Michael and Selby

No, I can’t tell you what the food pilot is called. It’s not that it’s bad luck. It’s just that I’m not allowed to say anything. But thanks for your good wishes.
This morning I drove my daughter to Paddington. The traffic was catastrophic. We made it but I had to stop in a wine bar and borrow their restroom. Not literally – I left it fitted to the wall.
I had my pink Crocs on and slipped on the floor, landing on my knee. One of the regular drinkers looked at me and pondered as to whether to knight me with his ham baguette. He offered his hand instead.
I drove home in the teeming rain dodging all the traffic by taking what is a now a familiar route, West-ish, thanks to LBC.
I ate a lot, and continued to do so on the way back to Sussex, stopping off in Gypsy Hill for a spot or two of chocolate. I never normally eat it but the last week has reduced my strength and a good boost of milk chococrap really did the trick. Hello to the woman in the offy.
When I got into the suburbs of T’Wells I got lumbered behind a little white Robin Reliant.
I thought about how I never really watched ‘Only Fools and Horses’ as that kind of comedy ‘classic’ used to irritate me. I thought about how I could call the little white RR ‘Trotters’ something or other but felt it would be fraudulent since I don’t know the series that well…

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Nil by mouth

By four o’clock today I had had enough of my own gob. No more yakking, no more voice overs, no more chit-chat. I had been at it from 7.15 a.m.
My day started with BB and I driving into Soho. We left early so that we could wander through the empty streets which always reminds me of Paris first thing in the morning. Everything lazily opens with a smattering of people sitting outside coffee shops having a morning brew.
We drove down Shaftesbury Avenue to turn right into Wardour Street, when there they were – 48 plastic cones and a barrage of metal railings. Half the street was being dug up. I turned the car round. I tried Greek Street, Dean Street, Frith Street, then Greek Street, Dean Street, Frith Street. Again, each time we were thwarted. They all went in the wrong direction round the one way system and by the time the clock had passed nine, we were suffering motion sickness from travelling in ever decreasing circles.
Eventually I made a calculated decision to try and park in Soho Square. Terrific except that now there are hardly any coin-receiving machines. By the time I had secured a parking slot, it was 9.30 and I had yet to telephone in my parking details. Voiceover studios are booked by the hour. Time is money and I seemed to be using up the valuable minutes like we had all the time in the world.

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Mr Brown goes to the palace

As we were coming to the end of today’s LBC programme, I watched the television screen in front of my nose, and there they were – Mr and Mrs Brown holding hands and being cheered on from people standing on glass balconies. The B’s looked like royalty in creased suits.
As I write, I’m chomping on the most amazing chestnut bread that Paul Hollywood brought into the studio. He gifted me that and a lovely ciabatta loaf, fresh from his own baking ovens in Kent.
The radio show goes so swiftly. I know what I’m doing when I’m talking to people but my timing is as bad as a pregnant woman trying to calculate the date of delivery of her first born baby after a night out on ouzo with a group of drunken midwives – hic!
There was so much I wanted to talk to Paul and Ian Marber about but I had to keep remembering when to go to ads, news and weather. You would think after 498 years in the industry, I would know a second from a minute but I’m all over the place. It’s doing me brain in.

