Curling tongs and Anita Roddick

I had a horrible journey from London to Nottingham this morning, with driving snow in my face most of the way. I really must get a new windscreen fitted. It would be so much warmer for one thing and besides the snow goggles leave red marks around my eyes.

In the old days I would have mixed up my journey with 5Live and Radio 2 from 6.15 to 8.00 and then moved on to podcasts from Jonathon Ross, the News Quiz or Stop Hammertime.  But now Chris Evans is on breakfast on Radio 2 I stayed with him for the whole journey.

Well that’s not quite true. I started at 6.15 with Sarah Kennedy. I always like to listen to Sarah. Her stories from the newspapers are priceless. I  like to listen and try to  work out what she’s on about.   I love Sarah’s show, I think she has a great warmth, but she does sometimes react to the stories rather than relay them.  Having presented the early breakfast show for some time, she also seems permanently jet lagged, so following her thread  can be a bit like listening to the boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.  Both tell you what they think has happened and you have to read between the lines and work out what has really happened.

A long term listener, I can particularly recommend early summer when the hay fever plays havoc with her eyes and her ability to read.

I once did a seven month stint presenting a country music breakfast show from a radio station in Wembley.  Don’t ask why, it paid well OK?  Sarah Kennedy would accompany me on my journey from my Docklands flat to Wembley, along the way giving me the lowdown on the stories in the papers.  On one occasion she revealed an unusual piece of tennis news.  Amazingly it seemed Anita Roddick had won the French Open tournament.

I nearly crashed the car.  Sarah’s voice sounded a little unsure. It didn’t seem very likely. The founder of the Body Shop winning a tennis tournament?  She paused and then said, ‘that can’t be right, but no that’s what it says here, Anita Roddick has won the French Open tennis!’

I was shouting ‘Andy Roddick’ at my car radio, but she obviously couldn’t hear me.

Anyone back to now. Three, two, one, you’re back in the room.

Sarah saw me safely around the north circular road, before Chris took over as I hit the M1.  As the arctic conditions kicked in around Luton, Chris was enthusing about the Winter Olympics. Like me and half of the Twitterati, he’d been blown away by the phenomenon that is Ski Cross, but he’d also been glued to the curling.

He was hampered by his description of the noble art of curling, by not knowing what to call a game. Was it a match of curling, an end, or something else?

The beauty of the interweb means that any question posed by a radio presenter is usually answered by email before the next record on the turntable has finished spinning.  It’s probably not vinyl any more, some of the modern studios, I believe, now have cassette decks.

Anyway whatever media they use, by the time the hit parade song had finished, someone had emailed in with the answer. A game in curling is called a tong. As Chris read it out, I thought that doesn’t sound right. Quick as a flash, Lynn Bowles pointed out the obvious gag about curling tongs.

It doesn’t take long for the long term jet lag to kick in.  I’ve spent three and a half years of my life presenting breakfast shows, over three spells. They were the happiest years of my life, but also the most gruelling. I liked going to the Grosvenor to pick up the awards, but I also remember the days of waking up on a sofa, having dribbled out of the corner of my mouth not knowing if it was four in the morning or four in the afternoon.

Chris couldn’t believe he’d been caught out by the curling tongs gag. I shouted ‘Andy Roddick’ at my car radio, just for old times sake.

Jem   22th Feb 2010  The frozen wastelands of Nottingham

Union Jack

I’m greatly enjoying Chris Evans on breakfast on Radio 2. He’s quickly established the programme as a feelgood way to start the day that appeals to the whole family. Much as I loved Terry Wogan, he’d handed his show over to his contributors, and it had begun to show.

One feature I particularly enjoy is the Wrong Bongs. To the sounds of the Bongs of Big Ben, Sally Traffic runs through the mistakes they made on the previous programme, as spotted by the listeners. It’s a brilliant way to encourage interactivity. There’s nothing the British public like more than correcting mistakes.

On this morning’s show there was a correction. The Union Flag had incorrectly been referred to as the Union Jack by the sports Johnny. As anyone who’s worked at the BBC for any time knows, it’s a real bugbear with navy types. It’s only a Union Jack when it’s flying off the back of a boat, otherwise it should correctly be referred to as the Union Flag.

However, I think that is a load of nonsense. If enough people call it a Union Jack, then that is what it is. If you asked people to draw a Union Jack, they would draw a Union Flag. Everyone knows what you mean when you say Union Jack, and if you don’t I’ve carefully posted one at the top of this page.

English is an evolving language. Words change and we need to change with them. It’s not latin, it’s not a dead language, it’s a vibrant ever changing language. Mother Tongue is an excellent book by Bill Bryson which shows how British English and American English evolved in different directions. But it’s all English innit?

And that’s why I have no truck when people try and tell me stadia is the plural of stadium. I speak English not latin, so for me the plural is stadiums. Either form is acceptable, but try telling that to the Old Skool buffers who complain. They probably don’t spell skool like that either!

I once interviewed English football hero Jack Charlton who’d been manager of the Irish national team for a while. When he arrived in Dublin he was greeted with banners saying, ‘Go Home Union Jack.’ He should have told them he had never been tied to a flagpole on a boat in his life. But perhaps he had. I have no details about his private life. Although he did tell me he fell asleep in front of the Pope during a Vatican visit, which didn’t go down very well in Catholic Ireland.

Now how did I get onto football? This was meant to be a blog about radio and my old mate Chris Evans. Did I mention he used to be my regular squash partner? But that’s a story for another day.

Bong! It’s not Sally Traffic it’s Lynn Bowles. Bong! That’s probably not how you spell Lynne. Bong! etc, you get the idea.

Jem – Monday Feb 15th 2010 – Nottingham