Radio shows I have loved, Part 1.

27 01 2011

I love radio more than Robin Hood loved Maid Marian, more than Lady Gaga loves her local butchers, and more than E4 loves showing every episode of Friends at least 800 times. It’s seen me through thick and thin, stood by me when I was lost or lonely, and been a friend in times of need. So because of that, I’ve decided to write about the times that radio has meant something to me.

I’ll start with a show that I don’t particularly care for anymore, but at the time it saved my bacon…

When Steve Wright Helped Me Pass My SATs

That’s right. The presenter of Radio 2’s  ‘Big Show’, who pioneered the use of the American-style ‘gang’ radio in the UK, helped me pass my Year 9 maths exam.

At the time, it was the biggest exam EVER. (Forget those Year 6 SATs, they were nothing in comparison to this humdinger.) As the teachers constantly told us, the SATs would determine which GCSE set you would get into, the set would determine what level you would aim towards for GCSEs, the GCSEs would in turn influence your choices and options for A-Levels, your A-Levels would decide what university you would be accepted to, and your degree from University ruined your ENTIRE LIFE. This was big stuff.

My little heart could barely take the pressure. In my head, getting a good level in my SATs would basically decide my whole future. I was 13 and this was it; failing these exams would mean my life was over. I would have to leave school and go down the mines unless I reached AT LEAST a level 5. In retrospect I can barely remember what I actually got, let alone what the levels meant (is 5 good? Bad? Average?) but at the time I knew I needed the hallowed number 5 to get me through. And that was only in maths. Don’t even get me started on my goals for the english exam; I think I was aiming for an 8.

So for weeks and days before the tests, I settled down to revise. This is where my plans unravelled. Obviously like all teens, I hated revision, but I have a perilously short attention span. (This causes major problems in my life when people assume I’m paying attention to lectures/films/books/conversations, and I’m generally just thinking about food). The attention span could have been my undoing, were it not for the lovely Mr Wright.

Every day for a month I sat in our conservatory and between the hours of 2 and 5pm I would learn about trigonometry, figure out just what number ‘x’ represented, and sit as many practice papers as possible. I broke up the sections of the show and timed them to help me figure out how long I’d revised. This meant I’d always have a break during the ‘Factoids’ because I genuinely find them fascinating and knew I wouldn’t be able to ignore them. (This was also true of the horoscopes, but only for my own starsign. Yes I know, typical Leo).

I worked through all the news bulletins (they were even duller than my graph paper, so I wasn’t missing much) and most of the links between Steve and his gang (Janey Lee Grace and Tim Smith, if you’re interested). If a song came on that I liked, then I’d stop and listen, because I’m rubbish at listening to music when I’m working. If a song that I didn’t like came on, then I would work through.

To be honest, given the number of 80s soft-rock ballads that were on the Radio 2 playlist and the fact that my main musical heroes were S Club 7, there was rarely a song that let me take a break.

The rules I’d made for myself were haphazard and flexible. If someone I liked was interviewed, then of course I’d put my ruler down, forget long division, and soak in the chat. But on the whole, my rules worked. Using the strict timetable of the Big Show, I was able to concentrate and finally figure out how on earth I could make x equal y…or whatever it was that I was frantically revising.

The exams came and went and of course, in the grand scheme of things they weren’t important at all. I certainly don’t go around asking my friends what they got for their Year 9 SATs, and I suspect if I was the kind of person who did I wouldn’t have any friends to ask in the first place. But I will always know that in the spring of 2001, I got a Level 6 in maths, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of Steve Wright and his gang.


The Most Awful Thing I Have Seen In My Life

17 06 2010

This post was written in a fit of pure anger and ire, so I apologise if it isn’t as comprehensible as you’d expect. But it is full, FULL, of emotion.

Sex and the City 2, then.

It was the worst film I have ever seen and after seeing it I can’t help but say I wanted to vomit my own eyeballs out and then give back my Woman Card to the ID office because if that’s what it means to be female then I want NO PART in it. And I used to be a fan! A fan!

It was the most sexist, lazy, uninspiring and racist film I have ever seen, and I cannot believe I sat through the whole ruddy thing. I went in the cinema at 8.30, left at 11.15, and came out THIRTY YEARS older. I have SO MANY problems with it. Let’s start with half way through when they go to Abu Dhabi for a week away, and the whole bit should have been replaced with a frigging page from Teletext holidays. At one point they say ‘gosh we’ve only been here 2 days’ and I felt myself shouting ‘REALLY?! REALLY?! It feels like 2 MONTHS, CARRIE’.

