cocktail I got the oil out in the candlelight and husked  "wait til I get you home."

"What happened?"

"He glared at me and barked 'If you're going to be aggressive about it we'll just go home right now'"

They later divorced.

Was looking forward to some romance with the Dark Lady when she called me with major concern in her voice as Jamie her son had been round at a friend's and had been play fighting and clonked his head severely and his dad had taken him to A and E.  She picked me up and we hurried to the hospital.  

We couldn't raise Barry her ex-husband on his mobile.  Our hearts sank.  Was he in the operating theatre? Was the blow to the head even more severe than we thought?

A multitude of dark thoughts settled on us.

I went to park the car as the DL rushed in to the hospital.

He was sitting in the children's section looking a little peaky but other than that seemingly OK.  The reason for the radio silence from his dad was the total absence of a workable mobile phone signal.

The doctor called us and we all trooped into an examination area and the curtain was drawn.

She asked the lad "Who are these people?"

"My dad,  my mum and my stepdad"

"Do you live with them all?"

"No,  I divide my time between my mum's and my dad's"

The doctor looked at me.

I smiled wanly.  She was probably thinking 'who is he and what is he doing here?'

"Everything OK at home?" he asked brightly.




She then checked his bonce for bumps, shone torches in his eyes and asked him about all sorts of symptoms which need to be checked in the event of a head injury.

"Everything alright at home?"  she repeated.




"So you live at your mum's house and also at your dad's house?"


I was beginning to feel slightly paranoid. Perhaps she thought I was some sort of Vernon Dursley figure.  The ghastly evil uncle who is so cruel to Harry Potter.

(I am now up to the third film by the way in the Potter saga.  See previous blogs)

At last the examination and interrogation were over and we were free to go.  We all went home.  To the same house for our tea.

As I type these words the patient is now making a very good recovery and is slightly grumpy. Possibly because he is bored and wants to go play with his friends, although a head trauma can also cause this symptom.

Other good news is that Social Services have not come knocking wondering who I am in the grand scheme of things! 

Tuesday 14 February 2012


Do you do the whole big thing with flowers, artificial snow and singing penguins? Or do you do a low-key thing with maybe half a dozen roses and a card from "Stationery Box"?

Or maybe you are one of those who harrumph that "it’s all a blatantly commercial exercise and totally artificial.  Just another way of trying to part us from our hard earned".

One listener to the show did complain that it always fell on his birthday and now he was 55 and he hated the whole thing.

I have a certain sympathy just as I sympathise with those who are born on December 25th.  Which ever way you look at it, Jesus gets the big birthday bumps and you just get overlooked. It ain't too good on the gift front either, I would imagine. 

"Here's your Xmas present darling. Oh, and I got a little extra for your birthday".


As a child that would scar you for life.

As you grew up a resentful child hiding in your bedroom pulling the wings off flies imagining them to be your friends and relatives who had only gifted you "a little extra" for your birthday on December 25th.

You then had a long lonely year stretching before you with all the other kids not inviting you to their birthday parties as you never had one as everyone was bound up in Christmas festivities and so wasn't thinking about birthdays and particularly yours!

By the age of 27 you had graduated to roaming the neighbourhood at night peeking in windows at people enjoying parties and vowing a terrible revenge.  Secreting guns, ammunition and bomb making equipment in your wardrobe before embarking on a killing spree which would make you infamous and provoke a backlash against parents who were unable to keep it zipped in about March as spring sprung and their sap rose.  Resulting in their offspring being born in December.

However, by this time you would be such a loser and enfeebled by constant masturbation that by the time you had donned all your weapons and combat survival gear, made your valedictory video and posted it on YouTube you'd feel a little light headed and fearing a nosebleed would have to call your Mum to bring you chicken soup and sing you "all the pretty horses" as she stroked your forehead as she did every Christmas when the tantrum died down, prompted by Santa, his elves and your relatives having failed once again to provide you with enough gifts as they were too busy doing the festive season rather than your birthday in particular.

Before you call the SWAT team, I would like to reassure you that my birthday falls in May.  Although clever relatives realising what a brat I was would send me a gift on my sister’s birthday despite the fact hers falls in January.  If anyone should have a wardrobe full of ArmaLites in our family it should be her.

