Tuesday 17 December 2013


Having outlined in a previous blog the angst, effort, strain and general appalling hardship of clearing my garage.... I've suffered a little setback.

It took ages and two strong men to remove a selection of unwanted items and general accretions of rubbish to make my garage fit for my car once more.  The Dark Lady was suitably impressed and had not been pushing for me to clear realising that all this junk was to her husband "heirlooms in the making".  Also cannily and kindly realising that many of these items of immense personal value predated her by thirty years.

This "junk" was in my genes. It could only be separated from its owner when the owner realised that it needed to be given the old heave-ho.

So suddenly one day without prompting (I think)  I realised this and decided a big clear out was necessary.

Having waved goodbye to my most treasured rubbish I delightedly and somewhat belatedly realised that I was free! There was hardly anything left in there.

As you know if you've been following the blog and by some of the comments I've made on the show. 2013 hasn't been the best year from a personal point of view. Losing my Sister in Law and my best friend Clive.

I've spent the last five months helping to organise his affairs. Whilst his parents had the sad task of doing most of the donkey work. I helped with clearing his house. I've known him since we were students and he was always untidy. However over the years he did start to hoard stuff. So there were printers. Computers. Fax machines. Files. Magazines. Going back years.

It is heartbreaking going through someone's personal belongings and trying to decide what should stay and what should go.

Would his parents want his school books?

Who would want his wonderfully accurate caricatures of our college lecturers from 1975?

I struggled with this for a long time and took car loads of redundant technology to be recycled.

What about the remaining furniture?

A house clearance man offered us £100 for it.

"Not the piano"


"There's no market for pianos. They are very heavy and take up too much room. Look at the Internet. It's full of people wanting to get rid of them.

"Do you want to take it away"? I asked.

"£100!" he replied

Hmmmm it needed work. Had not been played in fifteen years and some mice had been nesting in it. So no charity wanted it either.

Then the solicitor got in touch to inform me that the house had to be cleared as the new owners wanted to take over.

There was still a lot of stuff left that needed sorting. What to do? Time was awastin'.


A solution!

My garage is now filled with more stuff than I had before......and a piano!

On a happier note we've had family fun. My step-daughter Ella appeared in a school production of "Hairspray" she has a terrific singing voice so was one of the three backing singers. Although as she didn't have a speaking role one of her friends suggested it was the equivalent of playing a tree. We all went to the show and it was absolutely tremendous. The principles were spectacular and apart from the odd fluffed line it would have put many adult am dram shows to shame.

To see her bubbling with excitement after the show was a delight to witness.

For the first time since I moved in in 1999, my house has seen a Christmas tree. The Dark Lady loves the festive season so I have given her carte blanche to do what she likes.  Normally I've just put up the cards and forgotten about it.  Not this time. We have a tree. We have fairy lights. We have a wreath on the front door. I will freely admit the house is much improved as a result . Although the wreath thing....Well that  nearly ended in a tiff:

It was to be fixed with a ribbon attached to the top of the door.

"Have you got any drawing pins?" she trilled prettily as we were out shopping for gew gaws.


"Are you sure"?


"We don't want to have to go back out again if you haven't".

"We'll be fine"

"You absolutely sure you have the drawing pins"?


"No need to shout."

When we returned home. The DL set to sorting out the ribbon and the wreath. I went to fetch the drawing pins.

There then ensued several minutes of frantic searching.

Followed by even more minutes of frantic searching.

Followed by hoots of derisive laughter by a certain wife type person.

At last I found one rusty and generally bent drawing pin at the bottom of a vase.

The wreath is now on the door. Calm has been restored and I just need to put everything back in its proper place again as the house is now as untidy as my garage.

This will be last blog of 2013. So may I take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Christmas and all the very best for 2014. I hope it will be a happy and healthy one for us all.

Thursday 5 December 2013


And on the seventh day he rested. So we were told in Bible class.  Back then as a small child I wondered what God was up to on that first Sunday. Was he, (or let's face it possibly she? I'm not wedded to God being a bloke), a bit bored? 

As presumably there was just rolling countryside. Gambolling animals including a rather pesky serpent and Adam and Eve hanging about. There just weren't enough folk around to go and visit. Not enough 'hood' to hang in.

Nor were there enough to make up a football team. Although by then with a rather sparse population of, err, two. If they were going to do some sport it would have had to have been strictly amateur as there wouldn't have been enough population  for spectators. Let alone referees. linesmen. Commentators. Pundits and 'Gaffers'.

In fact Gaffers may have vexed God a little as these red faced chaps in sheepskin coats sitting on the sidelines furiously chewing gum, spitting, gesticulating and yelling oaths probably thought they were gods. So it would have been silly to invent competition so early after creation.

