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JZ's Diary

Head of BBC Radio Scotland, Jeff Zycinski, with a sneak preview of programme plans and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his life at the helm.

Photograph of Jeff Zycinski.
  1. Gardening Leave

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 28 Sep 06, 04:52 PM

    Frieda Morrison caught on camera

    The wonderful Frieda Morrison gave me the perfect excuse to leave the office this afternoon and drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland.

    Frieda was recording a special edition of the Beechgrove Potting Shed at Stratherrick Primary School in Gorthleck. It involved a presentation to the schoolchildren who'd won her Starter Gardens competition and she'd asked me to come along and hand over the certificates. That meant a half hour drive toward Loch Ness and then up into the hills alongside Loch Mhor. It was a winding single track road for most of the way but a thrilling journey all the same.

    Stratherrick Primary has just 29 pupils and the head teacher, Angela Cryans, arrived there two years ago after working in the east end of Glasgow. Today the school population doubled as a party of 18 pupils arrived from Achaleven Primary in Connel near Oban.

    There were the usual photo-calls involving local newspapers and I remarked to Frieda that we both appeared to be wearing very similar jackets. She told me that she is moving house at the moment and has been wearing weird combinations of available unpacked clothes but that "no one has noticed the difference."

    Meanwhile I was asked to pose for a photograph in which I appear to be scoffing a plate of organic potatoes while hungry schoolchildren look on. Let's hope that's not the one they use in the newspaper.

    Emma Fraser and Hamish Stoddart from Stratherrick with Frieda Morrison and Jeff Zycinski

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  1. Radio...Now You See It!

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 24 Sep 06, 01:27 AM

    God Is Everywhere

    The wonders of the world wide web never cease to amaze me. I've recently become addicted to You Tube and can waste hour after hour looking at the short video films that people are uploading from around the world. Will this mean the end of television as we know it? Probably not, but it does allow us to add an extra dimension to radio programmes.

    Our teenage comedy crew All The Milkman's Children will hit the airwaves of BBC Radio Scotland next month. We recorded the show at this year's Edinburgh Fringe and the live audience also got to see some sketches that had been filmed at various locations around the city.

    We weren't planning to include those sketches in the radio show, but the Milkmen have found themselves a berth on MySpace and you can see one of them on this website.

    It's a thought-provoking and philosophical sketch which also includes some slapstick. But does it make you laugh? You tell me.

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  1. Critical Situations

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 23 Sep 06, 11:54 PM

    A good friend once admitted to me that his admiration for BBC Radio 2 D.J. Terry Wogan bordered on the obsessive. Since his teenage years, this friend has manoeuvred himself into numerous situations where he has been able to meet and be photographed with his hero. Had the moment presented itself I have no doubt that my friend would have invited himself back to Wogan Towers for a bite to eat, an overnight stay or – if dreams really can come true – a long-term secured tenancy.

    I had better not tell him what I read in the Herald newspaper today. My former boss and ex-Controller of BBC Radio 4, James Boyle, was reviewing Terry Wogan’s latest autobiography Musn’t Grumble and suggested that the written work of this “great bletherer of the airwaves” sometimes seemed “bitchy and undignified”.

    Six years ago, when I read Terry’s other autobiography Is It Me? I made a similar observation to my Wogan-obsessed friend. Well, if looks could kill! It was like I’d just told a four year old that Santa likes to creep down chimneys so he can steal toys from poor children.

    But then, none of us likes a critic unless they are saying things we agree with. Also in the Herald today, for instance, was Anne Simpson’s radio review. Anne tends to side-step the Scottish radio market for most of the year so it was a nice surprise to see her praise an edition of BBC Radio Scotland’s Radio Café and highlight tomorrow’s Night Email.

    Mind you, this praise was diluted by Anne’s suggestion that such programmes are something of a rarity on the station and her article read like the hostess of a posh dinner party telling you off for having poor dress sense but conceding that now and again you wear nice shoes. You wouldn't know whether to thank her or spike her After Eights with laxative.

    My Mother used to tell me that if you can’t say something nice about someone then you should say nothing at all. But hey, where’s the fun in that?

