Is this still big brother?

Just as a followup to the events of yesterday and as an example of one of life’s most priceless moments, the following is a true and accuracte description of a verbal exchange that took place in the control room not long after I had left.

I should explain that at the radio station we have about eight different TV screens in front of us so that we can monitor various events taking place. We can watch the usual TV channels, lots of Sky channels and also a few foreign stations thanks to some dodgy satellite cards and a little bit of cunning. Most of the time these are used so we have live feeds of English football matches on a Saturday afternoon but as a hidden benefit these same foreign channels relay some very interesting hard core porn late at night.

It was one of those channels that was being displayed on one of the screens. Our telephone operator for the evening Liz, (who just happens to be one of my favourite people in the world owing to the fact that she looks and talks like a sterotypical blonde bimbo yet in actual fact is the exact opposite of one) wandered out into the office briefly and then back into the studio. Caught unawares for a moment she spotted the porn channel which by all accounts was at that moment showing a particularly painful looking DP scene.

She paused for a moment, frowned and then asked:

“Is this still Big Brother?”

I don’t even want to think about how she managed to reach that level of confusion.

Following on…

Sometimes it is amazing what a different a few hours can make.

I’ve just returned home from my second stint of the day. Whereas the first was characterised by the entire office buzzing with an energy I’ve never seen before, the second was like stepping into another world.

The reason for this was actually fairly simple. The radio station had arranged a table at a central London cafe for everyone who wanted to go down and watch England take on France in what they hoped would have been an easy victory. This meant that the only people left at the radio studios were those of us involved with broadcasting the commentary of the game. Three of us in total.

We all of us agreed that the contrast was bizarre. In the run up to the big event you could hardly move for bodies. When the event itself was going on, most people were just not needed or had other things on their mind.

Not that it was a bad evening of course, the result sucked but at least it made for a great phone-in afterwards. In a way I’m sorry I have a real job to go to tomorrow and had to leave before it was all over.

Something Special

OK, now this could get a little self indulgent before I am done, but today has been the kind of day that you cannot go through without wanting to share just a small part of how it felt.

I’ve just returned from a marathon six hour stint on the air which began at 8am. This was no ordinary Sunday though – this of course was the final countdown before England’s opening game in Euro 2004. Working for a sports focussed station it has been hard to ignore the fact that the championships are upon us and in actual fact at times it has been unbearable waiting for things to kick off. In the last few weeks we’ve picked apart every possible issue there was in the run up to Portugal. The tension was getting to everyone – we wanted action!

So today’s day of action has come as a welcome relief. Better still there is a buzz about the place that I don’t think I’ve experienced in two years of working here. This you see is a genuine event and an event that we’ve thrown lots of resources at. As a result there are reporters on the streets, out in bars, following the team.. well you get the idea. All that translates to a radio show that crackles with genuine energy and excitement.

Normally Sundays are like a dead zone in the office. Only those who actually are working on air are normally around. Not so today. Just about everyone connected with the place has a job to do today, booking guests, preparing for outside broadcasts. I’ve only been one small part of it and have been buried in the studio for most of the day – but just to be there as a part of it has been the most enjoyable experience of my life.

It looks like I’m going to have to put my angry consumer hat on again. This situation will almost certainly not be news to anyone who has wrestled with trying to move house whilst attempting to maintain a broadband internet connection.

Now I admit I was naive. Moving from one flat to another in the same block and keeping my same telephone number, I was hoping that a great deal of hassle would be avoided. Not so. The advice from my ISP was that I need to cancel my existing account and ask for a new one to be created at the same address.

No problem. Mail sent, account cancelled along with an assurance that I will be buying a new one from the same people.

Online I go to their website to order a new connection. No can do. “You already have an account with us on this number.” Yes, I know that, but I need to cancel it and create a new one.

Back on the phone to the support line to an embarrassed drone who admits that they cannot do the two simultaneously. I have to cancel the old account as it is linked to my old flat. However it is also linked to the telephone number and they cannot create a new account for that number until the old one has been disconnected – which could take anything up to 10 days.

Here’s to up to a month without high speed net access. I may have to go out and get a life instead.

Moving Day

Or, as it shall come to be known, the day of the giant supermarket trolley. This is the thing you see, because we are simply moving to another apartment in the same development I figured that this was one move that could be done on the cheap. No need to box everything all up at once, no need to hire a van and/or man or any of the usual stuff. I can do this on my own, slowly and steadily just by carrying stuff out of the old flat, down in the life, through the car park and up in the lift again to the new place. My parents did their usual “don’t do it, you’ll regret it, think of your back etc. etc” but I was determined to see it through.

