Cheers. I look happy in this picture, too, don’t I? This never happens. I mean, it pretty much never happens. I am in a pub. On my own. At lunchtime. Here is my excuse: I left the coffee shop at St Pancras and headed over to Tottenham Court Road in Central London to where the studio is. The studio where we are recording the extra scene for Mr Blue Sky. When I got there, it turned out that, it being lunchtime, the producers and editor had gone for lunch. So, unwilling to give any more money to a coffee shop and having used up my Costa loyalty card privileges, I went to the nearest pub, and, using a special logic based on a combination of factors (it’s a nice day; I never do this; there were lots of spare tables; I felt a bit spare and lost; I need somewhere to wait for Michael Legge; it’s what Steve Lamacq would do and I am Steve Lamacq this week), I gave money instead to a pub for a pint of Staropramen, which I am hip enough to know is called “Star” when you ask for it, if you are an experienced drinker.
I am no longer an experienced drinker. I feel illicit. I know that I can drink a whole pint and still operate for the rest of the day without falling asleep, especially as I have many packed lunch elements still in my bag to help see me through my radio show, but it’s rare at my age to feel illicit. This is highlighted by the fact that I am clearly in a student pub. It’s near to the University of Central London, or UCL, which is huge, and if you ever hear students complaining about tuition fees again, tell them to stop ordering lunch from a pub, as all these students are. It’s seven or eight quid for a fish and chips or burger, and if they can afford to pay that when I can’t, they must be rolling in it. (Debt. They are rolling in debt. But they would be rolling in less debt if they made a packed lunch every day, like I do.)
Because I don’t go to pubs much, I like going to them. When I was at college, I used the canteen, where food was cheap and subsidised, and so were we, as we still got grants for being a student. Maybe UCL doesn’t have a canteen. I bet canteens are nicer now than they were then, too. Ours was like a school canteen. We loved it, but it was. I bet university canteens are all modern and healthy now, and I bet they have sandwich shops too. I do not deny students the right to go to the pub. But they shouldn’t eat in them.
(Ha ha, I accidentally pushed in front of three students at the very crowded bar because they were too busy talking, presumably about the cuts, to hear the barman say, “Next, please!” They were next. But I went next as I was alone and not talking to anybody. They should take pity on me. I have no friends.)
Well, here I am in the edit. This is where my Radio 4 sitcom, Mr Blue Sky, is currently being turned into an actual thing that they can play out on the radio by my producers Anna and John and editor Rich. I don’t think my presence there on a daily basis would help. Better to just turn up, as I did today, and listen to a completed edit. Also, we had Mark Benton and Michael Legge in to record my brand new scene, one which we didn’t realise we needed in Ep1 until it was lashed together. It’s an establishing scene which, when you hear it on May 16 on Radio 4 at 11.30am, you won’t notice, hopefully.
I had to leave for 6 Music before they’d finished, and it took a while for Mark and Michael to get back into character, after two weeks away from the show, but as I left, they were Harvey and Sean again, and in safe hands. (The studio requires a code tapped into a keypad to operate the lift, and another code to get into the actual studios from the corridor – that’s high security.)
The 6 Music show was dominated by Roundtable, which, neatly enough, was revived for what used to be the Teatime slot when that slot was mine, and is now Steve’s. But for this week, it is mine again. Not much has changed. Some records, reviewed by a trio of guests, either musical or comedic, or, in the case of Matt Berry, both, as his new LP is why he’s on the market. As ever, it’s a potentially sweat-inducing presenting job, as you have to keep on top of the tracks being played, jolly along the panellists, read out extracts from what used to be called the “chatroom” and time your way up to the news, and to the handover to Marc in Manchester at 7pm. Also, it’s your job not only to impart information about the records under the hammer, but to elicit meaningful comments from the guests.
Dave from Frankie & The Heartstrings – a lovely band from the North East, whose singer, Frankie, I have guested on Roundtable alongside – is a bone-dry individual, but very funny, if you can listen past his deadpan delivery. He’s the one who came up with the line, “Crosby, Stills and Gash,” to describe Fleet Foxes. A fine, upstanding individual, and drummer (finest member of any band), he drank a glass of white wine in the pub afterwards before heading back to Sunderland. (If it turns out to be Newcastle, I will be killed.) Matt Berry, so familiar from The Boosh and The IT Crowd and Darkplace and Snuffbox, was very technical about the production techniques on the records, and held back from being overtly funny, even though he is. (He orderd a “scotch and coke” in the pub.) Meanwhile, Legge (pint of Becks) whom I know too well to be dispassionate about, brought a welcome frenetic energy to proceedings. I would say this, but he’s very good on the radio, I think. (Paul Simon and Yuck drew in terms of points given, for the record.)
Only a quick “one drink” in the pub afterwards, as we all had gigs and homes to go to, or trains to catch, but it was nice to unwind for a blessed hour.
A full day, and an exhausting one. Another full and exhausting one tomorrow.