Today’s Lifeboat Party Show


Here you go. Back onair after Christmas. Do what dolphins do and click here.

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Live groupies

I’ve just finished the first live music broadcast on the Lifeboat Party today when I had Jack Pescod and Hannah Vogt in to play. She played the violin, so that was no problem apart from pronouncing her name properly. Vocked, apparently. German. Don’t mention the war. I did, but I think I got away with it.

He said he was bringing a piano in. How we roared! Until he turned up with an electric piano in a case, with a stand and a collection of tangled leads but not one that would feed directly into the mixing desk, so we had to mic it up which picked up the noise of his hands on the keyboard and blah. But the music was sublime. I thought so anyway. Hope the listeners did.

The duo – is that the right word? It doesn’t sound right, although they do – are performing at Butley Priory, home to Frances Shelley who was on the show recently. I’m doing some lyrics for her. Did I mention that? Didn’t I? Oh sorry. I’m doing some lyrics for her, for her third CD. The one of hers I played today was from her second album, the beautiful All I Want from the album Wilderness Rhapsodies.

I love the little piano line. It reminds me of Listen With Mother, not exactly but to me there’s an element of some half-forgotten children’s story, from the times when little boys wore shorts and knee length socks at this time of year.

The show finished at one pm. At five past we had a phone call at the studio. Is the Carl Bennett show still on? Have I missed it?

Don’t know who it was. But whoever, you can hear still hear it on the Listen Again thing. I hope you like it, whoever you are.


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The unforgiving minute

First thing a big long walk and it felt good. A great start to the day. Then a shower, clean clothes and then Aldeburgh, in a bit of a rush now  because I’m not 100% clear on what I’m doing with these papers I’m delivering and I have to be somewhere else at half ten. The Lifeboat Party radio show goes out at noon and if I’m not on air it doesn’t go out. It concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Focus. Remember to breathe.

Get to Snape Maltings and get a text from the person I’m interviewing in the Britten Rooms. I’m in the Britten Rooms, she’s still ten minutes away in her car. Time, time, time. It’s ok. We get a quiet room, which would have been quieter if someone wasn’t knocking a wall down next door, by the sound of it. Do the interview unscripted and absolutely no time to edit, recording this on my iPhone. Yes, I’ve got a proper digital audio recorder. The iPhone gives a lot better sound quality. And it’s armoured, in case I drop it. Blitz through, thank my guest, mwah mwah and get in the car. I parked round the back because my car’s so old. Mildly amused to see her car’s even older.

Get to the station and Ray the station manager tells me I have a listener in China, so obviously Bowie’s Little China Girl has to be the first track on the playlist. He tells me I have a new Spanish listener too, but Spanish Eyes just doesn’t do it for me. I remember this from a time ten years ago when I was holed up in a hotel bedroom in Hong Kong, marvelling at the Merchant Ivory ferries on the water over to Kowloon, wondering if I’d ever see someone again. (Answer. Yes. And no. Can’t win them all. Husband issues. You know how it goes).

First guest, well ok, only guest on this week’s show was Naomi Jaffa who runs the Poetry Trust in Halesworth. She was fun. Poetry as a living art form. “I have no street credibility at all.”  Well, she sounded fine to me. I got her to read “Bike With No Hands.” Interviews are something I’ve done for the past fifteen years and that one was done half an hour before the show, no script, no editing, just straightforward old-fashioned getting people to talk about what they love. And it felt good. I didn’t know Snape was hosting Europe’s largest contemporary poetry festival. Such a small place for such a big event, powered by dedication. You really can move mountains if you try. As Kate Bush said, just saying it can even make it happen. Well, most of the time, anyway. The Kate Bush thing hasn’t quite happened outside my closed eyelids, but there’s still time.

A couple of songs then the Suffolk Metrosexuals story. Apparently more and more Suffolk men are slapping on the fake tan and getting their eye-brows done. Maybe it’s me but I think it takes a little more than that to qualify as a metrosexual. Like living in a metropolitan area, for a start. I couldn’t keep a straight face to even read it. Who makes this stuff up?