Hence this morning dawned bright and clear and I rolled up my sleeves, put a tatty pair of shorts on and set about the herculean task. Boxes containing videos and records? Not a problem. Large TV set? No worries at all – it is lighter than it looks. Admittedly juggling the two sets of keys and attempting to activate the electronic locks with both hands full took some doing but I was managing OK. However it was 3pm in the afternoon and I still had only done the living room, with the bedroom looking particularly daunting. Books, boxes under the bed, clothes. You name it.

One of the concierges who had been watching me with growing sympathy all morning eventually approached me and asked: “Would you like to borrow a trolley to help?”

Like music to my ears it was. I replied in the affirmative and followed him out to the garage where the incoming parcels which are too big to fit in the post boxes are kept along with all sorts of other crap they don’t know what to do with. Amongst this other crap turned out to be a large shopping trolley from the local Tesco. The mechanics of how it came to be there are not really for me to speculate on, suffice to say it looked in good nick and someone had dismantled the security lock to get their £1 deposit out of it. The concierge dusted it down with a cloth and triumphantly presented me with my moving tool.

Now astonishingly enough it was the best idea of the day. Large though it was, it fitted perfectly in the lift which meant I could wheel it up to the front door, dump at least six trips worth of boxes and stuff inside, wheel it through the car park and up to the new flat. Admittedly some sacrifices had to be made, mainly in the area of my own personal dignity as I can assure you that wheeling a shopping trolley rammed with ones personal goods through an underground cap park packed with Mercs and BMWs (only the people in the expensive flats appear to drive it seems) is not the kind of thing you want to be doing when you have people to impress.

Still, the job is pretty much done. For the moment we are still staying at the old place whilst I deal with the chaos in the new flat but the heavy work appears to be done.

Time now to set the world record between the clicking of the ‘post’ button and the openeing of beer can…

So I’m sat in the control room on Saturday night, bracing myself for a five hour shift of playing adverts, answering phone calls and trying to be funny on air when called to do so. The light flashes for an incoming call and so I put on my headset, press the button and put on my best “hello I am very pleased to be talking to you, what would you like to tell me about” voice that I reserve for these particular occasions. I do this to suck up to people, to make nervous callers feel comfortable about themselves but most importantly of all to attempt to keep the universe happy and to minimise the chances of someone completely insane being on the other end.

This time it failed.

On the other end was a lady, a mother, a very unhappy person. Apparently her 10 year old son had called up the previous show wanting to talk about a football game. His number had been taken and he sat waiting patiently for a call back. This never came, despite him calling up three more times during the show. His mother had decided she was going to stir some shit up on his behalf and so launched into a ten minute nonstop tirade about how horrible we were for treading on the dreams of her little angel, how incompetent we all were and how she was going to use her influence as a media researcher to expose the disgraceful way we treated children.

This was of course the last thing I needed at the start of a long shift, particularly as she was now clogging up the switchboard and I had five other lines ringing and a presenter on air running out of things to talk to himself about and wanting some callers to start interacting with. Deflecting her with a polite apology did not seem to be an option. Oh no, she wanted blood and even my offer to let her son come on the radio there and then was clearly not good enough. In the end I had to persuade a colleague to go into another room and let her rant for another 20 minutes, making sure to bring me back a detailed account afterwards.

Later on in the cold light of day I worked out how I should have reacted. The fact is that her son was almost certainly not going to be on the air owing to his age, the fact that the presenter of the previous show had already spoken to one underage caller that night and had insisted no more were given to him and because the show itself was sponsored by a brewery who were giving away crates of beer to the callers to the show. Hardly the best kind of forum for someone who was 10 years old. Kids are always crap on phone-in shows anyway. However enthusiastic they may be they inevitably freeze on air, give one word answers and make the whole process a waste of time.

I get the feeling that the mother would have been better advised to spend her time educating her son that sometimes life is disappointing and that hoped for opportunities sometimes do not materialise. I’m sure he was gutted that his chance to appear on the radio for 10 seconds was taken away from him but both he and his mother were mistaken if they thought they had an unshakeable right to be on the radio simply because they managed to get through. That is why it is called “call screening”.

Anyway, I sent the tale to my bosses along with the number of insane woman. Hopefully the cold light of day will have given her a reality pill (99% of all threatened complaints never materialise) but covering oneself is always a wise move.

Finally it is over. I have somewhere else to live.

Past occasions when I have moved house have been pretty much through my own choice. I became bored of living in the current place, had the finances to take a step up and did so. This time it was different. This time I had a hormonally imbalanced landlady (she is eight months pregnant it turns out) giving me the finger and a deadline to meet.

This time around I thought I would go for agents. Ringing the private landlords in Loot can be a hit and miss business and after the current experience I wanted someone who at least had a clue what they were doing to help me out.

