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One Year On

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 12:21 pm
by Charlie
A year ago this weekend, was the last BBC London show, with K'naan as the Ping Pong guest who also did a couple of songs live. I did come back to do that final broadcast from WOMAD at the end of July, with K'naan among the performers there as well, but May 13th has stuck in my head as the end of the line, the date when the eleven-year run came to an end.

So what, some people ask, do you do with yourself now?

The odd thing is how activities spread to fill the available time. There were a few months of lying on the sofa, reading the books I eventually reported on in the Books section here, mostly noir novels but also including Patient, Ben Watt's account of his experience of the same condition I have, called Churg Strauss syndrome.

Having spent a week in St Thomas', I was a regular visitor for the next couple of months, taking big doses of steroids and something called cyclophosphemide to knock back the rampant white blood cells. After that, it was a matter of having regular blood tests to make sure the white cells had not started to increase again, while the nerves slowly recovered.

I didn't like feeling a passive victim of what had happended, and for a few months made regular trips to a private clinic, the Breakspear Medical Centre in Hemel Hempstead, to see if they could identify and deal with the allergies and weaknesss that made me vulnerable in the first place. They found high levels of lead and mercury and recommended a series of treatments that lowered the levels to normal.

I still don't know if anything that was done there has made any difference. I'm more clear about the benefits of an acupuncturist, Tai Long, who has helped to sort out the foot drop in one foot that for a while made me limp. I had tried acupuncture for other things before and never experienced any change or improvement. As with many things, we each have to find the person whom we trust and believe in.

Churg Strauss syndrome can affect different parts of the body. In Ben Watt's case, it hit his intestines. In mine, it hit the nerves in my feet, which still tingle like ants are eating them. Painkillers reduce the sensation to bearable levels, but my body still prefers to be horizontal (yeah, mine too, I hear from the stalls). Worst of all is standing around, so gigs with no seating are out for a while.

The week before Churg Strauss hit, I had submitted the list of tracks to Rhino for World 2006. In the weeks afterwards, I wrote the sleeve note, collated the details of song writers, publishers, etc, and liaised with product manager Florence Halfon about promotion plans. Our target release date was end of July, in time for it to be on sale at WOMAD.

Meanwhile, Oval Records was in the process of releasing its first album for over twenty years, What...is in Between? by David Lowe's Dreamcatcher. As more than half the songs had been commissioned by Thomas Brooman of WOMAD for performances at both the Eden Project (2004) and Reading (2005), I wanted this album to be available for sale at WOMAD 2006 as well. We managed it, with a few days to spare.

And then there was the question of whether I would be in any shape to stick to my long-term plan of making one final farewell appearance, to present a live broadcast on BBC London from WOMAD. With the great help of producer Jason Phipps, long term assistants Nikki Akinjinmi and Alan Finkel, and the marvellous co-operation of the lightning-fast Dutch stage crew, we managed to present performances by Titi Robin, Daby Balde, Dona Rosa and K'naan.

People ask, how much do you miss doing the Radio London show? It's hard to measure, and it's not in my nature to be very regretful. Rather, I feel grateful to have been able to do it for eleven years, to have met so many people I admire and to engage them in a friendly sparring match.

But in addition, the blow's been softened by being able to continue to do the show for the World Service. Pre-recorded, only half an hour long, it's infinitely easier to do - an engineer plays the records on the day, so all I have to do is choose them, take them in, and speak when he/she opens the microphone. No competitions, no gigs, no guests to liaise with. But it still gives a focus for my addiction to listening to new releases, deciding which tracks are worth playing, if any, and which other tracks they will nestle next to most comfortably. Once every three weeks, a car comes to pick me up to take me to the studio, where I record three programmes, one after the other; and then another car brings me back home.

I still marvel at having been able to keep that show going without a break, which was only possible because a week or so before I went into hospital, somebody accidentally played the same show two weeks in a row. That gave just enough time for me to recover and record the next batch of programmes.

The audience for the World Service shows are mostly very different from the BBC London listeners, and few of them have joined this forum, perhaps daunted by its formidably high level of knowledge and wit.

But for me, this forum has become an even bigger part of my life than it was when I was doing the BBC London show. I can't begin to convey my appreciation and enjoyment, so have to leave it to a simple thank you, to all of you.

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 12:47 pm
by Des
Oh Charlie that's lovely and I'm all choked up. Bless you.

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 12:53 pm
by Dayna
Thanks Charlie, I'm not really knowledgeable but enjoying what I'm learning.
Thanks for what you've done for me. My Best Wishes to you.
Bless you!

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 7:00 pm
by Gordon Moore
I love this forum too. There's always something to make me ponder, smile, laugh out loud at/with and engage with. Thanks for putting up with me Charlie...and thanks for sharing.

PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 7:16 am
by judith
Oh my goodness...and no, Charlie - thank you.

Respectfully, and to quote Jayne,

Warm regards,
Judith

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 10:47 pm
by Gordon Neill
Charlie, I'm glad to hear that you're mending, if not mended. And that you have such a positive non-regretful attitude. I think it's the only way to survive and prosper.

