Wednesday 26 September 2012


With just over a month to go til D-Day (Departure Day), I am beginning to get out to look at flats. I have signed up with various estate Agents who keep telling me that everything is moving fast and I have to act now, although there seem to be a large number of vacant properties they are enthusing about.

Even though I am not going to be in a position to move for at least four weeks, I can't afford to pay two sets of rent. In other words where I am living at the moment and then the new place. I shall just have to go from one to the other.

 We have agreed a maximum price, yet they keep taking me to places way over my budget. Some very nice places too.

"I can't afford this place and I'm not in a position to pounce on it just because you think it's a bargain and it will be snapped up!"

"Well, the owner may take an offer for a lower rent if it's still not occupied in a couple of weeks." 
Hmmm, I wonder if I'm being spun a story here? Agents male and female seem to be universally young and posh. Perhaps they think I'm a... er... um... a "pleb"

I have seen some nice places and some rather odd ones. We wheezed our way to the fifth floor of a terrace to find the ceilings so low I could touch the roof with the flat of my hand. There was a basement - sorry, "garden" flat - which boasted a bedroom with no windows at all and smelled strongly of dry rot.

"Dry rot"

"Dry rot?"

"Dry rot"

"I thought it was just the smell of the occupants"

"Well if it is they are the only humans I have ever come across with galloping dry rot"


"Still, if they had rising damp that could easily be cured by a chemical damp course being injected into their knees. Dry rot is more difficult to treat so we may have to burn their clothes."

"I think it's time I was back at the office"!


I was then taken to something within my budget. Top floor of a run down terraced house, the common parts reeking of stale cigarette smoke and B.O. It was above a shop which manufactured two for the price of one dentures, so if my teeth ever fell out I could just pop downstairs and get fixed up. Or maybe you had to leave your teeth there for an hour whilst they copied them.

Still, a BOGOF is never to be sneered at even if it is for false choppers. Think. You could have one set for weekends or Sunday best. Or maybe one set for meat and the other for veg. Although, this approach would cause a heap of trouble at dinner parties. You would have to lay one pair on the side plate and keep swapping them every few bites.

Still it's no dafter than some of the more ludicrous table etiquette. For instance, why does the port have to passed from the left (or is it the right)? Surely just politely request it rather than going through all this stupid ritual?

Monday evening and it was to the Mermaid Theatre in London for a fantastic evening - The Beach Boys in Concert for Radio 2. A real privilege.

Dark Lady and I had seen Brian Wilson "Reimagining Gershwin" with a superb band last year, the second half of the show being a medley of Beach Boys hits. How would this sound in comparison? 

It looked to me like the band had been augmented by Brian's own band. There were thirteen or furteen of them on stage in total. It was sublime. The harmonies make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Dr Strangelove was also in the audience and got quite teary. There were so many hits back to back that it got to the point that I thought they'd already done some of the songs earlier in the set. It was the simple fact that these two and three minute masterpieces have been part of my life since I was a very small child. I have posted some videos from the night on my Facebook page which you can view here.

I have a real treat in store later this week when I am taking the Dark Lady to the Royal Albert Hall to see one of her favourite bands. I've managed to secure a couple of tickets to see The Beach Boys!

Monday 24 September 2012


Thursday night, Dark Lady, Strangelove and I hit the BBC for the Deacon Blue concert. They were excellent and Ricky Ross has a superb voice. If you haven't red buttoned the concert do it quickly before it disappears (or listen by clicking here). Their new album The Hipsters is excellent as well, currently our Album of the Week (hear a track everyday this week around 4.30am)

The title track first getting an airing on Radio 2 as part of Lester's Library. 

(Warning: small man syndrome)

Puffs self up with pride.

Friday morning and I waited in at DL's house for the electrician as the lights in the garden have gone on the blink again. This time it looks like the transformer has an intermittent fault and rats may have chewed through some of the wires.

Currently waiting for the man to get back to me with an estimate. He was due to arrive at 9am. He turned up at 7.50. I was fast asleep.

 "You were supposed to turn up at 9," said man in pants opening front door.

"No one told me!" he responded to my bleary enquiry, trying to look anywhere but at the man in pants.

