Category: Music

Expert In The BBC

What do you think of when you hear those three letters? The BBC – The British Broadcasting Corporation. It does seem to conjure up images of the 1950s with men in their stiff suits and ties with a stuffy presence of the old boys club in charge of a public service broadcaster not only for the UK but around the globe. I have always been fond of the BBC. Something as British as cheese scones, strawberries at Wimbledon and Shakespeare. I do confess in my early teens, when I became a news junkie, I went through a phase of watching only Sky News. I hope I can be forgiven for my naivety at such a tender age, to not understand how news bias works. Sure the BBC can at times have a bias but it is more impartial than most. Plus I prefer the presenters journalists.

Been attempting to plan a trip to the BBC Tour of New Broadcasting House for many months. Initially it was an idea for my birthday late last year but tickets seem to sell out fast and you need to book almost two months in advance, particularly if you want a choice in time slots. For Clive’s birthday I booked the BBC Tour for 10:45am on Friday 20th February, as a belated gift. It was a special birthday – he had only revealed his true age to me about two months previously and I had attended a celebratory dinner at The Peacock in Henton on Saturday 7th February

Due to personal circumstances, I was quite sure that Clive would cancel our meeting in Central London and I would need to find another person (sixty plus) to take instead. However from the outset, he text me to not cancel the tour. This was not an option in any case, as tickets were non transferable and non refundable. As the day came closer, it was going to be the highlight of my week and even weekend. However it was to surpass all my expectations.

Waking up at 7am on a day off is actually a lie in for me, as I am used to waking up before 6am on weekdays to get into the office bright and early. I got ready and then headed to the train station, purchased my One Day Travelcard from the ticket machine and got to platform one with a minute to spare before the 08:32 service arrived promptly, to whisk me to Central London. From Paddington I took the Hammersmith & City Line to St. Pancras – King’s Cross to await the arrival of Clive on his first class East Midland service originating from Sheffield. The train was scheduled to pull in at 10:06am. Having navigated myself around the station and being aware where the East Midland trains were schedule to arrive and depart (upstairs) I headed to Starbucks for a large cup of tea. I was disappointed the member of staff whom took my order did not ask for my name on the cup. Although by pure coincidence the person in front of me in the queue was called “Andrew” but as he was ordering coffee (like 90% of the people around me) it was unlikely for our orders to get mixed up. I then made my way back up to wait for Clive and kept regular contact via SMS, while he probably had his fifteenth cup of complimentary coffee.

East Midland Mainline Departure/Arrival Board

The train arrived early and I got off my seat to wait by the gates scanning all the commuters, looking for the 6 ft Mr. D. He arrived eventually and we acknowledged each others presence with a small salute. It was great to see Clive, for the first time since his birthday and the life changing news. I thought it best to clear the air and talk this through before moving on with our day. I had realised that I had not purchased a Zone 1 TravelCard for Clive, but thankfully had my Oyster Card which had plenty of credit for the few journeys we were going to make into the West End. The Tube Assistant app I had downloaded recently onto my HTC One M8 had a nifty feature to show which carriage is closed to the exit on your journey. Geoff will probably be annoyed but unsure if the Station Master app has finally arrived on Android. We made our way from St. Pancras to Oxford Circus which is just a five minute journey on the Victoria Line. We then had just a minute walk to be at the heart of the action. We were outside New Broadcasting House. Our tour was about to begin. First though we had to find the entrance. I asked a security guard in his high visibility jacket and was directed to the side entrance. We then had to go through an airport style security check of my coat and a full pat down with a magic wand by a security guard before we were given access to the building to join a long queue. We then had to check in and be given our BBC Tour lanyard. Our tour guides were Amita (also from Slough) and John. The group was a mixed bag with a handful of “adults” and then a teenage party who were all from a radio project at their secondary school but everybody was based in the UK. No language issues here.

While we waited, we could look into the bowel of the building. You will know this part of the building, you see if briefly at the start of every main news bulletin and on the hour on BBC News (formerly known as BBC News 24). This was perhaps the highlight for me, as I have always had a great admiration for everything the BBC does from a news perspective. Sure it is far from perfect but it is a news source, I and million others come to rely on a daily basis. Eventually our tour began and we were taken on a brief security briefing before being shown part of the live news from a big screen. Simon McCoy (he of paper ream fame) was presenting along side another presenter, whom I could not identify but will check the schedules. We were then taken to see The One Show studio, before being whisked across to the Radio Theatre to take part in a play. Clive volunteered to do the sound affects while a five of children took speaking roles. I recorded the video but hit the file limited, so will need to work some video editing magic to join the two clips together and upload to YouTube.

