Whilst writing the chart commentary this week it seemed sort of appropriate to dig out what I had written about Mysterious Girl first time around. I couldn’t find a way to shoehorn it into the Launch piece itself, so here it is for posterity, from the dotmusic chart commentary for the week ending June 1st 1996:

The campaign to turn the Australian pretty boy into a major star over here is apparantly reaping rewards. After a curious period at the end of last year when he appeared all over teen magazines, apparantly famous for being famous, he scored his first chart hit earlier this year with ‘Only One’, a pleasant enough pop song which didn’t really deserve more than its Number 16 peak. Now with his profile built even higher he releases a second single and scores an instant smash hit. Actually I could do to curb my natural cynicism over this because ‘Mysterious Girl’ is actually rather wonderful, a summery reggae track featuring the toasting of Bubbler Ranx which would have been a hit single even if it wasn’t sang by a long-haired Australian with gleaming pectorals. But for the fact that ‘Three Lions’ looks to be in a strong position at the top, this track could even be marked as a potential Number One.

Hey, I wasn’t wrong either, just about seven years premature.

Well we aren’t going to win Eurovision now are we? To give the voting public full credit they at least avoided choosing a cliched boy band performance to represent us but instead went for a Fame Academy reject warbling in a sub Ryan Adams kind of way. Only one song actually had a chance of appealing to European audiences and true to form it was nowhere in the running.

Word has it that the best pop songwriters in the country were approached so that our entry would come up to standard and be a world away from last year’s debacle.

No wonder singles sales are down.

Sometimes the interesting things in life don’t happen to you. Instead they happen to friends of yours and in such a way as to make you glad that your life is quite dull in comparison.

This then is the story of one of my colleagues, we will call him Alan to preserve what little dignity he has left. It begins at the start of the week when Alan was excited about his forthcoming foreign trip – to Porto in fact to watch his beloved United in the Champions League. The only clouds on the horizon appeared on Tuesday when he spent most of the day turning his desk upside down. We enquired as to why.

“I’ve lost my passport”, he confessed, adding that he had had it with him earlier in the week as proof of identity having recently lost his wallet.

We thought no more of it, Alan being off work on Wednesday to travel to the match. United of course lost and were utter pants, so what better way to cheer him up on Thursday morning than to phone his mobile and tease him about the performance…

He answered groggily.

“So Alan, how was the match? What was it like to see your boys lose so badly?”

“What, you mean the match I watched at home on TV?”

It turns out he never found the passport, had no way of leaving the country and was stuck with just taking two days off work. To console him we urged him to come down in the evening anyway as there was a work social event happening. Bond with your colleagues we said, that will make it all seem better.

So indeed he did come along, not only to the celebrity bingo organised by the production department but also to the pub across the road where there was money behind the bar and beer flowing aplenty.

I left at about 10pm but many people stayed on until closing time.

This morning Alan did not appear along with the other hungover hoardes. At 10.30am we called his phone which turned out to be out of service. Calling his home produced a ringing tone but nothing more. Now we are not heartless people so this was actually cause for some small concern. The last people to see him had conveniently taken the morning off, so clues as to his whereabouts did not emerge until close to lunchtime.

One of my other colleagues arrived at work and confirmed that Alan had stayed at his house overnight, having been the victim of a robbery the night before. Details at that stage were scarce. All was not revealed until almost 2pm when Alan finally staggered through the door, looking somewhat the worse for wear.

It transpired that he and a few colleagues had been in the pub until chucking out time and in search of further alcohol had made their way to the Borderline club and had stayed there until 3am. During the course of the evening Alan managed to lose his cloakroom ticket and upon pleading his case at the door discovered that someone had found his ticket and cashed it in, taking his coat and phone with them.

With great presence of mind he had apparently called his mobile and had the call answered.

“Excuse me, but you know you have my coat don’t you?”

“Yes,” replied the man on the other end, “it is a very nice coat, thanks very much.”

Right now I am delighted to be me, and not certain other people that I could mention.

No, I didn’t watch the Brits. Shocking really given that I am supposed to know about all things musical and take a detailed interest in the workings of this industry that I should actually not have even a passing interest in its biggest awards bash of the year, but there you go. I don’t.

The thing is that if there is anything significant to come out of it, you generally can find out the following day just by reading the papers or seeing what our Entertainment News department have to say on the subject.

Therefore I can say with no little authority that nobody flashed, crashed the stage, made a controversial speech or did anything remotely newsworthy.

