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Archives for July 2009

They're Twittering In The Cafe Now

Jeff Zycinski | 08:46 UK time, Wednesday, 29 July 2009

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I walked into the BBC's Edinburgh offices yesterday and was immediately harangued by Carolyn Becket, the woman in charge of our various Cafe programmes.

"Have you blogged about our Twitter page yet?, " she asked and in a tone that carried a hint of menace and a threat of retribution.

"Well no, " I said, "you see I've been on holiday and..."

Carolyn shook her head and her fingers sprang from her clenched fists like ten pink switchblades. Luckily she was heading towards a keyboard and not my throat.

"We're updating listeners on our plans for the Edinburgh Festival, " she explained, "telling people which guests have been booked for the Festival Cafe programmes and talking about cake."

I looked at the screen in front of her and nodded. I didn't really understand the cake reference but neither did I want to inflame the situation by asking stupid questions. I simply promised I would blog about the Festival Cafe tweets.

I think I'm safe now.

Back From Camp

Jeff Zycinski | 10:49 UK time, Tuesday, 28 July 2009


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When you come back to work after a fortnight's leave colleagues always ask you if you've had a good break. A one word answer to that question would seem rude. Too much information can be tiresome. The trick is knowing how to respond in a way that doesn't cause people's eyes to glaze over.

So it was with me yesterday when I returned to the office in Inverness and tried to explain how much I'd enjoyed a week of touring and camping in the Highlands - all without sounding like the kind of crazy person who thinks PVC groundsheets and alloy tent pegs are a worthy topic of conversation.

But the truth is, we had a great time and I believe I may have caught the camping bug. We progressed from last year's back-garden sleepovers to pitching up in an actual campsite. Our favourite was the Glenmore site at Loch Morlich.


Our two-pod family tent (bought in a supermarket sale two years ago) did look a bit shabby next to the luxury camper vans and canvas palaces besides us. I was slightly envious of those blokes with all the gadgets: satellite dishes, solar panels, lawn mowers.
Lawn mowers? Yes, one man was mowing the grass around his pitch so that the "footprint" of his tent would be smooth.


It seems there are at least two types of campers. Some see their tent or caravan as nothing m more than a place to sleep after a day of fun and frolics in the water or on the hillsides. Others regard their pitch as a home-from-home and try set up as many modern conveniences as possible. I actually saw some kids under a gazebo playing video games projected on to a big screen.

I'm not sure which camp the Zed family will end up in. But come back soon and I'll tell you about that new groundsheet I just bought. No, really.

Going Underground

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Jeff Zycinski | 20:07 UK time, Thursday, 16 July 2009


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The BBC reporter was standing on top of Broadcasting House describing the bombs falling all around him. Later the Prime Minister appeared on the radio to tell the world that the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians would not distract the Government from its fight against the threat of invasion.

This archive audio came from 1940 and was being piped into the Wartime Cabinet Rooms at Whitehall. I had persuaded Zed-daughter to join me on the tour and we were both fascinated by the faithful recreation of Winston Churchill's underground bunker which, we learned, wouldn't actually have survived if a bomb had fallen on the building above ground.

The rooms themselves were tiny - especially the sleeping quarters - and you could imagine how much more claustrophobic it would have seemed with in the fog of tobacco smoke. The audio handsets described how Churchill often clashed with his Chiefs of Staff but never over-ruled them. Instead, if someone said something he disagreed with he would simply pretend to be deaf.

There were also secrets within secrets. Few who worked below ground knew that one room contained a telephone exchange which allowed the PM to call President Roosevelt in Washington. Rumour had it that the locked door hid the only flushing toilet in the complex and was reserved for Churchill's personal use.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, we walked past Downing Street where a crowd of fellow tourist were hoping to glimpse the Prime Minster through the iron railings, road blocks and armed police.

The threat of terrorism means the street has been caged in.

I wonder if Gordon Brown feels as claustrophobic as Churchill.

