Thursday, 30 January 2014

Paddington can have his sandwiches; I have other plans

Hello webby cronies!

January has a lot working against it. It's cold, dark and very rainy. Everyone is on a budget, or on a diet, or in a foul mood thanks to giving up fags, booze, wheat, joy - or all of the above. In our family it's also Miss B's birthday party on top of 2 nieces, my mum, my brother and Z's birthdays so it tends to be a busy and expensive month too.

But there are two bright shining January things that make me happy. The first one is my annual ballet jaunt to London with my Very Excellent Friend Bon, but I've already told you about that in detail.

The other nice thing is something I can share with you - Seville orange season! They are bright, aromatic and wonderful when everything else in season is an all too virtuous-looking dark green: sprouts, kale and so on.

Don't let that marvellous smell fool you, though. Sevilles are dreadfully sour and inedible when raw. They need to be cooked or otherwise processed. The obvious is marmalade, of course, and I had a pleasant afternoon making 8 jars of the stuff.

 Incidentally, I usually have to add a dash of pectin to my marmalade. I do all the recommended stuff like soaking the pips overnight and so on, so in theory I shouldn't need to. I've decided it must be that I use quite a lot less sugar than my recipes call for because Mark and my Dad - the real marmalade lovers in the family - prefer theirs quite sharp. If you are better informed than I on such matters, please to tell me in the comments section.

  Marmalade is all well and good for pleasing partners, fathers and bears visiting from Darkest Peru. What I really want to try this year is orange gin.

There are 20 or 30 recipes easily available through search engines. I went for 70ml of cheap gin, the peel but not pith of 3 to 4 seville oranges, 1 or 2 cloves and 125g caster sugar.
NB  - loads of recipes suggested anything up to 250g of sugar. I prefer my drinks less sweet but if you like sweet liquors, add more.

I have a small serrated knife - a mini bread knife with the rather ludicrous label "breakfast knife" - that I used for getting the peel from the orange whilst leaving all the white pith still on it.  A very sharp knife would do, too, but my veg knives all need sharpening. The oil that makes oranges smell so wonderful is all in that coloured peel. The pith just makes things bitter.

Tip some of the gin into a jug. Pour the sugar in the gin bottle and poke the orange peel and clove in too. Top up the bottle with the gin you put in the jug. Close the lid tightly and shake. Shake it every day or so for a couple of weeks then put it somewhere dark  like the back of a cupboard and forget about it.

By Christmas you will have a lovely orange gin.  I expect it is nice by summer, to be honest, but tradition dictates it steep for the year. Even after a week it looks beautiful, having taken a golden glow from the peel already.

Having made the gin, I had a bunch of pith-covered oranges sitting on my counter. What could I do with then? I can't juice then nor eat them.... Curd! I could make Seville orange curd! It would use up the juice, and as the hens are back in lay I had heaps of fresh eggs to use.

200ml lemon or Seville orange juice
zest of 2 lemons or normal oranges
125g butter
450g sugar
4 large or 5 medium eggs

Making lemon (or orange) curd is a doddle. First you juice your fruit. You need 200ml, so I topped up with the juice of 1 of the normal oranges I was using for the zest as well.
Break all your eggs into a jug and beat them well. Have a sieve to hand.
Put the juice, zest, butter and sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl on a pan of simmering water and stir until the butter has melted and the whole thing looks glossy and smooth. Keep the heat quite low, because if it's too hot the next stage will result in sweet citrus-y scrambled egg. Gently, Bentley, and it's easy as pie.
Pour the beaten egg into the bowl through the sieve - there are little stringy buts that hold the yolk in place and they can go a bit weird in things like curds. Beat the mixture well to combine. Keep stirring over that gentle heat until it is a think and creamy curd. It takes anything from 7 to 15 minutes in my experience. Basically stop once it looks like lemon curd!

Pour it into sterilised jars, seal, and fight with your children about who gets to lick the bowl. (Hint - you do. If they want to lick it, they can do the washing up.)

Supposedly you need to eat it within a month, and store opened jars in the fridge.  Ours never lasts that long.

Ta da! One bag of lovely aromatic oranges turned into 8 jars of marmalade, 2 1/2 bottles of gin and 3 jars of orange curd. Maybe January isn't so bad after all.

