Thursday 13 March 2014


After the "low level devil" of the last blog and the last couple of weeks. I hope things are getting back in even keel again.

We have had a week of terrific shows and you are really on form. Thank you.

Producer Kid Methuselah has got a spring in his step. Maybe because the weather is better or perhaps because he has walked and cycled off the huge amount of tiffin we gorged on courtesy of his local bakery.  He tells me there is a flat for sale above this establishment as he is toying with buying somewhere rather than renting. He is tempted but maybe for the wrong reasons. The smells would drive him wild and he would be unable to concentrate on playing Grand Theft Auto during his time off, if all he could think of were buns!

However he would have previous on this.  I gather that inmates of Alcatraz would go mad if the wind was in the wrong direction from the Ghirardelli chocolate works on the mainland.

 Thirty years ago I worked briefly at BBC Radio Blackburn. It was January and I had been sent there for two weeks, on loan from a central pool of broadcasting juniors. The smell here was very different. There was a bone works doing a spot of rendering just across the street.  The stench was appalling although to the seasoned members of staff they scarcely noticed it. To the tender nostrils of this 24 year old it made me gag. I would park my car in the car park, clamp a handkerchief over my face and rush into the building. Much to the amusement of the old timers.

Around midday the call would go round the station

"Pie van"!

As a small truck selling mouth-watering cooked treats would arrive. Staff members would saunter out into the stench and drizzle and order and eat on the hoof. Seemingly oblivious to the large numbers of hooves and worse being turned into glue the other side of the road.

Back to the present or at least the very recent past.

Dark Lady and I went to see the wonderful Edwina Hayes on Sunday night as she has spent the last five weeks touring with the legendary Fairport Convention.  We have a particular soft spot for Eddy as she kindly sang "Feels like Home" at our wedding two years ago reducing the assembly to mush -  and causing the Registrar to halt the proceedings whilst tissues were handed to all and sundry.

Unforgettable.  If you have not heard her version of the Randy Newman song, it’s on her excellent album ‘Pour Me a Drink’. And then get a copy of the film ‘My Sisters Keeper’ starring Cameron Diaz as her version is featured.  No matter how butch, manly, rough-tough or stoic you are... Have a hankie handy!

She was in fine voice and was much appreciated by the capacity crowd at London's Union Chapel. We were very touched when she name checked us from the stage.

As you may be aware a few years back I qualified as a Microlight pilot. However not having my own plane I have to hire one. One of the stipulations of the licence (which is commendably sensible) is that you have to fly twelve hours as ‘Captain’ or solo every two years with at least six hours being flown in the final year. In addition, an hour with a qualified instructor to ensure you are up to scratch and haven't fallen into any bad habits. If you fail to keep up your hours you lose your licence and have to be retested.

A year ago I barely scraped under the wire. So it's now into year two and because of a lot of personal stuff in 2013 I hardly flew at all. So I now checked my log book and realised that I needed 10 hours by the beginning of September.

The weather has been so awful that the runways where I normally fly at Damyns Hall in Essex have been waterlogged being grass. So I've been back to Wolverhampton a couple of times to get some hours in as there is tarmac at Halfpenny Green airport so no problems with the moisture.  It has been great to link up with my mate Steve Wilkes who runs the flying school Hadair and whilst catching up with a lot of flying friends there. It is a very sociable pastime, enjoyed by men and women from all walks of life.

So I've been flying with him a couple of times. The first trip didn't count towards my hours as he had to be sure I was competent!  I wouldn't want to bend his rather fine aircraft! The weather has been glorious and the ‘skills’ are coming back.  So I now have a mere nine hours to do before September!

When I've not flown I've decided as it seems to be (for the moment anyway) spring! It was time to get the walking shoes on s o I've completed a couple of ten mile walks. I'm sure I can do better than grabbing a Tube train to the end of the line and trudging back through grim London suburbs.  However that would require planning - something I am not brilliant at. Which may go some way to explaining why I got behind with the flying!