I think I may be digressing a tad.

Dark Lady and I have discussed Valentines Day. She is more a Christmas girl and I am more a birthday boy. So 14th February is one that we don't do with any great hurrah.  Having said that paranoia began to strike last week.

"What if she gets me something amazing and I haven't?"

"She is good at surprises"

"I'd feel a bit of a chump if she got me something and I didn't bother"

"Hmmm maybe some hedging here"

I had bought her a little bracelet for Christmas, which like many bracelets she has, went the way of much of her arm jewellery.

I am sure Star Trek fans would be able to make something of her ability to throw off anything around her wrist in a matter of seconds.

No one would ever be able to take her prisoner.  Two minutes and the shackles would just fall off somehow.

The bracelet I bought last December managed to exit her wrist approximately 5 times during the first week - luckily at home, so she was able to find it due to frantic searching.

This was proving too stressful so I took it back to the shop to tell them it was a dud and I should get my money back or find something more suitable.

So this morning as I lay dozing in she crept with an armful of gifts.

She'd found some "Aqua di Selva" my favourite cologne, which I had been unable to find since the one supplier I knew changed hands (see previous blogs).

Some sweets with my name on, and where she found this I will never know as I have been unable to replace one I lost 20 years ago and France no longer seems to stock them anywhere.

A beret!

How could I compete? Well I had been to the jewellers to get rid of the pesky bracelet and replace it with something a little better and less likely to fly from her wrist.

So with the aid of a credit note and a few more quid, I bought her a… er… a um… a....


Monday 13 February 2012


Took Friday off so the Dark Lady and I could have a long romantic weekend in France.

However things are never as you intend them to be. After the show we hot footed it down to Folkestone to catch the train across to Calais. It was cold and the DL was feeling a bit under the weather.

From Calais it is a 250 mile drive to our destination. We had been warned it was cold. The temperature started to fall. It had been minus 1 in the UK. By the time we reached Normandy it was minus 10.

The lane up to the house was only just passable and we had to leave the car on the road as to turn into the farmyard would have meant it being up to its axles in snow.

The house was warm (ish) although not as warm as it could be and part of the water system appeared to be frozen. There was water in the kitchen and a bathroom but upstairs the basin was frozen solid as was the shower. Perhaps if we turned the heating up it would all thaw out.
With a clank the heating system failed as it had run out of oil. I'd phoned the heating oil guy last week to ask him to fill up the tank. So phoned and left a message on his mobile and on his home number.
We were due to see some friends on Friday night and called them and theytoo had been in touch with heating guy as well.
"He'll try and drop by this afternoon. He asks you not to call him again though".
Seems the whole world had had the same idea so he was finding it difficult to service all his customers.
Still we got the oil albeit a rationed amount and the house heated up. DL was too. By this time she was running a temperature.
"You ok"?
I asked concerned for my gorgeous wife.
"Agggnissshhhhaaaoooooo" she replied.
There was nothing for it. Saw some wood and build a roaring fire. That should help.
"Feeling any better" asked her concerned husband (me).
She replied prettily.
We opened a bottle of wine and broke out some cheese and various bits of snack type food as her appetite was all but gone.
"Hows that"?
"I think you are sounding better....well certainly louder my love"

Saturday came and it was still minus 10. However the house was warmer as was the Dark Lady. Curious thing about the flu you can be burning up but still be freezing.
We went to visit Edith next door. She is 76 and doesn't enjoy heat. So much so, as we sat having a cup of coffee and trying to understand her lightning French we could see our breath.
"Zoo win yo izt cool yi hack instead heatlily malady"? I said. (I learned all my French from Officer Crabtree in 'Allo ‘Allo).

"BBBRRRRRRRRSHIVVERRRRRR ACKACK KACHOOOOOO!” agreed the Dark Lady who speaks influenza in several languages.

