Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 7 August 2007

Well, what a time its been.

The inside of my head has felt like the inside of a kettle that's all furred up and hasn't got one of those funny metal jobbies you put in to collect up the limescale.

I haven't written because I have been caught up in a blue fug. After just two days in Sarf Lundun I feel as if the colour is coming back into my life. I need to be surrounded by people, lots of 'em. Not that I need affirmation, but I do need noise and banter around me. The cottage is home but its just too damn quiet to be all alone for too long. I do love the greenery and the birds and bees but sometimes the sounds of the city beckon.

I packed our old banger with all the perishable food from the fridge, hoiked up Jackson, his bed, blanket, chews, bowls, rice, saucepan, spoon, collar, lead and all his supplements. Then finally squeezed in my reading and writing cases. It felt like we were going camping.

I locked up the cottage, gave the key to next door, who are looking after the cat, and set off to the Big Smoke. The Jackmobile doesn't go like my little red Nellie, but it got me and the hound safely into town in less than two hours.

Uncle Leo, my ex-floor manager, had just taken my daughter, B, to Lasham for a glider flight, her 18th birthday present. Two years late but that's not bad for a couple of pisceans. Jim was entertaining them on the balcony with a cold, crisp white wine. The River Thames was rolling along. Two swans glided past. It was all floaty and lovely - and that was before I had a drink. On the way up I listened to the radio, but more of that later.

I am in Battersea for at least this week, and then I will shuttle backwards and forwards. The dog is too old to get a housesitter now. He pines for Jim, who has been London-based since last October.

Jackson likes sitting with Jim, who feeds him bits of breakfast. Shredded Wheat and mouthfuls of supper. Jim says its bonding. The dog is 13. I think the bonding took place back in 1994, but hey!

It's not just the old dog who has been pining though. Being up here with him, B and the dog is lovely. B is camped in the flat until she goes back to University in October. I had forgotten just how good it was to argue in the evenings.

Today the 20-year-old shopaholic daughter drove me to South Side in Wandsworth. Stop! She has just informed me that 1) she is not a shopaholic and 2) it sounds like she's a spoilt brat who wheedles her mother and her credit cards out for a spree. So I will rephrase - I took the 20 year old workaholic to South Side along with her wallet and her student cards.

Good! She's happy with that, shaking her newly adorned head with the 25 cap she bought herself, which she just had to have. The red titfer just had to be purchased because the big white 'B' stitched on the front individualises her, as it's her name. Seriously, an opportunity like that just could not be missed.

She has left my side now so I can call her a shopaholic without getting cuffed by the peak of her new lid.

Apparently the price tag, label and size sticker have to remain as its a street-wise statement. Symbolising, she thinks, that people are flush enough to afford it and that your head isn't as big as 'all that' so it's something about humility.

Yeah. Like letting trousers hang down to your knees whilst massive Y-fronts are pulled up to your armpits. Very bloody street. But then, I was born in the last century when we wore sensible platforms and loons...

We went into the 'bling shop', although I recently read that 'bling' is no longer 'cool'. 'Ice' is now 'cool', although 'cool' is no longer 'cool'. 'Cool' is now 'bad'. 'Nuff' already bruv.

The bling shop is run by Omar, from Kurdistan, although it could be anyone from the posse who work there. They all have whiter than white teeth, often with extremely visible 23 carat gold fillings, The window is full of cubix zircona alphabet letters, hoop earrings that wouldn't look out of place anchoring a P&O cruise liner and a cluster of assorted chains. Nobody is allowed in without buzzing a little bell on the right-hand side of the door. A handwritten sign by the bell says 'BELL'. Once inside, nobody gets out without Omar releasing the door from the inside. It's all a little shady.

There's a lot of teeth sucking, finger clicking and hand shaking. Then, having decided on a thick silver chain with two diamonte handcuffs hanging 20 inches from the clasp, a deal is struck. Only cash passes hands. No cheques. No cards. No credit. It's a strictly cash only store. This little gold mine is normally packed, which isn't hard since it's the size of a single cubicle in Charing Cross station's powder room.

B bought an innocuous pair of earrings that she could have got at Ratners if he hadn't ballsed it up.

Primark, H&M and various other outfitters line the Southside hall, all ready with their cheap frills made by cheap labour in Sri Lanka. The queues are longer than in Krakow but nobody minds. I even bought Jim three pairs of figure-hugging cotton Lycra slip briefs (whatever they are) for a quid a piece. I just hope they fit him. I bought medium-sized but the Sri Lankans are tiny, aren' t they? So their medium might be our large or small, depending on which way you look at them. Although, given that we're talking about underpants, let's no go there.

