Thursday 28 June 2012


After the show this morning I set off to visit my Dad in Walsall. Not seen him for a couple of weeks and his cat was causing him some concern.

Apart from my sister and me obviously, the cat Jersey is the last link with my late mother who died ten years ago this coming November. He was really her cat.

He's about twelve, and as the runt of the litter is now beginning to age rather rapidly which is a shame.

He had an infection, and several eye-wateringly expensive trips to the vet later he appears recovered with some of his bounce back. This manifests itself by him climbing on your lap and biting you, although it no longer hurts as much as his jaws have lost some of their strength over the years.

I left London in sunshine, and just as I turned onto the M6 it started to cloud over. By the time I reached Coventry it was raining and by Birmingham it was dark with torrential rain and a thunderstorm. Flash floods in the centre of the city and the overtaking lane (note to terminology pedants here not the "fast lane") of the motorway was several inches deep in water as the drains couldn't cope.

I arrived late. Of my sister and brother in law, no sign. They were trying to get from Solihull south of Brum to where we were.

Trusty Best Time of the Day show listener Sargent Milko tweeted this picture of the A34 Stratford Road in Shirley, proving they had every reason to be late.

After lunch I set off back to London and the reverse happened. By the time I was back on the M1 it was hot, humid and sunny with 26 degrees celcius showing on the car instrument panel.

Parked outside the Dark Lady's house and boarded a bus.


In this heat there is little you can do so by 4.30PM on a hot afternoon it's BO central.

Transport For London just have to hope for milder weather during the olympics otherwise tourists and competitors will have only one memory of the UK.

Britain smells like a week old sock.

Wednesday 27 June 2012


Still trying to catch up on the number of solo flying hours I have to do to retain my microlight licence. You have to do at least twelve hours over two years, six hours of which have to be during the second year. I've no idea where the time has gone.

So I am trying to book a flight per week out in Essex.

Normally the conversation goes like this:

"Hello Keith, it's Alex. What's the weather like?"


"Okay, call you next week."

This morning, I checked the aero weather and it wasn't looking good.

"Hello Keith, it's Alex. What's the weather like?"

"It's fine, come on down".


He was quite correct, it was okay. A few knots of wind and cloud, but at a height that wouldn't cause me any problems.

So when I arrived I was ready for the off pretty quickly. Checked everything was as it should be - enough fuel, wings securely attached and off I went.

I headed out across the Thames estuary to the Isle of Grain, and carried on until about twenty-five minutes later when I found myself over a large prison complex. The air was a bit bumpy due to the hear rising from it, presumably due to all those inmates attempting to saw through the bars.

I turned round and headed back. By this time the weather was beginning to change, visibility was deteriorating and it was starting to rain. I love the whole process of landing as it concentrates the mind, and when I've taxi'd back to the hanger I have a huge sense of achievement (and to some extent relief) that washes over me.

Quick cup of tea then phone a cab back to the railway station.

"What you been up to mate?" said the cheery young driver.

"I've been flying," I beamed.

"What, like a trip?"

"Well, I hired a plane and went for a joy ride."

"Where'd you go?"

"I flew out to the Isle of Grain and went as far as that prison. What's it called?"

"HOW SHOULD I KNOW?" he barked. A little too indignantly I thought.

"I wasn't suggesting you had been inside!"


The remainder of the journey passed in virtual silence.

Had my tone of voice suggested he was a jailbird? Or was he nursing a dark secret and a guilty conscience?

I can still remember being in a rough pub in Hull in the late 70s, and on the TV was a documentary series about a maximum security prison.

The bloke standing next to me suddenly shouted "look, it's Chalky. He's still in!"

Tuesday 26 June 2012


Over the years if I have wanted an item of furniture I have either gone out and bought it, saved for it then bought it, or paid for it on the never never.

I bought new my first 3 piece "cottage" suite. I bought on tick and had to get people out to repair the stitching which kept bursting. Apart from an ominous stain caused by me leaving a bag of apples on it for several weeks, it lasted for some years. I even foolishly rejected a reasonable offer for it when I moved house, then found it wouldn't fit properly in my new place and a new girlfriend hated it so it had to go.

I then moved again and started to fill the house up with old stuff I bought in junk shops. One "bargain" was a Victorian Chesterfield, one arm of which would fold down making it into a daybed.

