Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Afternoon Shift

I’ve just realised it’s exactly ten years today since the last edition of Radio 4’s Afternoon Shift programme which dominated my life for three years when I was a daily features reporter.
It was great fun (even if I frequently stayed in Broadcasting House till 1 or 2 in the morning, editing on tape with a razor blade). I made some fantastic friends, met some extraordinary characters and I still miss it.
The odd thing is that it just feels like five minutes since the final programme and the somewhat riotous after-show party with a ‘Titanic’ theme.
But I’m well aware that I’ve done a lifetime’s worth of stuff since then – reported on Home Truths and Front Row, presented 15 documentaries, moved to Oxford then Hertford, set up a media company, got through a mini-stroke and heart surgery, brought up three rabbits and a cat, worked everywhere from LA to Bangkok etc etc etc
Still – April 30 1998 feels like yesterday. I vividly remember the final on-air goodbyes, followed by champagne in the corridor outside B16. Then there was the party in a Kensington ballroom. I was dressed as a sailor and got appropriately tipsy with Laurie, Daire and various programme-friendly celebs like Beryl Bainbridge. And we rounded it off in Balans restaurant in Soho – having Eggs Benedict and lots of coffee at 6am.
As you probably know, Laurie (Taylor) is still on Radio 4 and sounding as eccentric, witty and clever as ever. I still pop up on the air when I feel like it, as do most of the other reporters. And Daire (Brehan) is now a high-flying barrister at the Inns of Court.
What was once the Afternoon Shift office – Room 800 on the top floor of BH – is now a glass penthouse occupied by Front Row.
It was definitely a love/hate programme, but I certainly had a great time working on it. And it’s good to hear its spirit still pretty obviously haunting the airwaves.
Hello to anyone reading this who had any connections with the show. Hope you’re well. Keep it quirky.

Places I Like – Alnwick, Northumberland

I was deeply shocked the other day when a friend from the south admitted she’d never heard of Alnwick in Northumberland.
Alnwick is considered one of the most picturesque towns in the UK. It has an imposing medieval castle (the second biggest inhabited castle in the UK, after Windsor). It was home to the Percy family, including Hotspur. It featured as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. And Alnwick was recently declared the ‘best place to live in Britain’ by Country Life magazine.
So there.

Ich Heisse Lumpi. Ich bin ein Hund. Wienerschnitzel schmeckt mir gut.

If, like me, you were introduced to German by the frighteningly aryan Hans Schaudi, his sinister schnitzel-obsessed family, his disturbed beagle Lumpi and his spooky sidekick Lieselotte, you’ll shout ‘Toll! Das ist aber schön!’ and possibly even ‘Mein Bein tut weh!’ when you learn that the 70s Vorwärts German course has now become an internet cult.

There are even some amusing parodies (in French and Vorwärts-type German) on Super!

Vorwärts was partly devised by my German teacher Mr (Herr) Brendan. Revisting the Schaudis, I find this somewhat worrying.

The Schaudi Family

Hans and Lumpi. NB Lumpi was a Beagle and not a Dachshund, as claimed by the conspiracy theorists who view Vorw

Hans, Lieselotte and Lumpi search for mushrooms

Lumpi gets lost in the wood

Hans Schaudi. What’s that thing on his head? An insect? I don’t recall any references to it during my German lessons.

Mr Brendan


I received an odd email this morning and wasn’t sure whether it was spam or not, so I opened it. It announced

Grand Duke of All Russia Valery Kubarev Big Kubensky (Flavy Valery
Cubara – Jacob Constantine XV) declares the World Gathering descendants
of the Byzantium Emperors, Vikings, Rurik’s (Monomachos), Hashemite’s,
son of Buddha Rahula, Confucius from dynasty Duke Yansheng, Genghis
Khan, daughters of Miuko from Japan, Incas from America. All of us are
lineal descendants of the God-Father Cub.

Anxious to discover whether I was descended from the God-Father Cub, I visited Big Kubensky’s website and was informed that

Jesus Christ Zlatoust has decided to resemble the God-Father, the space navigator and Russian Varyag, Kubera-Cub. Zlatoust has chosen to itself seven wives and also has left the seven dynasties on the Earth, conducting started from him and Virgin Maria. Here these dynasties… Jesus Christ’s all descendants it is possible to name Zlatoust’ or on Byzantium like – Nazareth’s.

Could someone please explain?

Youths’ Suits

I bought this 1902 antique print yesterday for a mere £5 and intend to put it up next to my wardrobe. If a 2008 yoof dressed like this, I suspect he’d be severely beaten up.