Back home and I decided it would a good wheeze to light the solid fuel cooker so we could heat up something nourishing.
All that happened was that the kitchen filled with smoke.
"HACK HACK KOFF WHEEZE KERCHOO!" We chorused in perfect harmony. We were obviously destined to be together.
Sunday and I had forgotten what time the ferry was due to depart. A quick check and we were running behind schedule.
"We'll have to hurry darling or we'll miss it"
"Koo koo ka choo" (for some reason my wife was now channelling Alvin Stardust with the flu). We hurriedly flung things into the car and raced to the ferry port to find ourselves alone. A further check of the tickets revealed we were two hours early.
So we filled in the time with a bracing walk on the beach. The video clip is now up on Facebook.
Off the ferry at 9.15pm and back to London for an hour in bed before the show.
"Great weekend, I could do it all again right now. Don't think I'd change a thing" I beamed at my adored partner as as I turned out the light.
"Snuffle kerchoo" she said sadly.

Tuesday 7 February 2012


It’s February and at last the first gig of the year.  January appeared and disappeared with no live music.  
I say with no live music ever. I can forget stuff from time to time.  Hence my penchant for playing the same song again directly after it has just finished.  A simple mistake after 35 years in the business.  We have a broad core of songs that we play on the show but if I had a pound for every time I have played ABBA or  The Beatles or Adele on the radio over the years I would be typing this from the foredeck of my gold plated yacht moored in the harbour of my private island somewhere in the Caribbean.

One way of trying to keep track of what I have or have not seen over the years is to keep all my tickets in a special box which when I get round to it will be labelled "tickets".

Even so if I look through them I can see that I witnessed Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band twice. One of those shows being a matinee and I can only recall one concert.  The same is true of Procol Harum twice but at two different venues in two different cities.  Can only recall the Birmingham Town Hall gig.  Finally B.B. King three times.  I remember I shook his hand at Hammersmith Odeon but don't remember the second gig and the third time I got the night wrong and so forgot to go... doh!

Last night it was off to London's Royal Festival Hall a very civilised venue for the middle aged with my friend Susan the Finance (Don't hate her she's not a banker).

You will remember her as the woman who introduced the Dark Lady and I so we (well certainly I) will always be totally indebted to her for this act of kindness.

If she is as good with money as she is with matchmaking I expect to be typing this from the foredeck of my gold plated yacht moored in the harbour of my private island somewhere in the Caribbean... have I just?... No must be imagining things.

So last night we went to see the Transatlantic Sessions.  An annual tour by the luminaries of folk, bluegrass, gospel you get the drift mainly U.S Canadian and Scottish artists who between them play a dizzying array of instruments and take turns in being the featured soloist. We had gone mainly to see ex Maverick Raul Malo who has the most exquisite voice.  Also in the 16 (or was it 17) piece band were Dobro ace Jerry Douglas, bass playing legend Danny Thompson who has worked with everyone from Little Walter to Pentangle to John Martyn to Kate Bush, and one of only three women in the band was Eddi Reader. I have featured her on the show a zillion times as part of Fairground Attraction but more recently her albums showcasing the work of Robert Burns. One of them featured last night.

I have only met her once and that was by accident when rounding a corner in the campsite at the Cambridge Folk Festival and finding her sitting outside her tent.

"What you doing here"?  I blurted before I had a chance to think (oh that old thing thinking!!)

"Sitting outside my tent, what do you think I'm doing?"

"Oh I didn't expect you to be here sleeping with the audience" (This conversation wasn't going well.)

"What, did you expect me to do be helicoptered in?”

I slunk away. Thinking about it, if she had the right financial advice with a career as successful as hers she should be sitting on the foredeck of her gold plated yacht in the harbour of her private island somewhere in the Caribbean writing more wonderful songs.

Have I just done.... seems familiar... no can't be. I shall press on.

It was a magical evening with the band enjoying themselves as much as the audience. When they weren't being featured the musicians sat at the back of the stage where there were seats and tables with drinks on them.

Raul Malo actually voiced what many people were thinking when he said it was his idea of a perfect concert in that he could sit there drinking champagne and talking to pretty girls until it was time for his number.

Just before the concert closed I was getting a feeling of déjà vu.  Had I seen them before somewhere?  Jerry Douglas reminded us that the latest series of "The Transatlantic Sessions" had been recorded and was due to be broadcast on my favourite TV channel BBC Four fairly shortly.

So that’s where I had seen them.  The last two minutes of them as the credits rolled before another edition of Family Guy or a documentary on 70's Dinosaur Rock.

This series perhaps I should swap the cartoons and the rock docs for the Sessions.

If I remember of course!