Three years ago, I was going through a series of life crises. They seem to be like buses. It might sound like hyperbole, but the BBC London show, the Forum, and all the great new music truly helped me survive. I hope that in some small I've helped to repay that debt.

I feared that this Forum would wither and die after the BBC London show ended. But, oddly, it hasn't. It's a shame that we don't seem to be attracting many World Service listeners. Couldn't you mention the Forum on the show? Or is this a sacking offence? I also wish that the show could be longer. I enjoy the World Service show, but it's too short and too restricted. One of the joys of the BBC London show was its eclecticism.

And I'd like to echo Gordon Moore's comments and also thank you for putting up with him

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 12:50 am
by Adam Blake
Thanks Charlie. As for me, I am addicted to this forum and can't imagine how I got along without it.
All the very best
Adam

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 4:16 am
by Tom McPhillips
I'm only just starting to control my rage directed at that bounder who dropped the tone arm and lamely gave up on my favorite programme.....

How dare he put his feet first!!!

so.. I joined this 12 step programme....

(I should have guessed from the fact that it was run by someone called Ian A that it was a bloody English Song and Dance class (Grrrr and Dosie-do)

I can't even watch my favorite film, Footloose anymore, without recalling unchained memories...

and as for my favorite game - footsie -just fergetit!

(bTW I thought this weeks World of Music was a fine return to form...)

it's been a year?... seemed a lot longer....

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 9:16 am
by howard male
I only just spotted this strand as I must have stopped looking at the very bottom of the list of topics as usually so little goes on down there - and it's extra work for my scrolling arm.

But yes to what everyone's said. I bumped into Charlie the other night at Mayra Andrade's impressive debut gig, and he was looking and sounding better than he has for a long time, you'll all be pleased to hear.

And yes, this forum is something else.

Though, if I am to be honest, it has been a mixed blessing for me. Having got through most of my life thinking I was a fairly decent sort of bloke, I've come to learn a few things about myself that family and friends have rarely even told me: that I can be arrogant, tactless, opinionated, pretentious, hot-headed, and long-winded. And that I haven't got a bloody clue what I'm talking about when it comes to music!

Some of these things I kind of knew, but that doesn't detract from the shock of having complete strangers (some with lucid, cutting exactitude, others with blunter weaponry) tell me, in no uncertain terms, where to get off.

But hopefully I've learnt a thing or two here, and have managed to improve my manners if not my irrepressible desire to always see, and state, the other side of any argument - because, more often than not, that's all it's about. I may have nothing invested in my argument other than a desire to draw more out of other contributors and learn a little.

I just want to see dialogues develop here, rather than the individual, isolated posts which tends to be the norm on many other forums. Or if there are dialogues they tend to run along the lines of; "Did you go last night?" "Yeah, great wasn't it?" "Did Ben go?" "Don't know, I didn't see him." - mobile phone calls made public - what's the point? Don't we get enough of that on the train? There's nothing wrong with moments like that, but the great thing here is that most of the time something is actually being said - in other words, it's conversations that would make me prick up my ears if they were being had on the train.

Anyway, enough. Overall, 99% of the time this forum is a positive, lively, very funny, highly informative, and addictive place to spend time. And long may it continue. And, yes, some new blood from World Service listeners would be great. Perhaps we should start a separate strand to discuss how they could be lured here?

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 9:28 am
by Charlie
Gordon Neill wrote: Couldn't you mention the Forum on the show? Or is this a sacking offence? I also wish that the show could be longer. I enjoy the World Service show, but it's too short and too restricted. One of the joys of the BBC London show was its eclecticism.

If not a sacking offence, something to be strongly discouraged. I am allowed one or two mentions a year. Come to think of it, I haven't mentioned it for a while, so maybe I'll be so bold...

There is no absolute rule as to what I can (or cannot) play on the World Service, but there is a sense that people want to hear me play what they cannot hear anywhere, which would inhibit me from playing Crazy by Gnarls Barklay, for instance, or some other great current pop record. But I did play Carrie Rodriguez the other week.

Paranoid as I am, I'm a little worried by Tom Phillips' 'return to form' comment - how bad have the others been, Tom? And how long ago was the last previous good one?

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 11:42 am
by Tom McPhillips
I was joking, but..

now you come to mention it....

I did think this week's show was a particularly good one!

Unfortunately, unlike Howard, this forum. despite being a constant source of enjoyment and interest, has failed to make me a better person! I can't help looking forward to reading Gordon's interview with "CG" one year on, one of these days!

It's great to hear that you're looking and sounding so much better and I hope Howard didn't undo the good work when he thoughtlessly bumped into you the other night. What was he thinking?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:20 pm
by Dayna
I've just figured out the links on the Mondomix page underneath, are also from the BBC London show. I'm listening to them now. It's actually good to have something more to listen to that sounds new, from these shows.
At least they do too me. I've heard the one with Souad Massi & Brian Eno, am listening to Gotan Project now.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:32 pm
by Dayna
Actually, I've kind of purposely been listening to all these shows a slowly as possible, so i can make them last.
I've got Dlembimady Toukara,Banning Eyre & Wai on now. It was nice to hear a tune I've been hearing on the World 2002 CD played on acoustic guitar, Gnima Diala.