Broadcasting House

As we made our way through the 1930s art deco building, the former entrance to Old Broadcasting House, we were shown some memorabilia. One was the original microphone that would have been used by George VI for his “Kings Speech” during 1936. There was also the original speakers used by His Royal Highness to broadcast the first ever Christmas Message to the people of Great Britain and the Empire (now Commonwealth) in 1932. We were asked if anybody knew who had written the speech for the monarch – a member of the school group, a 16 year old boy responded with Rudyard Kipling – he was of course correct. We were amazed at his knowledge and when probed as to how he knew this information, he responded with the most confident line I have ever heard, “Well I’m an expert in the BBC”. Now just consider this for a moment. You are on a BBC Tour on BBC premises with staff with extensive knowledge of the history of the organisation and you come out with not just the answer to a question but the reason why you have this fountain of knowledge. I wish I had been as committed to the broadcaster at that age. The moment took me back, what was I passionate about now at the tender age of 33 – approximately 17 years senior to this intelligent young man. (Double the amount of time he has been alive). This is something to consider for another time.

Our tour ended with a brief interactive element – volunteers were requested, those whom had not taken part in the radio play. Two people to present the news from auto-cue and then after a brief training video from Carol Kirkwood on how to present the weather. Again I recorded elements of this and will upload to YouTube.

BBC Worldwide – the commercial arm of the organisation, never to miss a marketing opportunity had a small shop next to the cafe which is where the tour ends and we had a brief look at some of the merchandise before planning the rest of our afternoon. We had more than six hours to kill. Before leaving we decided to have a hot beverage at the Cafe Nero which lives opposite The One Show studio. The barriers had been erected now and there was a strong security precence, passes being checked. We opted to grab our drinks and sit outside to look out for any famous faces. Inside, Robert Peston was getting a drink and being on autopilot as I was but in a rather lower volume I said out “Robert Peston” to Clive but Robert noticed as he picked up his drink and turned around and smiled at me and then went back to his chair and his notebook. Sitting outside we spotted a number of people including Richard Osman from quiz show Pointless, Tim Willcox news correspondent (wearing peach trousers or jeans) and finally from BBC Radio 1 (a station I am now far too old to listen to) Greg James. Although I have to confess for Greg James I had to do some Google image searches to confirm he was indeed the person we saw walking out with his girlfriend to probably grab some lunch.

The original plan had been to head to the British Library so I carry out some research on my grandfather whom fought against the Japanese in the Burma Campaign of World War II. However on contacting the Asian and Oriental Studies department, no records of the Army Officer were found and I have been referred to India. The office in New Delhi have yet to respond to my e-mail but I am not expecting a reply. Particularly with a government department using GMail to host their e-mail account. We then went ahead with out follow up plan which was to explore St. Pancras Station and in particular the Grand Midland Hotel, now fully restored to it’s 1860s spender. Little did I know the exclusive afternoon we would have.

Do you remember the music video to Wannabe? Yes by the Spice Girls around 1996. The start of the video was shot here in the Victorian staircase of The Grand Midland Hotel. After walking around some of the corridors, we made our way down to The Chambers Club. Little did I know that this is where we would spend the rest of the having a late lunch, catching up with my good friend and mentor whom I have now known for over twenty years.

ClockGrand StaircaseClive

This blog post is dedicated to Diamond Geezer. Over the past thirteen years I have followed his daily posts covering various events and locations but predominately the things to see, hear and do in and around the capital. Of course he completed this tour back in May last year. His one image on FlickR is much better than my collection from my mobile and I have the utmost respect for somebody who has the ability to write a fresh post everyday and care to stay fully anonymous in our celebrity centric world.

The Hippest Man In Cabinet

Long story but I would prefer to spare you all the details. I ended up working until gone 11pm in the office on Wednesday night. By the time I got home and started to heat up my food in the microwave, I caught the close of BBC Newsnight. This fabulous mashup video, was used as the credit roll, rather than the standard Newsnight theme.

Sometimes reality is better than fiction. The Chief Whip making a name for himself by annoying the Prime Minister DC and in the process breaking the cardinal rule during cabinet meetings Рno mobiles phones allowed. Now the question is, who is the biggest Beyoncé fan РMichael Gove or my dearest friend Harps Virk?

