It’s constantly drummed into us (excuse the pun) that moving house is the most stressful day of your life and nothing ever comes close to matching the levels of irritation and blind panic that come with such upheaval. Last year, for example, it took Natalie and myself over 12 hours to move just 400yds up the road to our new place, with removal men who clearly thought that a vehicle equivalent to one of those Daihatsu mini-vans was sufficient to carry the worldly goods of a married couple with 4 children all under the age of 10. Worse still, I had to abandon operations during the evening with only 2/3 of our stuff moved in order to cover an overnight shift on the radio station.
But there is another time when you can work yourself into a blooming frenzy for what seems like an eternity rather than a working day…the day you get your downstairs carpet removed to make way for new laminate flooring.
At least when you move house, you retain the merest semblance of control at times. This week, Natalie & I were at the utter mercy of a company and its sub-contracted fitters who combined a staggering lack of personal hygiene with an equally frightening abscence of English vocabulary. It’s not much to ask is it? I mean, for a floor fitter to understand what my wife means by cutting planks in a ‘straight line’ to fit, only to watch in horror as the gentleman concerned uses his knee as balance whilst he cuts rather than the massive inconvenience (to him obviously) of using a Black & Decker workbench, which clearly isn’t in the Croatian version of the Wickes catalogue.
You’re going to be looking at that floor for the next 20 years, after all. So why should we have to put up with Bodgit & Scarper - or in this case Bodgitski and Scarperov – shaping wood marginally worse than my 5-year-old step daughter would given 5 minutes training with a £300 jigsaw blade. And don’t even get me started on the beading and edging.
Not exactly a triumph of Eastern European productivity, but then some would argue that the British equivalent fitter either wouldn’t show up at all or engage in multiple sharp intakes of breath and follow up with “Well I can do that bit, mate but it’ll cost ya…” Brilliant. It’s times like this that I wonder whether I should have made more effort in woodwork lessons at school, rather than timidly hack away at a trapezium-shaped block of oak for 6 months in a vain effort to make a new door number ‘45’ for Mum & Dad’s front door. Upon completion of said artefact, we promptly moved house. That’s what made my mind up for me as to my chosen career, I think.
Well, we’re nearly 2 weeks on from our Croatian friends’ visit with packs of Ambience Oak (we bought 34 packs, yet only 26 were used and even my shite maths tells me we’re a bit shy of spare planks) and the house still resembles the Somme. I tell you - Christmas morning with 4 children all throwing brand new toys everywhere is a picnic by comparison. My advice to those of you considering a brand new floor is simply this. Retrain as a chippy. No matter how long it takes. I beg of you.
Lots of cover shifts for me lately on talkSPORT along with the rituals of Saturday games and Sunday Football First. In recent times, I’ve stood in for Adrian on both Drivetime and Matchday Live, for Danny Kelly on Evening Kick Off, and last Thursday I was covering H&J’s mid-afternoon 1-4 slot with Jason Cundy. Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs’ show was my absolute favourite on the radio along with Mark & Lard on Radio 1. Cruelly, the schedulers decided that both these broadcasting titans should be on the air at the same time and so, like a mistress, I flitted between my 2 radio loves from day to day & week to week, until Mark & Lard were unceremoniously dumped for replacements I didn’t care for and H&J had my undivided loyalty from then on.
Actually, even before Kelvin McKenzie had converted 1089/1053AM into talkSPORT, I was a huge fan of its predecessor Talk Radio. During the late 90’s I worked for a frustrating, lonely and morale-sapping year helping to distribute Ibanez guitars from a factory in Cradley Heath. Part of one’s morale was picked away at with just the small matter of the cross-city train journey I used to take from Acocks Green to Cradley stations. Awful. Just soul-destroying. And then, I sat in a draughty warehouse for 8 hours, checking, re-checking and re-re-checking shipments of guitars as they arrived from the Far East by the, well shipload I guess. But I did meet Steve Vai one day. Not too shabby.
As my immediate boss was busy reading the latest issue of Guitarist magazine in his office, and then reading it again for good measure to stretch time out until lunch, my main source of human contact was the radio. Heart FM appeared to be playing Eternal & Bebe Wynans on automatic repeat, ditto BRMB with Take That’s Back For Good (I had yet to be indoctrinated in the ‘art’ of music radio programming) and so finding a talk radio format on my little warehouse wireless was a haven for me.
By the time I’d settled in to checking shipments, Scott Chisolm’s morning current affairs programme was on, which I absolutely loved. I could even stomach Anna Raeburn’s lunchtime problem phone-in, a format that is normally anathema to me, but as I was morbidly unhappy at work, others’ problems seemed to dwarf mine and lessen my misery. Better stuff was to come from Tommy Boyd (who I’d remembered from ITV’s Blue Peter ripoff Magpie) who did a quite brilliant afternoon discussion show. He had the ‘happy’ hour and the ‘angry’ hour, inviting listeners to ring in with what made them happy or angry at that time, but more importantly Tommy introduced me to a debating style that talkSPORT has become well known for – namely espousing a controversial opinion and arguing the case for 3 hours with callers, despite it seeming that the point of view you’re giving is fundamentally wrong. Ring any bells with current talkSPORT presenters? :o)
And so I stuck with Talk Radio and was thrilled when the sports content was introduced more and more, until the station rebranded as talkSPORT a decade or so ago. Little did I know that I’d be presenting on it within a few years. I thought I’d be stuck in that warehouse forever. I feel like clicking Heart FM on right now, just to see if Eternal still get played on the hour every hour…
And so now I get to sit in for 2 of my all-time favourite presenters on occasion. You cannot fathom how bonkers that seems to me sometimes. Actually, speaking of fave presenters, I like many other of my peers would like to send a get well message to Danny Baker, who we learned today is receiving treatment for cancer. My fingers are crossed for the Candyman…