After he delivered the verdict on the lights and left, it was my turn to head off. I was Hastings bound. Looking forward to a weekend of pie, pub and Camper Van Crisis on TV.

First, though, I needed to do some shopping: I needed pie.

Pulled into supermarket car park and got out, locked up and headed to the store. Hands in jacket pocket where I discovered a space…


No wallet. I'd left it on the settee at the Dark Lady's house after paying the electrician. This contained credit cards also. No way of getting hands on readies. What was a poor boy to do?

I did this years ago just after moving into a new house. The first meeting with my neighbour went thusly:

"Hello. I'm Alex your new neighbour. Do you think I could borrow £10?"

I phoned my friend Clive.

"You around Saturday evening. I'll meet you in the pub. Can you bring some money?"

I felt like a terrible British classic comedy cad.

"Awfully sorry old man. I find myself somewhat financially embarrassed. Could you possibly cash a small cheque?"

As luck would have it having had previous in this area I had secreted £20 in a book in case of such an eventuality arising again. I also had in the car a 35mm film carton filled with 50p pieced to pay the Dartford Crossing toll. That and the change in my pockets and we were heading for £30.

There was a pie in the freezer too.

The weekend was saved!

Wednesday 19 September 2012


Until now he chirped.

Lot of fun on Tuesday as my colleague, friend and rhythm pal Janice Long invited me to be a guest on her TV show "Janice Long's Review Show" on Vintage TV.

The idea is that she gets a couple of musicians and a music journalist in to discuss a classic album and new work by guest artists.

The venue for the recording was the iconic 12 Bar Club in London's "Tin Pan Alley", Denmark Street - a short boulevard lined with music shops.

The instructions read:

"We will be recording two shows. Please bring a change of shirt. Nothing black or stripey"

I turned up at the appointed hour to find Janice and the team already there along with fellow guests, the legendary Paul Hardcastle of "19" fame.

Plus the equally excellent Gary Christian of The Christians who I've played many times on the show.

They are both very funny and knowledgeable guys. Guided, herded and prodded by Janice we sat and talked about the albums. We veered off at tangents. We chatted about their new stuff. We told musician and showbiz stories. We in short had a whale of a time which I'm sure will translate to the screen.

The crew were professional to the last and joined in the fun, which I'm sure contributed to getting the best out of us all.

I've done a number of TV shows over the years but can't honestly say when I've had a better time.

It was just so relaxing and no one had anything to prove. Not sure when the shows are going to be broadcast. You can be sure I'll tell you though.

Tuesday 18 September 2012


How to make the delivery of furniture (a tedious job and a back breaking one at that) an exciting, thrilling and maybe romantic one.

We had a van load of furniture including a desk.

Also sundry electrical gadgets which we had just bought, plus DVDs and linen. We were off on the road to Portsmouth to catch the 10.45PM ferry.

Back in the bad old days, vans were noisy, draughty, unreliable and grimy things that were a pig to drive and ran out of puff at 50MPH. Today's vans have CD players and go faster than you think, as witnessed by the flash of a Norman speed camera the following day.

I had decided that as girls like chocolate (generalisation alert), I'd buy a bar or two for my beloved. Being a ruff tuff white van man, I had to buy Yorkies as I think this is the law of commercial driving world.

These filled a hole until we arrived at the ferry port. We were two hours early so decided we needed something to eat.

"Fish and chips" we chorused.

We've not had any for ages. There must be a chippy here surely - it was the seaside. We drove around Old Portsmouth. Big van negotiating narrow cobbled streets. Nothing until we headed for North End and a street lined with takeaways. We parked in a bus stop. Dark Lady rushed in and ordered. Haddock and chips twice. Mushy peas for her and a saveloy for me. (Delicious but never ever enquire what is in one.)

Where could we eat them in comfort and without being disturbed?

So we drove around until we found a deserted builder's yard and parked outside in the gloom.

A feast! Onto the ferry, a couple of pints and then bed to be rocked to sleep by the waves. Pretty much a perfect day frankly.

As I turned the light out a little voice in the darkness said;

"I can smell saveloy"

Monday 17 September 2012


Dark Lady and I had to take a pair of settees to France and a desk and other assorted stuff. We needed a van with a tail lift so we could more easily load and offload heavy items.

