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.