Monday 30 April 2012


First off thanks to Tim Smith for looking after the shoe on Friday. I was home in Hastings doing some chores. hese involved fitting my new letter plate (not box, letterbox/flap/plate fans).

It also involved a visit to the solicitor. I had been advised that since getting married this had invalidated my will, so a new one had to be made.

This was not going to be too difficult or so I thought, as despite rumours to the contrary being on national radio at 2AM doesn't turn you into an instant millionaire. The megabucks deals the newspapers thunder about never reached down this far. Whilst I am not for a moment pleading poverty, don't believe all that you read. TV is where the money is and for some reason television has mainly resisted my overtures for various reasons I can think of:

1) I don't fall into the rather narrow categories that TV executives regard as box office. "Get me Ant and Dec. Get me someone LIKE Ant and Dec. Get me a younger/older/fatter/thinner Ant and Dec."

2) Not good looking enough

3) Too good looking to fall into "Crazed But Loveable Eccentric" category e.g. TV cooks and those blokes off Time Team.

4) Too Old. In TV years (like dog years) you age much quicker. Particularly for women. A 30 year old woman on TV is in fact 126. If she is blonde as well that makes her nearly 1,000!

5) Too young for "weightier" shows so don't have sufficient gravitas and the right suit. Lack of eyebrows means I can't raise them and look "concerned" at the correct moment.

6) Not of the correct age/gender/ethnicity/region that is currently in vogue. To find out what is in vogue check out the tabloid newspaper headlines:

"BBC hideously white" "Not enough women on TV" "TV too middle class" "TV not addressing the needs of the young" "No TV programmes aimed at the elderly" etc

7) Not camp enough for variety

8) Too camp for documentaries

9) Not vacuous enough (to get an idea of this check out infomercials of people selling step exercisers)

10) Too vacuous (difficult to interview top politicians without thinking they had a face like melting wax, a silly adenoidal voice or unable to remember who they are representing as they are so bland as to be invisible, so just want to add the words "you're lying" to every answer they give)

11) Not fashionable (as written about in hushed and reverential tones by broadsheet columnists who I think all live together in a spacious off plan "space" in London's trendy Hoxton). Their ideal "personality" is someone so niche, so out of the mainstream that the only people who like him or her are the journalists themselves.

12) Last and probably by no means least. It is a skill and one that I doubt I possess.

The Wogans, the Evans', the Ant and Dec's. They make it look easy. Whenever I have tried it, it feels like patting the top of your head and rubbing your stomach all at the same time whilst someone is shouting in your ear to walk across the studio juggling the hyenas that the guest has just brought in. All in ten seconds. NOT 9. NOT 11. TEN. Starting in 5 4 3 2 1!

So as usual I have gone off on a tangent. As I was saying, TV has always been where the megabucks are. Although I don't think it is anywhere near as lucrative now as it once was, since Jonathan Ross took nearly all of it home one night in a small van a few years ago.

So it was to the solicitor to talk about who was going to benefit from my estate. By that I mean my house and car and record collection.

I have put aside a few quid for bequests to members of the family providing they behave themselves and don't miss a christmas or birthday card. The bulk of it will go to the Dark Lady, who knowing the full extent of my worth is unlikely to start greasing the stairs any time soon!

So all that was needed was it to be properly written up and signed.

"I'm off on holiday for a fortnight" said the jovial solicitor chap. "You are currently intestate until the new will is drawn up and signed, so try not to die whilst I'm away or the government will get most of it... Bye!"

Wednesday 25 April 2012


After the excitement of the weekend, the week started with a deluge which effectively doused any thoughts of going flying. I am running rather behind with the old aviation. Having converted onto the Jabiru 450ULD from the Ikarus C42 (info for nerdfans), I have managed only ten minutes solo flying time in the new aircraft.

Since I passed my test in 2010 I have not been able to keep up with the flying as much as I would like, as various things have got in the way like the weather, and aircraft not being available for hire, and also holidays and various bits and pieces.

One thing that has nothing to do with it is my recent conversion from single to married man. The Dark Lady is very keen and hoping to come up with me at some point in the not too distant future. However, I need to do six hours and fifty minutes solo before the end of September this year, or I will have to take my test again which will be both expensive and inconvenient.