They supposedly have the most luxurious suite ever, with an informal lounge, a formal lounge, a personal bar and all manner of ridiculous butler systems but they still have to share bedrooms. And they all get a car each (Each! Think of the environment, ladies!) but for some inexplicable reason they have to share a camel. And they have phone signal IN THE DESERT. I’m sorry but if I don’t get signal in my northern village of Wall then you sure as hell won’t get a bar of Vodafone signal in the middle of the Middle East.

Next thing- they’re old. Really old. I swear at one point Carrie looks in the mirror and it’s Voldemort looking back at her. And when did Carrie turn into such a nag? Gees woman, you got the man of your dreams, now chill the frig out and have fun. Stop nagging him! Just sit on a sofa and be happy for once in your life.

Oh and since when did everyone have a group of friends who constantly came up with a flow of ‘hilarious’ one-liners? No one’s friends are that consistently witty, unless your close circle of pals includes Stephen Fry and Oscar Wilde.

They keep banging on about the recession but they still manage to afford the most ridiculously sickening luxuries that are so expensive it’s almost offensive and is totally detached from their audience e.g. ‘oh we have a spare apartment across town but couldn’t afford to put it on the market’. SO YOU’LL JUST KEEP IT EMPTY AND PRETTY AND WON’T RENT IT OUT, YEAH? Yeah. Sounds like a good idea. Oh, and well done you for sacrificing that penthouse suite and getting a flat 12 floors below, to represent how ‘down to earth’ you are. Gosh Carrie, you really are one of us, aren’t you, even though you have a massive fuck-off wardrobe that’s bigger than the room I’m in now.

And the racism?! They’re so patronising to a different culture it’s galling. Fine, you have sex. But don’t (literally) parade it in the faces of people who don’t want that in the middle of their restaurants. That’s right Samantha, I’m talking to you.

Finally, any film that ends with Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colours’ is sodding lazy. No arguments. And if I hear any of their shrill voices one more time I will have to dissolve my ear drums in some kind of acid, even though that would perilously play havoc with my chosen career in radio.

…and even if you didn’t read this, just the act of writing it out was cathartic. Now I’m going to hit my head repeatedly on a brick wall to try and forget the travesty of a ‘film’ I just watched. If you want a more realistic depiction of foreign and mysterious lands, just stay in and watch Aladdin.

Making the News Fun

12 05 2010

If I was in charge of the news, I’d have a few new rules:

A competition to present your own made-up news story.

An ‘…And Finally’ section that lasts AT LEAST half of the programme.

The abolition of over-the-top news theme tunes that should end 30 seconds before they actually do.

…etc etc, you get the idea. But I’d also quite like to make news in general a bit lighter and a bit more…well…fun. So I cobbled this together recently, in a bid to make the Labour leader contest a bit more interesting.

The BBC say they want to educate, entertain, and inform, don’t they? Well I reckon I could help them out with that…

To be honest…

25 04 2010


I don’t really like the Cockney accent. I find it a little bit scary and much more intimidating than a Geordie lilt.

I’m concerned that I get most of my opinions from the comedians I follow on Twitter.

I like James Corden. He makes me laugh and there’s really not much more I can ask of him.

I have no interest in the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, or physics in general. And I don’t fancy Dr Brian Cox.

I’m not sure what a ‘hung Parliament’ is.

I find going to music gigs can be an awkward experience; do you dance, sing along, shout, or look cool by standing around and bopping to the music? And what happens if you just want a good sit down mid-song?

I am terrified that there is a way to tell who has been on your facebook wall, and everyone knows apart from me.

I’ve never seen a Bond film. Or any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or that ruddy Twilight/New Moon thing.

I have been known to text AQA about rather important things in my life. (And have then taken its advice)

I know that running a marathon is an amazing thing to do and you raise lots of money for charity, but I could/would never ever do it.

I will often choose to listen to Real Radio instead of Radio 4. Sometimes I just want to sing along to songs instead of being told depressing things about the world, y’know?

I spend more time playing Peggle than I do exercising.

I judge you on your knowledge (or lack of knowledge) of BBC 6 Music.

I learnt most of the things I know about friendships and social etiquette through ‘Friends’.


A Day At The Gym

15 04 2010

I am not a ‘Gym Bunny’. I never have been and probably never will be. In fact, if exercise was a person, he would be someone I never met because we would run in totally different circles. (I use ‘run’ in a very loose sense).  But nevertheless, I know that I have to stay fit and healthy and work off all those Wispa bars that seem to find their way past my mouth. So sometimes, just sometimes, I have to get out the tracksuit bottoms and head to the gym.

