Wednesday, 23 December 2009

To Plymouth, and beyond!

I've written recently about the challenge of reminding radio management that I can do things other than reading the news. Well, I'm delighted to report a glimmer of opportunity. On Christmas Day, I'll be live across BBC Local Radio's South-West cluster of stations, broadcasting a mix of music and whatever-else-comes-our-way between 7 and 10pm.

If your Christmas Day has started to sag by 7pm, and you're in search of something that isn't festive tv, you can listen online .

This show necessitates a trip to Plymouth, which could be "interesting" given the current weather conditions! I'll be packing blankets, a shovel and a prized 1968 edition of The Blue Peter Guide to Building Your Own Igloo Using 3 Old Coat Hangers and a Blue Peter Badge. Oh yes, and some Kendal Mint Cake. And some mince pies. And soup in a flask. At least if I come face to face with the Abysmal Snowman, I'll have something to offer him by way of refreshment.

small note for Equipment anoraks: it also affords an opportunity to use one of the last survivors of the "old BBC" way of working: a desk on which the faders go up to close, down to open. Marvellous! I never thought I'd get to use one again. All I need now is to find one with quadrant faders and I'll be delirious!!

And just before we leave talk of the old Radio 2 breakfast ways behind, here's a souvenir pic of the Wake Up to Wogan team, in the studio at the end of the final show:
(LtoR) CN, Alan Boyd, Lynn Bowles, Sir Tel, Alan Dedicoat, John Marsh.

Happy Days! I don't know about you, but I'm very much focused on January 2010 as a fresh new canvas, perfectly poised to have exciting new opportunities slapped onto it.

Friday, 18 December 2009

End of Term

Well, the last day of Wake Up To Wogan is upon us. It would be fair to say that the atmosphere here in Western House is.....charged!

There aren't many truly dry eyes in the house, and I wouldn't bank on any of them staying dry all the way to 9.30

I'm about to go and join Sir Terry in the studio for our final burst of in-show badinage. And, in recognition of the many happy splutterings and utterings inspired by my Bus capers, (and Sir Terry's bemused incredulity at how how I spend my spare time) I shall be giving him a parting gift. Here's an exclusive preview....

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Radio 2 - Scoffing for Britain

There are many things I'll miss when my era of participating in Radio 2's unique breakfast show comes to an end this Friday. Not least, the wide variety of edible offerings sent in to the programme by wellwishers.

Here's a sample of today's delights: Pork Pie, Curry and Christmas Pudding. Sadly, the sausage rolls, doughnuts and mince pies moved too quickly to be photographed. But not quickly enough to escape my attention, naturally.

Changed - and leaner - times ahead, I fear!

A Big Day Ahead

I'm writing this from Radio 2 HQ, where the excitement is palpable.

The great day has arrived.

Sir Terry Wogan's last breakfast show? No, that's not til Friday.

No, this is a more pressing matter....

What you need to know is this: On Wednesday 25th November, none other than Chris Evans became trapped in the loo, when the door lock jammed. He was eventually released. (whether this is a good thing you may speculate but I couldn't possibly comment) Something of a fuss ensued and, with a turn of speed not normally associated with the contractors who look after the premises, a sign was posted on the door. Not the sign seen above, no, the first one promised a repair date of 1st December. A chap duly turned up, spent several hours dismantling the lock and muttering darkly. Then he disappeared and, some time later, the sign was changed.

Once upon a time, someone would have popped out to the ironmongery shop down the road and purchased a new lock. We live in a different world now, of course, and I reckon the Executive Action Plan looks something like this:

1) Form committee to examine history of Toilet Door Lock Incidents in the workplace.
2) Working Party to study similar incidents in other large organisations.
3) Health & Safety to conduct full risk assessment before concluding that lockable doors are inherently dangerous.
4) Various manufacturers invited to tender for the provision of new doors.
5) Cheapest tender chosen.
6) Door supplied. Wrong size.
7) Door adapted. 300% budget overshoot.
8) Original door lock refitted.
9) Chris Evans gets locked in again.
10) Repeat as required.

It's a bit like the Procurement debacles of the Ministry of Defence. Only with us, nobody dies. They just get locked in the loo.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Another day another bus

I'm heading for Cheshire this weekend, to Oulton Park racing circuit near Winsford, where I shall have the pleasure of declaring an old bus open for business.

Not just any old bus! This is one London's fine Routemasters entering a whole new phase of life as a mobile fundraising HQ for St Luke's Cheshire Hospice.

It's a great story. The Bentley Motor Company, based in Crewe, have been finding things a little quiet in these recessionary times. Rather than lose their skilled technicians, Bentley have encouraged and enabled them to put their talents to work for the benefit of the wider community. Something like 2000 man hours have been poured into restoring, refurbishing and adapting this bus.

I'm greatly looking forward to seeing what they've done with the interior. I know Bentley's famous Leatherwork is on display. I'll report further when I've seen it for myself.

Oulton Park, this Sunday morning at around 1030. Official launch of the bus AND I get to start the charity Santa Dash. Marvellous! If you're in the area, come and find us.

How The Papers Work

Thursday was enlivened by a trip to the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square (more on this auspicious location in a moment) for a grand event, the induction into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame of Sir Terry Wogan. Quite an occasion, with a packed room listening to tributes from fellow broadcasters and a barnstorming speech from Sir Tel himself before rising in a heartfelt ovation.

Amongst those saying a few words was Radio 1's breakfast star Chris Moyles. He was funny. Very good. Room in stitches. There was just one edgy moment when he made a slightly disparaging remark about Sarah Kennedy's early breakfast show. Nothing too drastic. Nothing Sarah couldn't - and didn't - take in her stride. Moyles moved on, no big fuss.

Later, over drinks in the foyer, I was talking nostalgic radio talk with Sarah, and I also mentioned how proud I think Radio 2 should be to be offering - in an era of considerable radio blandness in some other quarters on the dial - something as individual and distinctive as Sarah's show. It all got quite emotional (feel the love in the room, end of an era etc) and Sarah shed a small tear before we consoled each other with a hug.

It was at that moment that the Daily Mail reporter swooped and asked for Sarah's reaction to Chris Moyles' speech. Sarah gave a perfectly charming and poised response and all continued to be well with the world.

At least that's how I saw it... Meanwhile, in the Mail:

Chris Moyles' jibes reduce Sarah Kennedy to tears at event to celebrate Sir Terry Wogan's career ... Chris Moyles was at the centre of a bad taste row last night after he mocked Radio 2 DJ Sarah Kennedy in a foul-mouthed speech.

