15 October 2010

Only eight months younger than my dad

Forget all the rumours, jealousies, sneers at his religious convictions and his inconvenient wish to stay sober, private and alive. More than half a century of consistent hitmaking, through to yesterday's 70th birthday, suggests a rather special career.

And yes, a few turkeys along the way, and a bit too much unnecessary association with Eurovision, but also some cracking pop songs, including this. Always his favourite, apparently. And, with any other singer, a shoo-in for one of the best love songs of all time. What a pity for both Cliff, and the song, that an element of snobbery stops it being appreciated properly.

It's better than bloody Imagine.

F-C paid a cracking tribute yesterday, and I rather hope that Mondo might dig out and discuss his favourite Cliff tune at some point too, as we all have one*.

Have any of the inkies mentioned this event, even in passing? Cliff may not have coolness or influence on his side but he has a) longevity, b) originality (he was in the charts a whole four years before the Beatles, despite being younger than both Starr and Lennon) and c) life. There's everything to respect.

*Barring a bloke from Newark.

13 October 2010

Dance-off, write-off

Strictly... is chugging along eventfully so far. Quality, humour, not much ego going on and the slow demise of Bruce Forsyth as a live television performer.

But the results show, half live and half taped, with all its alterations and cackhandedness, is utterly dreadful. And the removal of the dance-off ranks as the worst decision anyone has made on the show.

Barring a major error, the judges would have saved Goldie and hoiked out Peter Shilton at the weekend. That's a given. Goldie ended up in the bottom two because he didn't attain enough support to fend off the inevitable surge for the true dreg dancers beneath him that befits the tiresome tradition of Brits supporting an underdog.

But at least any anomaly from the viewers could be cured by a few sharp words and a shrug of apology from the judges. Never would they evict the wrong person, irrespective of their feelings for them as professionals or human beings.

That's gone now. The public stand alone as the kingmaker for the series. They watch the show to be entertained and educated, not to exercise their vote with fairness and expertise. And they will chuck out the celebrities who don't make them giggle with Tess and Claudia as much as they will anyone whose toes point the wrong way or whose shoulders are too hunched.

Ann Widdecombe or Paul Daniels, the other two basement-propping contestants on show, could now conceivably make real progress in the programme without improving as dancers and while seeing their shtick - Widdecombe as the willing ignoramus, Daniels as the forgetful joker - keep them afloat. I'm no different. Faced with saving either Widdecombe or Kara Tointon and my vote goes to the one who is most likely to keep me watching. Sorry, Kara.

So those who are not absolutely superb or not spellbindingly abysmal are the ones in trouble. Goldie has proved that. The likes of Felicity Kendal, Gavin Henson, Michelle Williams and Patsy Kensit are all in real danger unless they turn into market leaders.

Given the complaints the judges readily aired when the public kept saving John Sergeant two years ago, forcing them again and again to vote for a pairing that didn't deserve to go at all, it's a surprise, as well as a mistake, that the paymasters have taken this big privilege and responsibility away from them. Their initial scoring on the Saturday night is now all they have. Alesha Dixon has her faults - the main one being she knows bugger all about dancing - but she's already had the bottle to declare on the show she feels the lack of dance-off is wrong.

Sticking with the results show, exactly why is Claudia Winkleman there? All that's needed is a recap, a professionals-only dance, a quick natter with a smattering of contestants, "here's Robbie Williams!" and then the long-winded announcements. If that requires two people, it's over-egging the pudding a bit. And at the very least make her wear a proper frock so she looks at least a little bit dressed for the role. She isn't on a sofa blathering on about eye make-up now.

After two weeks, I think it's Matt Baker's to lose, Pamela Stephenson has a massive chance if she maintains the charm and good cheer, and Scott Maslen and Jimi Mistry are decent outside bets. The other two soap women are way too uncharismatic and will go after the obvious dregs have finally done one.

Oh, and after his heartbreaking non-performance on Saturday, it would be the decent thing if Bruce just admitted he'd shot his bolt and it was time to put his feet up. No wonder Anton du Beke is having fun with the Rt Hon Ann - it's a hell of a way to bow out as a dancer before taking over as principal host next year.

12 October 2010

Like a whirlpool that never ends

You may know, thanks to my previously banging on about it on here, that I am prone to migraines. Well, on Saturday night I had the worst one of my life.

It wasn't so much the symptoms, but the after-effects. I'm still suffering them now and it's nearly lunchtime on Tuesday.