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Second night nerves

Even if you’re not a thespian, you must have heard about ‘first night nerves’, but when you are a seasoned thesp, it becomes apparent that first night nerves are actually a God send. The adrenalin pumps, the brain focuses, the middle distance disappears and off you go. It’s the second night that’s the bitch. Concentration is down. The adrenalin is more under control. There’s ever such a slight smugness that you’ve got over the hump and BLAHM!, that’s when those mistakes creep in.
I turned up to LBC, which is situated on Latimer Road, near Shepherds Bush, and only fifteen minutes from my flat. The traffic was easy, but already I was taking liberties. Instead of having my brief case – I’ve used it for years it’s made out of red plastic and kept together with good will and gaffer tape – I had a flimsy purple folder I’d bought in Waitrose. I had scant notes, three different coloured pens (red, blue and black) as well as a lovely pencil from ‘Scramble’, the sound studio I voice ‘Heat’ ads in.
I had my purse with a little money, my car keys and my phone. I was travelling light. I drove to reception and picked up the plastic key to let me into the car park. When the black end is inserted, wrought iron gates, with fierce barbed wire rolled atop of them, open very slowly. Yesterday I tried inserting the red end and sat there for 10 minutes wondering why I couldn’t get in
I parked my car, buzzed to get into reception, flirted with the Greek receptionist, who looks like my cousin Malcolm Hoppen, father of Zoe with whom I spent some time in San Diego, and was greeted by Steve Campden and Chris Lowrie, my producer and engineer.
I felt like an old timer, having been there for precisely one day as I skipped up to the second floor. It felt less strange but not yet familiar. Anna Raeburn was at her desk, all intent and intelligent. She told me I looked nicer with my hair down and suggested, rather than dictated, that I should keep back from the mike. This was endorsed by Steve, who told me that sitting back in the chair was wrong. Sitting forward on the chair was wrong. But sitting in the middle was right. Steve had told me that before but it had gone right over my head. See, second day and you think you know everything until…

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A light lunch

Something I never do is take an afternoon nap but having to face a brand new challenge has completely knackered me. Thank you for your messages of support – you definitely warm the cockles of my heart.

Radio is a staple of my life. I grew up with ‘Round The Horne’ and ‘Billy Cotton’s Band Show’. I was ill to ‘Mrs. Dales Diary’, and I ‘Listened with Mother’ until I was old enough to send in my requests to ‘Uncle Mac’. So for a child of the 50’s, the wireless was an integral part of life.

I was also a pianist. At the age of five I was picked out as having some sort of precocious talent, but it’s gone the way of most things you don’t practice, along with the waistline and the ability to hit top ‘C’. Did you know, girls… our voices get lower as we get older? By 2020, if they ever ask me, I’ll be singing bass on the back row with the Treorchy Male Voice Choir.

So, doing LBC feels like some kind of strange continuum. I know how radio sounds but doing it is very different. There are cues that have to be listened to, callers that have to be talked to, guests to debate with. All while talking as fluently as is possible without swearing. Given that the bulk of my brain was concentrating on five things at once, and given that the bulk of my brain is mashed potato, you can see why I took to my bed.

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Shrek in Chelsea

To Jill, I know it’s hard to find work when you’re sixteen. My twillage employs all the young folk in three supermakets and, of course, I don’t approve. But I am not so naive as to think that all the yoof of today will go out and get jobs husbanding trees or picking organic strawberries in the local biodynamic farm. Surviving in today’s climate is tricky at the best of times, but really tough when you are skint and in need of a pint of cider and the fare money for the only existing bus service to take you to the cinema which is now re-located out of town and costs the price of an awayday ticket.

My daughter refused to work in Waitrose, not from any political position but because she hated the fabric of the uniform and thought the dress and blouse, like the job, wouldn’t have suited her. I thought we would never see the back of her, but she trawled the back streets of T’Wells and landed a job behind a bar and kitchen of the local arts club.

I know they are few and far between but sometimes the young folk do surprising things when left alone. Mind you, I’m still waiting for her to pay me back-rent for nine months free board and lodging in my luxury womb with a view.

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Day trip

It has been such a weird week. So full of this and that, I’ve hardly had a moment to reflect. But I feel really unbalanced not writing, so, even though my eyes are propped open with matchsticks, here goes.