J x

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Not So Fearless, Really

When I started this blog my idea was to challenge myself to do more, to explain to anyone interested how I did it (and the mistakes I made) and above all to get back in the habit of writing. I love to write. It's enormous fun.
I've written a fair few tutorial things and had a super time doing it. But I've only done one thing that scared me - applying for Women in Radio -  and that went so well my whole view of my future changed.

Perhaps it is time to step up and do more.

Believing that most things are better when you have a list, I'd better get organised. There are things I don't like, things I am scared of, stuff I truly believe I can't do, things I had a bad experience of when I was younger and never returned to, things I'd love to do but think I'd fail at, things that seem too hard - or awkward, or just plain un-fun - for me.

Here goes:


  • Reading Lord of the Flies
  • Reading any Russian novels
  • Reading William Gibson and knowing what on earth it means
  • Eating anything aniseedy
  • Eating meat
  • Keeping my opinion to myself (!!)
  • Watching a scary film
  • Playing a video game
  • Having a driving lesson
  • Taking guitar lessons
  • Learning to quilt
  • Knitting something other than a scarf
  • Making something I could wear
  • Writing a will
  • Giving up wine
  • Finding an exercise I don't hate
  • Losing weight
  • Keeping the house clean - actually CLEAN - for more than 12 hours
  • Doing daily exercise for a month
  • Having more than a handful of friends read my blog (although I am very grateful to you all!)
  • Saying No to a favour without prevaricating
  • Trying a singing lesson
  • Writing an essay
  • Writing a short story, even if I never show it to anyone
  • Travelling to somewhere other than the First World
  • Going somewhere I don't speak even a smidge of the language
  • Go fishing - I'd love to do this but I am also squeamish of the aftermath

Hmm. Not quite the fearless woman I like to pretend to be.

Some of those things won't happen: too expensive, too difficult or taking more time than I currently have spare. I'm unlikely to take up driving just now because we don't have the cash. Snap for foreign travel. And a scary film... I get nightmares. Shocking ones. I wake up sobbing and terrified like a small child. I'm not sure I'm up to a scary film.

I just typed out reasons not to do most of the things on that list, actually, but deleted them. Of course I have many reasons not to do them - they are the things I shy away from. I've spent years justifying why I shouldn't do them. But that's hardly in keeping with my goal to try stuff.

So, what now? Where should I start?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

How to have a perfect weekend (if you're me)

Hello webby mates!

I am in such a wonderful mood. Every year my Very Excellent Mate Bon and I go to London for the third weekend in January to see Matthew Bourne's ballet. I go down early for a day to myself. It's my favourite weekend of the year - like a private Christmas with none of the hard work before it.

This year it was especially great. Somehow everything worked out Just So, with happy accidents, great artistry and people being lovely all conspiring to leave me glowing with happiness for 3 days.

 First I met up with my internet pal London Heather (as opposed to my friends Leeds Heather and Heather-In-New-Zealand) and as is so often the case with internet friends, we were Real Life friends right away. She took me to the British Museum exhibition on Columbian gold. If you do get a chance to visit it, I recommend it.  It was fascinating.

I spent more time in the British Museum after the exhibition. I just love the enclosed courtyard with its glass diamond roof. I have been a visitor long enough to remember it before the renovation and it still thrills me every time I enter.
I said hello to old friends in the Museum - those things I pop by to see whenever I'm there - and headed out into the rain.

My evening plan had been to spend time with my Very Excellent Mate Alison. However, we'd got our dates confused and decided to meet for breakfast on Saturday instead.  I wanted something great to do that evening on my own - ideally something other than a trip to my beloved Everyman cinema - but everything I wanted to see was so expensive.

I thought I'd wander down Shaftesbury Avenue and along to the Leicester Square ticket kiosk to see if I could find something affordable. Excellent decision, Jay!

The English National Ballet's production of Le Corsair had two of my favourite things - ballet and pirates. How could I go wrong? The £55 ticket was available for £30 and at that price it would be rude not to.

I walked up the side streets from Leicester Square to Carnaby Street and then into Liberty. I'd seen the most wonderful fabric there 10 weeks ago and hadn't bought any. I decided to splurge on 1/2 a metre. It's so lovely. I feel happy just looking at it.
From there I went back to the Covent Garden area to have dinner for one at Poplo. I don't know if you've ever been but I HIGHLY reccomend it. Each little plate of food was so delicious I decided it was my favourite - until I tasted the next one.  However, I think my Limoncello martini won on points.

The ballet was just lovely. 