If I was on a satellite TV show like "Ice Road Truckers" or "Wreck Detectives" I would be following the well tried formula of these shows.

1) Potentially dangerous

2) Weather against us

3) Running out of time

4) It all comes right in the end before the credits roll

We will have to wait for the final part but I am optimistic. Just need a spell of decent weather either side of the Olympics, as due to security worries there will be draconian airspace restrictions around London making flying very difficult during that period.

However, I have other more pressing things to concern myself, namely my front door. A couple of years ago I had a new front door fitted as the previous one had rotted away. I rather liked the letterbox so had that transferred from the old door to the new.

Living by the seaside as I do, the salt gets into everything. The other week when the postman arrived, they posted the letter through the door and the flap promptly fell off. The letterbox is made of brass but the spindles are made of steel, so have rusted through which is annoying.

So to the internet, and could I find a new one of the same dimensions as I didn't want to attempt to hack away at my front door.

Back to satellite TV rules once again: this time it's "Salvage Squad" or "Desert Car Kings" with may be a bit of "Camper Van Crisis" thrown in.

1) A wreck: can it be restored?

2) Needs parts: can they be found?

3) Running out of time (as usual)

4) It all comes right in the end.

So after a short search I found a factory in Wolverhampton that sold the exact same letter box. Although as I now know, they are called "letter plates".

The grand fitting will take place on Thursday. Not sure if there will be champagne and bunting, but it's the little DIY jobs that give me the most satisfaction as I am too inept to do larger DIY jobs.

Tuesday 24 April 2012


A highlight of the the calendar each year is the Cartoon Festival in Shrewsbury which I blogged about in part yesterday.

The Dark Lady and I weren't able to attend the whole thing which started on Thursday and ran through until Sunday.

The whole town rises to the occasion, and there are lots of exhibitions, talks and cartoon "trails" as well as events in the Market Square.

Well known cartoonists rub shoulders with amateurs and also the "can't draw if their life depended on it" brigade like myself.

It is a great atmosphere, and as one cartoonist told me trying to organise them in to some sort of order is "like herding cats!"

My job was to turn up and maybe do a few PA announcements. In truth I did more turning up than PA announcements in-between the April showers. I was having too much fun watching the big boards coming to life.

We had booked into "The Lion", an ancient coaching inn which boasted the creakiest floor and the noisiest lift I think I have ever experienced.

As we lay in bed we could hear what sounded like a hunting horn. This is the countryside after all, but I didn't expect to be involved in the chase whilst lying in bed on the third floor of a hotel.

Transpired as we went down for breakfast in the morning it was the lift mechanism that was the culprit, emitting a low anguished groan as it reached its destination.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, for this year's event the theme was "flight".

I can remember at school in art class when we were told to draw "break". Most of the kids drew children in the playground playing, but my mate Libido Boy (who as you know if you have heard the show often enough marches to the beat of a different drum) drew a stick being snapped in half.

Whilst the big boards were being finished there was a "meladrawma". This was the brainchild (I am guessing) of the festival organiser Roger Penwill, who's no mean cartoonist himself. It is he on yesterday's blog dressed in a fetching small silver aeroplane.

With the help of (among others) Bill Stott and the wonderfully named The Surreal McCoy on accordion for dramatic effect, they enacted a story of derring do, stiff upper lips, dastardly foreigners and a heroine in distress. As Roger narrated, cartoonists cartooned and The Surreal McCoy (who incidentally told me I should call her "The") err... accordianed.

You can see the result on Facebook.

We had to go back to London before the big Saturday night meal, which if it was anything like a previous one that we attended a couple of years ago, was big fun with nothing left uncartooned. Nothing not drawn on!

A huge thanks to everyone who took part. In my humble opinion, cartooning should be available on the NHS.

I defy anyone not to feel better after looking at the following. Thank you too all the brilliant cartoonists who took part and as a "person who can't draw if his life depended on it", thank you for enriching my life.

A sample of the results when asked to draw "flight"

Hunt Emerson

Ian Baker

Rich Skipworth

Rob Murray

Monday 23 April 2012


Weekend in a rush so feet not fully back on the ground. Highlight had to be this year’s Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival. This is the ninth year and the third I have attended. Each year it gets better with the finest cartoonists from here and abroad invited to talk, draw, give advice and generally fool around.

