What I Did On Christmas Day 1997
by Mary Payne

During the London RSL between December 17th 1997 and January 13th 1998, I made as many visits as possible to my favourite radio station, aboard the mv Ocean Defender. Immediately upon arrival on December 23rd I was greeted by Ray Anderson with the words, "I'm glad you're here - it saves us making a phone call." He proceeded to inform me that a Radio London crisis loomed. Only two professional DJs were going to be available to present shows on Christmas Day, namely Dennis Jason and the station's Programme Director, Chris Elliot. Ray and Chris knew Fluff and I had already planned to spend the big day on the ship, so in our absence, they had nominated us to present the Christmas afternoon show! Fluff and I had met through working in hospital radio, and had been associated with stations at West Middlesex, High Wycombe, Stoke Mandeville and Milton Keynes hospitals. We'd both had a fair amount of broadcasting experience, but it was many years since either of us had been required to present a show, let alone produce six hours of programming with two days' notice! In spite of this small inconvenience, it was a great thrill to be asked to participate.

Come Christmas morning, Fluff was feeling decidedly under the weather - and it was nothing to do with inKNEEbriation! Without stopping to open any of our presents, we loaded the car and set off for London. I dressed as the Christmas Fairy, in a tasteful matching tinsel skirt and wig, the whole ensemble completed with jingling sleighbell earrings.

I'd never been in London on Christmas Day before. The only people on the streets were tourists, most of them looking as if they were puzzled as to where the usual capital city throngs had vanished. By the time we reached St Katharine's Dock it was pouring with rain. There being nowhere within easy parking distance of the Ocean Defender, I had to make a dash for the ship, arriving as the soggiest fairy ever! After the long drive, poor Fluff was feeling even worse, and he slumped in the galley, damp, dejected and definitely not up to co-presenting a show. So I was on my own. Chris Elliot, who would now be required to operate the studio desk for me, decided my 'Knees Club Special' should run from 4.00pm till 7.00pm, when we would take the station off the air so we could enjoy our Christmas dinner. This was being prepared for us by two terrific Big L fans, Mandie King and Geoff Cook, known because of their enthusiastic signalling of the Yeoman Rose on the night of August 13th 1997, as the Frinton Flashers. They had been aboard the Ocean Defender since the crack of dawn, when they'd arrived with a mountain of food.

(Picture - Cook by name, Cook by nature - stalwarts Geoff and Mandie)

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