Hold on, what decade is it?

I woke up this morning (cue crashing blues chords) and through the mists of sleep, having reached out for the comforting background noise of Radio 5 Live, slowly wondered if I was either dreaming or had in fact woken up in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’ as the news bulletin covered a Russian spy being murdered in a London hotel by poison, the loathsome Jimmy Saville and talked about David Bowies’ new album being number 1! Add to that Nicky Campbell is hosting the breakfast show and you’ve got the full set.

I half expected everything to be chocolate brown, burnt orange and, not to put too finer point on it, pretty much everything else to be drab and crap. Obviously this is a retrospective perspective, at the time we all thought it was great (except British Leyland, they were always pathetic) but, of all decades when you see footage of the clothes, the buildings, the fashion…well it actually beggars belief. Grab an episode of ‘The Sweeney’ on ITV 4 and you will see what I mean.

Being a proud Windsorian when I was growing up we were very lucky to be on the outer transmission reach of Capital Radio which, far from being the polished corporate entity that it is now, was an incredible radio station which encapsulated the heart of the great metropolis and was so much more cosmopolitan and edgy than the kind of muppets employed at Radio 1. It embraced the variety of the incredible musical styles of the times (est 1973) playing soul, pop, reggae, punk, disco, rock…most afternoons a chap called Roger Scott would play ‘Jungleland’ by Bruce Springsteen, and it’s 9:33 mins long.

Anyway, my point is that it started my long love affair with the radio which continues to this day, though there’s me harping on about the embracing of musical variety and I positively NEVER listen to music radio of any kind now.

For the best part of twenty years I traveled the length and breadth of the UK interviewing people and of course during this time we had the advent of talk radio and the like of 5 Live mixing news and sport with opinion, interviews, politics, debates and phone ins.  This has kept me awake and alive over the years, undoubtedly added to my blood pressure and allowed me to scream, laugh and cry in the privacy of my own car (I wept uncontrollably when I heard Michael Parkinson on LBC interview the amazing Gordon Wilson about the last conversation he had with his daughter Marie who was dying as they lay in the rubble at Enniskillen, I also wept with joy when I listened to Frank Lampard score his two goals on 30 April 2005 to win the league for Chelsea at Bolton for the first time in 50 years, which pretty much sums up how deep and shallow I can be!!).

As I write, ‘Question Time’ is on in the background on 5 Live and I listen to it most of the time, in fact, what this is all leading up to in my normal fashion is that when listening to a phone-in about modern etiquette and manners on public transport yesterday the usual topics of public mobile phone use, mobile phone use on trains in carriages where it’s banned, personal stereos, reading peoples’ newspapers over their shoulders, eating hot, reaking takeaways, swearing…it all came up, but the piece de resistance that was phoned in and really compelled me to share it with one and all was about an elderly gentleman who shuffled on the train, sat down having removed his coat, then removed both shoes and socks and proceeded to cut his toe nails!!!!!!! Frankly I am still reeling at this story, and laughed uncontrollably when the presenter (the aforementioned Mr Campbell) decided to qualify what the person did with the clippings – apparently he gathered them up as if they were small diamonds and packed them down in a rosewood briar with a small amount of baccy ‘for later’ (OK, I can’t lie, I made the bit about the pipe up but after the initial revelation it’s not that fantastic, the truth was he just let them spring and scatter amongst the other paraphernalia and debris on the floor, which to me, is worse). Nice.

Laughing, crying or shouting at the radio in the privacy of a kitchen is so much better for the image than doing it in the car on show to all.

Etiquette, it’s a funny old thing, and let’s be honest we apply it as it suits our own needs mostly.

One of my biggest bug bears, as a man who has spent considerable time on both sides of the bar, is when people are in a busy bar, have been waiting for five minutes to be served and then when it’s their turn don’t know what they want. This person will nearly always spend the next five minutes trying to make up their minds, asking other people what they want and then, having finally decided what they want after buying a large round, they proceed to order a Pimms/Cup of tea or coffee and LASTLY a bloody Guinness!

Another personal tic is when toilets are left unwiped, unbrushed and without toilet tissue. Whilst traversing this great country it has to be said that sights were seen in this area, but I would like to recount one of the incidences that is just about publishable.

I had an early morning interview (08:00) in Milton Keynes, which can be done in an hour from Windsor early morning, so I fell out of bed at 05:00, showered, shaved, climbed into the gentleman’s outer garments and powered on up to the land of the concrete cows arriving in hotel reception at 07:00, snaffled a complimentary paper and made my way to the toilets, on what had become an urgent mission if you get my drift.

I am sure that studies probably exist from some obscure university somewhere on how/why we select the cubicle or urinal that we do, but in this instance I walked to the third cubicle in of three to my right, the one furthest from the door. This being an urgent mission I quickly checked the pan and seat to ensure it was clean, placed the lap top case on the floor, next to the briefcase full of CV and literature, removed my suit jacket and hung it on the hook behind the door, sat down and ‘relaxed’.

This all took about two minutes so I was well ahead of the game, reached for the freshly purloined Daily Telegraph and casually read the sports section at my leisure…time was moving on and it was with a good deal of alarm and consternation that I realised that I had failed to do my usual third check on arrival in a cubicle, that of the presence of toilet tissue. Were the toilet roll holder a box of ‘CHOCS’ in a Dennis the Menace cartoon strip the word ‘GONE’ or ‘EMPTY’ would be floating in the air. Instead of this, there were several unprintable words floating in the air and with a good deal of fevered thought I considered my position.

It was now 07:35 and I needed to get a move on, but what to do?

I grabbed the aforementioned suit jacket, briefcase, laptop case and newspaper, tucked the tail of my shirt up behind itself and, fully laden, with trousers and undergarments around the ankles shuffled with a good deal of celerity out of trap 1 to trap 2, praying that I wouldn’t meet anyone on the way round, least of all the poor unsuspecting fool I was due to meet in twenty odd minutes, hung up the jacket, chucked the two cases and paper on the floor and collapsed in a sweating jabbering mess onto the toilet, highly relieved to have made it safely, only to discover that this cubicle was also without a trace of the necessary tissue!

It was now 07:45 and the chances of the interviewee coming in to relieve himself, wash his hands, maybe refresh himself and tighten the knot in the old tie before meeting the ‘highly professional’ consultant were high I would say. Not quite as high as either of my blood pressure or temper, or indeed as strong as my desire to find the cleaner and have a few words.

Gathering up what little strength and dignity I had left, along with the jacket and other items of luggage, I broke the record previously set only minutes before for the Milton Keynes bare midriff convenience shuffle, this time from trap 2 to 3, smashed the door shut and chucked everything on the floor, frantically looking for the result, only to find the dispenser fully laden and two back up rolls  on a hook by the loo.

It was an agitated Tony that made his way to reception, cut through the queue of people and ejaculated in a pointed manner that the toilets needed servicing, probably slightly louder than would be expected as  the whole room, including coffee lounge, stopped what it was doing, went silent and looked at me like when the bloke wearing the black hat walks into the saloon in a western.

Needless to say the day could only improve…