Although I’m sure far too many people have said this already, it is worth repeating in the hope that the organisers realise that Outkast coming on, performing a song and then buggering off leaving the stage clear for Beyonce is in fact two seperate performances. Not a collaboration.

Now here is a thorny etiquette issue that only someone British could get themselves into. What do you do when you are carrying something that sets off shop alarms?

This lunchtime I needed to buy a cheap calculator, so off I trotted to a local branch of Rymans, selected the model I wanted and attempted to take it to the counter. No can do, the whole display was protected by a security cord. Little problem there, just queue up at the counter, tell the assistant what you want and then wait while he goes through the laborious process of deactivating the alarm, carefully unthreading the cable that is linking every single model on the rack together, extracting the one I want and then threading the cable back again before activating the alarm.

All this for a £4 calculator.

One consequence of this rigmarole must have been that the assistant forgot to cancel the security tag on the back of the packet (yes, this £4 model was indeed protected by two different security systems). As a result the bleepers on the door went off as I walked out of the shop. Nobody accosted me so I just forgot about it and carried on.

Two minutes later I enter Woolworths.

*bleep* *bleep*

That was me, walking in the door with my new purchase still primed and clearly still ready to set the alarm off in just about any shop I enter. Here then is where I face the dilemma. If I walk out the door without purchasing anything I will of course set the alarm off – instantly attracting the attention of the burly looking security guard whose day will clearly be made by having something more to do than stopping the local teenagers pilfering the pick n’ mix.

Now any sensible person would have approached him directly and explained the problem. Being British of course I am caught in a panic over the etiquette of the situation and the fact that nobody ever really taught me the correct way to approach a security gorilla and say “Look, I am not a shoplifter but…” So instead I go for Plan B – wander around the store and find something nice and substantial to purchase, something I can take to the cash desk and buy right under the nose of the security guard before walking with as much confidence as I can summon towards the doors and the dreaded alarm sensors.

*beep* *beep*

The security guard looks nonplussed for the moment, trying to work out which of the three people by the doors have set the alarm off. He has seen me make my purchase so is sure it cannot be me. Eventually I have to put him out of his misery and demonstrate that it is the Rymans bag causing the alarms – leaving me finally free to escape the store.

Once back at the office, the security tag is peeled off the back of the calculator pack. A sensible man would have done this in the street outside Rymans in the first place but that wouldn’t have made for such an interesting story would it?

Upon arriving home, Mila delves into the bag containing my purchases.

“Why have you bought a pair of kitchen scales? You never cook anything that needs weighing.”

If only she knew.

I’m going to enjoy this weekend.

For the uninformed, this Saturday is of course Valentine’s day, a day which you approach with mixed emotions depending on what is happening in your life at the particular time it rolls around. In the past I’ve done most of them:

– The desperate teenage hoping that something will arrive for you, immediately followed of course by the self loathing that comes from being completely ignored AGAIN.

– The oh-my-God-am-I-really-doing-this feeling you get when you go out on a limb and send something lavish to someone that you have feelings for but are too scared to articulate them in a, you know, conventional sense. This also is followed by either the humiliation of being discovered or the emptiness of realising you have no way of finding out how your gesture was received given that it was totally anonymous.

– The cringeworthy moments when you actually receive something from someone only by a process of elimination realise it is from the last person you want to receive this kind of thing from and then have to spent hours agonising over how to deal with it. This is often followed by the realisation that the person you were chasing in phase 2 above probably used the same logic to work out it was you in the first place.

– The bah humbug feeling when you decide you are too old and cynical to worry about it and can sit and marvel at the way everyone gets sucked up in the blatant commercialism of it all.

This year however things are different. I am attached, committed and shacked up. Best of all it is with someone who comes from a country that doesn’t have a Valentines day except as a kind of European by-product. So it means very little to her – thus is money saved by James.

On the downside for some reason I’m being bombarded with complaints from friends about how crap this time of year is, how they will hate the weekend and boo hoo why does nobody love them, complaints which of course in previous years I would have empathised with totally but which now are getting tedious. Pull yourselves together people and stop texting me suggestively hoping I will rescue you from your misery.

February 14th is important for another reason anyway, Mum’s birthday and as usual I have nothing to get her. I mean what do you buy a woman you are related to when the shops are full of fluffy teddy bears and hydrogen filled heart balloons?

Strangely enough all the work doesn’t seem so bad when you have it out of the way and can look back with satisfaction.