A quick trip into the Indo/Caribbean supermarket to double check the identities of an assortment of vegetables I still have on my draining board from Saturday. Reza Mohhammed supplied me with snake beans, baby marrow-cum-cucumber-cum-courgette thingies, a green papaya, a nobbly green egg-shaped plant, which even foxed Manju Mahli, and a bitter gourd. They are begging to be cooked but I don't know how, which is why I went into the supermarket. Unfortunately I came out none the wiser although I did buy a bottle of bay rum. No, I don't know what I'm going to do with it either.

Reza was one of my guests on Saturday night's LBC show. He had trekked over to Ealing to buy goodies that we could talk about. Apart from the above mentioned vegetalia, he had also brought in packets of spicy seeds and beans, which were torn open, noisily, on air, not to mention a plateful of sweets which were nibbled and sucked alongside various wines.

Giles Hilton brought in the first flush of Darjeeling, revealed that Global warming had hit the lower foothills of the Himalayas and that young children there had seen their first ever snowfall, which had, of course, affected the tea bushes, which don't like frozen water. 'Snow in India' will become a well known phrase like saying 'Tea in China'.

Apart from Darjeeling tea, Giles also brought in Indian coffee and an Ayervedic brew which we nursed whilst we chatted about chai. Before you could say 'For all the snow in India', it was over - two hours of conversation about Indian food.

You can tell when it's better than worse because 120 minutes feels like five. It was lovely having two guests but let me tell you - translating food onto radio is easier said than done. Nobody can see me mugging over my ham or hamming over my mug.

It takes three words to fill a second. On telly a picture speaks a thousand words. On radio those thousand words have to be precise and amusing, tittilating and enticing. Callers should want to call and listeners should want to listen. Having to field traffic and news slots, read the occasional email and keep the conversation pootling along feels like juggling 6 balls, four oranges and a scooter with my eyes closed and my glasses on the back of my head.

Mr Lowrie, the boss man, called me on Monday and gave me the first of what will be regular seminars. Luce, my producer, is helping me to throw away my crutches. Reading self-penned monologues isn't the done thing and just doesn't have the same ring of truth as speaking without a script, said Luce, even if it does come from the heart. Well, my heart is intact but my head isn't totally engaged with my brain - yet. Chris says it takes time. I told him I felt unduly privileged that of all the people in all the world, he chose me. Who said you can't teach an old bitch new tricks?

The key is to listen to the masters and mistresses of the airwaves. So, on my journey up I listened to Ian Macmillan on Radio 4, fantastic poet and commentator talking about the death of our mines and miners, Allison Bell on LBC, great with the callers, and Steve Wright on Radio 2, the doyen of radio hosts. They all had one thing in common. They spoke slowly. I have been trying to fit in too many words, thoughts, and topics. My mother and my husband had both said I was speaking too fast but I got defensive and said it was because it was all new and my nerves had got the better of me.

I hope the patron Saint of Radio, whoever she is, is reading this so she can help me next week. We are doing Vegetarian eating and cooking.

It occurs to me I don't know who the patron Saint of Radio is. Maybe it's St.Kennedy or St. Whale. Could it be St. Wogan? Or St. Evans? If you know, blog me - I need all the help I can get.

Thank you for bothering with me. It helps. Cusoon.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At August 8, 2007 10:32 AM Chrissie Carcassonne wrote:

Hi Jeni,

And why would we not bother with you, huh? Silly girl!

My dream would be a job where I cook, eat and talk about food all day. Then perhaps holidays to eat local street food all over the world. Bliss! Glad you still enjoy all the foodie stuff.

I can understand you wanting a bit of time away from the country. I love our home here with the fantastic view but by November I'll be just as happy to get back to Twickenham, our bit of river and eating and drinking too much with friends I haven't seen in months. I guess we are just lucky to have the choice of both things.

I think the patron Saint of Radio should be Saint Hertz of Crystal Palace.

As ever
Chrissie x

2. At August 8, 2007 11:20 AM Dave.W wrote:

Hi Jen

Just had to write..have missed your blog over the last couple of days....ok now the void has been filled :-)
Googled your radio saint...and according to 'catholics online' - please dont ask!...its The Archangel Gabriel. Patron saint of all communications works. From what I can make out..its because he was/is! God's messenger.

Great blog and thanks for the smile on my face.

Luv Dave

3. At August 8, 2007 11:22 AM Simon Richardson wrote:

Jeni - still loving the blog, and missing you desperately from my TV. I am happy to be able to tell you that the Patron Saint of Radio Presenters is the Archangel Gabriel, who did a little bit of announcing in his time. Good one to have on your side!