Ho hum. Maybe we were at a different event!

Now, where was I? Ah yes. The Millennium Hotel. An excellent establishment and purveyors of a very good lunch. Can't fault 'em. Only trouble is, I can't completely shake the memory that that was where the former Russian secret service man Alexander Litvinenko had his fatal encounter with the Polonium 210 in November 2006. In a cup of afternoon tea, the inquiry said. Clearly, it would have been insensitive of me to mention this to any of my fellow guests as the post-lunch tea and coffee pots came round. More tea, vicar?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A new role for Sir Jimmy?

This year's Oxford Street Christmas illuminations come courtesy of Disney's promotions budget, puffing their new cinematic extravaganza: A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey.

Now, nobody else seems to see it, but every time I pass by, the image on show strikes me not as Jim Carrey, but as the one, the only, goodness-gracious, as it 'appens boys & girls....Sir Jimmy Savile.

Guys, help me out here. Is it just me, imagining things again?

Or has Sir Jim taken to the rainy London skies?
And if it is him ...... what has he done with Jim Carrey?

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Arrived in Blackpool yesterday evening, for another of our periodic Radio Lads' Night Out enterprises.

Ah, Blackpool. I haven't been here since my Come Dancing days. Back then we used to spend a week or two at a time here, in February or March, because those were the times when the BBC could get the cheapest off-peak deal on the Tower Ballroom. It was always pelting with rain and blowing a gale. But that's Feb/March for you.

And November...!

The heavens well and truly opened as I pulled up outside the hotel. By 'eck it was wet.

Having put my stuff into the hotel room, I went to move the car to a suitable parking place. The local council has kindly provided a multi-storey just a couple of blocks away. With that great joined-up thinking for which UK Local Authorities are famed, they've set the tariff for overnight parking at £13 and provided ticket machines capable of ingesting only coins. No cards, no notes. Not even £2 coins, either. Do you go around with £13 in pound coins in your pocket? Just as I was pondering my options, I encountered a pair of local parking attendants. Was there, perhaps, a staffed payment desk, or a card-capable machine? "No, I'm sorry, there isn't" said the man. "But...", his face brightening considerably, "we are planning to get one in the new year.". I pointed out that, while this was undoubtedly good news, it didn't really help me tonight, now did it? He looked terribly crestfallen, but was forced to agree. Ho hum. Off to the newsagent to buy a Kit Kat and get some change.

On my way out of the car park, on one of those horrible grey dirty concrete stairwells, smelling of car park stairwell, I spotted this:

The Welcome Point door was grey, scuffed and not only locked but apparently nailed shut.

Yes, welcome indeed, to this great English tourist hotspot!

A great night had, though, with good company, fine food and scandalous gossip. It's what Friday nights should be!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Times They Are a Changing...

A month ago, in this very boutique, I wrote:

Big changes to come at Radio 2 at the turn of the year, as Sir Terry Wogan retires from his breakfast show. People keep asking me what effect this will have on my work. I wish I knew!

Well now I do know. The new incumbent will come, as new incumbents so often do, with something new and different.

So, time to fold the tent and move along. Not just yet, mind, but in mid-December. Until then, it's sausage-scoffing business as usual.

Now to work on the Small Ad:

Voice-of-Experience, with the power to surprise, seeks Radio Station with GSOH for meaningful relationship. Own hair and teeth. No embarrassing vices. Will travel (as fast as bus will allow). Likes: Playing tasty music and communing with the nice ladies and gentlemen via the miracle of wireless. Dislikes: Coconuts. Apply within. Or indeed without.

What do you think? Is it a winner?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

More local colour from Soho

Another of my favourite Soho sights.

Just around the corner from my studio, there's (allegedly) a local "House of Ill Repute". There's a senior member of staff on duty there...

...but it seems he has to make his excuses and go for a breath of air at certain busy moments. So he's often to be seen sitting in his doorway in Greek Street, surveying the scene, closely observing the passers-by.

Like Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, he establishes control by a regular patrol.

Whenever I pass, I say "Hello, brothel cat!". "Prrt?" he replies, in a determinedly unimpressed tone of voice.

Local history in Soho

Wandering the streets of London, your eyes darting between the hazard-strewn pavement and the jostling hordes of oncoming populace, it's easy to miss some of the city's fine features. That's partly why I like to arrive in Soho bright and early of a morning, when things are quiet and it's easy to stop and stare.

Within 90 seconds' walk of my office, these two wall plaques serve as a reminder of what a historically interesting and diverse area this is:
I wonder if, one day, there'll be a blue plaque with my name on...? Hmmm. I think I can guess the answer. Anyway, what would it say?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Barefaced cheek?

The all-seeing Body Scanner is upon us, it seems.

BBC News reports today:

'A human X-ray machine that produces "naked" images of passengers has started a trial at Manchester Airport. The authorities say it will speed up security checks by quickly revealing any concealed weapons or explosives. But the full body scans will also show up breast enlargements, body piercings and a clear black-and-white outline of passengers' private parts.
The airport has stressed that the images are not pornographic and will be destroyed straight away.'

Hmmm. Yes. They insist that the images will only be viewed by one person, and that it is impossible to copy or store them. I'll give it a handful of months before there's an unpleasant incident involving howls of mirth being heard emanating from behind the control room door, and even less time than that before the first "impossible" images are obtained by a newspaper. If the image appears on a computer, then it is possible to store it. If it's possible to store it, then it is possible to move it elsewhere. You just have to work out how to do it, and somebody will!

Sarah Barrett, Manchester Airport's "Head of Customer Experience" says: "This scanner completely takes away the hassle of needing to undress."

Well, I've found another way to avoid this hassle. Go By Train! I've made my three most recent trips to and from Glasgow by rail, and it really compares very well. The fastest trains get you to the centre of Glasgow in four-and-a-half hours. The plane does it inside 90 minutes, BUT factor in the other 90 mins you have to allow for check-in and the parade of holey socks and beltless trousers at security, plus the waiting time for baggage retrieval and the trip from airport to city centre and there's precious little in it.

