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 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 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.


Thursday 5 September 2013

How Bizzare!

You may have noticed I had last Friday off for a long weekend, with the estimable Tommy Sandhu sitting in.

"Off again"!
"He's hardly ever there"!
"BBC paying him too much if you ask me"!
"He has more holidays than that Wogan/Evans/Wright… combined!"

It's been arranged for some time. I had a couple of unscheduled Fridays recently due to the death of my mate Clive which I hope I'm allowed.

So it was planned that the Dark Lady and I head off to France on Wednesday evening in her car containing my stepdaughter Ella and her friend Sophia.

Following close behind would be Barry and my stepson Jamie and his friend James.


Barry is the first of the DL's husbands.

Before you think we are heading into Zsa Zsa Gabor territory er "Darlink"! I am only the second (so far).

"But isn't that rather weird?"

No not really. He is a top bloke and we get along very well.  There was a gap before I happened along so we are not in the throes of an Eastenders like love triangle.

It has provoked some odd looks and comments in the past though.

A couple of years ago Jamie clonked his head on a window sill at a mates house. So we all hurried to the hospital to find him sitting with his Dad and a bandaged head.

"Who are these people?" The consultant asked to ascertain if he was concussed.

"My Dad. My Mum and that's my stepdad".

"Who do you live with?"

"My Dad and my Mum"

"What about your stepdad"?

"He lives somewhere else"

"So your Mum and Dad live together and yet stepdad lives somewhere else."?

"I live with my Mum and then I live with my Dad"


"Why don't you live with your stepdad?"

"Cos he's always in bed and we'd wake him up"

I half expected to have a visit from Social Services after that.

Another time Barry was in hospital for an operation and we were all crowded round his bed. All four, well five if you include the patient.

"Who are all these people?" asked the bustling nurse. (Editors note. Nurses always bustle).

"My children. My ex wife. Her new husband" sighed Barry wearily.

"I know it's like a soap opera" he added.

"So we're all going to France for the weekend." I said to a mutual friend.

"ALL of you? Won't that feel a little er weird?"  What happens if you want to er you know er well you know...."

"I don't think we'll be inviting him to watch if that's what you mean!" I quipped.

"NO THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT!"  She replied sharply.

I shall return to the rest of the weekend in a future blog if I remember.

I'm not usually given to commemorate celebrity deaths either here or on the show.  I find them rather mawkish and they are usually covered far better on other programmes and in the news.  I was in local radio the day John Lennon was shot.  By the time my afternoon show started at 3pm the earlier guys had played just about every Beatles and Lennon track they could find apart from Revolution 9 and Working Class hero. The bloke on before me not being the sharpest tool played a song by Wings as his tribute.

So to the passing of Sir David Frost.  I met him once when I was a fresh faced student.  One of the other people on the course revealed he was his uncle. So we very excited to all get tickets to see an episode of his discussion programme "We British" being recorded and then a quick chat with him afterwards.  He was very nice as I recall with a very swanky blazer and an expensive cigar. His nephew Bryan also revealed that his uncle had given him his old bed. Bearing in mind his lady killing reputation, we virginal teenagers could only guess at what had gone on.  I'm sure Bryan's eyesight was poor and hair grew on the palms of his hands.

As you are aware the lovely David Jacobs died this week.  There have been fulsome tributes in the press and on the radio.  I only knew him personally through Radio 2. He was not only a brilliant and unique broadcaster. Of which there are so few instantly recognisable personalities now if you tune around the dial. He was also such a nice man.

He had a wonderful store of filthy jokes, made all the more delicious by his unique voice and delivery. He was also terribly kind to youngsters like me… as I was then!

"Alex. Give me your hand" he would say when I saw him which he would grasp warmly.

"You know when you stand in for people. I don't miss them". He once said to me.  He may have just been being kind.  However I cherish those words.

"What's your favourite musical?" he once asked the assembled company in the BBC club bar one day (it's funded by subscription not the licence fee incidentally). He was like a very well dressed walking encyclopaedia.

"Guys and Dolls, Mack and Mabel, South Pacific" came the various replies.  He nodded sagely and would deliver a little or unknown fact about the various productions, discussing the various merits of the casting and the score.

"What about you Alex"?

"Well frankly David I don't know a lot about musicals".

"Well if you listened to my "f@&£()@/:;-ng" programme you would!"

He will be missed by all his many fans and colleagues. As well as his close friends and family. We shall never hear his like again. An era has passed.

I have a guilty secret: Once when I was sitting in for Ken Bruce he popped into the studio with a piece of paper.

"Friends of ours are celebrating their ruby wedding anniversary. Could you give them a mention"?

"Of course! With the greatest of pleasure."

When the show finished and I was clearing up.  I found the dedication. I had forgotten to do it!

David I hope you forgive me.