When I was on telly

In 2006 I spent a rather enjoyable five weeks touring Germany following the England footy team in their latest attempt to win a World Cup. For three weeks we followed their progress through the group stages and two knockout games until the inevitable disappointment of losing to Portugal on penalties in Gelsenkirchen. After that I decamped to Berlin and spent the rest of the tournament on a fixed camera overlooking the Brandenburg Gate.

Like I said, I rather enjoyed it, so when we got home I started dropping some fairly unsubtle hints in certain quarters that I could be available for the 2008 European Championships due to take place in Austria and Switzerland.

First, though, England had to qualify. Much as it might annoy fans of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s probably true that BBC National News only does the full saturation coverage of these things when England are involved. So I was keeping a beady eye on the qualification campaign.

It did not go well. It seemed to start reasonably with a 5-0 thrashing of Andorra but then they started making hard work of it and by the end of the campaign it came down to one game against Croatia at Wembley in November 2007.

As I recall, assuming Russia were going to beat Andorra that evening, at least a draw was necessary to qualify. Seeing as it was a pivotal moment, News decided to send a team to Wembley to watch over it. Funnily enough, most of us on that job were hoping to get the trip the following year, including me.

My position was on a pitchside camera with sports correspondent James Pearce. I’d worked with James before, at the 2004 Euros in Lisbon and we got on pretty well. We weren’t allowed out there during the game but we did a lot of preview stuff beforehand and made ready to go out as soon as it was over.

Without dragging it out too much, England blew it. 0-2 down at half time and looking out of it. They dragged themselves back into contention and with a quarter of an hour to go it was 2-2, which would have been just good enough even with Russia beating Andorra. Then they conceded a third and couldn’t manage just one last goal. Disappointment all round. England, and by extension, many of us, weren’t going to the Euros.

That, you may recall was when photos of manager Steve Mclaren sheltering under an umbrella appeared with the caption “The wally with the brolly” A little unfair I thought, because it really was horribly cold and wet, as you will see.

Wally with Brolly

The other thing that happened that night was that the BBC’s rolling news channel News 24 sent a camera team to shoot material for the countdown sequence they used as an introduction at the top of the hour. This is what they got.

My brush with fame.

This short, blink and you miss it, clip from that night, taken as the team were warming up, appeared in most of the headline countdown sequences on News 24 for many years. Like I said, it was cold and wet which is why I’m muffled up in the bright red jacket.

There is another clip they sometimes used showing James and me interviewing Alan Hansen. If I can track that down I’ll add it here later. This one came from a ten minute compendium of a number of versions of the sequence at YouTube


So we didn’t get to go to the Euros. Not a major tragedy in the history of the world and, as it happened, two years later most of us got the opportunity to go to the World Cup in South Africa so that was nice.

Sixteen Bells

I don’t remember exactly when, my best guess in sometime in the late ’70s or early ’80s, but I once saw in the New Year in a pub with my parents and a few uncles and aunts. The events of the evening are largely forgotten–I don’t even recall which pub–except for one thing.

As the year changed, the landlord used the closing time bell, a replica ship’s bell, to ring out eight bells, the end of the watch.

All of a sudden, my father shouted across the bar, “Sixteen bells! Sixteen!”

Apparently it’s a seafarer’s tradition to ring out the old year with eight bells and ring in the new one with eight more and as an old merchant seaman my dad wanted to see it (and hear it) done properly.

I forgot about this for a long time, until maybe nine or ten years ago I spotted this on the mantlepiece at Karen’s

It’s a small bell, and as soon as I saw it, the memory came back. The next New Year’s Eve I took it outside and as midnight passed, I rang sixteen bells on it in memory of my father, who had only died a couple of years previously.

I thought it was a bit quiet, not surprising for its size, so a couple of years later I got hold of something a bit bigger.

This one makes a ding I can actually just about hear. And every New Year since 2014 into 2015 we’ve gone out to the front of the house at midnight and I ring sixteen bells on it Two sets of four double strokes.


Eight bells for the old year and eight for the new.

From 1st January 2015.

I still find the bell a bit quiet. To my ageing ears it sounds with a click rather than a clang, so sometime before the next time I’m going to get hold of a proper ship’s bell: four or preferably six inches across. That will tell the entire street it’s the New Year.

Happy New Year to you all. May it be a better one than the last one.

Family Photo

At the funeral of my Auntie June ( neé Tidd) a few months ago her sons, Gary and Jamie, produced a couple of albums of old photos. Mostly they date from the early 1950s. I took charge of one of them and I’ve been slowly scanning the pictures for posterity. Not surprisingly, they mostly feature June, her husband Ron Clare (who passed in 2002) and their friends. Usually on holiday.

But there’s one that sets itself apart. It’s Ron and June with his parents (my grandparents) and ALL the siblings and spouses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them all together before. The scribbled note on the back says it was taken in 1953 or ’54. I suspect it was at their house in Hatherly Gardens in East Ham.

All the family

Front and centre: my maternal grandmother, Rhoda Jane Clare (neé Bailey) Born in London in 1891 and worked as a domestic servant. In 1912 she married a Henry George Simmons and had three children. Henry John known as Jack (1913) Back row, second left. Rhoda Florence–Floss–(1916) Back row, centre and William George, (1918) Front row on the right as you view it.