I used to love flying. I still love the actual flight bit, but the rest of the experience is a great advert for the railways. Back in 1981 Jimmy Savile was claiming that "This is the age of the train". No, Jim, this is the age of the train!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Back to the depot

Well, the bus and I made it safely home after our Brides on a Bus adventure. All told, I drove 1647 miles in the two weeks. Undoubtedly the best shakedown our 30 year-old Leyland Titan has had in years! It blew the cobwebs away. A few other things came away too, but I was able to fix them with ingenious roadside repairs. I thought I was in trouble when a crucial nut-and-bolt assembly absented themselves from the front doors. The nut vanished, presumably onto the verge somewhere in the middle of the Cotswolds. How was I going to find a suitable spare? As luck would have it, I needed to look no further than the coach parked next to me. The friendly driver (and coach drivers in the UK are, in my experience, generally delightful chaps) grinned broadly as he opened one of the luggage lockers to reveal an enormous Spares box, brimming with nuts, bolts, washers etc. Within minutes, we were back in business.

Talking of coach matters, my eye was caught by this sign on the back of a vehicle on the M6

In my previous post, I referred to the extraordinary Nove & van Day singing double act. Now that I'm back at base I can offer photographic evidence...

A number of people have said we should go far. Very far.

So, there we are. Bus adventures over for the moment. Now it's back to the rest of my world, the studio, voice-overs and the radio broadcasting biz. Big changes to come at Radio 2 at the turn of the year, as Sir Terry Wogan retires from his breakfast show. People keep asking me what effect this will have on my work. I wish I knew! Right now, the search is on for a radio manager who remembers that I can do more than read the news. And when I find one, I hope we'll make sweet music together.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Who were you with in the Bus Lane?

As previously observed, doesn't life throw some amusing twists sometimes?

The Brides on a Bus show is being presented by David van Day, he of Dollar fame in the 70s and 80s and, more recently, ITV's I'm A Celebrity.

Passing some time on a long drive yesterday, David and I launched into an impromptu singalong at the front of the bus. The old Tommy Steele hit Flash Bang Wallop What A Picture was surprisingly fresh in both our minds, and we sang it with great gusto.

It did make me smile. When I was a young DJ, playing Dollar songs on the radio, many moons ago, little could I have suspected that the next time I'd encounter David van Day would be at the front of a bus, with him dressed as my Clippie, me driving and the pair of us singing.

Happy daze!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

On the road again, again

Just a quick update to say that we've made our way across the Severn to Cardiff (where the Brides on the Bus played a Touch Rugby tournament), and then onwards in a slow, steady, uphill haul, to the high ground of the Brecon Beacons. We're in the village of Bwlch (yes, that's how you spell it. Pron: Bull (as in the male cow) Ch (as in "loch"), with a stunning view of the leafy valleys below.

Tomorrow, we aim for the Cotswolds town of Burford, Oxfordshire. More news to come, as the mystery tour continues...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Road Trip continues

Here we are in Cheddar Gorge. And just to prove the old theory that you wait ages for a London bus and then two turn up at once .... no sooner had I arrived here than another Leyland Titan appeared. It's a local resident nowadays, doing tours around the hills. So my T23 and Cheddar's T860 have renewed their acquaintance, heaven knows how many years after they left London service.

Monday went very well, until we had an unfortunate breakdown on the way to our overnight hotel. Total loss of gears, right in the middle of a major roundabout in Devon. Not good! The Brides and the crew had to be offloaded onto a coach, and I stayed with the bus, the Highways Agency and Devon & Cornwall Police until recovery could be arranged. Both the HA and the Police were very good humoured and supportive, which was a great help in a stressful situation.

Bizarre coincidence: Talking to one of the Highways Agency team, the subject of our hotel for the night arose. I told him it was the historic Boringdon Hall in Plympton. He laughed and said (think broad Devonian accent) "Ahhh, don't let them put you in room 11 .... ahaaaarr!". "Er why?" said I. "They say it's haaauunted!". Turned out that, before going on the Highways, this man had been a night shift manager there and had seen many a scared guest. Great hotel (and no I wasn't in Room 11!). Apparently Henry VIII stayed there. I'm not surprised. I couldn't find the exit either.

Bizarre apparition: Picture the scene. Bus stranded mid roundabout. It's a huge roundabout, in the middle of nowhere, no buildings, no nothing, with a central island about the size of a football field. The scene is lit up by Highways Agency floodlamps, flashing amber beacons, there are cones, blue and red strobes on the police car, it's like a film set. I'm standing in the middle of it all, discussing tactics with the police, when a man appears. Nobody sees him approaching - he's just, suddenly, there. It's a chilly night, but he's wearing an oily string vest and comedy baggy trousers. He looks exactly like the binman that Geoffrey Hughes used to play in Coronation Street. He walks up to the cops and says "Excuse me. Could I have a word with you?" They look slightly apprehensive. Turns out he has a fairly technical enquiry about the legality of transporting a particular type of hazardous waste in his vehicle. One of the policemen spent half an hour or so obtaining the info he needed by radio. Then, as quickly as he arrived, he'd gone. There were 5 of us standing there, and not one of us had seen him arrive. Nobody was quite sure which way he went when he left, either. Weird!

The broken down bus was recovered to Launceston, where I rejoined it in the morning to do some fault finding. With my trusty test meter, and some invaluable advice on the phone from one of our chums who used to be a London Transport electrician, working on these buses, I traced the fault. It was a humble broken wire, in the circuit controlling the alternator. Without it, the alternator could not charge the batteries, and without charge the batteries reach a point where they can no longer operate the gearbox....hence loss of gears. Wire fixed, bus back on the road!

My party had carried on without me, using a hired coach. I made it to the hotel in Devon while they were still out filming, so there was a big cheer when they arrived at the hotel to find the Titan already ensconced in the car park, with me lounging against it in a "what kept you?" pose.

Off to Frome in Somerset tonight. Some nice local Cider, perchance....?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Road Trip

I wear a number of hats, in this confusing lark we call life.

And the hat this week (and next) is my Bus Driving one. Regular readers will know that I am one of the chaps behind a small, but beautifully formed, bus company. We operate a little fleet of Routemasters (the famous London double-decker) doing transport for parties and weddings in and around London.

Around London. So, why is it that I am currently guiding one of our buses round the far South West of England?

It's like this. We were approached by Wedding TV, (Sky channel 266) looking for a bus for their pioneering new game show Brides on a Bus. It sounded like fun, and I fancied an adventure, so ... what better excuse do you need?

