Thursday, 31 January 2013

A day in a bunker....

Do you know what time you'll be going to work, or what you're going to be doing when you get to work in the mornings?  I very rarely shifts change each week, each day.

Sometimes I know I will be the newsroom or studio....perhaps producing the breakfast or drive programme. Or I may be reading news bulletins late into the night.

If I'm reporting that week, I don't know what story I'll be chasing, or where I'll be going to make prerecorded packages or features. Similarly if I'm reporting live from the radio car, I never know where I'll be sent. And that's interesting!

On Monday. I was the radio car reporter .The shift started at 6am and by 6.15 I was in the studio for a two way with Jonathan Lampon the breakfast presenter. Ten minutes later I was off in the car for a twenty six mile drive along dark, icy roads to the Leicestershire/Lincolnshire border to meet a man in a bunker.

It was a secret bunker , constructed in 1960 at the height of the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war was very real. A frightening time, when British planes were on standby to defend the UK and intercept attacking Russian planes ...or scrambling to attack too.

So why was I in this particular bunker? What was the story of Buckminster Post 62?

Well, Jed Jaggard is a military historian , actor and historical renactor....who takes history into schools and other organisations. He discovered this nuclear monitoring post on google, obtained an indefinite lease on it four months ago, and since then has been cleaning it up.

He's going to run educational visits there...but by necessity  visitor numbers in each party will be small...

 Getting down there was no mean feat. I had to swing my leg over the opening hatch ,put a foot on one bar of the ladder then hoist myself into the hole. Ooh, it wouldn't have been so easy to throw a  wobbly and not bother....but then Jed mentioned that one man who fought in the Second World War, had been down there wearing a neck brace. My pride was at stake. if an injured man in his late eighties could do it, so could I. I lowered my eyes, prayed (because I'm SO accident prone) and climbed down.

Once twenty feet underground, I was in a room measuring eighteen feet by eight feet which would have housed three members of the Royal Observer Corps at any one time. Their mission down there was to monitor the effects of a nuclear blast.

There's still many items of orginal equipment down there. This is a bomb power indicator, which measured the blast waves of a nuclear attack.

There was a cupboard still containing some of the orginal rations - tins of  food, an old chocolate bar, plus an old mini cooker,..a relic from the Second World War.

But considering three people were down there at any one time, there was only one bed....

and one old chemical toilet.

It's a fascinating place, one of over 1,600 other posts  dotted strategically across the UK. Half were disposed of during the strategic defence review of 1968, but this one remained in operation until 1991. This spot, only nine miles from Melton Mowbray , was a key area during the Cold War.
The next open day is in June, and well worth a visit if you're not claustrophobic and are pretty nimble...

But I don't know how those Royal Corps observers stood it down there during their long shifts. I'd had enough after twenty minutes..and couldn't wait to climb up that ladder to light, and fresh air...

As I'd made my way gingerly down the ladder to the observation post this song was swirling around in my head....I give you...The Jam, and "Going Underground  - such a brilliantly written and executed track which has stood the test of time..


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Days of imperfection

I stayed overnight in a hotel on Monday night. A basic hotel with an old TV which had only five channels. I ended up watching a programme called Botched Bodies. A gruesome hour of people who, disatisfied with their looks or parts of their bodies, opted for cosmetic surgery to  make changes.
Unfortunately things had gone wrong, and the programme featured different surgeons trying to repair the disastrous things that happened.
A lady who I thought was very attractive in her photos, had decided to have fillers put in  her cheeks. Unfortunately the fillers became infected, they leaked and she had pus filled lumps on her neck, her face became so swollen.
There was a man who was ashamed of his moobs...after surgery, he was left with unsightly scarring, lost a nipple and had to have a prosthetic one made. Why did they feel the need to go under the knife?
Change and growing older is inevitable for us all.
I've been thinking about that programme this week plus the relentless  coverage in the press of stars who have constant nips and tucks, botox, and anything to keep them looking younger,plus the pressure on young women to look perfect.
I'm certainly not, but I manage to avoid seeing the ravages of time too closely because I'm short sighted and there's hardly any mirrors in our cottage. But in that hotel room with very bright lighting and far too many large mirrors, I couldn't help seeing my imperfections. The lumpy bits, the saggy bits, the wrinkles,the scars....let's just say it wasn't pleasant.

But they are part of who I am, they all tell the story of my life...

Here I am this afternoon in the kitchen...the laughter lines show that I smile alot, I like to laugh, and always see the funny side of things...

Closer up by the window the bags under my eyes say I 've not enough sleep this week. And can you see the grey hair at my temples, usually hidden under the rest of the mane? Yes, time is a marching on....and in ten years time, my hair will be a totally different colour as I'm allergic to hair dye.

And the frown lines on my forehead show the sad times, such as the death of my father, my darling brother in law, the loss of a twin in utero,.They show the worrying times...when the children were ill or injured, and the simple fact that I squint and frown like hell in the sunshine.

The sun damage on my body show that I spent too much time in the sun when I was younger in Africa, there's scars of major operations, and then there's the scars of a car crash three years ago.