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Harry Potter At The Empire

Jeff Zycinski | 23:08 UK time, Wednesday, 15 July 2009



The audience was applauding even as the Warner Bros. logo appeared on the screen. Yes, actual clapping and a wee bit of whooping too. Now that's not something you hear a lot of in Inverness, but then this was the Empire cinema in Leicester Square and things are just a bit different here in London. Biggest screen in Britain, they say, and posh reclining seats too. But applauding a movie has always struck me as odd. I mean, it's not like the actors can hear it.

"Dumbeldore has put on some weight, " observed Zed-son and then came up with a funny line that he has been repeating all day.

"He's more like can't-fit-through-the-door."

I'm sorry about that, but I promised him I would include it in this blog entry. Please indulge us. We're in the holiday spirit, after all.

As for the actual movie - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - well, it was fun. Lots more laughs than the recent HP flicks and fulls of gags about teenage romance, snogging and that kind of stuff.

Oh and a main character dies at the end, of course.

Cue applause.

Meanwhile, Back At The BBC

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Jeff Zycinski | 21:04 UK time, Tuesday, 14 July 2009



Just a few days into our family holiday in London and I'm already drawn back to the BBC. We were at Oxford Circus when the female half of the Zed clan decided they wanted to spend some time "trying on clothes". This, I now understand, is similar to actual shopping but there is also a good chance that the time invested in this activity wont result in an actual purchase.

I took Zed-son along to Broadcasting House where, I assured him, a cost-free time could be had just hanging around the reception area reading magazines. As it happened we also got a glimpse of newsgathering in action. Reporter Nicholas Witchell was interviewing people about the Corporation's annual report which is out today. We tried to sneak past the live camera but found our exit route blocked by some construction work so we had to sneak past again in the opposite direction. I fear our sneaking antics might have made it on to the six o'clock news.

"Why are BBC reporters always interviewing people about the BBC?" asked my son, in one of those simple, child-like questions that sums up our current state of self-obsession. I had no simple answer.

Instead we marched down to the Trocadero Centre and spent an hour on various games machines including miniature bowling and a space-flight simulator.

More fun than trying on clothes, that's for sure.

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The Wax Works For Some

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Jeff Zycinski | 14:50 UK time, Monday, 13 July 2009


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Call me a fun-sucking old killjoy if you like, but I'm not sure I really see the poiint of a wax museum. Not unless that point is simply about taking photographs of yourself and family members next to full-size figures that vaguely resemble famous people. Yes, that must be the point. I'm obviously over-thinking this one.

So we're in London for the first week of our family holiday and a visit to Madame Tussaud's is on the democratically agreed list of things to see and do. I voted for the Imperial War Museum, but had to make that a solo trip yesterday afternoon.

Some wax figures notable by their absence include Gordon Brown and the current Pope. Tony Blair is still there as is George W. Bush. Princess Diana is standing a little to the side of the current Royal Famiy.

The two most popular figures seem to be Michael Jackson and President Obama.
My vote for most life-like went to that of London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

Unless that really was him?


Wellies On The Table

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Jeff Zycinski | 18:52 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009



I'm just about to join my Radio 1 colleague Jason Carter in the rooftop restaurant at Pacific Quay. It's just us two and, oh, about a hundred other invited guests for the official launch of the Radio 1 Introducing stage which, for the first time, will be at the T in the Park festival this weekend.

It's part of the BBC commitment to supporting new and emerging talent on the music scene. It's the kind of music that Vic Galloway features on his Radio 1 and BBC Radio Scotland shows every week of the year.

Tonight's gathering will include magazine and newspaper reporters and and lots of people drawn from the arts and music scenes in Scotland.

I've just noticed that the restaurant tables have been decorated with little pairs of wellie boots.

Someone has been looking at the weather forecast, it seems.

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All seemed to go well including a fantastically energetic performance from the Young Fathers (above). I think I might have offered to crowd-surf through the gaggle of reporters just before someone suggested it was time for me to leave the building and get back to Inverness.

Bryan Gets It Off, Stephen Gets In A Muddle

Jeff Zycinski | 21:04 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009


A traffic-free drive down the A9 tonight and I'm listening to Bryan Burnett reveal all on Get It On. As part of our Summer in the 60's season, Bryan has agreed to pose Christine Keeler style for a special photogaph. In other words he's in the scud and draped over the back of a chair. You can see that for yourself on his own blog.