It's been a while since I saw a ballet by a company other than Matthew Bourne's New Adventures. I love his ballets for the storytelling - they get right to the emotional heart of things and make me feel heartbroken, ecstatic, full of longing or so full of joy my heart hurts my chest. I can't help but give them my heart to play with for the evening. They aren't 'traditional' in choreography - not so much pointe work and lifts and leaps - but have a more muscular, expressive style.

In sharp contrast are the Russian ballet companies.  All of those that I've seen have been technically excellent but dead. The point of them seems to be exercises in athleticism and craft rather than emotion.  They manage astonishing feats of endurance - ballerinas posed on pointe for unimaginable lengths of time, lifts higher, backs arched deeper - but it demonstrates technique rather than soul.  After seeing about 8 of them I gave up.

English National Ballet are different again. The dances were astonishingly beautiful and difficult.  The only sane explanation for how the men could leap so high and so fast is that they have springs in their legs, while the two principle ballerinas seemed to hover in the air thanks to sky hooks or electromagnets.  But these were beautiful, graceful sights rather than Olympic standard exhibitions.  The story was silly (Lord Byron is a nut-bucket. "Look, they're finally safe. Oops, no, can't have that, let's drown everyone in the last 2 minutes") but it allowed for wonderful costumes and set pieces.  I wasn't emotionally engaged but I was entranced.

During the interval I got chatting with two lovely women seated near me.  We hit it off so well that we stood outside the theatre afterwards chatting for another 15 minutes. Hello Immi and Nicci! I wish I'd known them before Emma was about to head back to Australia by way of New York, but the internet makes all friendships possible.

Here comes the dumb luck. ENB perform at the Coliseum. Across the road is the Duke of York theatre, where Mark and I had seen Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense a few days before.  It was utterly joyous and I urge everyone to see it.  It is perfectly cast with Stephen Mangan as Bertie and Matthew Macfadyen and his perfect diction as Jeeves. That man makes every word in the English language sound beautiful. He is immensely charming, was marvellous as Tom in Spooks and also my favourite Mr Darcy. (I love Colin Firth in many things but I hate that lake-jumping nonsense. Darcy never would.)  I carry such a torch for him.

Having lingered to chat with Immi and Nicci, I crossed the road to walk up to the cash machines a little further along. There was a tall bloke in a flat cap outside the Duke of York. Matthew Macfadyen. I managed not to actually swoon, but only by a hair's breadth. He was utterly lovely and friendly. I took the most dreadful photograph of us because I was still saying "I'm SO sorry about this" as I took it. But I don't care, I'm going to post it anyway. Matthew Macfadyen spoke to me in that beautiful voice and I was done for. Stupidly, ridiculously happy.

I must confess I have spent the last two evenings re-watching Pride and Prejudice. Told you, done for.

The next morning I met VEM Alison at Carluccios for breakfast and a massive chat. Then Bon arrived - cue more chat and hugging - and we talked and grinned until even my jaw was tired. Which takes a lot, believe me.

Alison and me
Bon and I spent the afternoon walking, chatting, browsing in shops, having cuppas and cake, chatting some more, and generally catching up on a whole year's news. I really miss her in the gaps between hanging out each January.
Ticket, and some stranger's shoes
The evening was our Main Event - ballet at Sadler's Wells. It was Swan Lake again - I think this was either my 9th or 11th time seeing it; I've rather lost count. I think it is about as perfect as art gets. Bon and I were both looking forward to it.

But it was different. The choreography had changed. Not massively, but enough to affect the whole ballet.  At the interval we were each trying to avoid saying it - "It's not as good."  Yikes.
The thing that sustains us as our hearts break for the poor prince, so isolated and alone, is scene of the tenderness between him and his Swan at the riverside. Saps that we are, we are so desperate for him to receive comfort that their time together is crucial to us. Too much unkindness and alienation is too hard to bear. (That's why Dumbo is such a horrible film)

This Swan was wilder. He physically struck the prince several times - through his untamedness rather than viciousness - and their dances together were more cautious. The chemistry was very different and the the prince's euphoria after made a little less sense.This continued with The Stranger - always cruel, now even more sadistic in his taunts and sexuality. Oh that poor, poor boy.

Some of the new aspects added much to the story, and the final section had us shuddering with suppressed sobs as we cried our mascara towards our chins. It hit us more powerfully than it ever done. We were both wrecked by it.

