If you don’t want to end up paying hundreds of pounds in fines, you’d better mind your Ps and Qs!

anouk-fotografeert-BryYookJz_w-unsplashLast month, I had to rent a van for Fix Radio. There were two days where I drove through London’s congestion zone.

I made sure that our accounts director paid the £11.50 congestion charge for each day and he emailed me copies of the receipts. You can imagine how shocked I was when I was sent two fines in the post for £130 each.

I called up Transport For London and was told that I needed to pay the fines because the number plate was wrong. It turned out that our accounts director had entered a zero instead of a letter O by mistake. 

Now that should have been an easy thing to fix on the phone. I haven’t attempted to evade paying the congestion charge, it’s a simple human error. All the person on the phone, sitting in front of their computer, had to do was change the zero to an O, cancel the fines and we could have both moved on and got on with our days but that is not how TFL operate!

The system is, you have to pay the fines then launch an official appeal. I was told that if I did that it would take months and as entering an incorrect number plate is, in itself, an offence, It wasn’t worth it and I’d end up in court where I’d lose anyway.

The system has been set up this way to catch you out. The current number plate format is two letters, followed by two numbers, followed by three more letters. TFL could set up their webpage so it doesn’t allow you to enter a number where a letter should be, especially with zeros and Os but this mistake happens all the time so TFL make it EASY for you to make a mistake so that they rake in even more cash! 

Making money is the only reason London has a congestion charge. Don’t let them kid you, it has nothing to do with reducing congestion. TFL’s own figures show that the amount of traffic that goes through central London is about the same as it was before the change was introduced in 2003 and it moves slower than it did back then as well.

London’s congestion charge brought in £229.8 million in the last financial year. That number will be even higher next year because of extra charges introduced for vehicles that exceed specific emissions standards; https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/charges-for-driving-in-london

There’s a lot of disinformation surrounding the congestion charge. My favourite is that it’s there to help the environment by encouraging people to drive greener vehicles (Electric vehicles are exempt). If they really wanted London’s air to be cleaner, they’d ban the most polluting vehicles. They won’t do that because there would be a cost in policing it, this way they MAKE money. 

When I think about what a racket the whole thing is, it makes me feel sick to the stomach. –  They should change the name of it to, the “ingestion charge”.

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IMG_8622

“Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy”.  – That’s just one of many misconceptions that are used as excuses for not going vegan. 

At Fix Radio, another one of the blokes I work with went vegan this week. That means four out of the nine men in our office now only eat plant based food. On Friday, the newest vegan, Jack, ordered vegan pies to be delivered from Pieminister for our lunch. We asked one of the meat eaters if he wanted “in” because we know he’s a health freak and he said, “Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy”. 

I’m not sure where the ‘vegan not healthy’ myth came from but the basic facts don’t back it up.

The number one cause of death in the UK is dementia and alzheimer’s disease.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredinenglandandwalesseriesdr/2017

Recent research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is linked to the saturated fat, cholesterol and toxins found in meat and dairy products. People who eat meat and dairy products have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than vegans. The protective properties of chemicals commonly found in plants—such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—help substantially lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. People who eat large quantities of saturated fats, like those found in meat and dairy products, have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, people who eat very small amounts of saturated fat in favor of more polyunsaturated fats (found in vegetables and nuts) have a 70 percent reduction in Alzheimer’s risk.

The second biggest killer is heart disease. According to The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, following a plant-based diet, reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 40 percent and coronary heart disease by 40 percent. Blocked arteries are unblocked partially or fully in as many as 91 percent of patients and hypertension risk drops by 34 percent.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321992.php#1

So not only is eating meat the number one cause of death for animals, it’s also the number one cause of death for humans. What’s not healthy about that?

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photo-1555431189-0fabf2667795

It’s time to ban all abbreviations.

Sometimes the abbreviation takes longer to say than the actual words. Stephen Fry pointed out that World Wide Web contains less syllables than “double-you double-you double-you”.

Then there are the short words that are abbreviated. What’s the point of using @ instead of “at”? It still means you have to press two keys on the keyboard because you have to hit the 2 key and the shift key. What are you saving there?

My biggest problem with abbreviations is there are so many for the same thing and that’s confusing. I worked at a radio station a long time ago that had a fleet of promotional vehicles called “Black Thunders”. Staff started referring to each one as a “BT”. I’m sorry but BT is British Telecom. It turns out that BT is also an abbreviation for the title of Baronet, Breakfast Television in Canada and the post code for Northern Ireland.

