Jeremy Discusses GDP, Yoga, the Greek Referendum and Escalators

Apologies for the long absence…I have about half a dozen blog posts in various forms of readiness to publish but, for day-job related reasons and because I’m trying to write more of the actual novel, I’ve not managed to finish the posts off for a while. The following is recycled from a post I put up on our MA year group’s communal blog (it’s a closed group, I’m afraid) and it’s about how the all human life (almost) can be found in its not very flattering glory between 12 noon and 2pm on BBC Radio Two.

The Jeremy Vine show has been called Daily Mail radio and it’s quite formulaic but it’s often hilariously entertaining. Jeremy Vine himself seems to adopt this ‘reasonable man’ persona that makes most of the peculiar people and oddballs on his show think he’s being incredibly sympathetic when, in reality, I suspect he’s gently satirising them.

Whoever puts the show’s schedule together must have a surreal sense of humour. The following list (that I extracted and edited directly from the BBC website) features almost all of the topics discussed on recent shows (starting yesterday and going back a month or so).

It has some of the most bizarre combinations of subjects imaginable. Both the first and the last items on the list below are mind-boggling.

Unsurprisingly, having listened a lot to JV over the past three years, his hobby horses appear to be materialising in my writing — if you see which topics tend to recur in the list below then you might be able to get an idea of what are themes in my novel — except for wheelie bins which are a JV favourite but haven’t played a part in my writing — YET!

I was thinking of subtitling my novel ‘How Jeremy Vine Ruined My Life’.

  • Jeremy discusses GDP, yoga, the Greek referendum and escalators.
  • Jeremy discusses violent pornography, Jimmy Savile, diabetes and canoeists and anglers.
  • Vanessa Feltz discusses supermarket apprenticeships, rickets, St Paul’s and stone theft.
  • Vanessa Feltz discusses knife crime, Mandarin, teenage goths and getting online.
  • Vanessa Feltz discusses unfair dismissal, dentists, domestic violence and seagulls.
  • Vanessa Feltz discusses the EU, house husbands, St Paul’s and Japanese Knotweed.
  • Vanessa Feltz discusses the European referendum, jailed parents, Islam and wide cars.
  • Jeremy discusses Colonel Gaddafi, stamps, living alone and dogs worrying livestock.
  • Jeremy discusses Dale Farm, energy sources, foreign aid and offensive language.
  • Jeremy discusses Dale Farm, the Euro, housing problems and egg donation.
  • Jeremy discusses Hillsborough, GPs cutting patients, funeral etiquette and Gaza.
  • Jeremy discusses anti-capitalist protests, energy prices, smacking and IndyCar racing.
  • Jeremy discusses journalists, a restaurant in trouble, pornography and our allotment.
  • Jeremy discusses unemployment, Libya, care for the elderly in the NHS and being a mum.
  • Jeremy discusses the police, lottery winners, wheelie bins and a young entrepreneur.
  • Jeremy discusses quantitative easing, TV repeats, saving money & an unusual police chase.
  • Jeremy discusses Steve Jobs, hot curry, the Jarrow marchers and memorial benches.
  • Jeremy discusses credit card debt, crime in prisons, being mixed race and Theresa May.
  • Jeremy discusses the Knox verdict, drones, tube drivers and parking restrictions.
  • Jeremy discusses adoption, the Irish presidency, war graves and a tortoise sanctuary.
  • Jeremy discusses Ed Miliband, Rihanna, extra-marital affairs and the Greek bailout.
  • Jeremy discusses defence cuts, horse whipping, cancer drugs and a young Labour activist.
  • Jeremy discusses drink-driving, the economy, care for the elderly and lullabies.
  • Jeremy discusses the economy, a couple living in a shed, feminism and rag-and-bone men.
  • Jeremy discusses PFI, a London bus stabbing, genital mutilation and the Blue Peter Annual.
and I just found two classics from the last two shows:
  • Jeremy discusses the IMF, umbrellas, insurance and using hedges as toilets.
  • Jeremy discusses the Euro rescue package, arguing, secrets and kidneys.

For a longer list of topics going back to June then click here. Inspiration from Jeremy Vine

The Foolish Joys of Spring

Here’s a photo of a sheep…

Newborn 166
Newborn 166

…and a lamb which must have been a day or two old. I took this about three minutes into a run earlier in the week. The land use around here is a varied mixture of livestock, lots of horses, sheep, cattle and a few goats and pigs and arable, mainly wheat but there’s an absolutely massive field — about 3/4 mile by 1/4 mile — very close which has been sown with oilseed rape this year and will soon be a block of bright yellow that I imagine will also waft a pungent smell for a couple of weeks.