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  1. These People Want To Change The World

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 22 Sep 06, 01:40 AM

    some BBC guys

    ...or at least BBC Scotland. This photograph was taken at the City Halls in Glasgow yesterday afternoon. Every couple of months the various managers and department heads gather there to talk about the changes we need to make before the move to the new H.Q. at Pacific Quay.

    I was in the group looking at how programmes will no longer be made just for radio or just for television but can be transformed into podcasts, vodcasts, websites and all manner of digital delicacies.

    We decided to pose for this photo just to annoy some of the other groups...especially that bunch who were looking at improving collaboration and communication. Well, no one ever talks to them anyway.

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  1. What A Swell Party That Was

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 22 Sep 06, 01:11 AM

    I'm afraid I was a bit cruel to some of our presenters on Wednesday night. We were having a little reception at Queen Margaret Drive in Glasgow. I wanted to thank everyone who'd been involved in our summer schedule and to allow new presenters to meet their more experienced colleagues. (It took me ten minutes to write that last sentence without offending anyone).

    So I waited until everyone had a glass in their hand and then I asked for hush as I read out a list of genuine complaints we'd received from listeners in the past few weeks. There was criticism about pronunciation, about inaccurate journalism, about unfunny comedy and dire music. Then, in a dramatic twist, I punctured the seething silence by revealing that these complaints had been directed at other radio stations so, heh heh, bet that got you worried, heh heh, no dont come any closer with that broken wine bottle, heh heh, ouch.

    As the Zen applause faded (one hand clapping) I drifted around the room looking for a friendly face and got talking to Tom Morton who gave me the astonishing news that he may give up writing his famous Beatcroft blog. Of course, he doesn't get paid for it, which may be a factor, but the truth may lie with the National Library of Scotland.
    Apparently the NLS has started a project to archive the weblogs and e-mails of influential Scots. Naturally both Tom and I feel our own blogs should be preserved for future generations and we've been waiting for the call from Edinburgh.

    Funny how Tom's phone went on the blink same time as mine.

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  1. So Sorry Susanne

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 19 Sep 06, 10:04 PM

    Susanne Fraser

    I owe a huge apology to Susanne Fraser. She's been trying to get in touch with me for about two months. She's called, sent e-mails and even wrote one of those paper things...what do you call them....oh yes, a letter. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I've been ignoring her. Every time I went to pick up the phone I became distracted by something important. Like chocolate biscuits. Finally, today, I gave her a call and we actually spoke. She was so nice about my rudeness that I wanted to slap myself silly.

    "Don't worry about it," she said, "I know you're busy."
    "No it's not that, " I blurted, "It's just you. I have some kind of mental block about you. Every time I tried to e-mail you or pick up the phone I got side-tracked by something else. I think it's Freudian. Er...this really isn't making you feel better, is it?"

    Susanne, you may remember, presented our comedy series on parenting a few months ago. It was called You're Kidding and it mixed real-life stories of parenthood with extracts from Susanne's own stand-up routine. We got a great response from listeners and I have been wondering how we could follow-up with something similar. I suppose that's why Susanne's been trying to reach me but in the meantime she's presenting a regular programme on BBC Radio Humberside. She told me she still drops in the odd quirky tale about her toddler daughter Isla.

    "Like today she was pointing her finger at the traffic and I asked her why she was doing that. She said she was telling the cars which way to go."

    At least Susanne didn't tell me where to go. Or was that whole story a Freudian message? Is my slip showing?

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  1. An Eye For An Eye

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 18 Sep 06, 05:02 PM

    Anyone out there had laser eye surgery? I got talking about this to producer Jan Byrne today. A few years ago she'd made a programme on this subject and, at that time, most of those who heard it thought the whole thing was just a little too risky. I recall one doctor who appeared on the programme saying that this kind of surgery was very popular with golfers and he gave the offhand assurance that "your eye wont explode on the first green...but maybe the eighteenth."

    I think he was joking, but it was enough to scare me.

    Of course that was then and this is now and, let's face it, there have been no reports of eye explosions at any of the major tournaments. Unless they've all been hushed up by the sponsors.