It all goes downhill as soon as I get to the reception area. Y’see, I once fainted at the gym (more about that later) and if the attendant who looked after me is behind the counter, I tend to get a knowing smile and a patronising ‘Are you ok?’ as if I’m about to pass out at any minute. Honestly. You make one little fainty error and you’re never allowed to forget it.

The reception of the gym is also the place where I suffered the single finest put-down ever. After one of the staff asked me if I wanted a small towel or a big towel, I opted for a big one. The attendant next to him looked me up and down, and without a hint of a joke just uttered ‘Better make it two, eh?’

Seriously. Simple, but effective. I had no idea, until that moment, that I was a Two-Towel type of gal. But there we are.

So by the time I get to the changing rooms I’m questioning the whole experience. I’m almost ready to throw in the towel (hahahah, geddit? Towel? Yeah?) and go home to bathe in Dairy Milk. But I don’t. I shove my iPod on and get ready for the hard graft. The most important thing I do at the gym is time it perfectly so I can watch all the good TV shows while I’m on the treadmill or the cross-trainer. Yeah that’s right, I have a fancy gym with TVs on the equipment. Or maybe all gyms have that? I’m not a connoisseur of exercise machinery, so I really wouldn’t know.

Generally my time on the treadmill is overshadowed by whatever is happening on Neighbours. I have been known to burst into tears on the treadmill; not through the strenuous exercise but because of a particularly soppy story where Declan and Kate decided they should go out with each other (I’m welling up just thinking about it). But obviously, I have to pull myself together and realise that sobbing on a treadmill in the middle of a gym is a bit of a no-no.

So I get off and have a look around me. And there are women there wearing a full face of make-up. What on earth is that about? I’m sweating like an elephant in a sauna and have the type of heavy breathing you generally hear from a dodgy phone call, and these women still look pristine. I don’t know who they’re trying to impress but it’s certainly not me.

After the treadmill I’m normally a bit bow-legged and feeling wobbly. Normally when I run there’s a reward at the end of it, like an ice-cream or a hug, but on a treadmill the only reward offered is a flashing sign telling you to move on to the Ab Trainer. So I go over there and sit next to the Stepper. (At least I think that’s what it’s called).

On the Stepper is a girl. Not only is she calmly exercising, but she’s also reading a pretty heavy book at the same time. I am overcome in awe. She is EXERCISING! And READING! This fact puts me in a very bad light; when I was having my gym induction, I tried out the Stepper. I stepped and stepped and stepped, only to be told I didn’t quite have the co-ordination to use it. And at the end of the session, after my inductor quietly said ‘We might come back to that one, eh?’, I knew it was a lost cause. When he was programming my training, that piece of equipment mysteriously disappeared from my list. So the fact I’m basically too clumsy to use this machine, but other people are quite happily using it as a way to study while they tone, is a depressing fact.

I look the other way, and there’s a thirteen year old on the Cross Trainer next to me, executing what I can only assume to be the perfect example of both crossing and training. She is fast, efficient, like a puma on a…erm…cross trainer. She is not red in the face like me, she is not puffing or panting or wondering how long she has until dinner, she is happily striding on the machine.

I look away in dismay.

Finally, I step away from the Ab Trainer and realise I have some kind of wedgie situation. Hiding behind the weights, I gently try to sort myself out. Fine. Good. Discrete? No. I have, quite accidentally, angled myself in full view of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors and therefore my wedgie issue has become visible to everyone in the room, especially the trainers who already think I’m a bit ‘special’.

Ah yes. The reason they think this, as mentioned before, is the whole ‘fainting’ issue. Well, it only happened once and I have no idea what caused it, but it certainly wasn’t as a result from over-exertion. Quite the opposite. I’d done 10 minutes on the treadmill, got bored and decided to go swimming instead. So while putting on my costume in the changing rooms, I started to feel a bit dizzy and, well, you can guess the rest. I was found by a fellow gym member (I was making a lot of funny noises, apparently) in my costume, slumped on the floor. They called the attendant, who called the ambulance, who called my parents. But that’s another story for another day.

It all means that by the end of my workout, even the fact I’ve managed to survive past the treadmill is a personal victory. As I stumble out of the gym and towards my stash of Minstrels in the car, I hi-five myself, safe in the knowledge I won’t have to go through the whole ridiculous performance for at least another few days.