4. At August 8, 2007 11:46 AM jill wrote:

Hi Jeni
Always makes me smile whenever I read your blogs. It's so nice to hear names of people you had on GFl too, it's almost like looking back through a photo album. I shall try to listen this weekend - daughter and step daughters are veggies so any ideas welcome. have a good week.

J -x-

5. At August 8, 2007 1:20 PM Martin and David in Brighton wrote:

Apparently, the Archangel St Gabriel is the patron saint of Broadcasting, Communications, Messengers, Public Relations, Telecommunications, Postal Employees, Diplomats & Ambassadors, Philatelists and Secular Clergy. Which sounds like quite a lot to manage, if you ask me!

Take care

Martin and David in Brighton

6. At August 8, 2007 1:45 PM Sue Campbell wrote:

Hi Jeni - good to read your thoughts again. I can understand why you just had to go to be with Jim & B in London after living alone for a while in your country retreat. I, too, thought that your show flew by - you seemed more in control this week and I too,thought that your fast-talking was a bit of nerves and panic, unused as you were to filling in when things went wrong or no-one phoned in. Anyway, the idea of filling the 2 hours talking about Indian food and tea-drinking with interesting guests really worked and you seemed so much more at ease. I am looking forward to your Vegetarian show.

7. At August 8, 2007 2:58 PM Michelle Morphew wrote:

Hi Jenny,
I listened in on Saturday and I think you are being far too hard on yourself, one of the reasons I dont ring in is because I feel far too nervous to, I'm sure half of London feel the same but I know it does not help your position as the bosses at LBC look at the amount of callers you have, look at what they have done to St.Anna Reaban!! I can assure you that the 2 hours goes very quickly for me so I must be enjoying it! Just carry on being you and I am sure some other presenter on their blog will be saying St.Barnett.

Lots of love and hope your feeling better.

8. At August 8, 2007 3:11 PM Sandy wrote:

Jeni I am so glad you are going to speak with less haste on LBC - I wanted to phone in but couldn't get the number down fast enough!! The next time you gave it out you said it even faster and said well you know it anyway but I didn't. Chatting with Reza was a brilliant programme anyway so my question would not have added much. Good luck for your third programme.

9. At August 8, 2007 3:56 PM Anonymous wrote:

Hi Jeni

The patron saint of radio is Gabriel the Archangel evidently - hope he (or she) is watching over you - I'm sure they are - it sounds as if you're doing really well. I am annoyed that I have not been able to listen to you yet but will tune in this week for sure.
Hope you and Jackson enjoy your time in the 'big smoke' and just for the record I reeeeealy love 'bothering with you' - it makes my day and stops the withdrawal symptoms from GFL being too bad.

Jenny B

10. At August 8, 2007 4:03 PM Fiona wrote:

You'll no doubt have a hundred answers by now but I got this off www.catholicpatronsaint.com/saintindex.html

"Gabriel the Archangel is the patron saint of radio."

They're all there including Bibiana - the patron saint of hangovers.

Now I can get back to doing my budgets at work, I'd much rather be reading through the list of patron saints, far more interesting. As is your blog of course dear Jeni. You made me quite homesick for London, not that I've lived there for years though... XoX

11. At August 8, 2007 7:01 PM Rhian wrote:

Hi Jeni

Sorry to hear you haven't been feeling to good. Glad you are now well enough to contiue your blog which brings a smile to my face. Enjoy your week in London.


12. At August 8, 2007 8:11 PM Libby wrote:

Hi Jeni glad to have you back, loved the show this week was listening on sky in Welsh Wales, unfortuntely I now find myself annoyed if anyone calls over between 6 and 8 on a saturday and interrupts you!!!
Lots of love
Marmite Girl xx

13. At August 8, 2007 8:20 PM Jason wrote:

YAY she's back :D. so glad there was a new entry today, wot with the 4hrs of commuting to the new job starting this week i needed something to soothe me. missed the show on saturday :( got dragged out for an indian meal as it happens. hope to be able to listen this week and hope the interweb doesnt keep cutting me off as i no longer have sky and virgin media doesnt have LBC on its listings :(

14. At August 8, 2007 11:08 PM Jill wrote:

Please?? To save me trawling through all the postings can someone please remind me the channel number on sky ???

J -x-

15. At August 9, 2007 1:15 PM katie wrote:

you will probably have the sky channel number for LBC by now but hey ho here it is again...LBC.0177

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.