In 1919, Henry George was carried off by the Spanish ‘flu epidemic. Must have been hard for Nanny Rhoda, but luckily an old friend of Henry’s, Arthur George Clare, seen next to Rhoda on the left, stepped in to help and in May 1922 they married. In December that year, my mother, Hilda Beatrice Clare, far left, was born. Think about that. Take all the time you need.

Later on, they had Arthur Edward (1925) back row, second right, and Ronald George (1931) on the right at the back. Completing the family group we have my dad, Hilda’s husband, James Edward directly behind her, half hidden, and June Iris Tidd, Ron’s wife, in front of him on the right.

I’m absolutely fascinated by this picture. As I said, I’ve never seen all of them together before, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of grandfather Arthur at all. And as he died in 1959, I really remember very little about him.

They’re all gone now, as you might imagine. June was the last living member of her generation of the family. But we do have these and many other photos, and I hope they keep on emerging.

When Santa got nicked

Well over thirty five years ago, in the run up to Christmas 1986 or ’87, I think, the BBC got an invitation to see a Santa waterskiing on the Thames under one of the bridges. I imagine it was some kind of publicity stunt, but for what I have absolutely no idea any more. And Christmas being (in those days) a quiet time of year for news, they decided to cover it.

Off we went, cameraman Albie Charlton and I, to capture this rather trivial event for posterity.

We set up somewhere on the South Bank, and sure enough, there came a speedboat towing Santa under the bridge. Not Earth shatteringly important but maybe mildly diverting.

Problem was, the organisers of this stunt hasn’t bothered to coordinate with the Met Police’s Thames division, who soon showed up in their blue boat with their blue lights and nicked Santa and the pilot for some obscure breach of the rules of the river, hauling them into their boat and zooming off with them.

We thought this was quite amusing, and so did the editor of the lunchtime news who put it out as an “and finally.” (The BBC didn’t actually call it that, but you know, last trivial item before the weather.)

What nobody realised was that on a quiet day that close to Christmas, LOADS of small kiddies would be watching, and so, no sooner did the item finish than the switchboard lit up like, well, like a Christmas tree with outraged parents yelling that their kids were horrified and demanding to know if their presents would still arrive.

I believe they had to run a line in the early evening news that Santa had been released without charge and would be operating as normal.

I do wish I had evidence, but I didn’t take any stills at the time (one of the regrets of my career) and a search has turned up no sign of the video. If anyone has or finds anything, do tell.

It’s Trafalgar Day

It’s one of those times when I seriously regret not taking many photos of my working life.

21st October is Trafalgar Day, the anniversary of the major sea battle when Admirals Nelson and Collingwood engaged and destroyed a combined French and Spanish fleet under Adm. Pierre Villeneuve.

In 2005, because it was an anniversary with noughts on the end, the Navy had a bit of a do in Portsmouth, centred, obviously, around HMS *Victory* and the BBC, including me, went down there to cover it. Sad to say I wasn’t part of the team that got to go on board. I was running the live camera on the press gantry overlooking the ship, doing correspondents in vision for News 24 (as it was still then called) and the bulletins. Even though I wasn’t on the ship I enjoyed it well enough.

The advance briefing we got from the Navy told us that as part of the commemorations *Victory* would “fire her broadside” for the first time in nearly 200 years. Given that she mounted around a hundred guns we thought that would be quite spectacular and rather looked forward to it, even the fifty or so on one side would be impressive enough.We set up and waited. With seconds to go I was framed up and running; I suppose a dozen others were as well.


“Pop, pop, pop, pop…..”A handful of small firecrackers went off in some of her gun ports. That was it. In retrospect I suppose it wasn’t very likely that they’d run out a row of 32 pounders and let them off (even with a tiny gunpowder charge and no shot) but it was kind of an anticlimax.

And yes. Sorry, but no pictures.

Garage rebuild Day 1.

May 17th.

The builders showed up bright and early. We thought they’d take their time, scope it out, make plans, but nope. Straight in. They ripped out the doors and cut them into bite sized chunks. for disposal. They kitted up in onesies and masks to take down the asbestos roofs

then just destroyed the pre-cast concrete walls.

By the time it came on to raain at 3 they’d pretty much cleared the site.

Not bad for a single day’s work

Squirrel Update

Well, the Squirrel Bloke came back yesterday, had a look in the loft and…

…nothing. No squirrels in the traps, no evidence that they’ve been even sniffing around. He suspects that all the unaccustomed activity up there has driven them away.

Fine by us. Either way they’re gone. He said he’ll come back in a week or so and check again and if there’s still no evidence of residency he’ll set to blocking up the access. Be interesting to see how he does that. When I had squiggles at my old Acton place I tried nailing fine mesh wire under the eaves but it wasn’t terribly satisfactory.

We shall see

To be continued.

Topshot of the garages

The Garage Saga

Karen says I should put the saga of the garage up here. It would have worked a lot better if I’d started uploading to the blog from the start, but I didn’t so now I’m going to have to live with it.