I reach the M8 listening to the Jazz House where Stephen Duffy and his guest are deconstructing that old standard Autumn Leaves. I know they're coming live from Studio 1 at Pacific Quay so I can't resist popping in for a look-see.

I'm never quite sure how these impromptu studio visits are regarded. I like to think the presenters and producers appreciate that I'm taking an interest in the programme. I fear some may think I'm doing spot checks or time-and-motion studies (which I am, of course).

Anyway I arrived in the control booth just as Stephen popped out of the studio so that someone could remind him of the post-code for Pacific Quay.

"Just as long as he doesn't forget the frequency of the radio station, " I joked.

A few minutes later the red light was on and Stephen was back in the studio giving out the address of the programme faultlessly.

Then, of course, he muffed the frequencies.

That must have been my fault.

Bruce, The Beatles And The Need For A Bigger Tent

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Jeff Zycinski | 15:05 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009


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It was January 1963 at The Beatles were playing to a crowd of just nineteen people at Dingwall Town Hall.

"Where is everyone?, "asked one of the Fab Four, "This is like a ghost town."

It was local girl Margaret Paterson who told them that everyone had gone to Strathpeffer to see a "really good band" who were playing there.

"I'm going along there myself, " she admitted, "why don't you come along?"

And they did.

This was the story Margaret told (probably not for the first time) on today's edition of The Highland Café. Bruce McGregor presented and the special guest was Dougie MacLean whose live rendition of Caledonia had at least one member of the audience in tears.

"It's that kind of song," he told me, after the show, "people bring all sort of memories and emotions to it. Maybe they think about members of their family, or people that have left Scotland. It's also popular in Ireland, despite the title."

And so, our first show from the make-shift venue on the Inverness back lawn went well. Dougie was so impressed he suggested we use it for an annual music festival.

I think we're gonna need a bigger tent.

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Almost There

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Jeff Zycinski | 11:22 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009


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Less than two hours before the start of the Highland Cafe and the production office here in Inverness is buzzing. Tune in at 1.15 this afternoon for a feast of live music and conversation presented by ace fioddler Bruce McGregor.

Looks like the weather might even hold up.

Back In The Saddle

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Jeff Zycinski | 11:12 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009


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It seems like only a few weeks ago that I watched Inverness Caley Thistle crash out of the SPL. True fans, however, are not put off by such minor setbacks as relegation. So there were were - Mrs Z and myself - watching Terry Butcher's men gear up for life in the First Division.

It cost us six quid each to watch Inverness Caley Thistle play Clachnacuddin at Grant Street. It was the first in a series of pre-season friendlies and the chance for the Caley fans to see if a fight-back into the SPL is a realistic propspect.

Caley won six-one against the Highland League side.

Is it too soon to hope?

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This Is Not The Moscow State Circus

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Jeff Zycinski | 14:45 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009



Readers of yesterday's blog will be keen to know what progress we're making on the construction of the Highland Cafe venue on the back lawn. Well, as you can see, an awful lot has happened since yesterday. Now I'm worried that people might mistake this for the Moscow State Circus, which is also in town.

I must make sure there are no clowns hanging about the BBC tomorrow.


P.S. Thanks for all your jokes...only two of which would not get me sacked and three would get me arrested.

Building The Highland Cafe

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Jeff Zycinski | 12:11 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009


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It doesn't look much at the moment, but a new music venue is taking shape on the back lawn of the BBC Radio Scotland H.Q. in Inverness. The photograph shows the framework for a small marquee being laid out while producers and engineers debate the best position for the stage and the audience seating.

You'll be able to hear the result this Wednesday afternoon at 1.15 when the Highland Cafe begins a four-programme run during July. The special guest this week is Dougie MacLean.

I've been asked to do the "audience warm-up" before the programme goes on air.

Anyone got any good (clean) jokes?

July In Inverness

Jeff Zycinski | 07:32 UK time, Wednesday, 1 July 2009


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This month's photograph of Inverness as we continue to monitor the changing of the seasons.

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