I trawled the Internet and found and ordered a big van. Then I phoned the ferry company and booked our crossing.

"How big is the van?”

"Er…no idea. Let me have a look"

"According to the website it's 2000mm"

"That sounds a bit small"

"Maybe it's cms?"

"We'll check when you arrive at the ferry port”

“The van was scheduled to be delivered on Thursday afternoon"

Wednesday morning I was awoken from my slumber.

"We've got yer van."

"You're a day early"

"We know that. It's just convenient for us to deliver it today"

"I'm nowhere near you today"

"OK. We'll just make alternative arrangements and get back to you"

That evening the Dark Lady called

"There's a huge van parked outside the house. There's a set of keys on the mat. Must be for us"

Thursday afternoon another slightly smaller van arrived with two blokes in. They loaded two sofas into my larger van.

I felt like standing on the tail lift and beating my chest. Mine was bigger than theirs!

Friday midmorning we set off for the south coast to collect the rest of the load.

We needed to be all loaded up and in Portsmouth for the 10.45pm crossing.

Plenty of time. Also being with my gorgeous wife I had to try and make the experience as enjoyable and romantic as possible. How could this be accomplished?

Thursday 13 September 2012


So today the countdown to departure started. I have about six weeks to find another flat/bedsit/studio/pied-à-terre (read small). Also I need to remove four and a half years of rubbish that I've kept as it might "be useful".

Whilst not approaching the hoarders who are pictured weeping on daytime TV shows as they try and explain away forty-seven mangles in the living room and a bath full of oats, there is a lot of stuff that I've kept and surely don't need.

I'm of a generation that heeded the notes when purchasing anything that exhorted you to "retain the packaging" in case there was a fault and the item had to go back for repair.

So, I have boxes that contained long dead microwaves and irons. Also bills for electricity from places I don't live any more. Receipts for long dead microwaves and irons that somehow don't match the boxes I've also kept.

Whilst trawling through all this rubbish and filling bin liner after bin liner, I found several rolls of adhesive tape and packs of envelopes. I am convinced there is a postal goblin that lives in my cupboard and hides the above, so whenever I need them I have to go buy some more.

I also found a sock! A single brown sock. I've never possessed a pair or even a single brown sock. Who could it belong to? The previous tenant? The evil stationery goblin?


Libido Boy. My great mate who comes to stay from time to time and we go to gigs and then hit the pub in Camden.

So I carefully washed and dried it, put it in an envelope and sealed it with sticky tape in the brief window of opportunity before the parcel goblin hid them again, trotted up to the post office and mailed it.

I then rang him.

"I've found your sock"

"Oh really? Just chuck it"


Wednesday 12 September 2012


After four and a half years. I'm on the move again.

I've rented the same flat in London ever since the show moved down from Birmingham in early 2008.

The owner wants it back so I'll have to move out. I've another month, then it's time to sling my hook.

So it was off to the estate agents.

My, how things have changed. In other words rents have gone through the roof.

First stop and I was greeted by an 17 year called Terry. Well, he was very young.

"I need to rent a flat"


"I'm Alex Lester and you can email me details at"


I visited several agents and everyone was very nice. Lots of bright, fresh faced, slightly posh girls and boys with bright smiles and firm handshakes.

However when I told them what I was after (a one bedroom flat) and what I had been paying, their response was identical.


Seems that for the last four and a half years I've been sitting pretty with a comparatively low rent in a good location.

However, times have changed and rents have shot up. So it looks like some downsizing is in order to a bedsit-


Sorry, studio. Further away from the BBC. In a cheaper area.

Being a boy from the provinces, it is difficult to get your head round weekly prices that are the equivalent to a month's rent elsewhere.

I love London. It is eyewateringly expensive though.

Fingers crossed that I can find somewhere "awesome"!

Tuesday 11 September 2012


There had been mounting excitement for weeks as the countdown to Radio 2's Festival in a Day continued.

Last year had been adjudged a success although it was a smaller event. This year's was altogether in a different league. It boasted a more starry bill with Jessie J and Sir Tom Jones as well as Emili Sande fresh from her Olympic ceremony triumphs. There was also a nod to our core demographic with a short but lively set from 79's funksters The Average White Band.