    Today, as it happens, I was looking for a new optician to supply my daily disposable contact lenses so I made my way into downtown Inverness at lunchtime. There was a branch of one of the big chains in the pedestrian precinct and a poster in the window promised "free eye tests". I went in.

    "Yes, the eye test is free," said the lady in the white coat (who may or may not have any opthalmic qualifications) "but we charge twenty-eight pounds to fit the lenses."

    Fit the lenses? I've been doing this happily for the past two years. You simply balance one on the end of your finger, open your eye and pop it in. It requires the same degree of digital dexterity as ringing a doorbell or picking a piece of spinach from between your teeth.

    Twenty-eight quid! I think they saw me coming.

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  1. Match Of The Day

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 16 Sep 06, 11:09 PM

    Inverness Caledonian Thistle fans

    Our local football team - Inverness Caledonian Thistle - have been trying to recruit new fans from the ever-swelling Polish population here in the Highlands. I noticed the club had bought advertsing space in the Inverness Courier suggesting that going to a few home matches would be a good way to get involved in the culture of the the city. The adverts were in English and Polish. (not Gaelic, strangely enough).

    Well the English version worked for the newly-arrived Zed family. All four us were at the game today to watch a thrilling goal-less draw with Dundee United. I have to say, it didn't feel like a typical SPL match. The atmosphere was far too genteel. Now maybe that was because the sun was shining and we were sitting in the family section of the North Stand, but it was all rather pleasant. Like an organised summer outing. The home crowd is just far too polite. Even when a Caley player's shot at goal ended in an obvious blunder, the fans still applauded as if they were just glad that he had troubled himself to turn up. The Dundee United fans on the other had were more frenetic and were making most of the noise, despite being heavily out-numbered.

    Listening to some of the chatter around me, I began to suspect that there were quite a few newcomers in the crowd. Two young boys in the row behind me were struggling with the basic rules of football. One explained to the other that if the match ended in a draw then the win would be awarded to the team who had shown most effort. Ah, if only FIFA thought that way.

    After the match, we inched our way out of the car park listening to Richard Gordon sum up the day's football action on Sportsound. The official attendance at the Inverness game was given as 3,586. Compared to the attendance at the big Glasgow and Edinburgh clubs, that number seemed very personal.

    If we're not there at the next game, they might actually miss us.

    Caley mascot

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  1. Big Slapper And A Slap-Up Meal

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 16 Sep 06, 10:33 PM

    A listener e-mailed Vic Galloway while he was presenting his new Most Wanted show last night and described his producer Barbara Wallace as a "big slapper". It was Barbara herself who came on air to read this to the nation. Has she no shame?

    I heard all this while driving through to Nairn to attend the annual business awards organised by the Scottish Council Development and Industry. I was there as a guest of Alison Bell at Highland 2007. Jackie Bird was hosting the event with Fred MacAulay providing the after-dinner comedy. Just before he took to the stage, I made my way to the top table to say hello to both of them. Jackie seemed almost shocked to see me. That might have been because of my latest six quid haircut.

    "Did you drive up from Glasgow?" she asked.
    "No. I live in Inverness now."
    "Oh yes, I read about that somewhere, but I thought it was nonsense. Just PR."

    At this point Fred caught my attention, shook my hand and asked me where I was sitting. I indicated the far corner of the room, just in front of the fire exit. He had a wicked glint in his eye.

    "I just wanted to be able to to tell the lighting guy where to shine the spotlight."

    Happily I survived the evening without being the butt of his jokes. Phew.

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  1. Fay Weldon's Fake Orgasm

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 14 Sep 06, 04:08 PM

    Last week I reported on Edi Stark's obsession with bowel movements, as she interviewed author William Boyd in our weekly book programme Cover Stories. This week, Edi asked Fay Weldon and Joan Bakewell if either of them had ever faked an orgasm.

    "Of course, " said Fay, "one gets tired, one wants to go to sleep."

    Joan was a little more discreet, suggesting that orgasms should be left to take care of themselves but admitted that "striving after the experience might actually cancel it out."