This wasn't quite the bargain I thought it was when I realised the level of work involved to bring it up to scratch. Not just a simple recovering job.

It was rather stained through years of takeaways, chilli, wine oh and beer and various other marks. So it was in a pretty sorry state by the time I moved again ten years later.

Luckily the removal men tore it getting it out of the very narrow front door. Their insurance paid to have it recovered.

Now though we need another, so the Dark Lady and I set off in search of a new one. First off we had to decide the style. That was the easy part. Then they had to be tried out for comfort, or as is known in our house "squashiness".

My wife likes a very squashy sofa. I like a slightly firmer seat. The one she has at the moment swallows you whole when you sit on it. As a result I have to sit cross legged or crouch on it, or it gives me the appearance of Ronnie Corbett delivering his monologue in the big chair.

We found a shop that had a 30% off sale "event". Soon found the style. We even agreed on the squashy quotient.

Then came the hard bit. Fabric type and colour. There did seem to be quite a number.

When we came out and went for a bite to eat, the DL looked at her watch astonished and said: "have we really been in that shop for an hour and a half?"

One thing we haven't even mentioned yet. I gather this dictates your social class. Have we just ordered:

A) A sofa

B) A settee


C) A couch?

Monday 25 June 2012


Weekend of noises, some good…and some not so good.
Thursday night Susan the finance (don't hate her, she's not a banker and doesn't do the sort of offshore stuff that got Jimmy Carr into trouble and Gary Barlow and a lot of MP's seem to be getting off scot-free about).

We went off to see Carrie Underwood at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It is her first visit as far as I am aware and it was a more-or-less packed house with an audience consisting of - as far as I could guess - 50/50 Gay men and teenage girls.

She may be young but she has a terrific voice which certainly has a lot of power behind it. So much so that you did hope for a quieter number. Even on the slow gentler songs she was still pretty strident. To celebrate being in the UK she did a cover of Coldplay's "Fix You" which was probably the closest she got to subtlety all evening.

That is not to say I didn't enjoy it because I did. I also recognised far more of her material than I expected too.

The audience knew all the words and sang along lustily. It made me feel good to think that she was a virtual unknown in this country before we started playing her on Radio 2. Not that I am claiming her success on these shores is all down to her appearances on "Lester's Library". Although due to my "small man syndrome" I may start making wild claims (shortly before I attempt to raise an army to invade surrounding countries.)

Carrie also sported the most spectacular pair of sparkly leggings that I'm sure many of the girls (and probably a fair number of the boys) in the audience secretly coveted.

As it meant a late night and I was headed off home directly after the shoe on Friday morning I had only had about two hours sleep by the time I ventured out to the pub on Friday evening. I like to do this to relax after the "hardships and stresses" of the "working" week. When I have been awake for nearly 24 hours on the trot I get very sensitive to noise for some reason. So seeking a quiet corner of a boozer when most of the clientele had been there all day was going to be difficult. I found the "table of solitude" by the pool table.

Biiig mistake.

No sooner had I sat down with my pint, a gang of guys came over to play pool. As they had every right to do. First they put the money in and vented the balls with an ear splitting rumble. After that every clack was agony. Plus one of their number was a laugher. Nothing wrong with laughing either. However, this guy was guffawing and about everything and nothing.

"Good shot"


"Get in"


"Pint, Brian"?


"Ooooh close"


On it went until I finished my beer and headed home, my ears ringing.

Not their fault at all I must stress. Mine. I do think it would be good for boozers to have noise and child-free areas. Rather like a library or the quiet carriage on the train. Thinking about it, though , I don't think anyone would take any notice. They certainly don't on trains!

Sunday night and to bed as normal. However, I had forgotten about the football. I was woken from my slumber by an anguished


From the flat next door. Shortly followed by another even louder


"Ah yes" I thought. England has just lost on penalties. Turned over and went back to sleep.

Thursday 21 June 2012


After the exertions of yesterday I awoke feeling only slightly chafed and started to wonder - if I felt this good after a fifteen mile walk, how would I feel if I tried to walk twenty?

This is when I realised that although I may be slightly sore in the Calvins department, I was obviously suffering from more than a touch of the sun.