My car crashed into a deep ditch nose down, ploughing into a hedge, just six inches to the left of a huge, gnarled old tree. I can't remember much. You can't see the whiplash or the from top to toe heavy bruising now.These scars tell the story of how my arm smashed the glass of my car door on impact, the cuts to the bone, and the pain as a nurse picked out each fragment of glass embedded in the bone.

My arm may not look much to you, but to me the scars are a constant reminder that I'm bloody grateful to be alive. I nearly didn't walk out of that crash.

So all my imperfections can stay where they are, I'll just have to hide the lumpy bits when I go to the beach !

That's not saying  that in a parallel universe I wouldn't  love to be a size 10, beautiful and with impossibly long legs . But, I live in the real world, where I love my family and friends for who they are, and how they make me feel , not what they look like.

Today's track has to be "Changes " by a man of disguise and master of reinvention. David Bowie.....


Friday, 18 January 2013

The waiting days are over

So, Sunday - the day of my last blog post - was a day of waiting. Waiting for the snow which was forecast for lunchtime...and for news of a very important event. The snow arrived and we haven't been able to see the lawn since- the sub zero temperatures have ensured that.

The garden on Wednesday.. least the roads were clear as I drove to the nearest shops over three miles away.... although every tree and hedge seemed frozen in white....

But then today it has done nothing but snow.......

It's been an adventure for Boo.....with three inches of snow, and only little legs, you should have seen her face as she squatted down to have a pee!

Obviously the roads are treacherous around here...I'm so pleased I wasn't working today.
I did go out for a little wander down the lane though but didn't see a soul... everyone was tucked up in their cosy cottages.

So, what happened to the news I was waiting for? A few years ago, my daughter and I flew to Florence for a few days. We had a great time sightseeing in the sunshine and drinking prosecco by  night.

As we left, she wished she could come again soon. So last Friday she flew back with her lovely boyfriend for a five day break. On Sunday, which was her birthday, they visited the Duomo, and climbed the 414 steps to the very top of the tower.

When he had got his breath back, her boyfriend said he had another birthday present for my daughter. He gave her a box....and yes, there was a ring inside. A stunning ring which fitted perfectly, and he asked her to marry him!

Now, I knew that he was going to ask. At New Year, he told me and asked Mr Thinking of the Days if he could. (Top marks so far!) I didn't tell a soul...and I knew he would pop the question on her birthday. But I didn't know where or that's the news I was waiting for......

And when I received it, I laughed and cried at my darling daughter's happy voice ....and at these two photos.....

So that was the good news...but I couldn't say anything until all their friends had been told too!

Today's track is a wonderful song.....a beautifully heartfelt love song, which would definitely make my top eight favourite tracks if I was appearing on Desert Island Discs. I've loved it from the moment I first heard it....."God only knows" by the Beach Boys.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Waiting on a sunny day

What a beautiful day it's been - cold, but really sunny. The sun illuminating patterns on the ice, the temperature hasn't gone above 2 celsius but what a lovely day for a walk. Snow and bad weather were predicted, so it was time to get out into the sunshine before the skies turned grey.

 Boo and I strolled past the church

upto the set aside field where the sun was strong and the shadows were long.

We'd been told the snow would fall.....but it didn' I walked some more....

Past the sheep all in lamb, waiting for their time to give birth.

 But it wasn't just the snow I was waiting for. I was waiting for a phone call .Some good news....about an event I and some others knew was imminent, but the person at the centre of the story was completely unaware of what was going to happen. 

I didn't know what time I would get this news....for hours I kept looking at my mobile phone, willing it to ring. And when it did, I couldn't stop grinning.

It's not my story to tell though , so I can't say more...not yet.Perhaps in a day or two. 

But even though the snowy skies were gathering at the back of the cottage

 I couldn't stop thinking about and singing this song to myself......a  track from Bruce Springsteen "Waiting on a sunny day" from his gig at Hyde Park a few years back.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A new year and a treat for 2013

 A new year , a fresh start.....there's something so invigorating about a new year isn't there? A year full of possibilities, potential and new beginnings. A chance to take stock, to hope, to make the most of what the next twelve months have to offer.

I've promised myself a  major treat this year. Something which will give me hours of pleasure, make me laugh, cry and think....and do you know what the best thing  of all about this delicious aural treat is? It's not going to cost me a penny.

I'm going to listen to the complete archive of Desert Island Discs which is available on the BBC website, in chrnological order from the very first broadcast. I can't wait.

For those of you living abroad (and there's lots of you reading the blog in Australia, USA, Canada and France) Desert Island Discs is a wonderful , must listen to programme on Radio 4 where prominent , famous people are interviewed. They are castaways who can choose eight records, a book and a luxury to take with them to a  mythical desert island.

Do have a listen

The programme began in 1942....and deservedly is still going strong. On the website you can listen to some real jewels  ...what about the actress Margaret Lockwood, the conductor Sir Malcolm Sergeant , the opera singer Joan Sutherland and war hero Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein from wayback in the archive?

More up to date castaways include Dawn French (she cried ) and Dustin Hoffman .....there's so many different personalities..and you can learn so much about who they really are by skilful interviewing as they remember their favourite music.

Ah, music....with today's track, you get two groups for the price of one. Both with a fine back catalogue, which I often listen to. Chicago plus Earth, Wind and Fire came together about six or seven years ago... - here they are with "Beginnings". I would have loved to have been in the audience for this.....