This is why I think he/she - for want of something better to do - decided to create something which would give his flock something to do. Something that would keep us occupied. Also something he/she would gain endless pleasure from watching us battle it.

To this end God created....STUFF!

Stuff is the all encompassing term to describe what fills our homes. Sheds. Cars. Pockets and by default heads.  It is rarely useful. Takes up a lot of room. Costs a lot of money initially although it suffers catastrophic depreciation and is generally a menace as well as an addiction.

It needs to be tackled. It needs to be kept in check and it is doubtless an instrument of the devil!

I had a week off the other week and decided the time was ripe for "de cluttering".  This is a posh marketing term for throwing stuff away. Which is brought to you by the same people pretty much who want to sell you more stuff that you will eventually have to throw away as well. The cycle continues indefinitely. It is a visible form of perpetual motion.

Stuff comes in a variety of categories:

'Broken Stuff'.

However it could come in useful for spare parts if other similar stuff breaks.

'Old Stuff.'

Not broken but may be useful one day although we know in our heart of hearts this is untrue.

'Obsolete Stuff.'

State of the art when new. By the time you got it home from the shop the then perpetual cycle of stuff had rendered it worthless and hopelessly old fashioned. So much so. No one would be seen dead with it in the continual battle that is keeping up with the Jones's stuff.

'Older Stuff.'

Stuff we think may be valuable one day although we know from the Antiques Roadshow this is a lie. We get more than a little glee from watching dejected people shuffle away having been told their prized Victorian wotnot was only worth pence as it was a poor and damaged example of stuff that everyone had back in the day. Which back then would have fitted into one of the first two groups I've outlined anyway.

'Sentimental Stuff.'

This is the worst category as it is very often rubbish to start with. Your children's hand prints as infants. Their terrible "drorings" of Mummy and Daddy that were stuck with such pride to the family fridge.....hang on you didn't chuck the old fridge for the new big American two door model did you? That was the kids first fridge. You should have kept it for sentimental reasons!

Concert tickets. Birthday and Xmas cards. Menus from long forgotten meals. Bits of ribbon from weddings. A lock of hair....from you....no you....no it was Jessica the first born....or was it Jemima?  No it was from Barney the family Labrador. He's been in dog heaven twenty years now. Still we have his paw print and his old collar still. 

Pernicious isn't it?

To this end and to try and break the cycle. During my week off I was going to get rid of masses of stuff in my garage. Not sure at what point God decided to create the garage but it has little to do with the invention of the internal combustion engine. Garages were built as a receptacle for our ever growing piles of stuff. The car just had to sit outside and stare at the bulging doors. Knowing it was unlikely to get a sniff of the inside.

So I set to clearing my stuff mountain.  Most. If not all ticking the above boxes:

A burnt out vacuum cleaner from the late 1950's.  That could be worth something one day.


Vacuum cleaners were an everyday household item by then. Pristine and unused maybe. Charred and rusty. It's landfill.

Televisions. Some working. Others not. Six in total including a 12" black and white portable from the mid 80's. Also a flat screen TV. The downside being it was attached to a huge box that vibrated alarmingly of the volume was ever turned up beyond a whisper.  Probably worthy few quid second hand.


There are thousands of them out there. The stuff cycle is ensuring that everyone is doing exactly the same as me and upgrading to a bigger screen in a thinner box.

Boxes and boxes of books. Mostly paperbacks. Well a few pence at a second hand bookstore or failing that a charity shop would welcome them I would have thought.


Books about tranquilliser use in the 1980s. The 1977 Good Beer Guide and The National Trust Property guide 1992 are no use to anyone but the author. "Fly fishing" by J.R Hartley at least had a comic purpose.  "Teach Yourself Word" - again having limited use unless you still happen to have an old Amstrad word processor knocking around. Er actually I do. See sentimental above. I wrote many of my early scripts and features on that machine.  I got rid of loads. However I doubt I've broken the cycle.

 So to the final ignominy in the relentless stuff wheel. You buy it. Use it. Discard it. Store it. Then when you have enough of it. You have to pay a man with a van to cart it away.  It's will the be recycled somehow and turned into new stuff that you will buy etc.  Live long enough and some bits of the stuff could have visited your place several times on one form or another by the time your done!

Your car parked sadly outside could once have been Auntie Gertie's  mangle.

"If only we'd kept that old washing aid....it would be worth a fortune......"

STOP IT.........NOW!

Sunday 17 November 2013


When I started in this industry back in 1977..... This feels like only yesterday incidentally. Probably as my father marrying my Mum back in 1951 feels to him. Although my photographs are in colour and his are black and white.

