This morning, I met Ray's girlfriend, Maxine, for the first time, as she was
setting-about opening the Big L shop.
I arrived at the watery end of the pier just in time to assist the three DJs who were leaving the ship today. Pete MacFarlane, Steve Silbey and John Kenning needed help to make it down the length of those never-ending lumps of wood with all their gear. It was too early for the little train to be running and they were struggling to carry rather a lot of stuff. Chatting to Steve Silbey, as we held one handle each of a weighty bag, I discovered that he had been a presenter on our own local radio station in Aylesbury, Mix 96, when it first started. Eventually, all three guys managed to get themselves and their mass of gear into a taxi.
One-and-a-half miles after taking on the job of sherpa, I finally got back to the other end of the pier to catch the tender, Chris Baird was there, obviously in need of a heavy piece of weight-lifting equipment to keep himself in trim. Recognising a 60kg weight when he saw one, he proceeded to pick me up and lift me aboard.
On board the Yeoman Rose, the First Mate, John Cooper, showed me the delightful rogues' gallery of photos he had collected since the beginning of the RSL, including one of Fluff and me on our first visit. Why he'd taken a picture of us, when at that stage he didn't even know our names, I've no idea. We clearly had great charm! I added my order for copies to his growing list.
That Saturday afternoon, having spent some time aboard the Yeoman Rose but even more aboard the Lady Gwen, I found myself back on the pier, and decided to exercise myself and my Walkperson with a stroll to the Naze and back. When planning my trip to the Walton area, I had harboured all sorts of ideas of places I might visit and things I might do that were unconnected with Radio London. However, this occasion turned out to be practically the only one when I left the vicinity of the pier. It was a great feeling, ambling along in the hot sunshine, an ice cream in my hand and Big L in my ears. (Which has to be better than having ice cream in my ears...)
(Picture - Allan Trainer, Captain Pete, Chris Elliot, John Kenning and Pete
MacFarlane say, "Thanks for the CD!")
When I returned, I fetched my sun-lounger from the car and set up camp alongside the Radio London shop. This had been one of the hottest days of 1997 so far, and Maxine informed me that she had sold one of the new design 'Radio London...still wonderful' anoraks! Well, you can't trust the weather, can you?
There I was, in a comfortable prone position, as I gave Fluff his daily phone
update. Ray came past and told me I looked like a right poser, sprawled out
on a sun-bed, talking on the phone. The conversation finished, I put my Walkperson
back on, and settled down again to listen to the Roman Emperor. The singles
from the Paynes' customised CD were getting plenty of airings. Mark was raving
over it, saying he could have used it to do a whole show without having any
other records. By now, I was also overhearing favourable comments about the
unusual tracks, from people around me on the pier who were unaware that I was
the originator of the compilation.
Just before 5.00pm, the Emperor mentioned that Chris E was rifling through his little red book for a girlfriend's phone number. Seconds later, my mobile started ringing. It was my number Chris had been searching for, to let me know that I was invited to join Mark and his friends for dinner. I had to meet them on the pier immediately after Mark's show finished at 6.00pm. When I enquired if this was meant to be at the dry or the watery end of the pier, I was informed it was the latter. Consequently, I was required to grab my gear, race back to my car, drive to far-off Wix, perform the fastest shower and change in history, drive back to Walton and traverse three-quarters-of-a-mile of pier, in under an hour. Amazingly, I made it!
During that hour, I was to hear on my car radio, the culmination of several factors cause poor Mark to reach emotional overload. Part of the problem was caused by the dedication Fluff had included on the inlay of Anorax Trax, which Mark had chosen to read aloud. It says:
"This CD is dedicated to those wonderful DJs of Big L who are now playing revived 45s at that great radio station in the sky."
That dedication clearly tugged at Mark's heartstrings as he remembered the old friends he had lost. Attempting to jolt himself out of his melancholy mood, Mark rushed to seek the aid of a favourite Trini Lopez single. By an unfortunate quirk of fate, the track concerned was titled, Gonna Get Along Without You Now, which served only to enhance the poignancy of the moment. I doubt if there were many listeners who did not appreciate what had happened to Mark and who did not sympathise with him at that time. It was another case of Big Lil revealing the human face of radio. Finally, the man reached for some mood-shattering rock 'n' roll, cranked up the volume and succeeded in breaking the spell by blowing a fuse in the equipment.
It was a pleasure to meet Mark's friends Melvin 'Melly' Johnson and his wife, Marge. Melly is famous for the beautiful replicas he makes of the pirate radio ships, using the magic idea of incorporating cassette machines so that the models play genuine recordings of each station's output. We enjoyed a lovely meal at a local Cantonese restaurant called the Chinese Garden. KNEEdless to say, I took a lot of stick from Mark for the trouble caused by the dedication on the sleeve of Anorax Trax, even though it was really Fluff's fault, as he wrote it!
(Picture - "You wait 'til I get hold of you, Fluff!")
(Picture courtesy of Melly)