Bon said it's our old age. I think it was that tweaking of choreography - less relief of the prince's agony in the first act made the second even more tragic.  Just amazing. But why? Why take that little bit of joy from the audience?  He is Matthew Bourne's creation but after this many visits he feels like he belongs to us, the audience, too. The humour - and there is so, so much that is extremely funny - doesn't take away from our (well, my at least) need for respite for the prince.

So, utterly utterly wonderful by the end but the world's a little colder for a while.

After dinner at The Gate - delicious vegetarian food! Do go if you're ever in the area - and a restorative glass of wine to bring us back down to earth (and fix that mascara) we headed back to our hotel for another chat, then bed.

On Sunday we met Bon's niece Em for breakfast. She took us around The Stables market in Camden. So much of it looked just as markets did when we had student digs in the late 80s. Tie dye, sandalwood, old movie posters, geeky T shirts:  le plus ca change... Anyway, it was good fun. I took a picture of the crazy robots outside Cyberdog for my steampunk enthusiast son and managed to stop myself buying a My Neighbour Totoro back pack for Miss B.
After leaving Camden and Em behind, VEM Bon and I went to Islington to browse the little shops and cafes. We HAD to go into Loop. Bon couldn't get over the beautiful yarns there. It's a lovely shop, although they stock extremely expensive things I couldn't afford this time. Last year I bought two skeins of alpaca yarn and made myself a wonderful cable knit scarf. This year I resisted. It was hard, though - the staff are wonderful and the stock so tempting.
Bon having a browse
Bon left to catch her train. I walked on to Ray Stitch, where owner Rachel sells more beautiful fabric than I knew existed.  I mean, look at it. Doesn't it look lovely?
Temptation lies this way

There were fabrics from all over, although the Japanese printed cottons were particularly tempting.  All the restraint I'd shown at Loop and Camden market crumbled in the face of a fat quarter bundle. Oh dear.

After that, I remembered I'd not had lunch. I had a lovely coffee and peanut butter brownie on the way back to the tube, grabbed my bag and headed to the station. I was spent up (and then some), footsore, and riding high on the most wonderful, exciting and happy weekend.

Last of the sunlight lighting up St Pancras
I hope your weekend holds something just as lovely for you, full of whatever floats your boat - I know ballet, cake, fabric and chatting aren't for everyone. (Matthew Macfadyen is, of course)
Be happy,
J x

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Vegan Chocolate Cake - recipe

Hello webby friends,

This blog entry is a favour for the current People Of Leeds twitter user. Jon, a vegan, was talking on Twitter about where to find good vegan cakes. I mentioned I had a nice recipe and promised to share it, so here goes.

Jay's Vegan Chocolate Cake
Sift the following ingredients into a large bowl:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 380g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1tsp baking powder
In a jug, combine the following wet ingredients:
  • 250ml strong black coffee
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • a good splash of vanilla
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. It's a stiff batter and you need to make sure it is thoroughly combined. spread it out into two 20cm (8 inch) round tins and bake at 180 degrees C (350F) for about 25 minutes.

When the cakes have cooled, sift 300g of icing sugar and 30g of cocoa together and stir in enough coffee to make a thick glaze. Pour it over the first cake, put the second on top and coat that one as well. Leave to set.

Why use coffee?
A lot of the richness in cake comes from the eggs and butter. Without these, the flavours can lack some of the deeper notes - like listening to music with much of the bass missing. Coffee adds depth to the cocoa and gives it a richness it otherwise lacks. You don't get a coffee flavour, just a fuller chocolatey one. If you really don't like the idea, add hot water instead. 

Of course the short answer to "why use coffee?" is "Because it's coffee!" I love coffee very, very much indeed.

I probably also ought to admit I only make this for vegans rather than for everyone as my standard chocolate cake recipe. It's not that it isn't good - it is, I promise - and it's also very cheap to make. But I do love butter and eggs.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Chasing rainbows

Hello, webby mates,

Last night we went on a wild goose chase. Mark, the kids and I went out chasing rainbows at night - the Northern Lights. We knew it was a slim chance, we knew the kids would be horrid the next morning but we did it anyway and it's one of the things I love about our family.

About 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon there were talks of the Northern Lights being visible in Britain. Not the North of Scotland, but right down into England and North Wales as well. I know newspapers like to whip up a bit of drama when there is only a slight possibility of something happening, so I tried to lower my expectations. It didn't work. Even a whisper of the aurora had me bouncing on my toes with excitement.