This passage of time is interesting to me as many of the people I worked with at the start of my career were from a romantic and nostalgic period in broadcasting. People who had been part of the BBC's Western Region. Or the Home, the Light and the Third.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs I even met Marconi's widow. Without him there would have been no radio....although where we are now I dare say someone else would have had to have invented it at some point.

So what is the point I am trying to make?  Am I going down the dinosaur route to rail against modern radio?

Just as elderly comedians who are no longer 'box office' gripe about the new generation of comics: How many times have you heard a slightly bitter old stand up interviewed. The sort who tells us:

"We didn't need to use bad language like they do now. We told jokes that the whole family could enjoy"!

Hmmmm you are forgetting that things move on and some of those good old gags from my 60's and 70's youth involved a lot more pernicious stuff than a few rude words.

"Irishman goes into a pub and.....my mate Chalky......Bengal Lancers"!

Oops... as usual diverting onto a soapbox there.

So how have things changed over the years? Obviously the technology.

I played vinyl and the occasional 78rpm disc when I was a boy broadcaster.  Then along came CDs.  This was a huge leap as for the first time you couldn't see which tracks you were playing. Oddly this was harder to grasp than the move from CD to the current incarnation: The computer hard drive.

Maybe it's a side effect if age but things are now moving a lot faster.

Shortly after the hard drive came the studio web cam. Then the email. Then the Twitter and Facebook. All have made interaction with you so much more instant and simple. It has changed the way the programme works. In the old days you'd throw a few ideas out and wait a couple of days and see what the post brought in. Now with the Internet you responses are waiting for us when we arrive in the morning.

So what is next?  Well pictures on the radio.  We started with a few snaps for the website. These became more sophisticated in terms of their execution rather than their subject matter. Now we're moving forward to video. Check out my page on the Radio 2 website for examples!

Since new producer Kid Methuselah has happened on the scene we've been planning our assault on the world not only by the daily stupidity that is the Best Time of the Day Show but also how we can add extra fun to the mix.

As 'The Kid' is from the commercial radio world, he would term it 'adding value to the brand'. And with tongue firmly in cheek - citing some of the nonsense he's heard senior management types utter over the years - "benchmark items we can cascade to the listener through regular idea showers".

It is going to take some time but we hope to wean him off such terrible jargon!

So we are now making our own films. So far I've danced to your own choreography. I've accidentally slaughtered Janice Long and Sara Cox as "Daft Vader" and in the latest video, I'm taking on the role of a sort of hairy Superman!

We are having a lot of fun making them and we see them as an add-on to the radio show. Expect it to develop as time goes on. How far will it go? I've no idea but if it helps to close the gap between the media pash on all things 'TeeVee' and us plodders on the Senior Service; the wireless. That to me can only be a good thing.

In the words of Kid Methuselah: "Lets pop it in their mental microwave and see if it goes ping"!

Thursday 7 November 2013


It's just been that time of the year.  The time of the year that until recently we didn't bother about. Now thanks to our special relationship with our American cousins. It has nearly eclipsed our traditional day at this time.

Not sure when it started to seep into the British consciousness but it has.

As a kid, there was the one special event after summer and before Christmas; Guy Fawkes Night.

We looked forward to it and planned for it. We saved for sparklers and those matches that glowed green or red when lit.  We weren't allowed to buy fireworks although we tried.  Some older kids succeeded and often blew themselves up.

When I first started in local radio amid the record requests. Chemists rotas and lost pets there was the annual visit from the local fire chief to warn us of the dangers of fireworks.  Do they still do that?

Children would hijack the family pushchair and wheel around a baggy shapeless selection of old clothing stuffed with newspaper with a cheap mask or maybe even some paper mâché creation to make a head. Then they would drag this thing round the streets trying to elicit donations.

"Penny for the guy mister"

Last time this question was posed must have been about 20 years ago coming out of a pub in Hastings Old Town.

"He's drunk"

"No I'm not" I said indignantly!

"Not you. Him." They said pointing to a bag of rags on the pavement which I can only assume was meant to resemble a guy.  Obviously  creativity was beginning to suffer at this point so the energy had gone from the event.

So at some point Halloween struck.  Perhaps like St Patricks Day which seems to be a marketing exercise for Guinness. It would appear Halloween makes bigger bucks. What with all the ghoulish clothing and the pumpkins.

In fact I was dispatched by the Dark Lady to go get a pumpkin so my Step daughter Ella could fashion something eek worthy for the fright night.

About this time the call came through.  Would I like to present an edition of Friday Night is Music Night?  Would I?!