Here's the bus, snapped this morning in Penzance. Not a Routemaster, the keen-eyed observer may spot. This is the only non-Routemaster of our fleet. Also the young upstart of the band. The RMs are 40 years old, whereas this fine example of the Leyland Titan range, turned 30 this year. We're using this for the job because it's a little faster and quieter than the Routemasters, and it has doors, making it a little cosier if the weather decides to turn wintry.

There's a long journey ahead, starting at Land's End tomorrow, and winding up in Gretna Green, just over the Scottish border, on 1st October. Will we make it? Watch this space!

Coming over the brow of the last big hill before Penzance was a lovely experience today. The sun was beating down on the bay, and the English coast was looking very good. I swear I felt a little surge of excitement from my red steed, as she glimpsed the seaside. It's a long way for a London bus to come. I hope she packed her bucket and spade.

And me? Well, cruising the highways at a top speed of 45mph affords time for thought, and sightseeing. I was held up in a queue of traffic passing Stonehenge. I thought it was being caused by people slowing down to look at the stones, but then realised that, in fact, they were slowing down to gawp at a field on the other side of the road, a couple of hundred yards along, full of pigs, lounging in big muddy pools. They looked blissfully happy, their top halves warmed by the sun, their nethers cooled by the water and mud. Happy as a pig in ... er...mud.

Managed to confuse a waiter in a roadside dining emporium somewhere near Exeter, by ordering Vegetable Soup, followed by Roast Chicken. "Do you want the soup as a starter?" he asked. I spent much of the following hour or two pondering what else he thought I might have wanted to do with it. A bodyscrub? A footbath?

More reports to follow as this strange saga unfolds. Tomorrow, the Brides board the bus. Wish me luck!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Where I've been going wrong

The Evening Standard reports:
Lady GaGa shocked the audience at the the MTV Video Music Awards 2009 in New York with a live performance which culminated in her pretending to stab herself while playing the piano

Now I know where I've been going wrong all these years. My broadcasting career has been held back by a lack of this sort of thing. Not enough bloodshed. Insufficient immolation. Failed flagellation. An apparent absence of asphyxia.


Tomorrow's 0800 News bulletin on Radio 2 will, simultaneously, plunge new depths and ascend to new heights of danger. I shall deliver the news in my usual unruffled style, whilst juggling burning batons and throwing knives at my knees. That'll do it. No more safe broadcasting for me!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Signs again

The world of itillerate signs makes another audacious grab for my attention.

I know, I know: the fact that you can't spell doesn't make you a bad person! Surely, though, if you're commissioning expensive graphics, you'd get someone to check?
Or maybe there was just nobody, er, avaliable?

Perhaps here the only available person was unavoidably detained on the Mezza....what?

That's enough dodgy signs for today, says my Nurse. Time for my medication.

But just time before I close to show you the entrance to an emporium in Hull. After scoffing in a cafe, I headed for the toilet. The signposted route led me past an array of freezers, interrupted only by this portal .....

Tempting, but not quite tempting enough!!

And finally, top marks for honesty to the owners of this place in Glasgow:

You can't say fairer than that!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Newsreading Cake

The Daily Mail reports Sir Terry Wogan slams 'self-important' newsreaders whose job is a 'piece of cake'

Needless to say, I'm far too cool to give the proverbial stuff about what anyone thinks, so I waited all of two nano-seconds before lunging for a copy of the rag to check if I was on the list.

And .... relax....
'Get your good suit and tie on, and a quick dab in make-up. Make yourself comfy and here comes the Six O'Clock News, all written nicely and clearly before your eyes.' continues Sir Tel.
'Read it clearly and distinctly, ask the reporter the questions you have written down in front of you and there!'

Phew! He's having a go at the TV newsreaders. That's a relief. On radio, we have a much tougher time of it. No make-up, for a start!

Wogan's swipe is, of course, a deftly timed release from his forthcoming book.

Is TV newsreading really that easy? Actually, I don't think it is. Is it watchable?, not really, most of the time, not in my house. I find I can only tolerate a few moments of TV News before the mechanics of it start to drive me nuts.

  • The gratuitous hand-waving (some Consultant told them it was a good idea..!)
  • the fact that Fiona Bruce always does a sweeping movement with her script-holding hand during the second sentence of the opening to the BBC 10 o'clock bulletin
  • and why do they stand up for the first link and then sit down? Is it supposed to convey the impression that life in the newsroom is so frantic that they haven't managed to make it to the chair in time?
  • the little shake of the head when we're supposed to emote (leave it to me to decide whether I'm upset, will you?)
  • the gratuitous live tops and tails, where the reporter stands outside a closed and locked building, in which nothing has occurred for hours, in order to deliver a 10 second intro to the VT package he's prepared earlier AND THEN has to be interviewed by the newsreader at the end of the package, to reiterate what was in the package or confirm that there's nothing more to add. "So, John, what more can you tell us?". "Nothing, otherwise I'd have told you in the piece you've just run, wouldn't I? Now sod off and let me go to the pub!"
  • the ghastly spectacle of journos trying to do ad lib banter
  • gratuitous insertion of names: "our correspondent Bert Bloggs is there. Bert." "Michael. The incident happened ...."

  • and that staple of Rolling News channels: "well of course it's too early to speculate as to the cause of this disaster, but joining me now is Sid Snodgrass, a Professor of Speculation at Bridlington University's Centre for Speculative Studies. Professor, just what might have been the cause of this disaster?"

I could go on, but I think you get my drift....

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, here's a clip of a TV Newsreader in trying circumstances, complete with the gallery talkback, some or all of which will have been blasting into the newsreader's ear as she ploughed bravely on.

And back in the land of Radio, here's a gratuitous pic
(photo by Barry Norman, (c) The Sunday Post)
of me and Sir Tel discussing the merits of some finely turned prose
Or perhaps (more likely?) we're discussing a piece of cake...!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

It's hip to be square. Isn't it ... ?

When will I learn?

Making conversation in the car the other day, with my "verbally economical" younger son, I sought to display my knowledge of Young People's Music. He's off to the Reading Festival soon.

Me: "So, who'll you be seeing at Reading?"
Him: "(Grunt)....lots of bands.....(mutter)"
Me: "Like who?"
Him: "(sigh) you'd have heard of...(grunt)"
Me: "Try me! What about You Me At Six?"
Him: "Yeah...(mumble)"
Me (emboldened by early success): "What about that other lot you like, you know, Beat 123?"
Him (incredulous look, shakes head, speaks r e a l l y s l o w l y for the hard-of-thinking) : " I think you mean BLINK 182 ?"
Me: " Ah. Yes....that'll be the one."