It’s fascinating to observe the rhythm of the seasons in events like lambing and it’s something I want to do in the novel — both literally and metaphorically in terms of the plot — decay and rebirth and so on. It’s been re-assuring, after the persistent snow and extremely low temperatures in December — I calculated about -15C at least in my garden — that hibernating wildlife seems not to have been affected. I’ve seen plenty of bumblebees and loads of ladybirds.

I get BBC Countryfile magazine and the new issue comes with a ‘free CD of British birdsong’. I guess there’s a trainspotter aspect involved — learning the individual songs of each bird if you can really be that diligent — but I imagine that the people who will play it most are those who don’t get the benefit of natural birdsong. (Before Classic FM was launched the engineering test transmissions played birdsong, which proved very popular with listeners.)

Fortunately I haven’t dashed to play my CD as the birdsong in the garden is at its seasonal peak — with the birds busy pairing off and making nests. We’ve got a few resident blackbirds who sing most beautifully perched on the tops of trees, especially at dawn and dusk. It makes me realise one of the best investments I’ve made in a long time was a 16kg bag of bird seed which saw us through most of the winter and has meant the residency of countless sparrows, finches, blackbirds, robins, starlings has continued. But I’m not sure it’s delivered on the promise of the first species on the sack, I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing those in the garden in the winter, more’s the pity.

Great Tits
Did It Do Exactly What It Said On The Tin?

Another joy of spring in the non-natural world is the April Fool. I was a bit remiss myself as I’ve enjoyed doing a few spoofs myself in the past — all I could do is post a very unconvincing status update on Facebook at 11.55am. Maybe it’s because of the recession but there were a lot of amusing hoaxes this year — there’s a round up here.

Legoland Vandalism
Legoland Vandalism

The Guardian has done some good April Fools in the past and this year it tried to convince its readers that it had changed position to wholeheartedly support the royal wedding. If you accepted this unlikely reversal of its stance then there were some very amusing stories on a supposed live wedding blog. My favourite was the desecration of the Legoland model of Buckingham Palace — a suspected trial run in miniature for the big day (see photo below linked to Guardian website).

Best of all — and my favourite for a long time — was the spoof Ken Bruce show on Radio Two. Like all the best hoaxes, and the sort of humour I like in general, this was done with such a light touch that it might just possibly have been serious.

I turned on in the car mid-way through the show and thought ‘this isn’t Ken Bruce, I wonder who’s sitting in’. But the lightly-accented Scottish voice claimed he was Ken Bruce. I twigged fairly quickly, especially after ‘Ken’ completed a whole link by burbling gibberish, that this was an April Fool and tried to identify who was the impersonator. Many other people took it literally and complained that it was Ken Bruce himself having his own joke — or that he was even drunk (which isn’t too far fetched given the rumours about another recently departed Radio Two presenter).

I nailed it as Rob Brydon fairly quickly — although the fact he’s on just about everything anyway helped narrow down the odds. His impression of a lecherous, incoherent egotist was so spot on that I felt a bit sorry at the end when the real Ken came on as he’d been so thoroughly skewered. (From a personal note I used to work for someone with a very similar drawl to this ‘Ken Bruce’ and he was also an occasionally lecherous, alternate monstrous egomaniac and paranoid neurotic so I did particularly enjoy Rob Brydon’s creation).

I’ve listened to the first half hour on the iPlayer — and I’ll try and listen to the whole thing again as it’s so funny.  There was perhaps a bit too much smutty innuendo for my liking — not because I’m prudish about these things (as some blog postings will attest) but because remarks about knobs are a bit lazy, like shock swearing, for a comedian to resort to — thankfully I didn’t hear any puns about garden birds and female anatomy.

But there were some inspired moments — particularly when the other presenters were trying to be serious. Hearing ‘Ken’ saying that Jeremy Vine had come in to ‘bore us all to death’ was priceless but I think my James might have been shaking the radio in rage.

Good Morning

The Richard and Judy book club is back — albeit in an online manifestation (in conjunction with W.H.Smith) rather than via broadcasting. Seeing as their old ‘This Morning’ book club seemed to have transformed into generic ‘TV Book Club’, which continues on Channel 4, it will be interesting to see how the two fare against each other — although there’s surely room for both to co-exist. (I have a soft spot for W.H.Smith as I worked there as a sixth-former and every Christmas as a student, although, curiously I worked on every department and did almost every conceivable job in the Oldham store — including security guard when the takings were taken in a briefcase to the bank —  except work on books.)