This is a piece of broadcasting legend and history. Who could turn down the offer of standing in front of a packed theatre audience. With an 80 piece orchestra ready to go?

So given the notes and the list of tunes I set to to write the script.

Often the show is live. On this occasion it was recorded as live the evening before. However still at the same time.

We made a special video to mark the event:


It was decided by Bridget Apps the Producer that I would do the call and response for "Ghostbusters".  During the rehearsal it became apparent that I just had no sense of rhythm. A tin ear and despite having heard the song a zillion times. I couldn't figure out which bit was mine!

"Who ya gonna bust......er who's callin yer.......um who you gonna callbust"?

So Robert Zeigler the conductor kindly agreed to poke his baton on my direction. When a ghostly ejaculation was called for.

Being all ham. I decided that a costume was necessary so rushed to the pound shop and bought a cape. Fangs. Fake blood and white pancake makeup.

A listener had kindly given me another cape so I was able to change during the interval as well as applying liberal amounts of fake gore.

Not sure about the audience but I has the best time. Although I did have to remove the fangs as they made my speech so muffled I wasn't able to be understood.

I like to think that it went pretty well. There were a couple of retakes. Only one was my fault and that was because I had forgotten to introduce myself.

It was a rip snorter of a show however I think Halloween has the upper hand. I also have a sneaking suspicion that in a generation or less Guy Fawkes Night will be all but forgotten sadly.

Caroline - an American listener - emailed and asked:

"When you gonna give up on this Guy guy? It's years ago. Get over it".

I replied with my usual British reserve and dignity:

"When you stop celebrating Thanksgiving and Independence Day."!

Friday 25 October 2013


The blog is a sort of diary. So it is really a day to day record of what I have been up to.

Reading it back it does give lie to the view that its a glamorous existence!

Rather than partying with the A-listers the Dark Lady and I do lead a fairly quiet normal. Some would say boring existence.

Last weekend we went out to the local Chinese to celebrate Barry's birthday.  He's the DL's former husband and the Father of the Dark Stepchildren.

As I've  written before in the blog. We get on well.  Maybe it would make for a better story if we were at loggerheads. I could be the Peter Andre to the DL's Katie Price?

However no such luck for my washboard abs. Better news for me is that the DL is way better looking.

Mid way through the meal with the five of us I realised there were six at the table.

My mate V for Victory was beaming at us from a certificate on the wall.

Meal over. The DL and I set out for Hastings. That time on a Friday and normally it's not too long a trip.  We wuz wrong!

Weekend night time road works had closed the A21 in a couple of places.  So we wound slowly through the scenic back roads of Kent and Sussex . Sadly unable to enjoy the views as it was dark. Very dark.

By the time we'd woken and pottered about a bit. That was pretty much the weekend done.

Although we did have an extra guest with us on this occasion: Tia.

She belongs to the "Mother in law" (pronounced as on the show in a constipated Bernard Manning type voice).  Sadly Pat has had to go into a nursing home and they don't allow pets.

So thereby hangs a problem.  We can't keep her. We've asked family and friends if they wanted a sweet little albeit elderly dog. Ideal for a housebound or generally inactive person.

The answer universally has been no.

I've been dog sitting whilst the DL is at work.  This actually means trying and failing to keep her off the furniture and taking her outside for a drain and a strain!

I can't do it all the time and we don't want her to be left for long periods on her own. She has had a life of being doted on. So we have been checking out possible rehoming organisations.  We are adamant that she won't go to a place  that will put her down if no new owner is found.

Wish us luck in our quest!

Meanwhile back at the show. Kid Methuselah is busy taking photographs and video ready for a number of major "incentives"

Maybe as a hangover from "Strictly". We decided that we too would get in on the act by asking you to invent a new dance. Give it a name and suggest music and I would attempt to dance it.

As I type this I have a bag behind me containing an "outfit". Nothing glittery. Just practical. As you will see.

After minimal rehearsal we shall film my clumsy terpsichorean attempts and stick them up in social media and the website for you to be amazed by (or more probably laugh at).

I've also been out to source some terrifying costumes for Halloween.  Being the "Dark Lord" as you dubbed me some years ago I'm delighted to report I'm going to be presenting a special edition of the iconic Radio 2 show "Friday Night is Music Night" renamed for one evening only.

"Friday Night is Fright Night"

Make sure you tune in at 8pm on Friday November 1st for a marvellous combination of music and screaming!

The Kid and I shall be posting terrifying images over the next week to get you in the mood.

After all this preparation it'll be the weekend again.

Life is so tough sometimes......peel me a grape!

Saturday 19 October 2013


It’s always important to keep a sense of proportion when looking at the things that don't go according to plan on our lives.