Ho hum. Another cruel blow. Second of the day. The morning had already struck me down when, in conversation with my hairdresser (a pretty, 20-something Kiwi who's about to go travelling) we got on to the hazards of hitchhiking. "It's ok if it's someone like you, y'know, an older man.....".

HELP! I'm not ready for the Pipe & Slippers phase. I hate slippers. There must be someone, somewhere, to whom I still appear at least slightly cool. Surely? Please...?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

There's been a murrrder....!

Riffling through some old paperwork the other day, I renewed my acquaintance with a treasured cutting from the Glasgow Herald, published in 1993. It made me guffaw then, and it still works its magic all these years on. Here's the deal:

Central Scotland Police were called in to investigate a campaign of hoax letters, sent to people in Glasgow and Edinburgh and purporting to offer the recipients the opportunity to appear, as a corpse, in the splendid tv crime drama Taggart.

The production company, Scottish Television, was inundated with complaints from outraged people who'd been told that they were considered ideal candidates in the producers' quest for "someone with a natural, sad, haggard expression, deformed torso, misshapen legs and a large bottom". The letter went on to explain that the person would play the part of a murder victim, and be seen for around five seconds, "naked, face-up and in a contorted position on Glasgow Green".

What a job description! Why do I find this so funny? I don't know, but it has brought me tears of joy over the years.

Never mind the outraged complainants, I wonder how many actually applied for the role?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

To Hull and back...

Just back from a trip to Hull, the latest venue for the event often disparagingly termed "Radio Nerd Night". It's always a fun evening, as an assortment of folks from the radio biz get together to scoff and quaff, exchange outrageous gossip and lapse into dark mutterings about the shortcomings of various items of modern broadcasting apparatus.

Hull was curiously quiet, last night. Very strange. It was almost as if there'd been some sort of emergency evacuation of the town, but we'd somehow missed the announcement. Surely word of our impending arrival isn't so drastic as to cause the locals to leave in droves?

By the end of the evening, some of the population had returned. I know this because we encountered two fine representatives in the street shortly after midnight. As we meandered in the general direction of our hotel, along a pleasant cobbled street, two girls clad in the attire of "lasses out on the lash on a summer's eve" (ie not much!) came wobbling towards us.

One tripped on the cobbles and tumbled both sideways and headlong - a good trick if you can do it - into the arms of her friend (sideways) and the lead members of our party (headlong). There was much squealing and guffawing. I decided to contribute some of my most calming words to the incident: "It's alright, we're doctors." From the shadows, into which the tumbling girlie had now stumbled, burst the squawked reply, in broad Yorkshire tones, delicately matured in fags and booze: "Doctors, my f*cking arse!".
"Well, that's not actually my specialism..." I ventured, before deciding on a tactical withdrawal, lest my medical qualifications be put to the test.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Too hot, man!

London has been, collectively, sweltering in a stifling heatwave. It's hell out there. Thank the Lord for office and studio air-con!

Key points noted in the last couple of days include:

  • The man who walked past me in Soho, clad in a black leather jacket and black leather trousers. Temperature in the street? 31 degrees How he was not melting, I cannot conceive.
  • The large hole in the ground in Greenford, West London, where gas and/or water works are taking place. Or rather not taking place. There's a big sign on the fencing, reading:


How thoughtful of them....

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Moron Bad Science

Further to my blast about low-energy bulbs and the dodgy science that seems to trot alongside them....

Last week I found myself in a modern office building, all glass and stainless steel. Boarding the lift for a quick whizz to Floor 10, I spotted the following notice:

This lift has been fitted with an experimental LED lighting system. As these lights are more energy efficient, they will help us to reduce our carbon emissions within the building.

NO. THEY WON'T! Whatever benefits they may have (less heat in the lift, for one!) the one thing they won't affect in the slightest is the amount of carbon released in the building.

Poor science teaching? Lazy journalism? Sinister indoctrination? Whatever is to blame, I'm willing to bet it won't be long before there are people going round B&Q gingerly picking up light bulbs and sniffing them to see if they can detect all that deadly carbon seeping out.


Thursday, 28 May 2009


My wife and I have spent the last couple of days at the bedside of a friend, as she trod the pathway toward the exit from this life.

Tonight, the door opened and, at the pitifully young age of 48, she stepped through.

Not much to say, except:

(a) Hug those you hold dear
(b) Melignant Melanoma is a complete and evil bastard
(c) Please support Cancer Research
(d) Wear sunscreen

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bad science, crap copy

What is it about the Green / Climate Change / We're all Doomed issue that makes it ok to tout silly claims that don't stand up?

My gander was goosed today by an advert on the side of a bus. It's pushing the benefits of low-energy light bulbs
and seeks to make its point with the statement:

If every UK household installed just one extra energy saving light bulb in their house, the CO2 saved would be equivalent to taking 93,000 cars off the UK's roads.

OK. Where to begin. What's worse, the rubbish copywriting, or the dodgy science? Well, how about we start with the copy.

If every UK household really did install one extra energy saving light bulb, that would have the effect of putting around 24.5 million additional bulbs into use. I guess they really mean that it would be a good thing if every UK household replaced an existing bulb with an energy saving one, but that's not what they've written!

And the claim itself?

Well, it all depends, doesn't it..... Those 93,000 cars. Would they be ones with little engines or the Gas Guzzlers they keep encouraging us to hate? What if they are small-engined cars that spend all day, every day, doing stop/start journeys, not fully warmed up? Or perhaps they are the modern Gas Guzzlers with some of the cleanest engines around, running efficiently in the motorway cruise for 200 miles at a time? Maybe they are the old cars that the Government wants us to scrap. You know, the ones made before manufacturers focused on the recylclability of materials used in construction? The ones that'll be really dirty to dispose of?

And talking of dirty disposal, what about this:

If every household in the UK threw out one dead low-energy light bulb, there'd be 980kg of mercury in various landfills.

I don't make any great claims for accuracy in this statement, but I suggest that it holds up at least as well as the one on the side of the bus! There is, after all, about 4mg of Mercury in your average low-energy (compact fluorescent) light bulb.

Bad science and Environmental concern. They don't have to go they?

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Court of Public Opinion

Don't things move rapidly in today's world of lightweight politics?

Can it really be just over 2 months since Harriet Harman made her stunningly vacuous remarks about "The Court of Public Opinion", as she sought to hitch an easy ride to popularity aboard the runaway train of Sir Fred Goodwin's grandiose pension pot?