At that radio station, I was the “P.C.”, Programme Controller. That felt weird because, to me, P.C. was always a Police Constable. It can also stand for lots of other things including:
Personal Computer, Printed Circuit, Politically Correct, Professional Corporation, Postcard, Power Control, Program Code, Phone Call, Paper Clip, Press Conference, Private Chat, Personal Contact, Power Converter, Patch Cord, Prince Charles, Professional Component, Paradise City, Player Controlled, Primary Care, Planning Commission, Pussy Cat, Peace Corps, Pony Club, Purchase Card, Project Code, Pokemon Center, Powder Coating, Pocket Calculator, Parish Council, Presbyterian Church, Physical Contact, Principal Component, Panama Canal, Piano Concerto, Public Citizen, Paracetamol, Prostate Cancer, Passenger Car, Protective Clothing, Pitcairn Islands, Polycarbonate, Pierre Cardin, Portion Control, Previous Channel, Probable Cause, Photocopy, Patrol Car, Per Capita, Percentage, Communist Party, Poets Corner, Panasonic Corporation, Palliative Care, Petty Cash, Pepsi-Cola, Principal Consultant, Privy Council, Prime Contractor, Procurement Clerk, Precast Concrete, Pressure Chamber, Protective Custody, People’s Court, Plaid Cymru, Party Chief, Private Contractor, Profit Centre, Plastic Conduit, Partial Correlation, Peaches & Cream, Personal Carer, Point of Curvature, Provisional Cost, Pelvic Contractions, Petrol Cap, Public Convenience and Post Coital.

In fact all abbreviations are PC – Pretty Crap!

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This is how Fix Radio celebrated National Tradesman’s Day this year. It’s a day that honors the men and women who use their skills and hard work build and maintain the world we live in.

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This is what happened when I spoke to a bloke who was protesting outside Britain’s suspended Parliament.

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The First Time

14Sep19

There are a lot of emotions involved when you do something for the very first time.

Fix Radio is made for the trade so we’ve launched new shows presented by tradespeople who’ve never been on the radio before.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what happened during our new programme for painters and decorators presented by Trevor and Ryan Mangan…

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Mack Nuggets

31Aug19

Here’s what I’ve been up to on Fix Radio lately including:
Piper and her screaming son; A football story; The watch scam; A fart at a funeral; Mark The Shark; Darren and the disrespectful driver.

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Strictly Come Dancing will take over Saturday nights on BBC 1 again this autumn. A few years ago I got to interview one of the hosts, Tess Daly. I was on BOBfm in Hertfordshire with Amy Stevenson and Tess was on a line from London.

As you’ll hear, it didn’t go well…

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Mack Nuggets

18Aug19

Congratulations to Gaz Drinkwater who’s co-presenting a great new show on BBC Radio Manchester called “Talking Balls”. If you’re into Manchester United or City, I bet you’ll enjoy it, listen here;
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07hnl2b/episodes/player

As I’m a Liverpool fan and Gaz is Man United, we didn’t talk about football much when we presented the Breakfast Show on Fix Radio Manchester together, here’s what it sounded like;

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Mack Nuggets

04Aug19

The longest I’ve ever stayed at the same radio station is five years. That was BOBfm in Herts, Beds and Bucks. Here’s some of my favourite bits from my last two years there, including: Disaster at Titanic the Musical; A stuck story; The ultimate protest song; Miscommunication; What was on the roof of the car?; The gender bender; Why you should pee on your tomatoes; Andy Summers from The Police; Skiving; Neighbour from hell; Siri doesn’t work; A school trip story; A left behind story; The talking whale; The truth about the childhood obesity crisis; The lady shaving her legs in a public pool; The workplace toboggan team; Israel wins the Eurovision song contest; Why Britain is the greatest country on earth; Minimum pricing for booze in Scotland; Wolf whistling banned in France; The Ikea wardrobe disaster; A special birthday request; The vomit comet; The nickname misunderstanding; Expensive photographs; The truth about World Cup pundits; The camel beauty contest;The odd shoe; The Queen and the baby elephant; Grabbed by the bells; Donald or Duke?; Cyclists; The girly men; Russia; The NHS; Boaty McBoatface; We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel Parody.

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Mack Nuggets

03Aug19

This is what I got up to on Radio Merseyside from 2016 to 2018, including: The end of the world; What Charlie said; Ricky Tomlinson talks about Mickey Finn; Liverpool’s zoo; Andrew Neil gets taken down; Connections to celebrity; Roger McGough talks about the Blitz; a journey from hell; The real reason why Liverpool fans sing You’ll Never Walk Alone; Paul McCartney’s surprise in Liverpool; The vomit comet; New Zealand; Neighbours from hell; Trees;The party without a DJ; A houseguest from hell; A bonfire night surprise; Cultural differences; A fancy dress story; Buyers remorse; Revenge on Henry Ford; The fourth dimension; A tribute to Keith Chegwin; Caught the bus, should have taken a taxi; Beatles biographer, Hunter Davies; The inspirational Gary Skyner; What happens when you sell your soul to the devil in Mississippi; A Father’s Day story; Using the wrong word; Donald And Melania Trump’s; The lady responsible for the skiffle boom that started it all; Aunty Hazel calls in; Mistaken identity; Harsh rejection; A tribute to Chuck Berry; I can’t believe you’re doing THAT here!; The dangers of the Twist.