Every time I turn on the TV there are ambulance chasing adverts giving us the opportunity to sue people for miss selling medical disasters or personal injury.  I wince every time the bloke falls from his ladder. Every time the chap saws his fingers off in the lathe or the woman slips on wet floor and her handbag falls open. (I think she hurt her knee as well but my focus is always the contents of her bag. Sorry).

However there are other things that can go wrong which frankly you must have to get on with.

My late friend Clive always referred to these events which frankly aren't important as a "Hampstead Crisis".  This idea was conceived after a rather posh woman who lived in the upmarket London suburb whom he worked with arrived late and flustered in the office one day and wailed:

"It was raining so hard I had to drive to the bus stop"!

I don't know if it’s a by-product of our cosseted lifestyle but sometimes you do catch yourself in mid whine and think.

"How would this play with a starving child or a refugee"?

Lecture over.

So for first world problems now read on:

I've been driving my current car - 'The Mid-Life Crisis" - since my previous steed (clearly fed up with me as its owner) decided to set fire to itself on the M40 at Oxford Services.  Which was a shame as I had just had a whole lot of work done it. It was a Mazda RX7. It was a rocket and I loved it.

Its replacement which I bought as an ex demonstrator is now 6 years old with 50,000 miles on the clock.

However in that time I've dropped a bicycle on the driver’s side door, there’s a rust spot on the roof where it has had a stone hit it and the alloy wheels have been curbed and dinged a few times and are beginning to corrode in places. So I decided to invest a few quid in bringing it back up to "scratch" (cue drums of pun).

So off I went to Acme bodywork who did an excellent invisible mending job on the paint. Then I needed someone to do the wheels.  Who to get? Just as I was pondering this I heard the letterbox rattle.  Someone had posted a flyer "Acme wheel hospital".

Yaayaaaay!  Off I went to the location. Got an estimate and booked it in.  The car would be perfect after that I thought. After all it was mechanically perfect. At that precise moment it decided to break down!

It had gone into "limp" mode!

Calamity? Nope, Hampstead Crisis.

After calling the dealer and looking on the Internet and turning it off and letting it cool down it has worked perfectly ever since.

So back to the alloy wheel place who lent me a set while they stripped ground reprinted and balanced the originals.  They did a fantastic job.  The paint was perfect and the wheels were perfect I thought, as I pulled up outside the Dark Lady's house and promptly curbed the wheels!

Calamity? Nope, Hampstead Crisis.

The old barnet was getting a bit long. Now at my ripe old age I'm actually quite proud of my hair.  It is mine. It's not a rinse and I hope to keep it for a while longer.  I've had it long for years so I had no desire for anything radical when I turned up at Acme hairdressing and was introduced to a young man with terrible hair, a ring through his nose and a insistence on addressing me as "mate"  at the end if every sentence... “mate”!

I showed him how much I wanted off.

"Just wind it back in a few weeks and take a bit of the weight out".

He measured and off I went to have my hair washed and head massaged by a teen.

Now anyone who has or has ever had hair will tell you that if you wet it. It gets longer. So if you measure hair dry and cut it in the same place when wet. When it dries it will be a lot shorter.

Don't think this had percolated into the brain of my "dresser".

"You've cut it too short". I protested

"No it'll be fine ".

He said and then set to with his straighteners.

If you have naturally curly hair as I do. Yes if you straighten it. It will appear a little longer......for five minutes!

I slunk out of the salon vowing never to return. It will take months to grow back.

The Dark Lady took one look and got on the phone to Acme Hair. A considerable strip was torn off I can tell you.  You don't want to mess with Mrs Lester when her blood is up!

Various people have said they like the new look. They have said that the guy did a good job.

My riposte is this:

If you take your car to be re sprayed green and it comes back pink it may have been done very well, but it’s not what you ordered. The same goes for my hair.

Calamity?.......you bet. I feel violated!

OK maybe an exaggeration. It's still annoying though.

However rereading the above it is important to remember that sense of proportion. Its hair and it will grow back. Although I won't entrust it to that bloke again...mate!

There have been bright spots during the past week. I've not been staggering from crisis to crisis.

Hastings Classic Car show. Every year I get to go check out the marvellous metal and award a prize to a lucky owner.  This year I was delighted to meet Andy Garner and his excellent late 70's white mini pickup.  He's a Best Time of the Day listener and tunes in when up to his hub caps in buns as he's a baker in Sevenoaks.

Producer Kid Methuselah wasn't so impressed. I sent him a picture of a Citroen 2CV that was on display. He's a Citroen nut and spends a lot of his time haunting scrapyards and dismantling-reassembling his old Citroen CX and bright yellow Dyane.