I know there’s more involvement from Richard and Judy themselves than just being figureheads as I follow Richard Madeley’s very entertaining tweets, which have proved a source of inspiration for characterisation on occasions. He has updated his Twitter followers with behind-the-scenes  information about the selection of the books — they retreated to the south of France to read their way through the longlist but this wasn’t as idyllic as it sounds as Richard kept being stung by wasps. Some of his many Twitter followers ensured he countered the wasps with an electrified tennis-racket device which, ironically for me, I’d been introduced to earlier in the summer by my dad.

The wasps are mentioned again in the blog on their website which also has the happy news that Richard Madeley will be guest presenting some more shows on Radio Two in the near future. Previous stints have introduced the world to the recipe for his infamous tuna bake (topped with crushed packets of crisps).

I’m fascinated to see what sort of books (they’re not all fiction nor English language originals) are chosen for this sort of promotion. One thing about following Richard Madeley’s tweets is that his candid, gaffe-prone persona gives the impression that these books are all chosen objectively on merit and not due to publisher lobbying.

It’s interesting that the previous post was on Jonathan Franzen as ‘The Corrections’ came to prominence partly because he was reportedly dismissive about Oprah Winfrey selecting the book for her club — and then she apparently deselected it when informed.

I can see from the writers’ and publishers’ perspective that these sort of book clubs wield a huge amount of promotional power and that it might seem like something of a lottery to have their titles promoted. On the other hand, these clubs must certainly expand the quantitative size of the book market and, because they have had a track record of picking some innovative and challenging books, they probably improve the market in qualitative terms too.

First Dale Winton, Now Amazon Remind Me of An Enormous Boob

I’ve just had an e-mail from Amazon asking me if I’d be interested in a certain selection of titles by one of their best-selling authors. The titles include: ‘Crystal’, ‘Sapphire’, ‘Paradise’ and, oh this is a bit worrying, ‘Angel’ and, even more so, ‘Angel Uncovered’. The author concerned, as probably 95% of the book-buying population knows (the exception being the sort of people who are enrolled on, or maybe otherwise involved with, university creative writing classes), is Katie Price (aka brand Jordan).

I had actually recently become aware of this unfortunate co-incidence  — but only several weeks after our course reading had touted the title of my novel to the great and good of the London literary agency world as ‘THE Angel’.

I was pulling up weeds in the vegetable patch when I was listening to Dale Winton on Radio Two — who was making a more entertaining stand-in turn than Steve Wright normally manages (why is it that EVERYONE Steve Wright mentions always ‘Loves the Show’ — and that Steve Wright feels it necessary to tell us that?).

Dale Winton was interviewing Katie Price — as one can imagine it wasn’t really a Jeremy Paxman style grilling. After they exhausted the topic of how the media were for some inexplicable reason always invading her privacy (she’s only done three interviews all year so who on earth is promoting the constant coverage of her in the tabloids?) they discussed her writing career. I was mildly interested until I heard the name of the main character of the series — Angel –who’s oddly enough a glamour model.

I was pretty mortified by this at the time. Partly it was because I’d not done my research on names and, had I done so, then I may have avoided using any angelic references in my title. That said, many books have similar titles and Katie Price is the kind of author (if that’s the right word) whose name is in far bigger type on the book cover than the title, which is almost incidental. However, even though the literary agents we invited to the reading would certainly not have expected me to launch into a carbon-copy bonkbuster (I hope) then they may have been unfortunately reminded, even subliminally, of the connection.

I still like my title, though, as it has a lot of meanings and connotations — apart from the religious guidance, protection and revelatory aspects it’s also the name of the nearest tube to City University — it just has an extra association now.

What I’m a bit more unsettled about is Amazon sending me an e-mail suggesting I might want to buy the whole Katie Price canon. I may once have browsed briefly at her book after I heard the Dale Winton interview although I remember more clearly flicking through the new one (‘Paradise’ I think in W.H.Smith) and having to wait as long as page five to get to a sex scene. I can understand them sending me mails about creative writing books or boring IT strategy texts that I buy for my MSc in Software development but I’ve hardly, if ever, looked at the sexy adventures of Angel. I do have a lot of files on my computer’s hard disk with Angel in the title, though, and I may have sent a lot of e-mails with Angel in the subject line. Makes you wonder.