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Mack Nuggets

28Jul19

Here’s what I’ve been up to on Fix Radio lately, including:

A brush with wildlife, HiDef Radio, Why paper bags are important, The Queen drops an F-bomb, The festival of sex, Toilet wall graffiti, Sexism, When Darren got thrown out.

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I thought I was going to be killed by an armed policeman this week.

As you can see by the video above, Fix Radio recorded a promotional film with “Boris Johnson” at Downing Street. We didn’t have permission and as I was in charge, an officer with a very large automatic weapon asked me what we were up to. Without thinking, I said, “It won’t take long, we’re just going to shoot the Prime Minister!”

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Smart Arse!

14Jul19

Buzz

The greatest legacy of the first moon landing is the inspiration it gives to us all.

50 years ago this month, Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the surface.  I was five years old when I watched the grainy black and white pictures broadcast live from the moon. Even at that age, it felt like from that moment on, anything was possible.

It happened because of four things; motive, provocation, a clear goal with a deadline and resources. 

Let’s break them down:

Motive
The Americans had to beat the Russians. The consequences of coming second to an evil empire were unthinkable and very real. When the decision was made to shoot for the moon, the US was a long way behind Russia. In fact, they were barely even in the Space Race. 

Provocation
The Russians were the first to put a satellite into orbit and the first to do the same with a human. When Yuri Gagarin returned to earth, he became a global celebrity as big as any Hollywood movie star. It was a body blow to American pride.

A clear goal with a deadline
On the 25th May 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood in front of Congress and said the US “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”.  – It was uncomplicated and the deadline was crystal clear. 

Resources
In the 1983 movie, The Right Stuff, astronaut Gordon Cooper, played by Dennis Quaid says, “You boys know what makes this bird go up? Funding makes this bird go up”, to which fellow Mercury 7 astronaut Gus Grissom, played by Fred Ward, says, “That’s right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers”. – NASA had the resources of the US taxpayer behind them. 

Just because the goal was simple, it didn’t mean it was easy. When Kennedy set out his objective, the sum total of America’s experience in manned space flight was just over a quarter of an hour. Twenty days earlier, Alan Shepard had become the first American in space when he was launched on board Freedom 7. Unlike Gagarin, who orbited the earth, Shepard went up and came straight back down again. From launch to splashdown, it was all over in 15 minutes and 22 seconds.

Kennedy clarified that his challenge was not going to be easy to achieve. In a speech he gave to a large crowd at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962. He said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

And it was REALLY hard. It took hundreds of thousands of people, working together to achieve that goal. Lessons had to be learned from scratch, new materials had to be created, plans had to be constantly changed and adapted, personal sacrifices had to be made, relationships suffered and three astronauts died in a launchpad fire including Neil Armstrong’s best friend and next door neighbour, Ed White.

I wish I could find an acronym for motive, provocation, goal with a deadline and resources, MPGDR isn’t really snappy enough. Unfortunately, in today’s world if you can’t boil something down into a clever abbreviation that can be turned into a powerpoint slide presented by a creatively disabled middle-manager in a suit, it doesn’t catch on. 

I once worked for a large broadcasting company that insisted that all goals had to be SMART. That stood for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. If President Kennedy was forced to make his goal SMART, America would never have gone to the moon. 

Let’s break that down:

Specific – There was nothing specific in Kennedy’s challenge. The spacecraft, mathematics and planning involved in getting to the moon and back hadn’t even been thought up when he issued his challenge.

Measurable – It’s not possible, even now, to measure the effect the first mission to the moon has had on the population of earth. 

Achievable – At the time, the most powerful rocket America had launched with a man on board had flown to an altitude of only 117 miles. That’s nowhere near the 238,855 miles that separate the earth from the moon. One of the greatest things about the goal Kennedy set was that it seemed so unachievable.

Realistic – Landing a man on the moon is so unrealistic that even today there are people who still think it’s impossible and believe the “live” pictures from the moon were faked on a Hollywood backlot by Stanley Kubrick.

Timely – Going to the moon and back wasn’t timely, it was an achievement well ahead of its time. Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of the combined computing NASA had in 1969. They didn’t even have pocket calculators. The watches the astronauts wore on the moon had to be wound up because they were clockwork.

SMART is DUMB, Dimwits Underestimating Man’s Brilliance. SMART should stand for Small Minds Afraid, Restricting Targets.