He thought the 2CV should have won, of course.

My adorable wife the Dark Lady knows one of several ways to bolster the flagging spirits of her mercurial husband.

Chicken pie!

All is well with the first world!

Thursday 10 October 2013


The Dark Lady and I lead a fairly low key existence. Which is pretty much the way we like it. Not for us the mad showbiz whirl. In fact we could be accused of being terminally dull.

Our idea of a rip snorting time sees us going hog wild in the pub for a couple of drinks. A packet or two of salty snacks and home to some excellent DL home cooking and a DVD.

However from time to time something happens which is tremendously exciting.

I've been fortunate in my life and career to do a number of interesting things:

I can look back and think of the times I sat behind the pilots on the flight deck of commercial aircraft as they came into land at Heathrow. (That ain't about to happen any time again soon).

The time  I interviewed  Chief Concorde Test Pilot Brian Trubshaw after travelling by BA Concorde to Toulouse for a reception to mark the 20th anniversary of its first flight. Returning by Air France Concorde. (Hate to say this but I thought it had better decor)!

I've been behind the scenes at a sewage works and a nuclear power station. Been on the footplate of a steam engine. Driven a vintage steam roller.

Stood in front of 40,000 people in Hyde Park and met the widow of the man who started it all for me and my job.......Marconi!

I'm not complaining. I've been very fortunate and I know it.

So it made the Dark Lady and I giddy with excitement when we received an invitation..... to The House of Lords!

I remember going on a school trip to Westminster when I was about twelve.  I have two overriding memories of that day.

Apart from the usual nightmare trip to and from in 1950's vintage charabanc (think St Trinians) which smelt of farts, puke and stale woodbines.

Memory one: We were shown round by our local MP who pointed out that in the Commons there were small loudspeakers built into the seating so the Honourable Members wouldn't miss a word.

In the Lords the speakers also had little sockets for the slightly older and doddery inhabitants to plug their hearing aids into.

Memory two: Having Parliamentary procedure explained to us by our constituency member including voting in the Division lobby and the call to vote by the division bell.

As we were waiting outside for our coach the "Vomit Comet" to arrive, one of our number - a serious boy with huge ears as I recall  - detected an electric bell ringing.

"That must be the division bell" he opined.

"No it's the bell that summons taxis" replied our honourable member.

It was a long long journey back to school for our elephant eared swot.

Children can be so cruel!

So where had this invitation come from?

We were very honoured to be invited to a reception after the ceremony of introduction to the House of Lords for our friends Jon and Nicola.

Jon has been a political lobbyist and is a very  successful businessman as well as a leading light in the Jewish Community. Nicola is a tycoon too. Having just been headhunted by Facebook for one of their top jobs. Somehow they've also found time to have four children. Just to list all their achievements makes my head swim.

As you would expect with a power couple like this. There was a bit of a Who's Who at the reception: Lord Levy made an excellent and very funny speech

Lord Greville Janner who I last met when I got him a cup of tea when he was a guest at Radio Leicester in 1979. He didn't recognise me though. He also spoke as did Barnsley MP Michael Dugher who hosted the event.  I think I also spotted Yvette Cooper too.

Tracy Ullman was there. I didn't try an engage her in small talk. My planned opening conversational gambit I doubt would have been a winner:

"Hi Trace. I've still got the free hairbrush the record company gave me as a promotional device to plug your single Breakaway back in 1983".

Security is very tight at the Houses of Parliament it took us an hour to get in. So if a wild haired bloke brushing bagel crumbs from his beard had rushed over to one of the guests foaming about hairbrushes that were supposed to represent microphones in a thirty year old pop video. I would expect to be bumping down the steps outside before you can say "ermine"!

The Dark Lady is very good at knowing what to do and say at these events and if a gift is in order what to get.

"Jon likes whisky so let's get him a nice bottle"

"Leave it to me. I'll just pop to the supermar..."

"No this is a once in a lifetime event get him a good bottle. Not some value branded genuine "Skotch whizky made in Lithuania."

A quick search of the Internet revealed "Acme whisky" a swanky store that specialised in nothing else.

I arrived and a rather snooty man listened as I told him my budget.

"We'll for that you can get a  Speyside single malt"

"Can you gift wrap it"


"Presentation box?"


"You'd have thought for this price you'd get a nice box to put it in"

The assistant inclined his head to a bottle of Scotch in an adjacent cabinet.

No presentation box....just a bottle....no fancy label.....just the price tag: £11,990!

We met up with some other friends Hannah and Adam and I related the whisky gift story.

Rarely does anyone trump the Dark Lady's gift ideas. However on this occasion we will defer to Hannah.

"I got him a House of Lords kit.":

A pair of earplugs.