So this house has, since time immemorial had a pair of detached garages. Ugly, pre-cast concrete things with corrugated asbestos roofs. We’ve known for ages that they’re knackered and not really fit for purpose. Th tiny windows were grimy and cracked and there was something wrong with the gutter at the back that meant we got water into one of them after any rainfall.

The electric power went away when the house was rewired in 2009; the electrician claimed he couldn’t find the house end of the cable but we suspect he knew fine well where it was but also knew that it didn’t meet the regulations and didn’t fancy running a new one.

Obviously we never kept the cars in them. Lawnmower, bikes, trolley barbecue, a vast pile of miscellaneous gardening, DiY and bike tools, but never was there a car. Or even room for one.

Not fit for purpose perhaps but never quite making it to the top of the to do list, until early this year when the leaky roof got very much worse.

We got a builder in to look. He opined.

Curiously, having the things cleaned up, re-roofed and the doors and window replaced turned out to be not that much cheaper than just razing them to the ground and starting again. So that’s what we decided to do

To be continued.


This may turn into a saga

We have squirrels in the roof space over the extension. Noisy buggers and although so far all they’ve apparently chewed is loft insulation I know from experience that they can be destructive little buggers. There aren’t any plastic water pipes but there are lighting cables and we really don’t want any damage to them.
So we Got A Man In. On Tuesday
He took one brief look and said, Yep. You got squirrels. He rigged two vicious looking traps (baited with peanut butter as it happens) and told us he’d be back on Friday (24th) We spent three days listening for a SNAP but all we heard was scrabbling noises.
This morning he went up there and then told us that the little sods had been shifting the traps around and did actually manage to spring one of them but without getting caught He’s reset them and he’ll come back sometime next week for another look. He reckons he’ll get them eventually. “We always get our squirrel!”
And when he’s caught them, he’ll look at blocking up their access under the eaves.

The Knee Saga

The story so far:

Just before Christmas I did that thing where you’re walking downstairs and you think there’s one more step and there isn’t and your foot hits the ground HARD. It sent pains into my right knee that slowly faded but never fully went away. Some kind of damage to the soft tissue said my osteopath, it will heal very slowly because there’s not much of a blood supply there.

Well I was living with it OK. I could walk, (did six miles over four of the Seven Sisters on the south coast in May) cycle (did a number of 80-100km rides) and swim (occasionally. The Estuary can be cold in the spring) and all I ever noticed was sometimes I’d get a twinge when pushing the bike off from a standstill.

Until June 29th, when literally out of nowhere, in the space of about three hours it went from perfectly normal to something’s not right to I can’t bloody WALK.

And this time it didn’t seem to be fading

Saw the GP who said arthritis and ordered an X-Ray.

Saw another GP (you take whoever you can get at our practice) who looked at the X-Ray and said arthritis and sent me to an Orthopaedic surgeon

The Ortho looked at the X-Ray and said arthritis and ordered an MRI.

And in the meantime between careful cycling (for flexibility) and cautious treatment from the osteopath things were getting a lot better

Now read on.

Saw the Ortho consultant again after having the MRI (Funny thing: he may be The Man but the detailed assessment of the scans on his screen was obviously done by someone else in Radiology; he clearly hadn’t seen them before the consultation)

Confirms his first impressions. Mild to medium osteo-arthritis that’s not going to get any better. Will need a new knee in five years or so. (I suspect this is pessimistic, but there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?)

I also have a torn medial meniscus, and although the detailed assessment was chock full of technical medical jargon, the word “fragments” leapt out at me. Presumably bits of cartilage floating round the joint.

And apparently some kind of cyst at the back of the knee.

My immediate options are:

Keyhole surgery to clean out the joint. Won’t return me to the staus quo ante but might improve things by 50%. Also, could actually make things worse and of course there are all the risks associated with surgery and anaesthesia. He asked me directly, did I want that and on balance I thought not. He gave the impression he thought it was the right decision. “Avoid the knife if possible.”

A steroid injection to reduce inflammation. We got this close to arranging it before he suggested that he could recommend it to my GP and I could have it done there if I felt it needed doing.

Or, leave well enough alone and see how things develop.

And all the time I was thinking, Things have been improving. I’m almost completely asymptomatic at the moment. I can walk, cycle and swim without pain and it stopped waking me up in the night over a month ago. I only ever notice anything if I try to bend it sideways and how often does anyone not a sportsman do that? It’s actually getting better ( I do–sometimes–strength and flexibility exercises and get ultrasound on it once a month from the osteopath. Something’s working)

I’m going to leave it for now. If I have another flare up like I did in June I’ll go straight back to the GP and, I imagine, start with the steroid. And if that doesn’t work ask them for another Ortho referral for surgery.

What I find interesting is that this only blew up the first time late last year when I landed heavily on the leg coming downstairs, which presumably was when I tore the cartilage. I wasn’t getting any chronic symptoms of the underlying arthritis that I can think of at all. Which is why I have a feeling that five years to a replacement is pessimistic.

I think there’s a few years left in me yet.

Stream of consciousness from the top of my head