No Air

Driving home from Wycombe to Slough on Thursday 23rd October, around 9pm, the night sky was lit up with fireworks for Diwali. Travelling down the A404 (M), I was listening to Capital FM and a female caller, requested Wait On Me by Rixton. Having not heard this before, I thought it best to at least give the song a chance. Being outside the age bracket for contemporary popular music, I had never heard of this band before but had heard their other main hit – Me & My Broken Heart. (Although at the time I did not know who they were). Young people of today, will be shocked to discover that even up to the late 90s, you could call up a radio station to request a song, only for them to play something completely different. I can recall DJ’s actually saying, “We do not have song X, but we can play song Y, will you please introduce…” This practice obviously would not work in this well connected, YouTube, instant gratification world. Plus, how many young people wait for a song to be played on the radio. The prestige of such a premiere no-longer works in a multichannel multimedia world. A song can be available for many months on-line before you hear it on the radio, although to be fair to the radio networks, they have got better in recent years. Then again, who under 30 still listens to the radio?

Ed Sheeran is going to dance in his next music video was the filler chat from a DJ one weekend a few weeks ago, as I made my way out and about. I thought little more of this idle chatter until I went to watch the music video on YouTube via our television set a few nights later. Ed is dancing for sure, but it is little more than window dressing by his fabulous performance parter, from So You Think You Can Dance – Brittany Cherry. Reading about the choreographers of the dance, I was taken to some of their note worthy performances from the US dance competition. Unsure of a duo calling themselves Nappytabs (The concatenated name of married couple and working partners Napoleon & Tabitha). There was a comment from Jordin Sparks regarding her song “No Air” but I did not get a chance to watch the video until Friday evening, when I got to search for the video on YouTube on the TV. We had been viewing various clips, from Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, to funny clips from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Watching the clip, took my breath away. YouTube with it’s file limits and heavy compression does not do the dance justice. I actually need to hunt down the full HD version but for now, this is all we have. How did I miss this from six years ago?

I have probably watched the clip about a dozen times now. I love every second, particularly the part when Joshua is brought back up from the floor by Katee. The ending with the exchange of the jacket is pure poetry. I wonder if Sparks or even Brown for that matter would have thought their song would ever been performed while a couple performed Lyrical Hip-Hop. While American has a long standing history of dance and dance shows, here in the UK, aside from BGT, most of the dance shows (Strictly Come Dancing aside) have flopped because there is not the appetite for this type of performance, cloaked with the candy of reality television presented by one of our own, Brummie Cat Deeley.

The Most Sincere Form Of Flattery

Feel I have been disconnected in recent weeks until my brother-in-law Steve streamed this video on his TV this afternoon. #PatelWilliams now that is just pure genius! Well done to Ali for another fantastic performance!

Comedy Genius

Stumbled onto this video while switching over from the football on ITV HD. I know I should be more dedicated and sit through all seven hours of the annual BBC telethon but some years are better than others. The first edition away from Television Centre was always going to be interesting and I am surprised they selected Eltree Studios. (However it worked out well, with Strictly Come Dancing being based in Blackpool this weekend) Although it was poor excuse for international football on the other side (even if it is watching England lose!)

Hats off to Harry Hill for coming up with such a brilliant concept and casting each part perfectly. I have to say I miss his Saturday early evening TV Burp show. Just a shame I got into it rather late. Oh well, only a month to go until his movie is released in cinemas.

Local Radio

Whenever I go to get my haircut at 2 Geezers on Slough High Street they are listening to local radio station Time 106.6. As you can probably imagine, this “All Time Favourites” local radio station has staple songs and by some strange coincidence they are always broadcast while I’m waiting to get my haircut. On Friday, I left work at 5pm sharp to ensure I got into town to get my haircut before they close at 6pm sharp. The last few attempts I have made to get my haircut had all ended in failure and my hair was now just a big mess and now desperately needed to be attended to. I knew I was unlikely to find the time on Saturday.

Perhaps the only time I appreciate commuting to the office by train rather than car as when I worked at Microsoft, I did not have to worry about parking my car and ensuring the ticket would last long enough. I park in the Herschel Car Park behind the High Street and it is just a short minute walk to the barbers. However, I was caught out on Friday 16th September when I got a parking fine for overstaying. Even though I had the change for two hour slot, I only bought an hour ticket. My mistake, I would never do that again but low and behold, a mere month later I was in the same predicament. However as all the lower decks are marked for Monday to Friday only I had to drive up to the sixth level and this was perhaps my saving grace. I had the change for a two hour slot but the machine would not accept five pence pieces. I was stuck. I paid for over an hour but only got an hour ticket (as I was ten pence short). While I waited in the long queue at 2 Geezers I resigned to the fact I was going to be getting another £25 parking fine.