Three books of political anecdotes and quotations. One for each of the main political parties.

A silver yoyo for those long drawn out filibustering sittings.

A small bottle of Scotch. (I think it can get cold in there).

Also gob stoppers.

Now that's a very thoughtful and appropriate gift.

We had a marvellous time and felt very privileged to be there.  So to Lord and Lady Mendelsohn congratulations. You have worked very hard and you deserve this honour.

Arise Baron Mendelsohn of Finchley

Monday 30 September 2013


A few weeks ago we celebrated 26 years of my time at Radio 2 - twenty one of them on the Best Time of the Day show.

During that period a number of talented Producers have worked on the show. You may remember. Samantha who's mother knitted her a Wonder Woman outfit when she was a child.

"There was no crime in our garden", she declared at one point.

There was also Liza who was responsible for bringing the half time hooters to the show.

Andy was the first producer I worked with when the programme came back to London after 13 years in Birmingham.

We laughed a lot and had lots of stupid ideas. He's now Producer of the Chris Evans Show so was destined for stardom. I like to think due to his sterling efforts with us. Simon also worked on the show he attempted to get to grips with rugby. You even sent him the rules....to no avail. He never learned and neither did I.

 Then Dr Strangelove appeared. He is actually called Ste but after telling me about a dream he had where he was wearing nipple tassels made out of ahem...’man parts’. He just had to be renamed Dr Strangelove!

He was a creative powerhouse and the show moved forward. With notable successes such as ‘Morten Harket's Gap in the market’.  Special seasonal help from ‘Noel the Christmas Badger’ and ‘Valentines Advice from Dennis the Warthog of Love’. As well as the clarion call to the weekend "Ramp up the Camp". Then off he went to produce Sir Terry Wogan and Michael Ball.

Next up popped Jade the Unnatural - so named because she was constantly dying her hair. Her particular forte was the pictures she took for "The Clue is in the Shoe". Every morning was always a surprise and she often had manufactured special props especially for the photographs. In another life she would make a brilliant Blue Peter presenter.

Hermeet with his long shaggy black hair and Scottish accent decided it would be good to have me in fishnets one morning. He didn't last long! Anyway, he was only filling in until the next full time producer arrived. Nothing sinister - Producers I've not got on with are all buried in a shallow communal grave on Hampstead Heath!

Along the way we've met Mark Sunflower Higgins - he was tall and always cheerful. Which is a bit of a stretch for many at 1am.

Xanthe - who with a name like that could only be Madame X. Every time her name was mentioned there would be the sound of a whip cracking.  Interestingly we had a number of requests from you for pictures!

There have been others here for a day or two or a week or so for holidays and sickness. Every single one has brought something to the party. Every single one has turned down my request to do "Nazi rhyming slang" as a feature.  Maybe new producer James will let me...

James Walshe is the latest recruit.  A lot of highly qualified and talented producers applied for the job when it was advertised in "The Grocer".  They were all set the same task: To come up with ideas for the "shoe".

Most came up with good ideas. However they were ideas that would be ideal for other programmes.  James was the man who ‘got it’. He recognised the sheer stupidity of what we attempt every morning with your help.  So here he is. Just getting to grips with the hours and the systems after a lengthy career in the commercial radio sector and the BBC.

Tradition now dictates we create a persona for him. It was easy: The first time I met him I knew he had to be "Kid Methuselah". He is in his thirties but has many of the traits and thought processes of someone far older. So to us he is a youthful 969 years old like the Biblical figure.
He loves music (except Michael Buble for whatever reason). He’s a photographer, he restores old Citroens and has been - and still is - a part time motoring journalist.

He lives next to the church hall in the sleepy village of Turnbotham Round. Has had tea and cake with the vicar who has offered him the chance to ring the bells. And he can often be seen glaring from his window at the village drunk, who frequently drops by to have a wee in the churchyard hedge.

He has lots of ideas so I'm certain he will be a great addition to the Best Time of the Day Show.

So don't miss a shoe!

He's just informed me that "Nazi Rhyming Slang" is not going to happen on his watch either.

Grrrrrrr. I'll go get me shovel!

Monday 16 September 2013


Memorial bash for my best friend Clive last Saturday night. Been looking forward to it for a few weeks now. Not only because it was the commemoration of wonderful man but also it would perhaps give us a little bit of "closure" to coin a cliche concerning his untimely and sudden death at the tender age of 57.

Social media had been tweeting and face booking. Posters were up. The local paper had devoted half a page to the event.

A band had been booked and a BBQ organised at his favourite boozer, The Marina Fountain in St Leonard's on sea.

