Tuesday 25 February 2014


Just back from a week off and thanks to Nicky Chapman for taking up the cudgels.  A curious expression at best. I now have the cudgels back and intend to batter you with them for a while yet.

The first part of the week was spent in my spare bedroom filling CDs. The Dark Lady being busy with her work as a tycoon. From what I can gather she is usually in top level meetings. Yelling "buy rollmops! The markets dropped out of chest freezers! I don't like your price!"

Before slamming the phone down bawling out a minion and then lighting another big fat cigar.
I'm not entirely sure how her job works although I know she is nothing like that. I have merely portrayed her for comic effect as her contemporaries and her industry press will attest.

Personally my brief excursions into the commercial world have usually involved me being fired by someone who enjoys firing people.

That is why I have never hankered after a management job.

I've been "playing the buffoon". "Buffooning". "At the buffoon" since 1977 now.
So after three days of solid CD filing. (There are a lot). I still had quite a few to go.
I then found a big bag of them in the boot of the car and I hit the wall.  I went downstairs and watched TV for a bit and went to the pub.
It was the musical equivalent of dieting. It was all going very well and then you realised you just can't face another plate of lentils. So you went and bought a pork pie.

Luckily rescue came in the beautiful shape of my wife who knows me so well. So we hopped on the ferry and went to France for three days and trudged around in the pouring rain. Eating a variety of breads and drinking a variety of bottled wine.

We practice our terrible French by walking to the local boulangerie and pointing at French sticks.

We have been going through the card and a current favourite is "Festigrain" which is more of a granary than the usual baguette. Although we have yet to ascertain the difference between "Festigrain" and "Festive" which looks pretty much the same.

We booked an outside cabin for the overnight crossing as we have countless times before. This time the noise of the engines was deafening and we had little sleep. In the morning we complained and were told with a Gallic shrug.

"Next time request a different 'cabeeen' on a different deck, further away from the engines"!

We were six decks above the engine room. So no idea now noisy it must have been for people lower down.

One thing I've earned from you on the shoe this week was that the Gallic shrug should be accompanied by the word "boff"! (Pronounced Bowf).

We will practice this next time we are over.

Now back in harness and Monday after the programme Producer Kid Methuselah and I set off to Birmingham International for the last flight in the last surviving DC-10.  We met Janice Long and our mutual friend Chris. Janice had a closer relationship with the plane than we did as she was a "Laker Lady" cabin crew back in the 70's

The flight was packed with errr "enthusiasts". There are enthusiasts for everything pretty much. From Musical Saw Players through long distance pogo stickers to transport geeks.
The moment the seat belt light went off they were up and photographing every inch of this frankly decaying relic. I like aeroplanes and fly myself. However I've never had this level of enthusiasm for anything. It seemed to me to border on mania.
They were having a lovely time. Not that we weren't I hasten to point out.

Although the nice man from the airline was obviously aware of the PR value of this as he was interviewed to within an inch of his life about the planes and his plans which included brand new aircraft and a cut price fare to New York.

Just as well as this thing was so ancient and decaying. There were rather ominous stains in the cabin. Bits of trim were hanging out and the legacy of thirty plus years. A billion in flight meals. A gazillion cigarettes....this craft still had ash trays!  As well as hundreds upon thousands of nervous stomachs impregnated the tatty 70's Draylon interior. Giving the plane a rather unusual and not to say too pleasant odour.

We flew to the Scottish Borders and the enthusiasts applauded the take off and the landing. Something which perhaps we could try in other walks of life.  Try applauding the bus driver when he stops and starts. Clap loudly when you are served the first (and probably last) pint of the night down at the boozer. Whistling and hooting your appreciation when you ask a policeman the time.

This would make for a different and more polite society I think. Although rereading the above it may actually be misconstrued. So it's more of a calculated risk.

When we got back there was more applause for the long suffering cabin crew.  They must secretly be aching to get to work on the latest state of the art plane rather than rattling around in that old whiff bucket.

Janice was being interviewed by everyone with a notebook and a microphone as the enthusiasts realised they had real living history amongst them.