However, what the nation wanted more than anything was to see MEEEEE!

(Dear reader, I am hovering several inches off the ground as I write this dressed in my favourite Napoleon outfit)

Last year you may remember I was lower on the bill introducing Bellowhead, to the Hyde Park audience and simultaneously on Radio 2 to an audience of around 16,000 souls.

Due to a cock up I was midway through my witty and engaging spiel when Janice Long tapped me on the shoulder and whispered "You're not on. The news is on at the moment". My big moment sabotaged!

Later I found out that there was a blank space in the official programme where my picture and biographical details were supposed to be.

Furious. My people called their people.

(I sent an email)

The reply told me there had been "a problem at the proofreading stage"

In other words it hadn't been proof read!

This time no mistakes. I was invited to introduce the legendary Status Quo in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 30,000.

My picture was in the programme and it all went like clockwork.

Dark Lady was invited this year too and I also managed to get my own back on Producer Strangelove.

As you know if you listen to the show he is always at some upscale event, inevitably in the cordoned off area.

On this occasion however he was hard at work working on the Terry Wogan show and other broadcasting stuff.

We by contrast were in the swanky VIP suite with competition winners and listeners who had bid generously in the Children In Need Auction.

There was food and drink, although mindful of my job I only drank water.

The menu was very swish. Three courses containing foods that I never knew were actually food.

Pumpernickel soil anyone?

We also had an excellent view.

Around 7PM i was ushered to the side of the stage and introduced by Jo Whiley. I bounded on and did my carefully rehearsed introduction.

The band came on and the audience went wild.

It was all down to the intro natch!

Monday 10 September 2012


Dark Lady had managed to get us seats for Paralympics, track and field finals.

In truth I wasn't all that fussed. Producer Strangelove and I had - like most of the nation - been swept up by Olympic fever. The Paralympics was surely going to be an anti-climax right?

I wasn't sure as we took our seats. A lot of the press coverage and much of the Twitter and Facebook traffic had been of the slightly patronising "aren't these disabled jolly plucky. They are soo brave" nature. I hoped that I would see them purely and simply as fine athletes.

The events in the stadium ran like clockwork. The commentators were excellent and there was never a dull moment. During one of the wheelchair races - the 800m, I think - there was a terrible crash with one bloke ending up upside down and having to roll himself and his chair over and over to the side of the track. It was a Formula 1 moment and I half expected fire marshalls to appear and train hoses on him.

The capacity crowd was roaring encouragement and when Peacock beat Pistorius to take gold in the 100m I thought my eardrums would burst.

Before we entered the stadium the Dark Lady had taken issue slightly with me when I said I'd probably have to leave about 9pm - before the 100m final - as I had to get to bed.
She can read me like a book.

"You aren't that interested, are you? You never worry about leaving early if we go to a gig "

She was, of course, entirely correct. I had made a transparent excuse. However the moment the events started I was transfixed and rather ashamed.

We watched the world’s best athletes. Some were on wheels and some of them had bits missing. That was irrelevant. They were athletes. Hell bent on winning. The crowd in the main loved them all regardless of nationality.

Obviously the biggest cheers were reserved for British athletes. Yet in events where we weren't represented the winners were still cheered to the rafters.

The only sour note of the whole evening was from a Neanderthal in the row in front who refused to stand for the French national anthem.

"I just don't like 'em".

How anyone can write off an entire nation in this day and age baffles me. Countries and races are made up of individuals. If we are given to sweeping generalisations and bigotry, then I'd say his brain was obviously tiny like his penis.

On the way in to the park, the games makers, the volunteers were helpful and cheerful. When I left at 10.30 that night they were still at their posts. Still helpful and cheerful.

I was totally converted. It was a spectacular and perfect evening.

The best athletes in the world in the greatest capital in the world. With the most amazing staff and volunteers. I felt very proud to be British.

However one thought does nag at my brain. The success of the games was due to competitors and the staff.

Woe betide any politician who tries to claim they or their party was responsible for the Games success.

It was a victory for the people. We should be very proud.