The song remains the same

A bit of Buzzcocks playing Ever Fallen In Love With Someone (You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With)? Of course. Who hasn’t? I think the Fine Young Cannibals version just edges past this earlier version, but that could just be me. I’m old enough to remember them both. I certainly remember the energy of the Buzzcocks’ first version, and the oddness of the way the FYC version always sounded in 1989 as if the original was done in the 1960s.

Suffolk radio broadband was a good local news story and I think we covered it without it getting too technical. The idea is that it works via satellite, but I’m not sure where the signal comes from to begin with. It has to come from somewhere, surely. It can’t just be internet-ness. If that’s even a thing. A quick bit of Johnny Cougar, as he used to be called before he stuck the extra bit on his name (for tax reasons?), then into the serious story. I know one person switched off at that point. But it needs airing. Domestic abuse happens and if Radio Castle is going to be a proper community radio station with an OFCOM VHF broadcast licence then it needs to serve the community. I wish everything was like Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion (I wish I was more like Garrison Keillor, come to that), but I think I handled the theme passably. I didn’t sensationalise and above all, I got the contact numbers out where people can find them. I think I’m going to do that in every show in future. Domestic abuse happens. The victims often end up thinking it only happens to them. But it doesn’t. It was an upsetting story. I thought my voice was going to go at the end of it. Maybe John Lee Hooker’s I Want To Hug You wasn’t the best choice to close the story with, but better than Eye Of The Tiger or something.

Had to calm it down with a bit of John Martyn and somehow the hour’s gone and we’re into the closing blah. At the start of every show I don’t really know how I’m going to fill the time. At the end I can’t see how sixty minutes have gone. I hope it’s the same for the listeners.

The unforgiving minute comes from Kipling’s poem “If.”

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Mine is the Earth? Hmm. Or maybe I just won’t bore the pants off the listeners. I’ll settle for that.

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Lifeboat Launch – Again

I did the sixth Lifeboat Party show today at Radio Castle. It’s on every Monday, noon till one and I could tell before I got there that just about everything that could go wrong was going to er, go wrong. Different studio. Different mixing desk.

Couldn’t remember the wifi password. Lead was too short to plug the laptop in. The mix was different through the headphones to the level it was at in the other studio. I’m really sorry, ok? It got better as I improvised a way around it.

But it wasn’t what it should have been. Sorry.

Good parenting

I emailed my mother about the show. We don’t talk much. There’s a reason. But I thought I’d make the effort. I’vbe got this show, I said. Here’s the link, so you can listen to it. Within the week I got a reply.

“As you know, I don’t really like that sort of music.”

I am so glad I bothered. No, really I am.


Listen Again. Just do it. Please.

You can listen again to all the Lifeboat Party shows here. 

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Ligging, as it used to be called

When I first went to journalism school (oh, didn’t I tell you? Why don’t you buy me a drink and I will?) we all thought we were going to be fast-tracked onto the free drinks circuit. All the movers and shakers and people who wanted to influence people were bound to want thirty 18 year olds swigging their free champagne and stuffing vol-au-vents in their pockets for supper while we practised our T-Line shorthand and forgot people’s names, starting on the fifth free champagne and an empty stomach, with our own. Bound to. Somehow the 46th Annual Bread, Cake and Confectionary Exhibition at Cardiff City Hall didn’t quite go that way and nor did I.

Cardiff City Hall. Dropped the camera. Bit skew-whiff now. You’re my besht mate. No, really you are. You know that?

But today reminded me what ligging was really about. Not scoring free drinks and some nibbles instead of buying your own lunch, but getting your face about and keeping an ear to the ground, although now not drinking so much that you do that literally.

I was walking down the street, like you do, when I saw a friend of mine walking towards me. Where are you going? Off to a press launch. Invites only. Mind if I come? No, if you like.

It’s that simple. Like many things in life, the hardest thing is believing you can do it. And not acting the arse when you do. I met a few interesting new people. Made some contacts. They might come to something, they might do later. Might have some new guests for the Lifeboat Party radio show at Gave them my card (thank-you Vistaprint, £6.59 well spent) and something might come of that. Who knows?

Even if it doesn’t it reminded me of two things. More people usually want to meet you than you think. And you don’t always have to buy your own drinks.




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Catching Up

Each week I do a community radio show. Me and Garrison Keillor, we’re like that.  I wish, anyway. His rather more famous show is called the Prairie Home Companion. Mine’s unoriginally called the Lifeboat Party and I try to get a new guest on the show every week, to prove there is life in Suffolk.