This is probably how all mega-endurance sports and feats occur. Either someone tries something like parachuting and isn't killed immediately and so keeps on doing it in ever more dangerous ways until they go for base jumping and are deaded, or it's drunken macho posturing of the "bet I could run a marathon faster than you" type which ends with purple faced middle-aged men dressed as waiters and penguins expiring after ten miles.

I haven't walked that distance for a couple of years, and so was surprised how good I felt. This may be due to regular gym attendance, which I know is doing me good even though I don't really enjoy it.

So maybe I'll shelve the idea of a twenty mile walk, and see if I can undertake another fifteen mile-r over the next few weeks instead.

One concern over the extra distance would not be soreness or blisters, nor fatigue. It would be my fingers. I noticed as I trudged that blood collected in them as I was only swinging them down by my sides, hence their pudginess. If I tried a longer walk they may suddenly explode, nixing any chance of violin lessons in the future.

So apart from a gym visit I decided to stay in the flat, work my way through a pile of CD, tidy up and do my washing.

I am generally tidy in the kitchen and need to be as it is very small. So small I only have a washer/drier. Normally I only use the washer bit, and dry stuff by hanging up the wet things in the bathroom.

As I was doing the sheets and duvet cover I needed to fire up the drier side of the machine. It is simple to operate, so as I left for the gym why was the now clean duvet washing itself again?

I've put it back in to dry. I hope it's cooked to perfection as my friend Susan The Finance (don't hate her she's not a banker) and I are off out to the Royal Albert Hall to see Carrie Underwood.

Oh, and another thing. Susan may be involved in financial planning, but we are talking real lives here. In other words planning at a considerably lower level than Gary Barlow and Jimmy Carr!

Wednesday 20 June 2012


You will of course recognise that ejaculation from the Lee Hazelwood song recorded by Nancy Sinatra. I also remember a version by Irish songstress Rose Marie.

We played it for a time on Radio 2. However, when she got to the question it sounded like the Rev. Ian Paisley and frightened the life out of me every time I aired it. The words seemed appropriate for this blog.

The weather dawned sunny, so I decided to tackle a long walk - one I'd not done for a while. I was going to walk the Regent Canal towpath from near my flat to Limehouse Basin where the canal drops into the Thames, and which in its time had been a huge commercial hub. Now though it's a base for expensive boats.

I needed the right clothing. Shorts baggy for the use of? Check.

100 (or is it 1000) mile socks? Check.

I bought these a while back. Wool outers with a cotton liner. The inner moves against the outer preventing blisters. They work a treat.

Comfortable shoes? Check.

Off I went. It's probably a couple of years since I have attempted this trudge. How much had I deteriorated in the interim?

The canal towpath is busy these days, and you live in fear of cyclists hitting you from behind despite notices declaring pedestrians have priority and cyclists should ring their bells and exercise caution. Often they don't and pedal past at breakneck speed.

It did cross my mind - were these the same cyclists that you read about complaining about road traffic?

The sun shone, the water glittered and boats were moving back and forth as they are supposed to do on canals.

I was walking about 3.5 miles per hour, so in a couple of hours I reached my destination. I felt good. Often times on long walks I can develop blisters, raw thighs and an aching back and neck. On this occasion all seemed to be going well.

I rested for about twenty minutes and set off back. The good thing about a yomp like this for amateur hikers like me is that we don't have baggage. I just had my phone, door key, some cash and a credit card. Travel light and if things go pear shaped you can always hop on public transport.

There are a lot of police in evidence at the moment in the East London area. Is this pre-Olympic security paranoia?

From the conversations I overheard as I strode past, it's about litter. I think they want Team UK (that's us) to pull out all of the stops so that the capital looks as shiny as a new pin by the time the world arrives. This means that if/when we lose, we will do it hygienically.

The graffiti and rubbish on canal towpaths has long been a bugbear of mine. I doubt the manifesto promise of the death penalty/transportation to the colonies would make me electable if I stood for office, but it does annoy me.

Five hours and fifteen minutes after starting out I was back. Fourteen to fifteen miles covered. Hot and sweaty yes - blistered no. The walking with hands swinging at your sides has an effect - pudgy fingers! I needed a reward and knew exactly where to find it.