    Fay Weldon's book What Makes Women Happy and Joan Bakewell's The View From Here both deal with the advantages and disadvantages of growing older. Edi had introduced both authors by saying that there was a time when she though being thirty was ancient. This discussion was an uplifiting antidote to that. Joan described the internet as being a great thing for anyone in their seventies because it allowed them to keep in touch with children, grandchildren and the wider world. Fay said many women regarded the keys to happiness as "sex, food, friends, family and chocolate."

    Her book if full of moral advice including the notion that it acceptable to "sleep with your best friend's boyfriend once, but not twice."

    Ah, if only we'd known that twenty years ago.

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  1. I Belong In A Museum (Tell Me, Which One?)

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 13 Sep 06, 12:04 AM

    Inverness Museum

    Callers to Morning Extra this morning were invited to give their views on Scotland's musuems and, boy, did they respond! There were lots of listerners singing the praises of the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, but there were a few negative comment about the layout or the lack of informative labels on some exhibits.

    I hadn't realised (until someone called in to make the point) that the Inverness museum had been closed since July and is scheduled to open early next year in time for the Highland 2007 festival. Diary readers may recall my little lunchtime adventure in there in which a rather indiscreet attendant gave me her own views on the architecture of the builing.

    Personally, I love museums. Especially those with the big 'Free Admission' sign hanging above the door. I especially like exploring those tiny little museums you find tucked away in villages and small towns. They're usually only open half the year and even then they have about four early-closing days each week.

    You always find unexpected treasures in such places - or else you come across items that take you right back to your childhood.

    The People's Palace on Glasgow Green is hard to beat for that kind of experience, but if you have any personal recommendations then let me know. Meanwhile, have you noticed the growth in the ghost-tour industry across Scotland? I hope these various spooks and phantoms are at least on minimum wage.

    Inverness ghost tours

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  1. They Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 12 Sep 06, 07:33 PM

    Karen Falconer in Kelso High School

    I got an e-mail from our Events Researcher Karen Falconer yesterday afternoon. She was reminding me that today was the formal launch day for our latest SoundTown project at Kelso High School and suggested that I might want to say "a few words" to the invited guests.

    This was a timely reminder, because I've lately developed a very bad habit of busking it when it comes to public speaking. This tends to leave the audience scratching their heads in confusion and leaves me cursing myself for forgetting all those profound thoughts I have about broadcasting, trends in mass media and, well, loads of other stuff.

    So thanks to Karen, I made the decision to break my journey to Kelso and stay overnight at a motel on the Edinburgh bypass. There I locked myself in my room and penned the most magnificent speech you could imagine. It had everything; laughter, tears, unique insights into the role of radio in education and a few policy ideas for the Scottish Executive.

    I got a good night's sleep and next morning completed my journey south, arriving at the school in plenty of time to link up with Fred MacAulay and John Beattie live on BBC Radio Scotland and cut the ribbon on the new SoundTown studio. Afterwards I mingled with the guests. I met various councillors, church ministers and a small group of wonderfuly self-confident and articulate sixth year pupils. All was going well. We drank tea, ate cakes and then...

    Then it was all over.

    Kelso High feels like a really great school and I'm sure our year-long SoundTown project will benefit from the obvious enthusiasm shown by pupils and teachers alike.

    Just one thing: does anyone want to hear my speech?

    Kelso High SoundTown Studio

    Jeff Zycinski & Rector Charles Robertson<br />
(courtesy Southern Reporter)

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  1. Where Were You?

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 11 Sep 06, 01:36 AM

    That morning I had set off for Glasgow's Botanic Gardens determined to prove that everyone has a story to tell. I had been talking to some production trainees about a programme idea called Life On The Bench. I had suggested that people who took the time to sit on a park bench would be the very people willing to spare the time to talk to a BBC radio reporter. Not only that, I reasoned, but they would probably be in a reflective mood and might be persuaded to share a personal story. Leading by example, I grabbed a digital tape recorder and microphone and set out to find some stories.

    My first interviewee was a man who told me that, until recently, he had travellled across Europe on business. He told me of a life-changing night in Warsaw as he watched the citizens embrace the new free-market economy and engage in the very same rat race that he himself now wanted to quit. Indeed, he had done that very thing and was now enjoying a simpler life as a homeopathic healer.