That particular court seems to have gone a bit quiet of late. A shame, as I'm sure its jurors would have something to say on the matter of MPs' expenses.

"Members of the jury, I put it to you that .... oh no, I beg your pardon, I was forgetting that you only convene when someone thinks there's a cheap headline in it. Please retire and don't consider your verdict."

Monday, 13 April 2009

Are Friends Electric?

Encouraging news recently, of fresh efforts to breathe life into the Electric Car industry. Gordon Brown has made mention of incentives to be included in the forthcoming Budget (though, unsurprisingly, there was only sketchy detail available behind the headline...) and London Mayor Boris Johnson has said he's keen to see London continue to blaze the electric-vehicle trail. Both men want to see wider networks of charging points (though, personally, I suspect Brown's enthusiasm will wane when he realises that a charging point is not a place at which the motorist queues to be relieved of cash!) and grants to boost British manufacturing.

I'm delighted that the concept is being given fresh impetus. I've been driving an electric vehicle for my daily commute for the last 6 years and I love it. I've probably got one of the UK's higher electric mileages under my belt and I'm a firm convert.

BUT. (You could sense there was a "but" coming, couldn't you?)

Government has serious Form when it comes to transport initiatives and the wise will view the latest plans with caution. There've been previous attempts to encourage "greener" road travel, such as the "Convert to LPG" scheme in 2003. This was a great idea: switch your vehicle to LPG, with the help of a generous grant, and enjoy the delights of this clean fuel at roughly half the price of petrol. Lovely! Only lots of people went for it and (a) the grant fund ran out; and (b) the government had second thoughts about the preferential tax status afforded to LPG, and up went the price.

The same idea of a system of grants was put in place to encourage purchase of the first wave of electric vehicles. Same thing happened: people took up the offer, the Treasury took fright and the grants largely dried up.

I hope it'll be different this time, but I fear more of the same. Short-term thinking gets them all excited about the headline-grabbing possibilities of grants and schemes, but the long-term funding is another matter.

Then there's the ideology problem. Plenty of UK Local Authorities are fundamentally opposed to the Car. Will they embrace the call for a multitude of easy-to-use on-street recharging points, or will they see them as encouraging private car use and hindering the march toward the holy grail of Modal Shift towards public transport? The City of London was one of the first to encourage electric vehicles, back in 2003, granting free use of their car parks and meter bays. But last year, guess what? They decided that this was encouraging people to bring electric vehicles into the City, which wasn't really what they had in mind. So the parking benefits have been withdrawn.

Hats off to Westminster Council, who have stuck to their guns on this issue, and continue to offer free and discounted parking, together with an extensive (and extending) network of charging points.

Enough of the politics for now. What about the experience and technology of Driving Electric? More on that in our next, thrilling instalment!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Biscuits! And not a crumb to eat.

Here's a picture of another of my favourite workplacesThis structure was never going to win any awards for architectural endeavour, but there are loads of bright, artistic types, beavering away inside. This is where I go to record words of wisdom about Art, for audio guides to museums and art galleries. It's a job I love doing, produced by some of the nicest people you could ever hope to work with.

But there's one injustice, niggling away at me.

This crumbling edifice has a glorious past. Once upon a time, it was the mighty Peak Freans Biscuit Factory. For decades, the (custard) cream of British biscuit-making talent slaved away here, making and despatching the company's vast repertoire of biccies to Britain, the Empire and the World. Now, anyone who knows me knows I cannot resist a biscuit. So, what a cruel twist of fate it is that I, of all people, should end up working in a biscuit factory when all traces of the blithering biscuits have gone!

Ain't life cruel, sometimes?

Friday, 13 March 2009

Writer's Blockade

A bit quiet on the blogging front lately. Well, y'see, there's been a little local difficulty...

Every time I vacate The Seat of Power, even for a few seconds, an occupying force moves in. Fellow "cat people" will understand that one of the methods employed by our feline associates to keep their human assistants on the hop is the random changing of the favourite resting spot. That hairy cushion, from which the cat has been inseparable for weeks, suddenly becomes So Yesterday and there's a new roost to rule. And right now, The Chair, is where it's at, baby!

I've had to resort to low cunning: wait 'til he's downstairs, eating, or nipping out to answer a call of nature, then bag my place on the chair. It works, of course, but within moments, he's back. He can't physically dislodge me from the seat, but there are other ways: a quick walk on the asdkfldfn/// keyboard, a long, langurous stretch in front of the monitor, head buffing the mouse-hand and, if all else fails, parking up on the desktop, delivering a long, baleful stare. He may not have the power of speech as we understand it, but the message couldn't be clearer.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Sign(s) of the times

I have, if I say so myself, a fairly keen eye for detail. I think it probably comes from doing a lot of work, over the years, in Presentation departments, where you're just in the habit of double and triple-checking details like Tape Numbers, Spool Numbers and the spelling and punctuation of captions.

This has served me well, but it can also be a bit of a curse. It's the signs, you see. The shop and office signs with glaring errors. Spot one somewhere on one of your regular routes and it starts to haunt you. Needling away at you every time you pass by.

What I don't understand is this: professionally made signs are fairly expensive. Wouldn't you, if you were commissioning something like a sign, ask someone to cast a second pair of eyes over the artwork?

Here in Soho, a couple of years back, a little coffee shop opened, under the sign (beautifully made in custom-moulded plastic) La Petit Cafe. The business quickly attracted a stream of visitors. Unfortunately, rather than purchasing coffee, most of them seemed to be coming in to inform the increasingly harassed proprietor that (a) La Petit would have an E on the end, but (b) Cafe is masculine in French so it should be Le anyway. I don't think he could stand anymore of this, so the business folded soon after.

This sign in West London always calls out to me...

and a recent stay in a Premier Inn revealed this delight...

I know, I know, it's not earth-shattering stuff but, mark my words, it represents yet another nail in the coffin of this once glorious Empire. The lid must be quite firmly fixed by now!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Dying on your Ar*e

I love the splendidly descriptive phrase Dying On Your Arse, when used to describe the agonies of a performer whose finest efforts at comedy/drama are being greeted in sullen and resentful silence by an unappreciative audience.