Friday 7 March 2014


At the start of the year I blogged that despite 2013 not being the best year of my life so far due to personal loss I was basically an optimistic person.  However the "Low Level Devil" appears to be out to test me in this regard.

If you are new to the concept of the "Low Level Devil". He is a creature who spends a few minutes every so often trying to undermine your life. Usually in small ways hoping eventually to push you to a tipping point where you become so frustrated, stressed and angry that you want to shout at nuns, box the ears of apple-cheeked kiddy winkies and steal cuttlefish bones from the bars of parakeet cages.

In the grand scheme of things it is generally a minor irritation compared to the big things in life like: Are your family and friends OK? Do you have your health? Do you have a job? Do you have a roof above your head?

However it can get a little wearing after a while.  You start to become paranoid. Everything is suspect. That twinge. Is it the start of a major illness? No reply to that work email. Are you about to be downsized and replaced by a machine?

That fridge is making an odd noise. Is it about to explode? Your best friend hasn't phoned back. Have they really hated you all these years and have been laughing at you behind your back?

Those really cool clothes that make you feel like a million dollars. Did you just hear the shop assistant snigger as you left the store?

Someone glanced away momentarily as you were talking to them. Are you that dull? So unimportant they were looking for someone else to rescue them from your clutches. Or do you have halitosis so powerful it would fell an ox at fifty paces!

Your partner has 'a headache'. Is this because your best moves just don't hit the spot? Or they have been having an affair with the milkman? Milk woman? Milkman/woman's horse for the last twenty years and shortly hoof beats in the night will tell you your suspicions were correct and the only person on your street who didn't know was you?

Not sure how far along I am this route but its been quite annoying recently.

If you've been tuned to the "Best Time of the Day Show" lately, you will have heard that a month ago my car - the Ford Mid Life Crisis - decided to pick up a nail in one of the tyres. Sadly too close the edge of the tread to be repaired so it had to be replaced – and there was plenty of tread left on it!

Imagine my annoyance/fury/incredulity when I set off for the studio last week to discover I had another puncture.  Which also was too close to the edge of the tread to be repaired forcing the purchase of another new tyre.

Shortly after that the hands free phone system decided it wasn't going to let me call anyone any longer.  Admittedly the car is seven years old so maybe I should expect things to break. Perhaps it's been hacked by the Russians or even MI5?  Nah. More like my number is flashing up and no one wants to talk to me.

The Dark Lady is a firm believer in patterns. Hence she told me not to worry as bad things happen in threes.

"I'm sure you're right" I said as I got into the remains of my car and rattled back to the rental flat. You know the one where the boiler didn't work properly and expired the moment the weather got to its coldest this winter. Prompting a replacement a shivering no hot water week later.

It's was about 9pm Sunday evening when I got back and put the key in the lock.  Door felt a little stiff as I opened it. Tried the light switch. Nothing. No power.  So using the 'assisting light' on my not very effective and reliable phone which runs out of battery unaccountably in about an hour sometimes without me even touching it. At others it will go for quite some time despite me making lengthy phone calls.  Hmmm fuses had tripped.

Switched them back on. Turned on the light and the full horror was revealed:

The place had been flooded. Water had been coursing down the walls. There were stains all over the ceiling and the curtain rail had fallen down as the plasterboard softened with moisture. The central heating was on so had contributed to a rather evil hot house at Kew Gardens ambiance.

No light in bathroom due to the fitting being full to the brim with water. When I inspected it further, two pints of foul liquid splashed all down my front.  "Naice!

Whilst I know this amount of moisture is small compared to the terrible flooding that you have endured in many part of Britain recently.  I do feel a little like the Queen Mother when Buckingham Palace was bombed during the war.

"We can look the East End in the face"!

It appeared that the person upstairs had used the handheld shower. Left it running and on the floor and had gone out!

So far the carpets have been cleaned and I've washed a load of sodden clothes.

Now I have to wait at least a fortnight until the walls are dry enough to redecorate. Somebody get me a nun!

Of the perpetrator no sign. I have banged in the door. No one has seen him....I know what they look like though:
 So where will he strike nex....!!!!

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