What helps is the odd highlight that makes it all worthwhile. Take Saturday night for instance. The presenter who I desperately had to keep in line was Mike. Not the usual host of the slot and perhaps with good cause. An opinionated and argumentative man who never quite manages to strike the balance between debate and out and out abuse.

By one stage during the evening I was starting to get quite annoyed at how bad the whole thing was. That was until one caller came on the line in response to a debate about America and whether we would be better off being a part of it.

The caller was a fan of Michael Moore and was in the process of recommending his books, entitled Bowling For Columbine and Dirty White Men. Yes, I know that is not what they are called and all of us in the studio did too, but the caller was quite convinced that was what they were. I immediately dissolved into giggles behind the glass and ran the risk of seriously rupturing something when the caller went on to talk about his latest, Hey Guy, Where’s My Country Gone?.

The rest of his points were almost certainly lost on those of us in the studio. I was unable to see with tears running down my face, Mike frantically trying not to lose it on air as well. Therefore we should apologise to the caller who was almost certainly making a very valid and very serious point. Even if his grasp on his favourite literature was somewhat limited.

I’m knackered.

I’m my own worst enemy of course, unable to say no when people wave the prospect of paid work in front of me. Without wishing to boast, this is the almost ludicrous schedule I am currently in the middle of:

Friday – work at the office 9-6. Dash home for dinner before racing out to the radio station to work from 10pm until 2am. Taxi home, fall into bed exhausted.

Saturday – rise mid-morning and try to have some semblance of a life outside work. Not for long, immediately race out to the radio station again to get paid to listen to a football match and press the odd button along the way. Have a three hour break from 5pm before going back on the air at 8pm. This shift lasts until 2am during which time I discovered that a taxi home was a non-starter and so had to trudge through the rain across Blackfriars bridge to the bus stop. Two night busses home results in a one hour journey.

Which takes me to where I am right now, bleary eyed and unfocused. Ahead of me I still have another six hour shift at the radio station before coming back home to write the Launch column before bed.

Yes, I actually said I would do this and was enthusiastic about the prospect. Some people are their own worst enemies.

Do you know what the most entertaining thing about this week is? The overwhelming shock-horror reaction to the fact that in the height of midwinter we are having a spell of extremely cold weather.

Combine that with the barely suppressed glee with which people greeted public transport grinding to a halt at the first sign of snow and you get the feeling that actually we British would feel hard done by if the usual things we complain about did not materialise.

Actually I feel hard done by as most people I’ve spoken to today are full of horror stories about their journey home and/or the disasters they had attempting to arrive at work today. My journey last night was so smooth that I caught a half-empty tube home, called Mila to discover she was still in town, travelled back to meet her and then travelled back home again. Or is that showing off?

I think I envy Mila this week, not only is she revelling in weather that is a proper home from home but she is possibly one of the few people in the country who can hear the words “Hutton Report” without grimacing.

I never had a favourite football team. I’m not sure why the whole culture of having a lifelong allegiance to a particular side passed me by. Either it was a childhood indifference to sport as a whole or a lack of any encouragement from parents who were similarly ambivalent.

This only really became an issue when I started working in sports broadcasting. Strangely enough for a non-sports fan most of my career has revolved around the production of football matches but that is at least enough to generate a spark. Hence for several years I worked for a radio station close to a team that was most definitely on the up. During my career there they rose from the second division all the way to the Premiership. I was there with heart on my sleeve they day they won a playoff at Wembley and could hardly bear to look at the match on the final day of the season when anything other than a win would deny them automatic promotion.

Sadly I don’t work there any more and the club are pretty much back where they started. Hardcore football fans will hate me for this but it means I can walk away with a clear conscience.

The whole point of this really is so I have some self-justification for occasionally betting on football matches. Tonight was a case in point. Having to spend the entire evening engineering reports on Aston Villa v Bolton for a radio station was not a prospect that filled me with utter joy. What I needed was a reason to care. One quick trip to the bookmakers website and I had my reason: £10 on Bolton to win 2-0 and a further fiver on a 0-0 draw just to hedge. I figured that there was no way Villa were going to score and that as Bolton did not need to, 0-0 was a likely chance but if Bolton did score they were unlikely to stop at one.

In case you ever try the same thing, never ever mentally start spending the winnings just before kickoff. This is almost certainly why Villa scored within ten minutes, thus wrecking both bets before we had barely begun. At the very least having to engineer a reason to care about a football match is good training for a future career as a bankrupt.