Some were very good and very helpful. One bloke kept ringing me up every day with a new place to show me, although sadly all of them were too small and/or a bit too grotty for my tastes. Eventually he ran out of places to show me. Another was a man who lived just down the road from me, a one man band who could not try hard enough to help find me somewhere to live. During one evening he drove me around the area several times, showing me 3 or 4 different apartments, all of which were very good but none of which I was sure about. I must have been playing hardball with him a little too much as last week he stopped returning my calls.

So hence it was back to the private landlords and thank goodness we hit paydirt. A phonecall yesterday in response to an ad in a free newspaper led to us this morning being showed around a flat in the same block as the current one. Wooden floors, brand new furniture, a great view across the dock. It could hardly be better. After I played hardball in the negotiations the landlord let me have it for a knockdown price and said I could move in for free a week early. Something tells me he was so grateful to come across a normal looking couple who were showing an interest that he was prepared to give us almost anything.

So we have gone from being almost homeless to having a full two weeks to move all our things 500 yards down the road. Something tells me this is going to be the most stress-free house move ever. Unless of course I drop the TV or something.

Friends of mine were chatting the other day about experiences with landlords and landladys – the people to whom you fork out a substantial proportion of your monthly salary for the privilege of living in their house. Believe me, I have plenty of tales.

First there was the flat I shared back in 1996, the first place I rented after leaving home. The owner was female, 30 years old, very friendly at first but totally insane when it came to the state of her home. For a start she was obsessively tidy and the way she reacted if anyone deviated even slightly from her exacting standards made me wonder why she wanted a flatmate in the first place. Her bathroom fetish was even more entertaining, the way she insisted that nothing in there was to ever get wet. I’ll leave you to work out how.

In fairness when she wasn’t being insane and hormonal she was great fun to live with but when she finally got tired of things and asked me to leave it was almost a blessing in disguise.

Happily I fell on my feet second time around, moving just down the road to live in a shared house with four other people. The landlord was 50, balding and terminally unemployed. His rotating set of three lodgers (of which I was one for three years) paid his mortgage and kept him company and for that reason we had the run of the place and could treat it like a hotel. He did all the cleaning, the washing up, paid the bills, the works. All we had to do was pay the rent and lock the door afterwards. Not to mention his family of cats, two of whom took a shine to me and took up semi-permanent residence in my room although the way they lined up to watch when I was having sex was mildly disconcerting. None of the women involved appeared to mind oddly enough.

I could happily have stayed there longer but for the fact the guy was chronically overweight and cruising for his first heart attack – which he apparently had a few months after I moved out to go to London. There after two frustrating weeks I lucked out again and found a room in a shared house in Tottenham where I could have cable TV, my own phone (perfect for internet) and a clean bathroom with a shower for the first time in years. The landlady there divided her time between the house, a place in West London and America. One summer she came home and decided to do a loft conversion to build herself a little penthouse at the top. Hence the next few months saw the house filled with builders – and a reduction in the rent for us to compensate. Bonus.

My final destination for now was the move last summer to an astonishing palace in Docklands, a two bedroom flat in a brand new development (complete with its own gym) that was owned by a 30-something lady who originally bought the place with a partner and bought his half out when they split up. Flatmate was a video producer called Adrian who was the biggest 40 year old Playstation fan I’d ever come across. The only cloud appeared to be the landlady who was, frankly, crap at it. She lived on the south coast and would stay quiet for months at a time before popping up with a crisis when she decided she needed to look like she was doing something.

Adrian moved out at Christmas, leaving me on my own for a few weeks until Mila arrived in the country. The landlady agreed that Mila could move in, put the rent up accordingly (which was fair enough) and then set about trying to let the vacant room. In this last part she has failed utterly, eventually deciding that nobody wants to come and live with a couple and thus giving us both notice so she can let the entire flat as a unit.

Hence I am homeless at the end of May, and the frustrating process of looking for somewhere new begins. I’m hoping for a hassle free landlord this time around. Fingers crossed.

Site tracking scripts can be so much fun, especially the ones that tell you what search engine terms people used to get to you. When I reposted the old Peter Andre review from 1996 this site ended up with hits from just about the whole of the BBC doing searches for “Bubbler Ranx”.

This week however we have topped this. The reference to The Girl Next Door below has thrown up some fascinating search engine hits. Let’s see, we have:

“cuthbert, underwear, girl next door” – which is fair enough, but that was followed by:

“how can I get into Elisha Cuthbert’s pants?”

Well if I knew that, I would not be sat here at work, I’d be on a plane somewhere, trust me. In a way it is quite touching that whoever typed that into Google fancied he would find the answer on the web somewhere.

Damn the Yahoo, damn them all.

Chart commentary for this week is written, marked up and ready to roll. The only problem is the cute little automatic FTP program they give you to do all the uploading can’t talk to the servers at Yahoo. Hence no text until someone actually gets into work to fix it.