The theme this year was flight. So everyone in the Market square set to creating their own vision.

Across the road at a book shop our very own (well, not really OURS but you know what I mean) Clive Goddard was signing copies if his latest books.

Later in the day there was also a first for the festival - as far as I am aware - a "Melodrawma".

I will have more on this including a short film to add to the existing one about the festival which is on the Facebook page tomorrow.

Sorry so short today but I have to help Dr Strangelove pack for his holidays. Don't think he wants to leave us!

Right: let's see. Pants 7. Socks 7. Shirts 7. Trousers 3. Shoes 2. Sweater. Overcoat. Jacket. There. What is the problem? I think my idea about the paper suit security ticket would have been his best bet. Remind me and I'll tell you again tomorrow on the shoe

Thursday 19 April 2012


In London it was digital switchover day. So as the other week, it was my task to visit the mother-in-law to sort out her TV. This is no hardship as she is a sweetie.

Last time I managed without problems and also did Tom's, the chap in the upstairs flat.

The only difference this time was I had to collect my sister-in-law Maureen from London's Paddington station.

Could I find it? I knew I was close. At the moment there are huge building works for the new East/West Crossrail service which I am sure will be brilliant when it's completed several years after my death at a ripe old age.

I drove round and round until it was time for her train to arrive, so decided the only thing to do was park on a meter and walk. Even this is no longer simple! I parked and followed the signs to the meter to discover there wasn't one. I had to try and do it by phone or face a fine of several million pounds.

It was automated, the bane of modern transactions. As a novice at this I had to do everything twice.

I was striding towards the station when the machine asked me for the number of the parking bay for a second or was it third time? So I had to leg it all the way back before I was cut off.

80p plus 20p "transaction charge" later, I managed to meet up with Maureen and hustle her through the rain to the car. Then it was off to Barnet to drop her off and retune the tv like a dutiful son-in-law.

Could I get it to work? No. All I succeeded in doing was wiping every channel from her set. Judging by the look I received I had better fix it pronto or I'll be out of the will!

A call to the helpline and I did exactly what I had done previously and it worked perfectly. The TV was mocking me. All I needed was to retune mine and full house.

My box refused to retune. It would load twnety channels, Then thirty-two or maybe sometimes fifty-one. However all I could access was "Babestation" or "The Jewellery Channel"

I called the helpline. A nice patient Scottish lady talked me through it, before in the end she gave up too and said there was nothing more she could suggest. I thanked her and seethed.

Just at bedtime I tried to reload, and well swipe me if it didn't all load perfectly.

I have seen the future. "I, Robot" is here. We are controlled by our technology.

Wednesday 18 April 2012


I hate losing things. Not only for the inconvenience but for other reasons that play on my paranoia and hypochondria.

"Hmm, can't remember where I put it. Maybe I'm losing my mind?"

"What is it doc? I know it's serious. How long have I got?"

"Actually, you are perfectly healthy for a man of your age."

"You're just saying that. You're hiding the awful truth."

"No. As I just said, for a man of your age..."

"Man of my age? I am 55. This isn't good is it? Oh no, I'm finished" etc etc.

Another part (the disorganised part) sends me right back to a bad place. My school days.

"Where's your homework boy?"

"Forgot sir"


Thwack, beat, cuff, poke, bray, nougie, chinese burn, ear twist, nose pull (they were brutal times we lived in).

As I outlined yesterday, losing this item would not be the end of the world but an inconvenience.

We don't realise how much we rely on bits of paper even in these days of the internet and computer chipping.

Is it just me, or would an implanted identity chip make things easier all round when venturing abroad? Or just in dealings with authority or even each other? We could have the chip reader app on our mobile phones.

Picture the scene at the "Bar Celona" on a typical Saturday night as a self-appointed perma-tanned self-deluded Adonis sidles up to a woman at the bar.


"Oh, okay"

"Barman, a Slippery Nipple for the lady and a Slow Comfortable Screw Against The Wall for me. And go easy on the Vimto."

"Hi sweetcheeks, my name's Zac. I run a computer company and spend most of my time jetting between here and Silicon Valley."

Quick check on the app.