    I collected three or four other interesting stories that morning and, just as I was about to leave the park, I got speaking to an American student who told me that, after three years living in Glasgow, ,she was about to marry her Scottish boyfriend and that they would both be setting up home in the States. She was obviously happy about that but there was a hint of sadness in her eyes and when I asked a few more questions she told me why.

    "I'm just so worn out by the anti-American feeling in Scotland. I feel like I'm always have to apologise for who I am."

    I wished her all the best and walked out of the park, across the road and back into the BBC building. I was making my way up the stairs to my office when a young researcher called Hermeet Chadha leaned over the bannister from the floor above and told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. In my office, I heard the events being described on the radio and then I switched on the TV set to see those images we now all remember.

    A few days later I was again out with my tape recorder, but this time I was talking to people sitting on park benches in Broughty Ferry. An office-worker on her lunch break told me that she was English and had come to Scotland over twenty years ago. Her daughter was now grown-up and was travelling with friends in Greece. On the day of the twin towers attack she had called home from Athens and had asked her mother if the world was coming to an end.

    "I know it seems silly , " said the lady on the bench, "but that's how we all felt that day. Didn't we?"

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  1. The Big Picture

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 8 Sep 06, 03:55 PM

    Inverness airport

    Flew back to a sun-kissed Inverness this morning and was in the car in time to catch Cover Stories and Edi Stark's interview with Bill Bryson. She also interviewed novelist William Boyd and seemed to catch him off-guard when she demanded to know why he often writes about the bowel-movements of his various characters. Caught me off-guard too, I have to say.

    I was so glad to be out of London. I went through three different security checks at Gatwick - four if you count the questions you are asked by the automatic check-in machine. At the x-ray scanner we had to remove jackets, shoes and even belts. You feel like moaning about this but then another wee voice pops in to your head saying that's exactly what the terrorists would want you to do. I wonder how long things will be like this.

    I couldn't get on a flight last night so found myself at a loose end in central London and decided I'd walk along to Leicester Square and watch a movie in one of those big screen, surround sound cinemas. The Da Vinci Code was on the bill at one of the Odeons and I was curious to know if it was as awful as everyone had said.

    A bit of a shock after I bought my ticket and was guided through a narrow door next to the popcorn stand and into a room no bigger than a school classroom. There was maybe ten rows of eight seats and the screen was mounted so high on the wall that you had to tip your head right back to watch it. The audience looked like they were taking part in a gargling competition.

    It really was miserable and things didn't improve when an anti-litter advert came on with the blunt message that dropped pizza leads to more rats. The final scene showed a couple sleeping in their bed with a nest of rodents scurrying across their duvet.

    An American man sitting in the row behind me suddenly exclaimed "that's the worst thing I've ever seen in my entire life!".

    Maybe so, but that was before we'd all watched The Da Vinci Code.

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  1. Secrets Of The Yellow Bear

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 7 Sep 06, 12:18 PM


    I caught an early morning flight from Inverness to London this morning to attend some meetings in the BBC's Media Centre at White City. That included a gathering of the Heads of Radio from Wales, Ulster Scotland and BBC Local Radio in England. It's always useful to share ideas and to find out what new formats are working in different parts of the U.K.

    I was interested to hear how BBC GMR has been rebranded as BBC Radio Manchester and that Terry Christian (famous for the Channel 4 show 'The Word') is now one of the key presenters on that station.

    I also met up with Gareth Hydes. He's the Senior Producer in charge of the Topical & Events team at BBC Radio Scotland but is currently on a four-month attachment s as Senior Content Producer for Children In Need. He and his team are mapping out the plans for the big night of fund-raising in November and he was telling me about all the famous names who'll be joining in the fun.

    I was going to share that with you, but then the Head of Marketing for Children In Need told he it was all hush-hush and has to be kept under wraps until the official publicity launch.

    I can reveal, however, that a certain yellow bear will be involved in the fun. But keep that to yourself.