The Kid and I legged it to the train clutching our certificates

We'd had a lovely time and it was a privilege to be invited onto the last ever DC-10 passenger flight.  I can add that experience to two trips on Concorde. Travelling on the footplate of a steam engine and a Diesel Multiple Unit. Driving a traction engine. Living on a canal narrow boat for ten years. Travelling on the flight deck of an airliner from Teesside Airport to Heathrow and being allowed to turn one of the engines off upon landing. Travelling on the last ever Humber Ferry. Being allowed on the bridge of a cross channel ferry (twice) and going to Paris aboard the Orient Express...........
My name is Alex Lester and I am a nerd.

Tuesday 11 February 2014


With the horrifying pictures and the reports coming out of the Somerset Levels and other waterlogged parts of the UK. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like if you are sitting at home in front of a roaring fire with a nice cup of tea and a Bourbon or two.

Across the various TV channels reporters in wellies are trudging through floodwater bringing us the grim news. Although rather irritatingly are often standing in front of it so we can't actually see the true horror. My genuine heartfelt sympathy if you are suffering terrible privations. I heard the story of a friend of the Dark Lady who's mother has just died and who's house flooded as she was ebbing away in hospital.  How cruel is that?

I know it's a particular bugbear of mine. Television can be a box crammed full of nice and often not so nice scenes. Why do people have to block the view by standing in the way?

I think we should call this the "Hello Mum" shot.

To my mind it serves no useful purpose but gets the reporter on the telly so their parents can be proud.

What other things serve no useful purpose?

(DJs aside that is. Thought I'd get that one in quick before you did.)

I seem to remember a 1977 film "Oh God"! with John Denver who somehow ends up communing with God played by George Burns. At one point when talking about how he created the Earth he's asked if he made any mistakes:

"Avocados. Made the stones too big.....and Ostriches. No use to anybody."

Hmmmm maybe you can help with this one.

Perhaps we could have categories such as:

1) Pointless

2) Useless

3) Ludicrous

4) Dumb

5) All of the above. However without them life would be somehow and unaccountably diminished.

This is not going to be exactly a scientific survey. Nor am I suggesting there should be some terrible witch hunt to track down and exterminate the culprits. Witness the examples I mentioned from the film above.  I like avocados despite spending a romantic Boxing Day in A&E when the Dark Lady managed to lacerate her finger attempting to remove one of the big stones.  Also Ostriches look funny and their feathers somehow set off hats worn by elderly women. Also providing tantalising cover for burlesque dancers.

So maybe they'd fit in category 5.

So, lets give it a go shall we?

1) Leaf Blowers. You spend ages blowing dead leaves into neat piles only for the wind to blow them away again.  Surely a rake would be better? Better still a bad a stiff broom and a pair of those gigantic plastic hands to scoop them up after.  You'd look rather silly but the job would get done.

2) Public phone boxes.  If you forget your mobile you won't remember anyone's number so you can't use them. They probably don't work anyway. They are horribly unhygienic having been used as public conveniences although in London anyway the only purpose they seem to serve is for Tourists to stand next to and be photographed and for Prostitutes to place their calling cards.

3) Sporting mascots and mascots generally.  Grown men in funny suits. This is somehow going to make you feel good about where you live. Your favourite team. Or somehow make you quit smoking?  I speak as someone who earned £3 per day as a green gorilla back in 1974. That was a long summer I can tell you. Friend told me of a guy dressed as a cigarette who was tipped up and rolled down the street by some rough boys.  Football mascots are all bonkers and as has been pointed out. If your team is called upon to observe a minutes silence before the start of a game. It is hard enough for footballers to refrain from rearranging themselves. Spitting. Chewing gum. Emptying their noses onto the pitch one nostril at a time without standing next to a 9ft blue and yellow chicken.

4) This is a category that is wide open. Every nation has its dumb folk. Be it a Neanderthal knuckle dragging attitude to others of a different colour or sexual pursuasion. Or a seeming inability to be self aware enough to realise they are a figure of fun. Reality TV is crammed with them pontificating about stuff they know nothing about. Or celebrities who feel duty bound to refer to themselves in the third person. Rap "stars" are good at this...oh and getting shot.

5) This is very simple and possibly boil down to one thing and one thing alone which fills all of the categories I've outlined:


Now over to you.