"No, you're actually Derek. You work as a delivery driver for Acme Computers and your records show you have a moped that err... "jets" you between here and the Rhondda Valley. Also, I can see that your accent is as fake as your teeth and you've had a buttock lift."

There is something to be said for it. Possibly.

Back to the case in hand. I need this item fairly shortly. It is always wise to have it to hand. Without it certain actions will be illegal.

Judging by some of the comments from yesterday, you have been trying to guess what it is that I have mislaid.

Passport seems top of the list. Discussed it with Producer Strangelove - he doesn't have one of these but like me has lost his birth certificate. We both think that at times in our lives we have had to send it off as proof and have never ever had it returned. With him it maybe because he had moved flat yet again and so it was returned to somewhere where he no longer lived. He tends to move every six months, shinning down the drainpipe at the dead of night with his belongings in a big red hankie.

I suspect mine disappeared back in the eighties when I think I sent it to the Czechoslovakian Embassy. I needed a visa to visit as it was behind the Iron Curtain back then, and it was not easy to get to. I never got a reply. The wall came down and the curtain was drawn not so long after. I can only guess that my documents and the payment, thinking about it, are either in the Czech Republic surrounded by wonderful architecture, fabulous beers and err... drunken stag parties, or in Slovakia with its recently completed transfer from centrally planned to market economy and liberal helpings of "Jaternice" blood sausage.

Does this mean we no longer exist, we wondered. If you turn on the radio one morning and all suddenly falls silent, we may have been terminated by the MBCP (Missing Birth Certificate Police, acronym fans).

I guessed that what I was seeking was in my garage amid a huge pile of boxes. I have been doing a fair amount of transferring stuff from one place to another of late. It is going to take some years but the Dark Lady and I will eventually reside under the same roof. A massive amount of downsizing is needed and neither of us are in any great hurry as the job is huge and also we rather like things as they are.

So I ventured into the gloom, turned on all the lights, hung up my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, turned off the phone, combed my hair, adjusted my trousers, retied my shoelaces and surveyed the mountain of boxes.

"Here goes nothing. Stand by for a very long job," I thought as I took the lid off the first box, peered in and...

There it was.

My driving licence.

Tuesday 17 April 2012


I have been worrying about this for a while now. I've been wracking my brains.

Where did I last see it? When did I last have it?

It is only small and insignificant. However I can't manage without it. I could get another but that would be expensive and time-consuming. Also a waste of time, as I have a perfectly good one which I have had in one form or another for thirty-nine years now. The current one has been in my possession for close to thirteen years now. It is like an old friend, and a reminder of times past.

I am worried.

Normally I can get away without carrying it, but I need it and without it I can't do something in a couple of weeks time. Also if I wanted a new one and applied I doubt it would arrive in time.

I quizzed the Dark Lady. She hadn't seen it. I asked if she was sure. Really sure. In fact really really sure.

"Of course I am," she said a tad icily. "If I had seen it I would tell you. When did you last have it?"

"If I knew that I'd probably be able to find it".

The search is on... the clock is ticking...

Monday 16 April 2012


So it was off to Hastings with the Dark Lady, The Dark Stepson and his mate, Adam. How were we going to keep two 13 year-old boys entertained all weekend?

Well, with fair weather, the sea, the beach, amusement arcades, a funfair, several different types of miniature golf (Hastings being the national Crazy Golf capital with the World Championships being held here every year) it shouldn't be too difficult.

For safety they brought an X Box and any number of hand-held gaming and messaging devices. Plus phones.

We had scarcely got them inside the house before they disappeared upstairs and had quickly configured the WiFi and the sound of serious gaming was going on.

Outside the sun was beating down.

We managed to herd them like cattle down to the local Chinese Restaurant where they perused the menu.

If you are a parent you will know this but as a novice Stepfather this is all new to me. It would appear that children's tastes are far more sophisticated than they were in my day. I seem to remember that as long as it had chips with it and tomato ketchup to slather on it that qualified as food.

No. These two discussed the merits of the "Butterfly chicken" over the Crispy Duck, would they have ribs, and asked the waiter what sauce it had.

Won ton soup as a main. "Just tap water for me, please". Whoever heard of a kid in the 70's asking for tap water when there was fizzy pop on offer?

