Big L '97 – The Walton Time-warp

A knee-jerking account by Mary Payne

Part 4 – in which the PD gets stranded ashore
and Lil receives a visit from the DTI

Monday, August 11th
I had by now discovered a shortcut between Walton and Wix and was becoming used to bombing down the country lanes, singinga longa Lil at the top of my voice. Fortunately, there were few people about at that time of the day, but I have heard that many local rabbits suffered nervous breakdowns and threw themselves under the wheels of cars.

Waiting at my customary station at the end of the pier, I saw the Lady Gwen head straight out to the Yeoman Rose from the marina, and concluded that Ray must be on board. The North Sea had experienced another rough night and was in need of a couple of tranquillisers. The tender did manage to return to the pier, carrying Dave Williams who was coming ashore for good. Because of the high swell, there was reluctance on the part of the crew to take me out to the ship, so instead, I assisted Dave with carrying his gear and we went for a cup of tea.

Ray's Coffee Break guest, Paul Rusling, fortunately made it out to the ship, but the prognosis for any other tender trips that day was poor. Caroline and Abbie performed sterling work in manning the Radio London shop, displaying great patience and maturity in the face of many difficulties. The biggest conundrum was whether or not there was any point in accepting bookings from anxious Anoraks.

Chris Elliot came down to explain to the hooded hoardes who were gathering around the shop, the current problems concerning both the weather and the embarrassing non-arrival of his book. By the end of the morning, it was clear that the sea intended to remain hyperactive all day and any hopes of boat trips were gone. Having looked forward to his long-awaited day's leave, poor Chris was now stranded ashore and would be forced to miss presenting one of his remaining two breakfast shows. I felt desperately sorry for him, not only because of this latest blow, but because I empathised so well with him over the problems concerning the book. Being a writer myself, I had no difficulty appreciating the amount of work that he must have put into the preparation of The Wonderful Radio London Story. I knew exactly how I would have felt under the circumstances had I been its author. Chris was justifiably proud of his finished product and, naturally, very anxious to present the masterpiece to the many people waiting to read it. My knees became very concerned for the welfare of his knees, and they decided to offer them as much moral support as possible.

This was the only day during my stay when I failed to visit dear old Lil. Chris and I spent a memorable afternoon in a sea-front pub, chatting first to Paul Rusling, and after he left, with a pair of endearingly self-mocking Anoraks. David Skeates of Kenley, Surrey and Geoff Killick of Bearsted, Maidstone, had shared a lifelong friendship through their mutual admiration of Lil. Today having been their only opportunity to visit the ship, the petulant behaviour of the North Sea had caused them to lose it. These were men after our own hearts, and great company; their enthusiasm for Big L made them resemble a couple of excited schoolboys. David had brought his original Kenny Everett design t-shirt with him. Either it had shrunk rather badly, or its proud owner had grown a lot since 1967!

(Picture: The Rose. Half way to paradise – so near, yet so far away...)

Chris described to our new friends the workings of the Sonovox device used to produce the familiar 'electronic voice' effect in numerous PAMS jingles. He explained that it was possible to obtain a vaguely similar effect by taking an electric shaver and pressing it into the vocal chords.

Grinning broadly, I scanned from David's face to Geoff's and back again.

"You're going to go straight home and try that, aren't you?" I said knowingly. They grinned back and nodded enthusiastically.

Where that afternoon went, I have no idea. Our new friends eventually tore themselves away from the pleasures of anoraking, and set off for home and normality, and suddenly, evening was upon us. This was the second occasion when I had no opportunity to return to Wix and get changed.

I found I was beginning to feel more and more spaced-out by the minute. Not having consumed any alcohol, I concluded that the weird sensations I was experiencing must be the result of existing in a permanent state of over-excitement for the past four days and of having scarcely eaten anything since I couldn't remember when. Eventually, Chris and I made our way to the Victory pub, where we met Ray and Maxine accompanied by a couple of guys from Radio Jackie, who were on the point of finishing a meal.

While Chris was at the bar, I told Ray and Maxine how we'd spent the afternoon. They told me that the consignment of copies of The Radio London Story promised by the printers to be delivered that evening, had not materialised. I was really concerned as to how the already thoroughly kneed-off Mr. Elliot was going to take this information.

We ordered something to eat, and Ray broke the bad news over the meal. To understate the situation, Chris was very unhappy about the missing books. Whether spending the afternoon in the pub had mellowed him and helped to cushion the blow or whether it had made him feel worse about it, I don't know. At least he did not roll on the floor and foam at the knees as I'd feared.

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