I once almost saw the lights in Canada as a kid. We lived in Southern Ontario - about the same latitude as Milan - so in 15 years my parents only saw the aurora borealis twice. The first time I was a toddler. The second time I was about 13. My parents woke me up to see but I was so groggy with deep sleep I couldn't focus and fell back into my slumber without registering the sight at all. I have regretted it ever since. Like many people I have promised myself that one day I will finally see them. Whatever it takes.

Over the past few days the sun had thrown a strop. This solar activity resulted in a coronal mass ejection, or CME. This meant that electromagnetic particles and a plasma of photons and electrons were sent out into the solar system. As a CME hits Earth it can cause a display of the aurora to be seen beyond its usual boundaries.  Add to this the fact that we're in the peak of the 11 year aurora cycle and there was cause for cautious optimism. Or "Northern Lights To Be Visible In Cotswolds" if you are a headline writer.

Obviously light pollution and cloud cover would  prevent us from seeing the lights even if they reached England. However, if I'm prepared to save up to go to Scandinavia to see the lights, getting clear of the city is nothing. It was a school night, so as responsible parents we should consider the effect of a midnight jaunt on the children's education.  On the other hand, seeing the aurora would be pretty darn enriching. Far more so than the PE lessons 2 of the kids faced today.
Mark and I talked it over and decided to risk it.

He assembled the telescope my Very Excellent Mate SJ donated to us this week. I looked up areas within an hour's drive north of us with little light pollution and a clear forecast. Our best bet seemed to be Sutton Bank in the North York Moors National Park. There was patchy cloud cover forecast with some clear spells and best of all it is a Dark Skies Discovery Site, meaning it is recommended for star gazing.

I filled hot water bottles and flasks and we drove out about 10pm.  The Aurora Watch website and the NOAA were busy downgrading the likelihood of the lights being visible as we made our preparations. However, Miss B was giddy with excitement at a late night adventure and even a slim chance was enough to keep me motivated.  We set off into the darkness.

The drive went by quickly. B fell asleep within about 5 minutes. There was little to see until we arrived in the National Park area, when we had to swerve to avoid a large hare. Hare are ENORMOUS in comparison with rabbits. It was very cool.

The star gazing was more than cool. It was very, very cold. Those hot water bottles came into their own!
Our 14 year old was very proud to have focused the telescope on the bright moon and we took turns peering at the craters.  Jupiter was the next brightest thing we saw, which was also pretty neat.  I saw a shooting star. Obviously that called for a rousing chorus of The Shooting Star song by They Might Be Giants before we retreated to the warmth of the car to wait out some cloud cover.

 I read aloud from Miss B's storybook, the lads played on their tablets and Mark played chess against his phone. Whenever the skies cleared we'd bob outside again - Mark and our eldest playing with the telescope and me staring to the north horizon willing it to light up. We lasted until 12:15 am, when the cloud in the north had thickened and the Aurora Watch index made it clear there was nothing likely to happen.

Somehow, although seeing the Northern Lights would have been beyond wonderful, we still headed home in good spirits. We'd been out adventuring. We'd gone somewhere new, and we'd stayed out on a school night and didn't even care. The younger two fell asleep in the car again; Mark and I drank tea from the flask and chatted as we drove. By1:20 am we were home, huddled up under duvets drifting to sleep.

Of course this morning was difficult. Of course the kids were late - although not our insomniac eldest, who broke with his usual habit and got to school on time.  Filling in the school's Late Book, I decided to be honest about the reason.

Reason for Lateness: Irresponsible parents.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

At the Heart of West Yorshire

Hello webby friends,

Happy New Year, hope you had a lovely break and that your "Oh God, I'm back to the grind" feelings were fleeting.

Over the holidays I met with the Deputy Editor of Radio Leeds, Katrina Bunker, to discuss bringing my  radio presenting dreams a little closer to reality. Katrina was so friendly, knowledgeable and practical I came away brimming with plans and hopes. The first of these was a session shadowing Andrew Edwards as he put together and presented his 3 til 6 drivetime show, which happened yesterday afternoon. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction.

Andrew and his producer Tim Daley were firming up their running order when I arrived at 2pm. This first hour was very technical, getting audio ready, queuing up the songs for the various regular features, finishing scripts, confirming guests. They explained the software they used, how things were sourced and decided upon. I met their reporter Daragh, political editor Lou, Paul with the weather and the news and sports reporters. Harry Gration from Look North is a big enough local star that when I got home 4 people asked me if I met him (yes I did. Awesome tie!)