The whole event was a charity do with the proceeds going to Crohn's disease - a particularly nasty intestinal condition from which he had suffered for twenty years and had a profound impact on his life.  It being a condition of the "underpant department" we Brits are not very keen on taking about it so it can get overlooked in favour of the more fashionable unpleasant conditions.

We first went to this boozer in 1986 and had been going there occasionally since until about ten years ago when Clive started going there regularly which coincided with the new landlady Stevie took over and us falling out for a few months and not talking. Silly now to think of it.

He quickly became the life and soul of the place. Contributing a monthly newsletter of information on the bands that appear there every weekend the other community events and scurrilous gossip about the regulars.
We'd all been asked to bring photographs of him. There were dozens. Many of him in fancy dress  as the pub held many such do's over the years and he could always be relied upon to find an appropriate outfit.

However much to his credit he rarely dressed as a woman, we've mentioned this many times on the show. Someone says "partaaay" and the men immediately get the frocks out. Rarely Clive.

Two of his friends Terri and Neal even brought a carefully constructed life sized picture of him so all evening it looked like he was there just leaning against the wall drink in hand.

I managed to find six: Three of him as a 23 year old and another three from my wedding to the Dark Lady in 2011.

They were duly nailed to the bar.

As well as being well known as a comedy writer, his finest moment writing the "Real water" sketch for the Two Ronnies.

Watch the sketch by clicking here

In other circles he was also the guru of wet and messy fun!

He invented a fetish called "Sploshing", which - through his creation of magazines, videos and latterly websites, quickly spread around the world attracting thousands of enthusiastic disciples all eager to fill their knickers with custard!

It was slightly disappointing then that - despite a good turnout - very few of the Splosh fraternity
were there.  A shame as they would have met Sammy-Jane, a long time model and Splosh actress who kindly agreed to sign all sorts of related merchandise which raised over £100 by itself.

The Dark Lady busied herself  along with Stevie who rushed around collaring people who were only too happy to cough a couple of quid for a magazine a DVD or one of his books.  I even helped the fundraising by auctioning a couple of autographs and pictures!  Although this honestly wasn't a great help towards the final total but it was terrific to meet you and was a great ego boost.

The contribution we made to the evening was the commissioning of a cabinet and plaque containing a pair of his fancy dress shoes. They are going to be on display so go and see them.

The brass plate reads

"The Clive Harris (Bill Shipton) memorial stillies"

By the time the band finished their first set we'd been there some time whooping it up. So when I was called to make one of my legendary "short but cheerful" speeches. I was steaming gently.

I bounded onto the stage and addressed the increasingly baffled throng.

Can't really remember what I said however it was emotional. It was from the heart and it was probably nonsense:

This is my admittedly probably faulty recollection:

"We're here to celebrate our great friend Clive.....we met 36 years ago.....he stopped me being beat up at a Geordie thing at college by the compere....we went to the pub a lot.....he was funny....I wuvved him"!

I sensed I was losing the crowd at this point so upped the rhetoric:

"I have a dream......a dream that....."

Well it worked for Martin Luther King. Perhaps not in a pub in St Leonard's on sea though.

"I promise if elected to reduce income tax and fight for the provision of a free mangle for every household with children of school age"!

Now I was just bellowing incoherent nonsense at the slightly uncomfortable crowd. Although I did notice a couple of heads nodding. Politics is easy!

"This is not the end...nor is it the end of the beginning.....it is perhaps though the beginning of the end"!

That's it, Alex. Give em the full on statesman routine. That'll wow em.

"It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep"!

I roared before realising that I had now swapped sides and was with the baddies

Better bring the speech back to some sense of taste decency and decorum. Do the thank you's and get back to my pint and the Dark Lady who by this time was hiding behind the Stillie cabinet cringing with embarrassment....... I now go cute

"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph"

Nope this is getting embarrassing. Just thank people and leave.

"Thank you band and people who in and and you not in band and standing there. Also charity thing good thank too. Thanks munny giving thanks Clive. Bill as you know Ronnie Splosh."

This was getting worse I was now sounding like a horribly drunken Star Wars character.

I lurched off the stage.  My lovely wife then took me home and put me to bed.

The following morning I had a horrible nagging doubt in my mind....

"Did I thank Stevie"?


So for the record:

Stevie Beale who runs the Marina Fountain pub in Caves Road St Leonard's on sea. East Sussex.

Thank you to you for all your time and effort organising a fantastic evening in memory of a wonderful and hugely popular man. He is going to be missed by so many.

Due to the brilliant work by you and your staff and the generosity of the customers. Many of whom were Clive's friends  Crohn's UK is better off the tune of £1939.25!

Thank you and see you soon.