Then it was back home along the Seafront. Thinking they would probably be tired out and wanting to go to bed (as we were!)

No…the gaming immediately restarted!

Eventually we had to order them to bed. Dark Lady went to check on them and found them sitting up in bed like Morecombe and Wise, headphones on with portable gaming devices.

The following day (and after a brief interlude in the gaming for sausage sandwiches) we managed to coax them into the car and took them down to the Old Town to sample the delights of Historic Old Hastings.

We arrived in the car park and we went to pay.

"Five hours should be enough," said the DL

"FIVE HOURS??? More like three. Their attention span won't manage two let alone five!" I proclaimed.

"OK then, I'll pay for three,” declared my ever-patient wife.

First we watched them play the Pirate Golf. There are several courses to play on the seafront and we marvelled at their hand/eye coordination.

Then - ensuring they had sufficient cash (for gaming purposes, I thought) - they departed with strict instructions to be back in a couple of hours.

We ambled around the shops. DL likes the Old Town as it has a wide variety of places that sell all sorts of different stuff from clothing to eye-wateringly expensive household items.

Being older than her and having lived in the Town since the late 80's as well as visiting it several times a year since birth I have seen the town change. Back when I was a lad in short trousers, The Old Town was run down and full of wonderful junk
shops. Selling. Junk. Proper junk, not bric-a-brac nor antiques. Junk.

There were shops with saucers of old coins. If you wanted to buy an ex-naval pulley block you could. (My Dad did in fact!). I bought my Mum a jug and bowl set for 50p which my Father still has to this day.

We looked for a desk for her "study". We saw a couple of roll-top ones. Both were horribly expensive. Junk was there none. The only thing that caught my eye was a scale model of the Hindenburg.

"That would look nice hanging from the living room ceiling,” I ventured.

"No it wouldn't!" came the reply which effectively closed down that argument.

We arranged to meet the boys at "Winkle Island", an area of pavement that boasts a winkle collection box which benefits a Fisherman's Charity of which I am proud to be a member. The previous Winkle had been there for years and had recently been vandalised and has just been replaced with a spectacular new sculpture created by local artist, Leigh Dyer.

"Bet they'll be late. We'll only have a few minutes left on the parking!" I muttered.

They were already there sitting, admiring the new Winkle.

"Chips, anyone?" asked the Dark Lady. "Then how about a ride on the East Hill lift and an ice cream when we get to the top?"

"I'll go and put another two hours on the parking," muttered me.

As I trudged back to the car park to feed the meter, I reflected on how difficult it is to predict what children will do and want.

I expected them to be bored after an hour or so.

They weren't.

I expected them to rush into the nearest amusement arcade and spend all their pocket money on slot machines.

"No, they are a rip off. We never game in arcades" they said.

They had certainly covered a lot of ground though. Funfair. Crazy Golf. Go Karts. Trampolines.

When we got home we thought they would be worn out by their exertions and all the fresh air.

Once again I was wrong.

We had to "guide them" to bed with a whip and a chair otherwise they would have been on the X Box until dawn.

I wonder where they get all the energy from?

Thursday 12 April 2012


If you have been listening to the show over the last couple of days, you will be aware that on Wednesday there very nearly wasn't a show. Well, the start of one any road up.

I overslept.

Having been doing early mornings for more than twenty years now in a "career" that is now in its thirty fifth year, this is only the third time that I have overslept or come close to it.

If I had a pound for every time I have been asked "Have you ever overslept?". Or thinking about it...

"When do you sleep?"

"What is Terry Wogan like?"

"When are you going to be on during the day?"

Or one of my favourites because of the wording as well as the assumption:

"When are you going to be promoted to television"?

I would be writing this blog on my diamond studded laptop on the rear deck of my yacht moored off my private island. One that Richard Branson hasn't even heard of, as envious Russian oligarchs cruise by on their smaller vessels.

The first time I overslept was back in the mid-eighties when I worked up in the North East on a commercial radio station. I was doing the weekday mid-morning show that started at ten.

I was roused from my slumbers by the programme director phoning me and asking " OK?"

He called me Lester because he was American, and had wanted me to change my on air name to "Red". Luckily I confused him by confusing cheese with the guy who blew out oil well fires, Red Adair.

