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Sunday 15th February 2004

From Editor, Kevin Marsh...

So much has happened since the last newsletter, it's difficult to know where to start with this one. Sarah has had her baby and it is called Florence which is also a place in Italy.

Carolyn has got the hang of things very much better than we had expected though this is apparently because there is also a kitchen at BBC Millbank where Carolyn works the rest of the week. Jim is between trips to America and therefore in a very good mood; John is mostly back out in his compound in the Blue Peter garden though this global warming thing has made the seasons very confused and totally mixed up and means we've had to bring him back in at nights twice after he went blue. But all the attention now is on the saintly Ed. This is because he has taken up rowing again, not for a bet - which would be silly but ok - but for a film - which is a bit self-regarding and not at all ok.

Apparently he has rowed before and did all the jokes about rowlocks and oars and cox when he was in the seminary so he shouldn't have to do them all again now except that he does. He's also quite chuffed with himself because he can now scoff 7,000 calories daily and steal all the bacon from Carolyn's fry-ups and pretend it's for a purpose.

The first we all knew about this was when he dragged an old rowing machine out of the back of his shooting brake and dropped it onto the patio just outside the kitchen door, narrowly missing Jim's "herb" garden. And once he'd got the steering sorted out he was off.

The seat seemed a bit on the small side all things considered but it didn't seem too incommodious even though he grunted a lot and made odd noises and punched buttons on the little console in front of his nose and every now and then shouted odd things like "ONE K" and "twenty five" and "stroke ... stroke ... stroke."

It was during one of these two minute sessions that something pavlovian shot through the swan and he kicked his way out of the meat-safe, limped over to Ed and the engineering and beaked around a bit looking for the water. Obviously there wasn't any and so he sighed heavily and sneered at Ed and limped back into the kitchen where he started worrying at one of Mark Lawson's discarded astrakhan collars.

No-one except the beatific one and his personal trainer know whether this is turning him back into the wandsman that he once was but clearly they think it is getting somewhere because the other day he and the rest of his crew - Cambridge - went out onto the water for a work out with their opponents to be - Oxford.

It was all very gentle and gentlemanly and nobody went too fast - which was probably why there was a bit of an incident and one which, if they'd asked me, I could have predicted. As you know, the saintly Ed has this thing about water, especially large expanses of it and is usually tempted to aquambulate before too long. This is because he is both saintly and - frankly - a bit of a show off.

Of course there is only one man in the United Kingdom who is even more saintly than Ed and that is St. Jonathan Aitken who you will remember became ever so holy after his conviction as a perjurer. He is the cox in the Oxford boat and no-one but no-one had thought this through (Listen again to our 0840 interview with St Jonathan).

Anyway, there the two boats were, paddling along and making stately progress towards Mortlake when Ed decided to untie his feet, cast his oar adrift and finish the stretch above Barnes bridge on foot.

Now St. Jonathan may be a changed man and very forgiving in all sorts of ways but there was no way he was going to be upstaged so he sprang up from the dickie seat, raced after Ed between the central span of the bridge, caught up ... but then faded, got a second wind and held on until the the plashy foot race finished with the saintly Ed crossing the line out front by the thickness of a halo.

The rest of us all this time have been back in the studio where we've had Charlotte Green's crayons spread all over the floor as we try to draw our entry for the Today cartoon competition which launches on Monday 23rd February. It was quite a lot of fun at first but then it turned nasty in a way I can't be specific about but all I want to say at this stage > is that what the newsroom oafs did isn't very funny and that it won't come out and that if they do that again we won't have them round for muffins any more.

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