Seldom have I seen two arses more effectively died upon than those of James Corden and Matt Horne, as they attempted to co-host the 2009 Brit Awards with Kylie Minogue. These two came across as a pair of unfunny yobs, and such finely honed comedic gems as: "Cheer until you prolapse" or "scream til your nipples bleed" were accorded a tumbleweed reception in the hall.

It's not entirely the fault of Corden and Horne. Acquaintances with better tuned funny bones than me assure me that these are two of our foremost, cutting-edge, talents. For some reason, the producers of the Brits never seem to learn that anyone who tries to do comedy there always dies on their backside. There's a long history of it. The audience at that event consists of a small cluster of youthful pop fans, strategically placed within easy screaming distance of the stage, and tables filled with music industry execs and their guests, swapping gossip and necking industrial quantities of Vino Collapso. The youngsters just want the next band. The drinkers want the next bottle, a good chat and the next band. The bloke on stage doing knob jokes is always an irritating obstruction to the fulfillment of those desires.

Get the comedians off and get a decent presenter on! Or just let that nice Kylie get on with it on her own. She's well up to the task.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Meandering homewards the other day, I noted the presence of four uniformed members of our local Constabulary, lurking in a side turning, with a Speed Gun aimed at the traffic on the main road. It set me thinking. They'd chosen what seemed a strange location for a speed trap, just short of a busy, traffic-light-controlled, junction where the traffic stream splits between straight-on and a right-turn lane. Not much opportunity to exceed the 30mph limit there in daytime traffic conditions.

But this isn't really about catching, or deterring, speeding drivers, is it? It's about being seen to do something. We live in a box-ticking age, my friends, and this little exercise works roughly as follows:

  • Late at night, especially at weekends, this bit of road is sometimes used as a bit of a racetrack by the local Boy Racers, with their silly exhausts and thumping stereos.
  • Local residents get understandably narked about this and raise the issue with Councillors and the Residents' Association.
  • In due course, the concerns are relayed to the local Police Commander. "The residents of Bloggs Street are bothered by anti-social speeding drivers."
  • So, when the local cop-shop has a few spare officers on the day shift, they send them out with the speed gun to haunt a local road.
  • Result? They stop a few drivers and lecture them earnestly about the deadly danger of doing 32mph. Job done!

But hang on a minute....wasn't the original problem Boy Racers going Vroom Vroom late at night?

Maybe so, but the point is that (a) "we're doing what the community wants"; (b) a number of Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued; (c) it's much safer to send the officers onto the road in broad daylight; (d) the night shift are busy dealing with fights outside pubs & clubs; (e) by doing it in the daytime, we can invite the occasional local busybody to join us, parade about in a yellow jacket and play with the speed gun; (f) the people caught will mostly be local residents, so we'll be able to feed the local paper with patronising claptrap about how every motorist is a deadly sinner.

Many boxes duly ticked!

Meanwhile, on Friday night, the boy racers with their silly exhausts and thumping stereos will still practice their handbrake turns around that junction, and the local residents will still wonder why nothing's being done about their concerns.

Ho hum!
(lest you wonder ... No, they haven't got me. No sour grapes here. Just irritation at the waste of resources!)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Anticipatory "News"

A great example, this morning, of how far the crafts of News and Spin seem to have wandered, arm in arm, down a silly path.

The story hitting the headlines this morning boils down to this:

The government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs "is expected" to recommend that Ecstasy should be downgraded from Class A to Class B. The Home Office has announced that it will reject any such recommendation.

In other words, one body has let it be known - either by leak or by Press Release - what its findings are, and the other has speculatively released word of what its reaction would be, if the first body were, indeed to say what it says it might. What a ridiculous game this is!

Of course, none of this bogus posturing will have any effect whatsoever on the propensity of British youth to get "off their face" on their chosen substance of a weekend.

I don't know which is more of a waste of time, this sort of cobblers or Police Officers handing out Fixed Penalty Notices and "Street Cautions" to lads with fragments of cannabis in their pockets.

Apparently, the anti-drugs strategy is working. Stand on the streets of Soho of an evening and see how apparent that seems!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow joke!

After my recent blast about doom-mongers cautioning against making journeys unless they are "really necessary", I am pleased to report that they have had ample opportunity to exercise their doom-mongering skills today, as parts of the UK have been hit by quite a substantial fall of snow. Unusually, the snow is even lying in the heart of town. This is very rare, as the heat of the densely built city centre normally ensures that any snow melts away very quickly.

Here's the view from my office window this morning
I made slow, but steady progress into town in my electric van. Here's how it looked when I arrived...

It's a standing joke, how badly London copes with snow. It always takes the transport systems by surprise, no matter how accurately forecast (and in this case the forecasters have got it just right) and the trains, tubes and buses just cannot cope. Today, Transport for London has suspended all bus services in London, because of the icy conditions, so hundreds of people have been standing, freezing, at bus stops, waiting for the bus that'll never come.

I must say one positive thing about my fellow road users. On my journey in this morning, not once was I overtaken by someone driving like an idiot. This is almost unheard of, and it goes a long way to restoring my faith in driving standards in the UK! Everyone was taking it slowly, leaving extra space between the cars, and the result was a slow but steady procession, rather than the usual rush-hour Stop-Start. So, for all the talk of chaos, my journey took precisely 10 minutes longer than usual! I am very lucky, though, to be able to drive in. For those reliant on public transport, today is really a write-off. All for a few inches of snow. Daft!

Meanwhile, at home, our cat took one look at the state of the ground outside and retreated to one of the warmest places in the house, atop the kitchen cupboard where the central heating boiler lives.... 8ft up in the air, warm and with a commanding view of the room below.

Not Daft!!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Salute to the Rabbi

Much excitement during this past week, as anyone with even a remote Scottish connection marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's bard, the great Robert "Rabbie" Burns.
Born 25th January 1759, the eldest of seven children in an Ayrshire farming family, Burns enjoyed no financial privilege, but did benefit from an extensive - though sporadic and unconventional - education.

They took their education and their language seriously in the Ayrshire of old. I remember, as a boy, going to the county to visit my Great Uncle Eddie, who had been the schoolteacher in the little village of Auchentiber and had been allowed to carry on living in the tumbledown old schoolhouse when he retired and the local authority closed all the village schools. My family didn't own a car, so the journey to visit Uncle Eddie was a long one, involving several changes of bus and a long walk to the village. This would be around 1970, when Eddie was in his 90s. At the end of our visit, he would insist on accompanying my mother and me on the trek back to the bus stop. The elegant formality of his language has always remained in my memory: "I shall walk with you to the village, where you may obtain a conveyance.". It was a lovely echo of a bygone world.

