Because I was so busy chatting, I managed to miss out on every single one of
Chris Elliot's conducted tours. A highlight of this tour involved gazing down
into the hold at the tops of the two caravans in which the radio celebs were
sleeping. The ship, being a cargo vessel, possessed very limited accommodation,
so Ray had solved the problem by placing two caravans in the hold. In fact,
hardly anyone on board was sleeping. Like a bunch of cubs on a camping trip,
they were too excited, and stayed up all night talking, even after Akela had
declared 'lights out'. Few visitors, even if invited, would have felt the inclination
to clamber down the long, and rather daunting-looking vertical ladder to inspect
the 'sleeping quarters'.
Ray, who happily admitted that he saw his radio station as 'the ultimate train
set', told us he was worried that he'd got Big Lil on the right track, or more
precisely, that the right tracks were on Big Lil. What did we think of the re-creation,
he asked anxiously. Had he got the sound right? Ray needn't have been concerned.
A professional broadcaster who hadn't even heard the new station was quick to
stamp his approval on it! Five days after our first visit to the Yeoman Rose,
Fluff and I went to London (the city, that is). Our mission was to present a
report on Big L '97 to our DJ pal, Peter Young. PY, formerly of Capital Radio,
is currently to be heard in the same city a few digits up the dial on 102.2,
Jazz FM. Hugely influenced in taking-up a career in broadcasting by tuning into
Radio London back in the 'Sixties, PY had subsequently worked with many of the
Big L '97 jocks. Actually, it was surprising he didn't pursue a plumbing apprenticeship,
seeing as a great deal of his time at boarding school at Taunton in Somerset
was spent holding his trannie against pipes. The metal boosted the signal emitted
by his favourite radio station from a distant Galaxy.
Unable to participate in the RSL himself, PY was anxious to quiz us about
the present station's output.
"Are they playing Time Seller?" he asked.
"Yep!" we replied.
"Are they playing Birds and Bees - by Warm Sounds, I mean, not Jewel Akens?"
"Are they playing Craise Finton Kirk?"
"Are they using the old jingles?"
"Yep - and the old commercials!"
"They've got it right then, haven't they?" he concluded.
After reluctantly saying our final farewells to our new friends on the Yeoman Rose, we had taken the tender back to the pier to feed the car park machine. We also decided we ought to feed ourselves, as breakfast had been about seven hours ago. Heading along Walton sea front, we bumped into station engineer Allan Trainer and presenter, John Peters, who had been ashore all the time we'd been on board, and were just heading back to the ship. It turned out John knew (and had worked with) PY too, and we later discovered another mutual friend of ours and PY's also knew John. It's a very small world in radio.
Fluff and I were on a tremendous high during our drive home to Buckinghamshire our only sadness being the huge sense of loss we experienced when we drove out of the reception area and left Big Lil behind us. Knowing I would soon be coming back made it easier for me to cope with.