"I'm fine, what's the problem?"

"Do you know what time it is?"

"Err... no."

"It's ten to ten."


"You owe the breakfast guy an extra hour of his show".

I hurried in and the next day made amends with furious apologies to the bloke who did the breakfast show, who'd had to stay on for an extra hour.

I hope he has forgiven me because he is now a very big cheese in the world of commercial radio, and you never know when you might be asking him for a job.

The second time came in the late 90s when the Shoe came from Pebble Mill in Birmingham. It was the year that Katrina was occupying the Janice Long time slot, and for some bizarre reason no one had my mobile phone number. I was living on the canal boat "The Blue Pig" at the time and was often about half an hour away from Birmingham as during the summer I would chug out into the countryside and moor near a friendly pub.

However, I recall this was winter so was at my mooring in Hockley Port not far from Winson Green and Handsworth.

I got a phone call.

"Alex. Where are you?"

"In bed, why?"

"Do you know what time it is?"

No idea why people ask this question when they phone you because you are late. Surely it matters little. What's really important is to get to the studios as quickly as possible.

It is a rather redundant question in some ways.

"Prime Minister, do you believe the coalition is under pressure?"

"Well if I can speak frankly here-"

"Do you know what time it is?"



"What is it doc?"

"Bad news I'm afraid - the X-rays aren't looking good."

"Gulp... how long have I got?"

"Do you know what time it is?"

"With a performance like that, I really think you have star quality and can go all the way in this years X Factor."


"You really nailed it!"


"First though, do you know what time it is?"


On this occasion, as mobile phones were far less sophisticated than they are now (mine had no built-in alarm) I had a good old fashioned battery powered clock radio which boasted a "Humane Wake system".

It would start beeping very quietly, then got louder and louder and would also change its rhythm until the windows would shake. If it reached this point it meant that the owner had died as no one could sleep through that racket.

The side effect of permanent night working is that the body becomes attuned to the amount of sleep required and so wakes up just as or just before the alarm goes off. On this occasion I had woken at the first tiny beep, switched the alarm off and instead of lurching out of bed as normal just rolled over and gone back to sleep.

For some bizarre reason I obviously made so little impact on the people at Pebble Mill that no one noticed I hadn't turned up until about ten minutes before the show was due to start. Then they couldn't find my number, so had to call the newsreader in London and ask her.

With judicious throwing clothes on as I raced to the car, I made the show about five minutes after it started so was able to pick up after the first or second record.

Everyone had my number after that.

So why the trouble this time? As I have grown older like many I have discovered I need less sleep and also don't sleep as soundly as I used to.

Regularly sharing a bed with my beautiful wife also means that I am aware it is only polite to try and cause as little disturbance as possible when rising and leaving. Our relationship nearly hit the buffers early on when I had a new phone. The alarm went off, started to get louder and more insistent and I was unable to figure out how to switch it off. In the end I had to tear the battery out to silence it. There then ensued a loud whispered argument about waking the children as I pulled my socks on.

On this occasion, I had woken five minutes before the first of the three alarms I have set in my mobile and switched them all off, got up, abluted and tiptoed out of the house without the Dark Lady or the Dark Stepchildren being any the wiser.

"So how come you were nearly late?" I hear you cry.

That night as I lay in bed there was a buzzing. The ringer and the text tone is always turned off at night, in case I am phoned by cold callers, drunken friends or handbags. I have been called many times by handbags. This is what happens when the phone is at the bottom of a woman's capacious bag and your number is on speed dial!

I was sleeping very lightly so instantly woke up and crossing the room with the thought "who is bothering me in the middle of the night when I am trying to sleep"?

The voice was producer Dr Strangelove.

"Are you in a cab?", he asked. "I sent you a text."

"No, I was in bed before you called me. Why?"

Then came that question again

"Do you know what time it is?"

"Of course I do", I snapped looking at my watch. "It's twenty to twoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooshiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I flung on what was available (namely sandals and the previous nights soiled gym kit) and fled in the general direction of the studio without even cleaning my teeth.

Still, I was certainly wide awake by the time I arrived with ten minutes to spare.

It was only when I got home I realised that not only had I omitted pants, but also my shirt had been on inside out the whole time.