But I digress. (And old Uncle Eddie would have scolded me for starting a sentence with "But") (And "and", come to that!)

Back to Burns. What a writer. We celebrated Burns Night with a haggis, introduced with the traditional address: "Fair fa' yer honest, sonsie face, great Chieftain o' the puddin' race..." and musical accompaniment. By tradition, a piper should escort the haggis into the room. We couldn't rise to an actual piper, but we did have a Practice Chanter (that's the bit of the bagpipes on which you play the tune) played by Ken, my ex-Brother-in-Law. He did very well, considering he never fully learned to play, and whatever tuition he had was at least 20 years ago! I spent some time trying to learn the bagpipes back in the 70s, but my efforts were outlawed under the Geneva Convention. Undeterred, I would have accompanied Ken on my own Chanter, had it not been for the mysterious disappearance of the mouthpiece (I think the cat's pinched it. Or possibly a local music-lover.), so I was forced to contribute an unforgettable rendition of Scotland the Brave on the best substitute I could find: the Swannee Whistle.

Aside from the splendid Address to the Haggis, Burns penned many fine songs and poems, before departing this world at the age of just 37. In my view, there's none finer than his thoughts on having accidentally destroyed a mouse's nest, while ploughing a field. The emotion and kindness of To a Mouse always brings a tear to my eye.
The verse "I'm truly sorry man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union, And justifies that ill opinion, Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth-born companion and fellow mortal!" is just a beauty of construction.
The same poem gave us a phrase that's still in common usage today. When something's gone wrong, people shake their heads and mutter about "the best laid plans of mice and men", but do they remember the source, or the complete line? It's from the penultimate verse of To a Mouse. "The best-laid schemes o mice an' men Gang aft agley", Burns writes (gang aft agley = often go awry). I suppose the modern equivalent might well be "Shit happens" but I'd vote for Burns' choice of vocabulary any time.
Rounding off this remarkable poem, he addresses the mouse thus: "Still thou art blest, compar'd wi me! The present only toucheth thee: But och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear! And forward, tho I canna see, I guess an fear!". Burns wrote of his fears for uncertain, but probably bleak, future prospects more than 200 years ago. Here in 2009, I find he's still bang on the money.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Curse of the F in Fog Lamps

As I hit the road into London this morning, my heart sank.

Not the traffic, not the prospect of the workday ahead, but the sight of a few measly wisps of fog.

This means we're in for weeks of "delight" thanks to the muppets who seem to pride themselves on grabbing for the Rear Foglamps switch at the first hint of mist, yet seem mysteriously incapable of finding the self-same switch a few minutes later when the time comes to turn the blasted things off!The thing is, here in the UK, we hardly ever get the conditions that really warrant the use of rear foglamps, save for the occasional nasty bank of fog out on the motorway. These lamps are always inappropriate for use in town, as they cause serious glare irritation to the drivers behind and - crucially - mask the effect of the brake lights.
I'd really like to see something done about this. The vehicle construction regulations already require a warning lamp to show on the dashboard when the foglamps are on, but this doesn't seem to be enough for some people. Here's my free contribution to the thought-pool on this matter: make it a requirement that the foglamps reset to "Off" mode when the engine is stopped. At least that way drivers won't still be being blinded by the muppet-lights 3 weeks after the last hint of fog was seen in the land.

It's not a new irritation, of course. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, here's a Public Information Film from the 1980s, reminding us to Beware of Rear Dazzle....

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


So, time to take those Christmas decs down and put them away safely where you won't be able to find them in eleven-and-a-half months' time.

The box is ready, you've got a suitably wobbly chair to stand on, so away you go, packing the tinsel and the baubles away, and having a good look round to make sure you've got everything.

Yep! All done and dusted. Close up the box and pack away. Feel suitably smug at being well organised and ahead-of-the-game.

Now give it a day or two and, out of the corner of your eye, what do you see, taunting you from some shady nook....?
Every time. Every blinking time! They're sneaky little bandits these baubles. I swear they hide, sniggering, just waiting for you to finish up and pack away. Then they slip out while your back's turned, and lurk there in the shadows, whistling innocently ..... Aaaargh! There's another one....

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Happy New Year!

May I wish you a very Happy New Year!

I've been a bit quiet on the seasonal blogging front. I'd like to say that this was because of the wild social whirl in which I've been swept up for the festive fortnight. However much I might like to say that, however, the truth is more mundane, and involves tissues, decongestants, inhalations, paracetamol, ibuprofen etc. I don't recommend a combination flu-like symptoms and sciatica. Short on laughs and big on feeling sorry for yourself.

By the 1st of January, things had improved enough for me to be able to get out behind the wheel of our big red Routemaster bus. This important morale booster came in the form of an appointment to be part of the big London New Year Parade. A huge procession of costumed people, American Marching Bands and vehicles of all types, shapes, sizes and ages made their way along the parade route, kicking off as Big Ben chimed 12 noon. A sizeable crowd braved the winter cold and lined the route to enjoy the spectacle and cheer the parade on its way.

Yep....things were looking up!

But then we came down to earth with a bump.

Behind us in the parade was this old beast, a 1916 Dennis Fire Engine.

If it had stayed a safe distance behind us, all would have been fine. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to old Dennis and his driver, when our bus came to a halt, the fire engine didn't. There was an almighty bang, with simultaneous gasps of horror from the crowd. Up front in the driver's cab, I was a bit shaken, but I couldn't quite bear to get out and go round for a look. I stayed put and awaited a damage report from my Conductor. The picture isn't great. The back of the bus looks every bit as if it's been rammed by a heftily built, 93 year-old fire engine! Suffice it to say that our 1966 aluminium panels were no match for their 1916 steel and tubular brass!

When I'm feeling stronger, I'll publish a picture of our "modified" rear end, but right now I can't face looking at the evidence. No injuries to humans, though, on the bus or the fire engine, which is the most important thing.

A Press agency report on the parade included the line: "At one point an antique fire engine crashed into an iconic London Routemaster bus, but organisers said that nobody was injured.". Thanks to the wonders of agency reporting and newspapers' hunger for content on quiet days, this line made it into UK papers including the Daily Telegraph and the Mail, and further afield in publications in South Africa, Australia, France and the US. It felt strange to see this line pop up in web searches and know that that wasn't just any iconic Routemaster bus ... it was ours!