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  1. Paper Tigers

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 6 Sep 06, 04:39 PM

    A few months ago I was writing in this diary about the late John Junor. I had just picked up a copy of his autobiography - Listening for a Midnight Tram - and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in that era of newspaper journalism.

    As it happens, his daughter Penny Junor is currently making a series for us in which she interviews former newspaper editors about the biggest or most memorable stories of their careers. Included in that list is Magnus Linklater and Andrew Neil.

    The series is being produced here in Inverness by Dan Holland and I'm afraid I've been annoying him by asking for updates on each interview. As you might have guessed, it's a topic that interests me a lot.

    Of course most of these chaps worked in the era before work-life balance was even talked about and it's sad to hear how so many of them regret the time they spent at the office and away from their families. It's something I worry about myself.

    In the series, Penny asks Andrew Neil if he has remained a bachelor because of his workaholic tendencies. I wont spoil things by telling you how he answered.

    Meanwhile I'm off to read some bedtime stories.

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  1. I Have No Reservations

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 5 Sep 06, 11:43 PM

    OK...a small moral dilemma. When is it acceptable to steal someone's seat on a train? I'm asking for a friend, of course. Not that I would ever do such a thing. Except, well, just the once. Tonight.

    It was that 1741 train to Aberdeen again - change at Perth for Inverness. Apparently there are supposed to be five carriages pulling out of Glasgow Queen Street but tonight because of "circumstances beyond our control" (a train-eating monster, perhaps?) there were only three. Just about every seat had one of those little reserved tickets stuck behind the headrest and so there were crowds of passengers standing in the aisles.

    Then, just before the train set off I decided to chance my arm and sat in the last remaining empty seats even though it was officially reserved as far as Dundee. I reasoned that the person who was supposed to be sitting there had probably parked thenselves somewhere else. Maybe he or she had met a long-lost friend in the first carriage and even now was enjoying a good laugh as they remembered the good old days in Broughty Ferry.

    But then, as the train set off I was struck by guilt. Maybe the official passenger was an old lady who was still pushing her way through the aisles and, when she saw me plonked in her seat would be too timid to ask me to move.

    I could feel the glare of contempt from my fellow travellers. I buried my head in the fifteen pence PM edition of the Daily Record and ignored them.

    I was so glad to change trains at Perth. You should never travel with that kind of mental baggage.

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  1. What Mid-Life Crisis?

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 4 Sep 06, 10:15 AM

    I was listening to John Beattie's programme What Mid-Life Crisis? and the gist of it seemed to be that we can all reverse the effects of age if we spend more time standing on our heads. Apparently that rush of blood to the brain does wonders for you. It's certainly cheaper than buying a red, two-seater sports car which was the option I was considering. Well, just as soon as my Premium Bonds pay off.

    It was funny how so many of the celebrities interviewed on the programme talked about how they look in the mirror. I've always thought there is a Sunday supplement feature to be devised on this topic because the way we think we look in the mirror is, of course, different from the way everyone else sees us. There should be a feature called Mirror Image in which a person is interviewed about their own perception of themselves compared to what others say. This could be illustrated with a photograph of them looking in a mirror.

    Actually, I might use that idea on this website if I can persuade one of our radio presenters to give it a go.

    As for the mid-life crisis, I'm sure diary readers could suggest some tell-tale signs that's you're past your peak? I remember someone saying that the first sign for a man is when he can't pull on a pair of socks with sitting on the edge of the bed.

    Me? I can do that standing on my head!

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  1. The Apple Of My Eye

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 3 Sep 06, 10:17 PM


    I came that close to abusing my position today and calling Frieda Morrison at the Beechgrove Potting Shed. You see, we're renting this house in Inverness that has a small back garden with a little apple tree in it. In the past few weeks we've watched the apples grow. They've turned from green to rosy red and now a few have started to fall from the branches. Naturally the Zedettes have wanted to pick the rest of them and see if they taste good. Funny how they're never that keen on the apples we buy at the supermarket.

    Mrs Z. wasn't so sure about this big apple-munching scheme and tried to scare us with all sorts of stories about headless maggots and rabid squirrels. She insisted we could only devour the fruit if it was washed, sliced and baked in a pie at a temperature slightly warmer than the conditions you find on the planet Mercury.