It’s 22.44 and the rain is hammering down outside the cottage. Feels more like autumn than mid summer. Last year it was 29 degrees. Dominic came today and pruned the clematis on the wall and a great big bush outside the kitchen window. I don’t know its name but if left untamed, it takes over like the triffids in ‘The Day of…’

On Sunday Jim and I had a row about what Dominic was and wasn’t to prune. I, like most townies, have a real problem cutting back any plant. It hurts my heart. After my wedding, when my best man cut my newly harvested carrots and potatoes in an unfriendly manner, I threw him off the property and out of my life. Truly. Those beautiful vegetables came out of the earth and he chopped through them like he was castrating a wart hog.

Dominic, however, did a good job, even though the rain has less leaves to drip off.

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Publish and be Damned

On my drive up to London I listened to the ‘The Maltby Collection’ by David Nobbs on Radio 4. The double-barreled good looker from ‘Green Wing’ was in it, as was Richard Palmer. It was funny and so well written I laughed right up to Bromley. By the time I got to Crystal Palace, I changed to an old CD of Edwin Starr. It took me back to 1964 when I would dream of going to all-night parties with my brother’s friends from art school. I started to jig around in my seat, glanced out of my window and three faces were grinning at me from a white van. The guy with dreadlocks had a row of fabulous gold teeth. So I pumped up the volume and we all danced together, on our respective bums, at the traffic lights. That warmed my cockles all the way to Clapham. I then turned on the one o’clock news which was enough to wipe the smile off anyone’s face.
The daughter and husband were in the flat. He was tarting up the computer. She tarting up her ‘ikkle’ self.

She then went off, with her friend, to the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park. Jim mounted his motorbike to the theatre and I legged it to the number 19 bus.

The Number 19 is one of my fave bus routes.

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I took Jackson for a walk in the Hollies. We drove over the cattle grid, parked the car and gingerly walked past half a dozen very big bulls chewing the cud. The weather was balmy.

When we got to the top of the hill, 16 sheep stood up, clocked us, figured we were friendly natives and carried on munching the moss.

The sun was beating down, the track dusty from no rain. It felt like we were walking in the Grand Canyon when right before me very eyes, as large as you like, was a snake. I could almost hear Serge Leone in the bushes, as the music struck up. It was the good (the dog), the bad (the snake), and the ugly. (Okay, enough self deprecation…) It looked dead. Black with grey markings. I involuntarily clenched my fists up to my ears and yelped. Jackson didn’t take a blind bit of notice. I looked at it very carefully. It was motionless, but it was just doing what snakes like to do. The back end of its body was coiled round whilst its head stood erect on the end of its neck. It fixed me with its beady eyes but didn’t move one sinew.

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The last apprentice

Look, there’s no beating about the bush today. The final of ‘The Apprentice’ with Alan Sugar is on at 9.00 and I have to make myself a salad and stop crying. No, I have not turned into a sniveling feeble wet but today I had some news that so upset me, I can hardly dare tell you. I made phones calls about it. Talked to my husband. Cried to my osteopath, shouted at Rob, who I think is probably the best agent in the world, and choked when I talked to my friend Annie. When the chips are down, none of it really matters. After all, I am healthy, well and I am not living in a war zone, although sometimes I do think telly is just that. It’s like the Gaza Strip with designer labels.

Today has all been a bit topsy turvy. I scrubbed the kitchen floor with all sorts of floor scrubbing utensils, silver scourers, green sponges, creams and liquids. My lovely Gae helps me out once a week but there has been a build up on the flag stones since April. So, I entered the kitchen wearing my bathing suit, the turquoise one with the baggy gussett, wrapped a blue towel around me and, looking like an Hawaiian Madam, I commenced my cleaning. Ninety minutes later, with the perspiration dripping off me, I had a clean, really sparkling kitchen floor.

Jackson observed the activity patiently waiting for his carrot and vitamins.

I organised the cleaning route so I had a little window of floor to stand up in at the end. The dog and I exited to the garden. I wrote my affirmations etc. whilst Jackson lay patiently under the pungent Philadelphius, the first shrub that I ever planted 24 years ago. By noon we were ready for our perambulation in the forest.

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