Up I am on the stage, playing 80s tunes as ever and I have a satisfyingly full dancefloor. Then, at about 12.30am, my vision begins to cloud over a bit. This can happen just because I happen to have looked at one of the flashing lights for a millisecond too long, but after an hour or so there's no sign of it going.

Then at just after 1am, the aura that is familiar to so many migraine sufferers, hits my eyes. On goes Like A Prayer, a record that at almost six minutes long (the proper, brilliant, stop-start single version, not the one on The Immaculate Collection) gives me time to find a doorman to guard my stuff while I dash out to the car where my tablets are in the door pocket.

Back inside, I neck two of the tablets while Madonna still plays. The next bit is the waiting bit. Maybe it's like taking a pregnancy test in that the moment when you can do nothing but wait is the hardest bit. The tablets are there as a preventative remedy. An unfought migraine will, in my case, lose its aura after half an hour or so and then, after a ten minute recess, a headache that has you pleading to die there and then hits you.

So, the tablets begin to do their thing and as I continue to play girlish pop of the 80s (Tiffany, Taylor Dayne, Irene Cara - it happened to be that section; next time I'll ask the migraine to hit an hour earlier when the Jam, the Specials and the Smiths are on so I look cooler), the aura subsides. It's about 2am. I have an hour and a half to go of loud music and bright lights, not to mention people shouting requests in my ear accompanied by saliva. If the headache comes, I won't be able to carry on.

It doesn't come.

I get to 3.25am with a relatively clear head and line of vision. On goes the last song of the night and I pack my gear up. I'm staying locally due to radio commitments the next day and so am grateful not to have the two hour journey home ahead.

And as I get into my B&B issue bed at 3.45am, the headache arrives. I had got to the stage where I expected it not to arrive at all but the tablets had only managed to delay it. Fortunately, I was so unbelievably dog tired that I was fast asleep before it fully reached its mojo and my fatigue was too strong to allow the pain to override it.

I woke up at 9am feeling as shattered as usual, and a little light-headed, but no worse for wear. Breakfast, then to the car and an autumnal drive to Harrogate. I was on air there for midday and, aside from aircon problems making me too hot, all was okay until 4pm when I finished up and headed back to the north west.

I had something to eat and then returned to the club for the Sunday shift and began to feel very dizzy in the early evening. I had a chat with the landlady and discussed the possibility of going home but in the end I stayed. I hate being off sick, absolutely hate it. I had a couple more tablets and got started. Being on my feet and with a cold, soft drink next to me, I began to liven up and we got to about 1am.

Then my guts started on me.

I won't go into unpleasant detail, but I'm reminded of an episode of Cardiac Arrest. That, I'm sure you remember, was a 1990s drama series written by a doctor-turned-scriptwriter as an antidote to Casualty about what really went on in NHS wards, warts and all, to the extent that a petrified Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley felt obliged to give interviews after the first episode to deny the NHS was in such a state. It was shot on film and gave the impression of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, despite being fictional, scripted and acted. It also made famous Helen Baxendale, who played one of the consultants.

Anyway, there was one edition where the ultra-overworked junior doctor Andrew Collin was absolutely desperate for the loo after a particularly dodgy/heavy/fiery meal the night before. He regularly clutched his stomach and made for the gents' cubicle but kept being stopped by emergency situations or medical distractions that, selflessly, he took to be more important than his own. After hours of being forced to hold on, the episode ended with a rare moment of tranquillity in the ward and Dr Collin finally being allowed to open the cubicle door. The credits rolled to a darkened backdrop and the sound of absolute relief we are all capable of making when, well, bursting.

I felt like him. Let's just say that for an hour or so, I couldn't go when my system was on red alert because either the record I was playing was too short or the one cubicle in the gents was occupied. And, again, without going into detail, when I finally achieved my aim, the result wasn't because of something dodgy I'd eaten but quite clearly an after-effect of the migraine, like the dizziness before.

I managed to drive home afterwards and slept well but spent yesterday in a right state. I was dizzy, woozy, unbalanced and cloudy eyed. Bending over or crouching down resulted in me toppling over when trying to stand upright again afterwards. Today is Tuesday and, after another decent night's kip, I now have only mild dizziness and still a cloudy eye. I'm loath to take more pills because they're strong old things and I'd rather use them to attack a migraine than fend off the after-effects of a previous one.

I'm not helping myself or my misty eyes, of course, by writing a blog entry about it. But all of us who have these journals know they're therapeutic. It feels like it's done me some good. I may even get dressed for the first time in two days...