It’s at noon every Monday. All you have to do is go to

But wait, I hear you cry. I can’t listen to the radio on the interwebness at noon on a Monday. I have a life, apart from anything else.

Well click here then. It’s the Listen Again thing.

Get in touch. It’s darned lonely in that studio. I sit there making love to all of Suffolk. Then I go home alone…..

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Learning experience

Learning or experience, or both? Who knows? It has to be a combination I think, which sits at odds with things I used to believe, that learning meant sitting still and reading a book. I didn’t learn as much as I should have done that way, and my grades showed it. I got bored, I looked at of the window and wrote poems about trees and girls, all the stuff the lovable but messing-up kid does in films, a kind of budget Owen Wilson, a bit older.

Same as me, really. Sort of. No, really.
Same as me, really. Sort of. No, really.

Video Killed The Radio Star

I looked-up Owen Wilson on a movie database. He came out with the kind of thing I’d say:

There’s that great quote from Beckett, I think, ‘He had an abiding sense of melancholy that sustained him through brief periods of joy.’ 

Why? Because I know that feeling. I live that feeling. It’s not altogether a bad thing, but that’s the way it is. But I also recognise the academic slopiness betrayed by the ‘I think,’ the attitude that says look, I’ve read quite a lot of stuff and if I’m just generally quite charming and seem assured I can usually get away with saying things that maybe perhaps aren’t entirely accurate, because to be honest, charm beats rigour.

As it should and it’s fine unless you’re say, building a motorway bridge or doing neurosurgery, but it’s not the nicest thing to know about yourself. You see? You see what I mean?

But the learning experience, well, there have been several this week. For the first time in a long time I went out and interviewed someone on their territory.

The Monday Lifeboat Party show, my radio slot now has two interviews all lined up and sort-of ready to go. Almost. Except one I recorded onto CD and I can’t get it off onto my editing software because my CD drive is bust and I can’t unwrap the files from their email format and the other one is just about edited and now I can’t burn it to a CD because my CD blah…..

Technology. It’s not the studio’s fault. This is my own kit that’s broken. The learning was one of those usual learning things. I’d never edited sound before. I got about an hour and a half of material from the first interview, about forty minutes from the second one in Walberswick. That one I recorded on my iPhone. Depressingly, the sound quality was way better than on the expensive digital recorder I got just a couple of years ago, really good, easily as good as the studio recording.

It's a bit over the top for editing audio tape, isn't it?
It’s a bit over the top for editing audio tape, isn’t it?

But too much of it. I had to learn to cut bits out of the recording and join it back together again. It used to be done with magnetic tape, a guillotine and glue. You’ve seen it in the films.

Just kidding and anyway, it’s all done, like most other things (yes even that, or arranging it, anyway) these days on a laptop. It took me hours to get started. What I should have done is listened through with a piece of paper and a pen and marked-up where I wanted to cut.

The first ten times I cut anything I deleted the entire track and had to re-load it from the place Steve Jobs at Apple had thoughtfully put a spare, knowing I’d probably do something like that. Thanks for looking out for me, Steve. You don’t get that from Bill Gates, just 46 questions asking you if you really want to do that are you sure you want to do that are you really sure you want to do that and do you feel lucky, well do you punk? And we all know how that one ends.

But then it clicked, literally. I got it. I found how to cut. I found out how to cut just at the start of a word so there’s no silence and no dreaded Splicer’s Disease, where words get merged into each other so that people talking about a delightful cream-coloured jumper ruined when someone fell out of a punt changes utterly when you cut the wrong nine words and six letters. And as always, after I’d learned how to do it  I couldn’t really imagine a time when I didn’t know how to do it. It’s so easy. Except until you learn it by doing it, it really isn’t. Which makes learning a much more complicated thing than I’d ever really thought about, but I’m thinking about learning a lot this week.

This morning a final listen through and see whether I can be bothered to cut the coughs and intakes of breath (no, just normal ones, it wasn’t that sort of recording). Then find a way to get it onto the mixing deck at the studio. I might go in on Sunday and see what I can do. A day you don’t learn anything is a day wasted, after all.


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