The above sartorial disorder may explain my lack of "promotion to television", where looks are far more important.

So what had happened or not happened to cause this mid-night mid-life crisis?

I had forgotten to reset the alarms from the night before, so although I did wake up roughly at the usual time I didn't believe it was time to go to the show as the alarm hadn't sounded.

So err... I didn't know what time it was!

Wednesday 11 April 2012


As someone who "works" Monday to Friday all year round, I have never taken much notice of holidays, seasonal or school. Now with two stepchildren however, things have changed. First of all, this year's summer holiday will be taken during the school holidays, the most expensive time of year you tell me. Plus, when it comes to seasonal festivals there are holidays which children are at home for and enjoy, when normally I can keep my head down and ignore. So now with this extra responsibility comes the realisation that I will have to "engage".

To this end I hastened home to Hastings on Friday for a few pints with a friend before the big Easter weekend properly kicked off.

I say hastened. I got stuck in traffic... for hours!

First I visited my godparents and discovered that at the tender age of ninety-one my uncle Norman has decided to take up cooking. He makes a mean flapjack.

There came no reply from the phone of my mate. Later it transpired that his battery was flat. As he is fifty-six I believe him. Had he been fifteen I would have said he was lying.

Parents of teenagers am I right?

So grabbing the local paper I headed for the pub. Sadly these days there are far fewer boozers as the recession and changes in the law as well as profiteering by the big breweries means that it is hard times for the street corner pub that I loved so much in my youth.

At the current rate there will soon only be two of these pubs in the whole of the UK - the Queen Vic and the Rovers Return.

However those that remain are fighting back, but in doing so they are changing. At the pub round the corner from me, the moment I set foot in there and sit down with my paper they immediately turn the lights down so I can't read and start the accursed karaoke. So glugging down the pint, I headed for another pub that I know and like. Ah, I hadn't reckoned on Good Friday entertainment. They are a friendly crowd in there but it was rammed and the band were setting up. I stayed for five minutes to chat with some people I knew and then desperate to read the paper I headed on up the road to another boozer I know which is hanging on by the skin of its teeth.

It has shut a couple of times over the last year or so but phoenix like rises from the ashes. Trouble is it, it never seems able to make a fresh start before it closes again. It has the potential I am sure, although it is in a rather shabby part of town. There were three people in there. One of them a drunk dancing wildly to the jukebox. Judging by his music selection he was probably about my age. First time I have seen someone trying to pogo to "Dreamer" by Supertramp!

The pub smelled of farts and despair.

Still, apart from drunken pogo man it was quiet enough and I was able to read the paper until it was pie time.

Saturday, and back in the car to London for my stepson Jamie's birthday. He is now thirteen and is just entering the gruff grunting stage. Still, he was able to communicate with us sufficiently well to accept gifts and still be someone who is fun to be around. With there being the five of us (DL, the two children, their dad and me) the Dark Lady had gone into doting mother over-catering mode, which was as usual terrific. She had been cooking for ages, ensuring there was enough food of sufficient variety that we could, should we wanted to, have three completely different meals each.

Then there was cake for the birthday boy.

Everyone left, and so it was the DL and myself for a romantic evening "a deux". We were worn out from all the eating, collapsed into bed and each had a rotten night's sleep.

I never learn that stuffing yourself with rich food doesn't aid restful sleep!

Sunday and we were all back together for more food, then we went off to the cinema as the birthday boy fancied seeing "The Hunger Games", the big film of the moment. He loved it, as did his sister. We weren't so sure. Perhaps it was the premise: twenty five children having to fight to the death. Or just that it took forever to get started. Seemed a bit of a plot mish mash, and I felt that the film was made up of a kit of parts of other films from "Lord of the Flies" to "Sleeper". It may just have been the fact that as we were rather overstuffed from lunch, although rather thirsty I had purchased three bottles of mineral water and had been plunged into a sour mood.

Just three. Not litre bottles. Just ordinary sized bottles. Dark Lady asked the assistant to get some from the back of the fridge as the ones she gave us were warm.

Three bottles of ordinary still mineral water.



Oh, and as of course it was Easter with it's deep religious significance, there were a large number of chocolate eggs too. How could I have forgotten?