Magazine article The Spectator

Speaking Out

Magazine article The Spectator

Speaking Out

Article excerpt

Bank holiday weekends can be so hectic in the country, unlike in the cities where it seems so quiet. The last one, at the end of May, passed in a socialising blur which is why I missed a number of programmes I had intended listening to. There were two lunches, which last quite a while down here, and a brunch.

Still, I did manage to hold a microphone even if it was as chief barker at the Donhead St Mary with Charlton annual fete. A former American 'anchor', as they call television presenters in the States, was on hand to witness my broadcasting skills as I called out the winners of the raffle and what time Suzie's kiddies' corner would start, and all the other crucial ingredients of a fete. Jokingly, amidst laughter, I told her this was the highlight of my broadcasting career only to discover my words booming out across the entire fete. I had left the microphone open by mistake.

Observing the English at fetes is fascinating and my position in the chief barker's commentary box gave me a commanding view. I didn't have much time to fret about all the radio programmes I was missing as people stopped to exchange bitchy gossip about each other. I managed to keep the microphone closed during these delightfully catty lulls in the proceedings which was just as well. A neighbour dressed in full country uniform of tweeds and checks passed by, spotted an arty friend sitting next to me, and bellowed, 'I see the prats have arrived,' before briskly walking on. My friend shouted after him, `At least I'm not dressed like one.' Actually, perhaps I should have left the microphone open for that one. A duel might have drawn the biggest crowd of the afternoon, instead of the bric-a-brac stall.

Last weekend, Talk Radio phoned to ask me on their Sunday morning programme, On Both Sides with Peter Hitchens and Austin Mitchell. It used to be called Hitchens and Draper but the former Labour spin doctor prankishly telephoned an evening show on Talk from an Amsterdam brothel and in the resulting furore was fired. Rather harsh, I thought, as according to Draper he wasn't experimenting with anything other than radio. Anyway, then Peter Mandelson's bete noire Paul Routledge joined the conservative Peter Hitchens to represent the left wing and now it's the Labour MP Austin Mitchell. …

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