Back to the local radio which played Yah Mo B There by James Ingram and Michael McDonald and 1980s hit Hold On by Wilson Phillips. Only when I go to get my hair trimmed do I go into a time warp of the last last thirty years.

Dancefloor Nostalgia

Back in July my friends planned a trip down to the seaside to visit the O2 Academy in Bournemouth. The dance venue, formerly known as The Opera House was hosting the final night of Slinky before the global dance brand closed its doors for good. While the date for the first weekend in October, seemed like an age away, I put my name down as one hundred percent confirmed. While I would perhaps not have planned for a weekend away, I decided to book a cheap hotel and kill two birds with one stone by also seeing my old school mate Steve and his ten month old son Theo. Extended the social gathering to a full day allowing me to catch up with my mate who I had not seen for over two years. The last time I was in Bournemouth was on Wednesday 15th April 2009, when I drove down to watch the Champions League Quarter Final second leg of Arsenal v Villareal.

How time flies, it was over seven years ago since I was last at this venue, seeing Dutch DJ Tiesto perform in early August 2006. The place has been completely refurbished since my last visit and the upstairs balcony now only accessible to those with a VIP bracelet. Back in my carefree single days, the weekend I recall being mega packed with clubbing in Bournemouth on Friday night and then driving straight up to Leicester for my friend Sachin’s engagement party. That was just the way I rolled back in the day. Driving to all locations when now I would prefer to catch the train. I caught the train down to Bournemouth, using the time to catch up on my podcasts and two episodes of Eastenders on the BBC iPlayer I had pre-downloaded onto my Nexus 7 (2012). How times have changed indeed!

Slinky - The Send Off

A great night had by all. I wish I could say, that I stayed out until I was thrown out of the club at 5am. The reality is that was never going to happen. Being now, such an old timer, I lasted until 2:30am with my friend Paul, when we decided to leave and head back to our respective hotels. I believe the hardcore few, including Kevin stayed until closing time.

The Mother We Share

We live in a connected world. The news story I will see presented by George Alagiah on the 10 o’clock news on BBC One will feature in print media such as The Daily Mail and on the radio in heated debates on BBC Radio Five Live. Therefore we have to be selective on the news we do decide to consume. I have streamlined my podcast diet down to just three main regular slots. The fantastic ArseCast by ArseBlog every Friday during the EPL season. The Consumer Panel featuring multimillionaire Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis (there is an oxymoron in there somewhere!) Finally Let’s Talk About Tech presented by the delectable Chris Warburton. These two weekly podcasts from BBC Radio FiveLive, Thursday lunchtimes and Saturday evening respectively! I still need to get some partizan teach news so listen to The Engadget EuroCast but the broadcast of this is sporadic, usually once a fortnight but weeks can go past with no edition due to the tape recorder having chewed the cassettes. Rather a feeble excuse for a tech journalist website owned by AOL.

In Let’s Talk About Tech they feature new music every few weeks to keep the format fresh and appeal to a wider audience. Remember it is broadcast during prime time on a Saturday night. Last week I listened to the podcast some twelve hours after initial airing in the gym around 11am. I liked the band Chvrches and their slice of 1980s electronic synthesized pop on single The Mother We Share. The song was predicted to chart somewhere inside the Top 40 later that afternoon. I downloaded the song later that evening but it was news later in the week which came to both shock and dishearten.

I missed the bands performance on Jools Holland but some kind soul had uploaded to the segment in full onto the interweb so I was able to download and enjoy the understated but enigmatic performance of their song. While at work I noted an article by lead singer Glaswegian Lauren Mayberry on The Guardian website. People think they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity on the internet. Feel they can defend their position under the law of freedom of speech and expression. However words on the screen have a powerful impact on people in the real world. In particular impressionable teenagers, some of whom have tragically taken their own lives as a direct response of online abuse so called cyber bullying. Something has to be done to change the sentiment that anyone and anything is fair game in the wild west of the world wide web. Perhaps prominent figures, such as lead singers in indie bands speaking out, naming and shaming the offends will be a good place to start.

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