My head was spinning a little, trying to keep track of all the information. The technical side wasn't the main focus, of course, but it was a lot to take in at first sight. Tim and Andrew were very patient in the face of my total lack of knowledge and probably ridiculously naive questions. The software available to them was amazing - I'd love to have a play on that music archive! It was like the world's greatest record collection at the touch of a button. And news feeds - the Rip and Read news stories Tim showed me conjured images of an old fashioned world of telex, cigarette smoke and "hold the front page" urgency.

As Andrew said, the complete trust between the two of them in one another's competence and support was a key part of the success of the show. The Editor (or Deputy, in this case, as Editor Rosina Breen is on secondment at the moment) gives them the freedom and creativity to put the show together, they have utter faith in each other's ability to get their bits set up ready to roll and they make a very complicated set of tasks look effortless as it goes on air.

Once the programme began, I sat in with Andrew in the studio. Geez, he's good. Radio can flatten sound  as it comes out of tinny little speakers, I've noticed. As he talks, Andrew modulates his voice through its range to keep the sound interesting and avoid any monotone dreariness. He must talk to the clock in order to keep regular bulletins in their rightful place, I'm sure he must. But not once during three hours did I feel he was rushing something nor spinning it out to cover the last few seconds.

I made a note of the language Andrew used - partly to spot patterns and partly because I do love words. He was positive and encouraging, but not in a false "hey there, pop pickers! Here's another smashing tune..." way. He talked of fond memories watching old Sci Fi programmes, hearing new versions of old favourite songs, being pleased to see regular guests for the first time this new year.  Any negative comments were in a warm, self-depreciating tone - "Are New Year resolutions a pile of rubbish or am I just being an old grump" - to act as a foil to other contributors.

I thought about this a good deal.

Television is demanding. It's a toddler clamouring for attention, it wants you to look and listen and not do much else but pay attention to it. Radio is a friend sitting at your kitchen counter with a cuppa, chatting to you while you do the washing up, or keeping you company as you potter through the house and garden. It doesn't mind if you can only listen with half an ear for a bit, or if you've only 20 minutes to spend with it.

To choose to spend time with it, you want your radio pal to be good natured and friendly. You don't need someone grumpy or overly upbeat - both can suck the energy right out of you. You just want someone who is nice to listen to (and occasionally talk back to) and who chats about things of interest to you. Quite a lot is said on the BBC training web pages about picturing your listener, and I guess that's who I see: my friend Jean washing the coffee cups in  her tiny kitchen, or my friend Kirsty making packed lunches and feeding the kittens, or Liz and Andy driving to and from work.

After the first chatty, informal hour of the programme I joined Tim at the producers desk as the more news heavy part of the programme began. It was a quiet news day, so Tim had time to talk to me about how radio had worked in the past and where it was going. He was really interesting and insightful (although rather intimidatingly dismissive of music on the radio. I am NEVER telling him any of my favourite records. Ever.) Local radio has an interesting position, he explained. It has one foot in the easy, "give people what they want to listen to" camp and the other in the Reithian "tell them things they ought to know." How national stories and events affect them, here in West Yorkshire, is of more relevance than getting drawn into the media'n'politics bubble that some national radio programmes inhabit.

Tim talked about how pressures from cutbacks, the loss of new, young listeners as kids no longer rely on radio as their new music source,  and changing technologies are all things that will radically change the role radio has in society. To have a future it needs to be proactive in finding new ways to matter to us. Tim's eloquence and knowledge made him a fascinating person to talk with. Broadcasting is entering an interesting phase.

For the final hour I sat in with Andrew again, less intimidated by the screens and control panels but equally absorbed by that most interesting of all skills, Making Hard Things Look Easy. Professionalism like this always thrills me - it's part of why I love some actors, or skilled bakers, or other skilled craftsmen and women - they do something with such apparent effortlessness that you are fooled into thinking anyone could do it. They wear their expertise lightly.

People came in to do their bit - weather, sport, promotion of that night's Look North. There was friendly banter, some pre-recorded segments and between it all Andrew threading various bits together into a cohesive unit. At the end he cleared up, returned all the settings to neutral for the next person to use the studio, and talked to me about what I'd seen and learnt. As I walked out into the driving rain, I couldn't stop grinning. My head was full to bursting. More than ever I know that this is something I want to do.