Tuesday 19 June 2012


The plan on Saturday was to have a leisurely and light breakfast, as I am trying to get er "beach fit" for our trip to Florida in August. Some hope I know!

The plan was to stroll one end of the seafront and back - a distance of around five miles - and pick up a crab on the way. The sun was shining but it was a walk into the teeth of a strong wind, so we stopped to admire the view and have a short rest on one of the many convenient benches placed at intervals on the prom.

When I first moved to the town in 1988, I used to laugh at estate agents details which spoke of a flat being "within level walk of the shops". Nearly a quarter of a century later, I am luckily not there yet but I can see it is a selling point.

Crab bought and left for later collection, we carried on walking.

We did a turn of the Old Town. When I was a child it was a veritable Aladdin's cave of junk shops selling proper junk. When I moved to that end of town it still had a lot of interesting shops selling all sorts of junk and near junk. You could always pick up a bargain for a few quid. It also still had some fabulous pubs and shops that sold useful stuff.

There was a greengrocer/butcher run by a spectacularly opinionated man. I reckon he'd pick an argument with his own shadow given the chance. Sadly he died and the shop went. There was Butler's Famed Emporium which sold everything hardware. Sash window wedges? They had 'em. Nails by the ounce? They had 'em. Hinges for the Hindenburg? I reckon they had 'em too.

Now, many of these shops sell stuff that was once classed as junk or hardware as "fashion" items.

A wooden wheelbarrow like my grandfather had would be pounced on by the chattering classes, bought at an extortionate cost and placed in a living room to be filled with magazines.

We wandered into a clothes shop where the Dark Lady had espied a handbag a few weeks earlier. Sadly it had gone but a fetching summer coat was purchased instead - once the credit card was out!

We collected the crab and strolled home.

We were out for about four hours and it was my job to dress the crab. It had unfortunately shed its shell to aid growing room so wasn't stuffed with meat, but it was still good and made me feel very "hunter-gatherer".

Crab, crusty bread and salad, and we settled down to watch "Sweet and Lowdown", a film about a fictional jazz guitarist played by Sean Penn. When it was finished DL turned to me and asked, as she knows her music, "how come I've never heard of him before?"

When the mirth ended it was filed away for use as a thread on the show, which we are enjoying this week.

Monday 18 June 2012


Perfect weekend. Good food and drink, perfect company, fresh air, sunshine and topped off by one of my favourite subjects:


Dark Lady was hard at work when I set off for Hastings on Friday morning and wound my way through the traffic on the M25. I made it halfway down the A21 before it was time for a snooze.

I've driven hundreds of thousands of miles over the years at odd times of the day and after working night shifts, I'm fairly attuned to my body and its needs. It tells me when it needs to stop. I know several welcoming motorway service station car parks and lay-bys where a weary traveller can lay his head with the door locked. From time to time I've been disturbed by people trying to sell me knock off TVs or watches from the back of vans, or the occasional concerned citizen thinking I look like the result of a mafia hit.

Always important to lock the door. I remember a story of a couple who were out in their radio station's radio car when the hormones came a-calling, so they parked up in a discreet side road. When they had finished er "filing their story" and were readjusting their clothes, the lady half of the couple noticed her handbag had gone missing. Obviously in their sexual oblivion neither had noticed a passer-by open the door and nick it!

As a back up to help ensure I don't become a danger to myself and other road users I have a small device like a hearing aid that I pop behind my ear. If my head starts to nod it lets out an ear-piercing screech.

What in fact happens is that I reach my destination, get out of the car, look down at the pavement and suddenly get the shock of my life as this device lets out its warning howl.

The plan was to go home and get everything ready for arrival of the DL after she had finished work.

I also had to go and draw the raffle for Hospital Radio Hastings at the Conquest Hospital (listen, this is Hastings - everything has a 1066 motif) as well as to hand over some long service certificates to three of the volunteers. Afterwards they had also requested I give a
"short talk about my career".


I arrived at 2pm. he raffle and the certificate presentation went quickly and without a hitch. Refreshments were provided, but I declined as we had a Chinese meal booked for later in the day. Plus, these hapless people were going to need all the calories going as I droned on and on. Remember the terrible story of the plane that came down in the Andes and the survivors were forced to eat the corpses of their fellow passengers?