Conform or be damned!

1 04 2010

Like the sheep who stay in their flock and the teens who refuse to step outside of their accepted social circle, I have to admit that I am a conformer. (Or should that be ‘conformist’? Hmm…I’ll just use whatever word it is that everyone else does). Now, this will come as no shock to anyone who knows me; I rarely break out of social norms in case I offend anyone or embarrass myself. And god forbid I should do something that The Man (teachers, tutors, parents, police, ‘authorities’) disapproves of.

Obviously, this means that I have never, in my life, consciously ‘rocked the boat’ without looking around me first and checking if everyone else was doing it too.

And normally I’m ok with this. But there is one conformist thing I do automatically nearly every day that even I have started to question…I straighten my hair.

A lot of people I know have never seen me with my hair in its natural state i.e. curly, unruly, mental. Those who have probably either lived with me or were around on one of those days where I was trying to figure out if I can be seen in public and not incur the wrath of those oh-so-cool kids with either:

a) poker straight hair

b) delightfully wavy hair

c) enchantingly curly hair.

Naturally, mine is none of the above. If anything, it falls into

d) Manic Professor/Sarah Jessica Parker-hybrid hair. (A terrifying thought, I’m sure you agree)

Upon seeing my hair in its natural state, I was once greeted with ‘Hey Bex, is it windy outside? *snigger*’. And that has stayed with me for a long time. It’s acceptable to have curly hair and it’s acceptable to have straight hair, but what about those of us who only have a Good Hair Day when they get out the straighteners and iron through their mane? I must admit that it doesn’t look too bad if I let it dry alone and then refuse to touch it again, but I do worryingly resemble Selma Bouvier (from The Simpsons, if you’re wondering).

Another thing I was wondering; apart from the already-mentioned SJP is there anyone who has famously curly hair and doesn’t straighten it? I know there must be someone, but off the top of my head I find it hard to pinpoint one person who uses their corkscrew locks to their advantage. Julia Roberts, maybe? But even she succumbed to the ghds eventually.

Maybe I’m complaining about nothing, and I should accept my ‘situation’ as one more way I have to conform and I should just get over it. But one day, I’ll meet someone with similarly rubbish hair, and we shall bond, and not straighten it, and we shall go out amongst the Cool Kids. We shall not care what they think.

And it shall be a Good Hair Day.

6 Months In Numbers

21 03 2010

I moved to London on 19th September 2009. For those of you adept with numbers and time you might say this weekend was just over six months to the day that I moved to London. (I am adept with neither numbers or time, so I’m hoping my stats are correct; if not this whole blog post is somewhat undermined). Instead of recapping those six months by telling all the stories and ridiculous scrapes I’ve fallen into, I thought I’d do you a favour and shorten it all into a list of numbers. So, here are the facts and figures of the previous 6 months in my life.

188 – The number of the bus I fell asleep on, only to wake up at 3am outside the O2 in North Greenwich.

30 – (Roughly) the number of comedy gigs I’ve seen.

1 – The number of court hearings I’ve been to (not mine, I hasten to add)

328 – Approx. the number of Diet Cokes I’ve bought/drank (is this a lot? I have no concept of the accepted amount of coke you can drink)

0 – Amount of famous people I’ve spotted on the Tube (I was assured I’d see someone; I’m thoroughly disappointed)

10 – Number of times I’ve used my student card to get a discount when clothes shopping

5 – Number of times I’ve used my student card to get into the library.

25 – Percentage of my MA I’ve completed.

3 – Number of times, on average in any given week, I’ve eaten pasta and pesto.

15 – Number of times (per journey) I’ve apologised to people on the Tube for bumping into them

16 – Number of times (per journey) I’ve been mocked by my course-mates for constantly apologising  to people on the Tube.

20 – Amount of money (in pounds) I spent on a round of tequila shots in Shoreditch. After living in the cheap(ish) north, I’d forgotten that alcohol costs, y’know, more that £1 for a shot.

10 – Number of minutes I spent locked in a toilet at a friend’s house party. (Don’t ask)

Of course, there are some things I’ve totally lost track of. Like the amount of times I’ve said something stupid in front of someone I was trying to impress, the number of cups of tea I’ve made, or the bundle of times I’ve been on the DLR. And I can’t even begin to tally the amount of tweets I’ve written since September.

Then again, as I said in the intro I’m not that good with numbers anyway, so I’ve no idea about why I decided to evaluate my life via statistics in the first place…