Monday, 31 January 2011

3am - The Lost World And The It's The Best Time Of Day Show

"That's the most I've ever been insulted before 3o'clock in the morning," said my fellow driver in response to some crass remark I had made about him not looking so good at that time.

"Well," I went on sarcastically, looking at my watch, "it could get worse as there's still ten minutes to go."

It was 0250. The bus's wheels were about to roll in the direction of Sheffield. It was icy. In fact it was very icy and two buses in convoy slithered over the 2000ft white tops of the North Pennine hills. In Sheffield we were to pick up a group from a school and bring them back up to an outward bound centre. The traffic is now so bad 'down country' that the only option is to allow extra time and leave early.

Night time driving is a good thing to do every once in a while. A whole new world opens up and as there is little traffic, I find it nicer, even pleasurable at times. The traffic which is on the roads is commercial, with professional drivers and delivery times to be met. They crack on.

I turned on Radio 2 to see what was happening and came across the Alex Lester and It's The Best Time Of Day Show! Having been a BBC contract worker for Radio 2 in one of my past lives, I listened, expecting the worst. When I last worked at Broadcasting House, I used to listen to the night radio shows, on the way in. Then it was rare to hear anything on the airwaves after Midnight, but Sheila Tracy's Truckers Hour became a phenomenon, attracting a surprisingly large listenership.

Alex Lester is better. It is the most surreal show I have ever listened to. The three hours flew by. His choice of music is varied, eclectic and fun. His outlook on life is vivacious. The great British public, depending on your view, either make a big and funny contribution or are a load of weirdos, showing off, with the worst kind of sick and base humour. I haven't quite decided. Either way, listening to Lester is refreshing and the monotony of driving up motorways fades into the background.

So tonight's show asked the audience to come up with ideas for the name of a new scent, advertising and marketing campaign and strap line. This was after Lady Ga Ga has just released a perfume which smells like blood and other male bodily odours. "DERV" said one listener (obviously a truck driver with an industry in-joke. "Fillet Of Beef", said another. Black puddings, double D cups, personal hygiene associated remarks kept coming.

As it degenerated, it became better and better listening. Only because of Alex Lester's quick wit and ability to let things flow without, seemingly, lifting a finger. If you are an insomniac and want news - turn on Radio 4 and listen to the World Service. If you want to be a fly on the wall and observe an unknown chunk of British life - then tune in to Alex Lester.

Sheffield appeared through the fog. Cancel that. Sheffield appeared through the smoke emanating from the chmnneys of various power stations and factories. Though you cannot say it is beautiful, it is a great city, aided by its friendly people.

"Eeh, 'ello," said a parent of a child going on the trip, who was already waiting on the pavement, suitcase gripped firmly in hand, "you're early."

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