When you have had a job that started back in 1977 in BBC Local Radio and has staggered on ever since there are a lot of things to talk about. I have worked at more than twenty radio stations and a similar number of TV channels over the last thirty-five years so there are plenty of anecdotes. I thought the best way would be to do in in chronological order, starting with my first tentative steps in the glamorous world of wireless. This was going to take some time...

On and on I droned, ignoring the yawns and the shuffling of feet. On and on, taking no notice of the furtive glances at watches. On and on when the whispering started. I thought I was holding their attention for the first hour or so. Heck, I've been doing this for thirty-five years and they were going to get all of it.

"So by 1979 I'd moved to Radio Sheffield where I was doing among other things a rock sh..!"

"Alex we must stop you there, but the football will be starting soon and I'm sure your wife will be arriving at the railway station any time now", said the chairman much to the audience's relief. What?! I still had approximately 33 years to go! Shame, I could tour the halls with this act.

So it was to the railway station to collect my lovely wife.

She had had an uneventful journey down and had even managed to do some more work and read a portion of her book. She is a voracious reader, although since she met me has had less time to indulge her hobby. Marriage is give and take, and all about compromise. Since I met her I've had far less time to sit in the pub reading nerdy car and music magazines.

We dumped everything off at home, turned the heating up a notch and went out to the Chinese. Well, via the pub.

If I learned anything from the afternoons experience it was brevity, so I'll leave you with the thought of crispy duck, prawn toast and chicken and green pepper in black bean sauce until the next instalment.

Thursday 14 June 2012


Every blog a song lyric or title. Luckily there are plenty of songs about the S word.

In my last instalment I was setting the scene, in order to give you an insight into what makes shame central in my life.

There are so many examples they could be published as one of those self-help books. However, the knock on effect would be to end up hiding indoors and never coming out.

Perhaps in a similar fashion to Bengali violinist Abdul Shahid, who due to an unfortunate misprint in the programme for last years Baishakhi Mela Festival in Tower Hamlets had his first name was printed as "Bal" meaning "pubic hair" in Bengali.

Such has been the ridicule apparently he is now unable to work, and is suing the council for £300,000 according to the London Evening Standard.

Where I left it last time was the shame of my first clumsy kiss and the rejection that followed more or less immediately afterwards.

Let us spool through to more or less the present day. This avoids a whole host of drunken youthful escapades. The near beatings by irate husbands -

"That's my wife your talking about!"

- to ill-fated attempts at intercourse. Social and otherwise.

"Oh Alex, I don't think of you in that way. I think of you more as a... as a... pet!"

The latest attack by The Devil Of Shame came the other week when The Dark Lady and I were relaxing at home, of course known as Lester Towers. Or Lester Acres. (DJs speak this way for some bizarre reason.)

As I busied myself watching TV, she busied herself cooking another fine meal.

"We need some "blertinisui" (or some such ingredient) she trilled. So it was off to the supermarket.

Once I have my shoes off it is very difficult to get me out of the house. However for this woman I'll do anything.

"Hang on, I'll just get some shoes."

Strangely it wasn't raining so off we went. When we arrived I went and got the trolley.

MAN HINT: If out shopping with partner, bloke has to drive the trolley. It's the law.

As we walked toward the supermarket, The Dark Lady started to giggle. This then turned into laughter. Then to guffaws. Eventually she was a weeping purple faced vision of hysteria.

Unable to speak she pointed.

My feet.

Socks with sandals.


Wednesday 13 June 2012


Big believer in shame. In fact it has informed many phases of my life. I can reminisce and feel my cheeks reddening about events that took place half a century ago.

The time I pompously explained to my family in an attempt to prove my superior knowledge as we motored past Stonehenge in my parents' Morris Minor that this circle of stones was where the Druids lived. Unfortunately in my case pronounced "Drudds"! I can still hear the peals of laughter as I type.

Barely had the face lost it's temperature then another cause for shame came to haunt me, as so many others have done over the years.

In a desperate attempt to be "in" with the big boys, I realised you had to be able to stroll along exhibiting a cool walk whilst being in total mastery of a pebble or a can. Other lesser beings would marvel at your control. The type of footwork that Geoff Hirst or Nobby Stiles could only pray for.