    We agreed. So that's how I spent my afternoon. I stewed the apples in sugar and cinnamon, rolled out the shortcrust pastry, brushed the whole thing with some beaten egg and stuffed it in the oven for half an hour. Then we all paced the floor until it was time to unveil our masterpiece, smother slices of it in warm custard and lick our lips.

    No ill-effects so far. If my next report is from Raigmore Hospital you'll know I should have called Frieda after all.

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  1. Signs Of The Times

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 3 Sep 06, 10:03 PM

    tearoom signs

    I fell out of bed this morning (when will I ever get used to this house?) and insisted that we all head off for a family trip to Nairn. We were on the road by half-past ten and cruising along the back road that runs past Culloden Battlefield. Twenty minutes later at we were at the seafront looking to see if much had changed since our last trip there about eight years ago.

    Not much, as it happens, although a big Victorian hotel seemed to have been replaced by a block of modern flats. But the Links Tearoon was still there and I have to report they make a fine cuppa. They do go a little over the top when it comes to customer advice, mind you. There are signs everywhere. One advises customers to "be patient", another that "unattended children will be sold as slaves". Outside you're requsted not feed the birds and, on no account should you try to consume your own home-made picnic at the tearoom's picnic tables.

    fun food kiosk at Nairn

    The Zedettes eyes were drawn to a sign on a building along the beach that promised "Fun Food". This was closed so we could only speculate on what this might have been. Sausages on spings, perhaps? Exploding kippers?

    More poignant was the inscription on the small stone war memorial which commemorated the infantrymen who had trained on Nairn's beaches prior to the D-Day landings in Normandy. It's strange how, as we grow older, we're drawn to these kind of solid reminders of our history. When I was growing up my Dad would drop in the odd story about his own wartime experiences in the Polish Free Navy. It all seemed so far away. It was like a black & white movie or yellow cuttings from an old newspaper.

    He's eighty-five now and those memories seem so much more important. Thank goodness some have been preserved in stone.

    Nairn infantry memorial

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  1. Still Looking For Your Views

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 3 Sep 06, 08:58 AM

    My recent request for listeners to suggest areas of programming they'd like to see on BBC Radio Scotland prompted 60 comments before I updated this diary on Friday. Those have all been logged for distribution to our programme Editors. Our official commissioning round opens this month so there's still plenty of time for you to take part in this mini research project.

    As I said before, please let us know if there are subjects (eg poetry, business, parenting, health, science) that you feel need more attention.

    To read comments on this post, click here
  1. The Thunderbolt Kid

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 1 Sep 06, 04:05 PM

    I just got word from producer Dawn Munro that Bill Bryson will be appearing on our Cover Stories programme on the 8th September. I've just finished reading his latest book - The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - in which he details his childhood in 1950's America. It's a great read, very funny and yet tinged with sadness as he laments the passing of a era.

    I've also been reading Hunter Davies' biography - The Beatles, Football & Me. I was an avid reader of his Father's Day column in Punch way back in the 1980's. He would write about his three children and the various problems of parenthood.

    I was interested to find out that he gave up writing the column because a teacher at his son's school would make fun of the boy and the things that had been written about him in the magazine. It made me wary of the stuff I write about my own family in this diary.

    My favourite book of the year, however, was a paperback I picked up at the start of the summer. We Are At War was cmpiled by Simon Garfield and based on the World War II diaries of four different people who were part of the famous Mass Observation project.

    One of the diaries was written by a young woman who was working as a shipping clerk in an office in Glasgow. Unlike our impressions of a stiff upper lips, she describes the day-to-day feeling of gloom and defeatism among her colleagues and the ever growing belief that the Nazis would actually win the war and take control of the British government.

    It's also quite chilling when she describes the bomb damage around Glasgow and names places, like Queen Street Station, that I find myself in once a week.

    I suppose I'm drawn to these real-life accounts of ordinary life. If anyone has recommendations for similar books I'd love to hear about them.

    To read comments on this post, click here

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