We shouldn’t think small, we should always think big. As long as we have a strong enough motive, the right provocation, a clear goal with a deadline and the right resources, we’ll get to wherever it is we want to go. Along the way we’ll have to make sacrifices and there will be devastating setbacks. We’ll have to accept them, learn, adapt and move on. As long as we don’t give up, we’ll see that anything IS possible.

See you on the moon.

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Johnny B, Good!

07Jul19

They say you should never meet your heroes. I don’t agree, working in radio, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of mine and it doesn’t matter if they’re a footballer, actor or musician, usually it’s been a great experience and they’ve been everything I’d hoped they would be.

One bloke in particular stands out and that’s Jonathon Brandmeier. He’s a US radio personality and I first heard about him in the early 90s, when I read the transcript of an interview with him in Dan O’Day’s book, Personality Radio. Then I sent off for Dan’s “Greatest Shows On Earth, Volume 4” on tape cassette and heard him for the first time on WLUP (The Loop) in Chicago. Years later on many trips to Chicago, I heard him live on the air and he sounded just as good as on tape. I don’t know what it is about Jonathon Brandmeier that I like. He’s edgy but not hard edged, everything he does on the air sounds like fun and what I hear is a love for the medium of radio.

In August 2015, I got to meet Johnny B. at Talentmasters Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago and I interviewed him for the Radio Today Podcast. At the end of the interview we had a laugh as he recited some of his favourite Monty Python sketches, probably because I’m English. He was great and told me I should be a guest on his new nationally syndicated show one day. I thought he was just being nice but the following year, he called me and had me on his show, not once but twice.

Since meeting him and being on his show, I’m now an even bigger fan.

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Radio Reception

06Jul19

We’ve been invited to a wedding!

My old boss from BOBfm, Brett Harley, is finally getting married to Carolyn in a few weeks time. They’ve been together for more than 20 years so it’s about time!

Being the boss, it always felt like he was more of a grown-up than me, even though this year, Julie and I will have been married for thirty-two years. I hope Brett and Carolyn will be as happy as Julie and I are.

Here’s what I sounded like on BOBfm…

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Radio Stuff

23Jun19

Congratulations to Larry Gifford on his promotion to National Director of AM Radio for Corus Entertainment in Canada.

Larry is a veteran talk programmer and consultant who also hosts the “When Life Gives You Parkinsons” podcast for Corus’ Curiouscast podcast network. I had the pleasure of being a guest on his Radio Stuff Podcast a few times in 2013 and 2014.

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JM

John Myers has been a big part of my life for a while now, even though I never knew him that well.

I woke up this morning to the sad news that John had died. He was in charge of Century Radio when I worked there in the North East in 1998 and 1999. The strange thing is, it was only yesterday that I put together some of my favourite bits from my time there and tweeted a link to the audio on Youtube…

As John was the big boss and busy launching the Century station in the North West at the time, I didn’t have much to do with him. I didn’t get to know him till 2011 when Deb Hackett, a workmate at BBC Wiltshire “introduced” me to him at the end of an event he was speaking at in Bristol. He couldn’t have been nicer.

A few weeks later, I won a Sony Award for my Breakfast Show and he sent me an email. What he said touched me so much that I printed it out and have kept it folded up in my wallet ever since.

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A radio career has highs and lows, winning a Sony Award was a big high but it was followed by a huge low the next year when I was let go by the BBC in a cost-saving thing called DQF, Delivering Quality First. It was during that period that I took that note out of my wallet and read John’s words, it kept me going.

Thankfully, I’ve only needed to read the note a handful of times since. Just knowing it’s there has helped me through the dark days of self doubt and insecurity caused by the sleep deprivation and chaos that programing a radio station and presenting a daily Breakfast Show can bring.

Rest in peace John and thanks for bringing me comfort, hope and inspiration when I needed it most.

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Mack Nuggets

01Jun19

I’ve had a great time presenting the Manchester Breakfast Show on Fix Radio with Gaz Drinkwater. This is what the last days of the show sounded like. Including: The truth about the Spice Girls gig; The worst thing about the doctors; A tribute to Doris Day; Why the hygienist is worse than the dentist; The 10K; Raheem Sterling; The pornographic World Cup stadium; Royal Baby news; The Shark finally gets revenge; The last show.

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Howzat

27May19

I don’t know who to support in the Cricket World Cup. I was born in England and have lived in New Zealand and Australia, I have passports for each country.

I’m leaning towards Australia because I didn’t get to pick where I was born and moved with my parents to New Zealand when they emigrated. Australia is the only country I actually chose to live in.

It’s also where I decided to get into radio. Here’s what I sounded like on the last station I was on there, 2GO, just north of Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast…

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1cT8zLTPirNRkyQxLkZG5bj4r_aG__uEu

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Hr8FhmqDWfLc7TfkVIn4vRTUiSNWBiu3/view?usp=sharing

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