(Note to younger readers: this was an era when footballers were real heroes, and dogging and spit roasting referred to greyhound racing and barbecues. Although the latter was only practiced in America or on the Continent. Somewhere only the very rich travelled. Everyone else including Geoff and Nobby were sitting in the drizzle on the prom at Margate suggesting "I think it's brightening up over there"!)

So, espying a likely stone I sashayed up and unleashed my devastating right foot clad in my highly polished Start-rite "outdoor shoes".

Crap flew everywhere as I had volleyed a large fresh cowpat.

My mother had to use her hankie to clean me and my shoe, whilst my father made "bloody idiot" noises in the background and my sister's face was a mask of derision. Shortly after I was taken to the optician.

A few years passed and I hit thirteen. A boiling cauldron of hormones, undermined by greasy hair, knotted String limbs and spots. (Darwinists please note - on this evidence there is probably a god and he/she is terribly cruel!)

I met a girl whilst out on my bike (five speed Raleigh Rapier in sunset yellow).

When I finally stopped stammering and sweating we kissed, right there in the middle of Ashbourne Recreation Ground! Brazen we were. As we clutched each other I was aware of saliva dribbling from the side of our mouths as our tongues worked overtime counting each other's teeth.


The very next day I phoned her from a phonebox rather than home. I didn't want any probing parental questions, nor further derision from my sister three years my senior. (As siblings are, derision was one of her fortes. By then in older sisterworld I expect she'd moved on to holding hands or if she was that daring "UOS"* the hussy!)

I phoned this thirteen year old, gawky freckled vision of loveliness and very low standards the very next day.

"Hi" I said excitedly and speedily. I didn't have much money and phone boxes eat money.

"It'll never work. We're too different" she said and put the phone down.

I was crushed. The shame. How would I boast about my sexual prowess to my mates? Lie probably, as they did.

I shall now shuffle away, crushed by the reminiscence. In the next instalment I shall explain why shame never stops.

* Upstairs outside

Sunday 10 June 2012


Obscure John Dummer Band reference to start with. You can tell I've had most of the weekend in my spare room fiddling with CDs and vinyl.

More of that perhaps later in the week.

However, I like the rest of the media am trying to squeeze the last drop of royal stuff from the Jubilee.

Dark Lady, Dark Stepson and I had been invited by friends Jules and Martin to view the flotilla from the comfort of Jules' office on the south bank of the Thames.

Due to public transport concerns we arrived an hour early. How to fill the time? Stepson came prepared with various bits of electronics beginning with "i".

There was however considerable nourishment on offer. This was probably wise when you consider what happened later.

Lot of friends showed up and we all crowded round the windows as the boats sailed past. Not wishing to do much in the way of gender stereotyping, it did occur to me that the women were more interested in who was on the boat and what they were wearing.

"There she is. In the white. She looks cold."

"Is that Pippa? Her bum isn't that fantastic."

"Clare Balding. You can see her on the TV too. I think that colour suits her don't you"?

Meanwhile, us blokes frankly were talking about more important stuff.

"Here come the small boats that rescued the troops from Dunkirk."

"Raymond Baxter used to own one."

"Look, canal boats. There's a sixty foot trad style. Look look, Fellows Morton and Clayton ex-working boat. Wonder if it has a Bolinder or a Lister diesel in there"?

When the last craft had chugged, sculled or sailed past we headed out into the rain. To the Underground station.

Ha ha ha ha (hooting derisive mirth).

Most of the entrances/exits were shut and a massive queue stretched for yards along the pavement. We'd be there for hours.

We decided to walk across the bridge to Victoria and get the tube from there.

Ha ha ha (hooting derisive etc).

The exits/entrances were shut and there was another massive queue.

We carried on walking in the driving rain. Another twenty minutes or so found us in Park Lane where I saw a cab.

Safely in the back we drove the final mile to where the DL had parked her car.

"How was it?" asked the cabbie.

"We had a great time apart from this last bit."

"You got Olympic tickets?" he continued.

"Paralympics tickets. You?"

"Plane tickets. I'm off to Greece for the duration. Lot of my mates are away too. Roads are going to be chokka(er)."

"So come the Olympics there are going to be few cabs and an Underground system that can't cope"?

"Looks that way" he chuckled.

I've no idea what surprises Transport For London have up their sleeves to ensure our smooth passage. I just hope they have something!