“THAT’S a nice scarf,” said the chap who served me a cup of tea yesterday.
“He always looks smart and important,” said my companion.
“Yes he looks like the main man, are you his bodyguard?” said the man behind the counter as he gave us our tea.
Now given that my companion was Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council, the third largest local authority in the country, I’d imagine he’s had better compliments.
Mind you, given my experience recounted in the last blog just before Christmas, perhaps I do need a bodyguard.
I was seeing Tom for one of our semi-regular catch-ups.
For a busy chief exec he makes a point of keeping tabs of what the business community within the city and region are thinking and his diary is studded with meetings and events which allow him to do that.
After a quick tour of Leeds Civic Hall he suggested we pop into the cafe at Leeds Beckett University’s Rose Bowl building next door for a cuppa.
Given not all of its students are back from their festive break, the ground floor of the building was a hive of activity.
Tom told me that Channel 4 News were holding a Brexit debate on the programme last night to get the views of young people aged 18 to 20 who weren’t old enough to vote in the referendum on the EU but now are of voting age.
As we stirred our cups of tea I turned to see a member of the Channel 4 team carefully fixing up a banner with the theme for the discussion: #BrexitInbetweeners – cleverly tapping into the title of one of the broadcaster’s most successful comedy shows about young people.
Earlier in the week C4 had broadcast the entertaining drama Brexit: The Uncivil War starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rory Kinnear.
Although given the cast of characters it portrayed – Nigel Farage, Aaron Banks, Boris Johnson, Douglas Carswell – and what has happened since the 2016 vote on Britain’s place in the European Union, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was a comedy.
I said to Tom that I couldn’t remember a time in my life when politics had been so fractured and opinion so polarised.
We moved on to talk about other subjects and Tom told me about a number of initiatives the council is working on.
Just before Christmas it was announced that Leeds City Council’s children’s care services had been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
That is some improvement given that in 2010 government inspectors described them as ‘inadequate’.
One of my blogs last year described the number of rough sleepers on the streets of Leeds and Tom mentioned it and said that the council are working hard on initiatives to address the issue.
As we finished our tea a tall, rangy figure in a mid-blue suit and striking horizontally-striped tie walked up to us.
“Hello, I’m Tom, chief executive of the council here in Leeds,” said Tom, proffering his hand.
“Hi, I’m Jon Snow,” said the man who took it, adding: “Oh, you’re the main man round here then.”
Thank God Jon Snow didn’t confuse us and think Tom was my bodyguard, I wouldn’t have known where to put myself.
Tom introduced me to Jon who told us he had grown up in Thirsk in North Yorkshire and loved any chance to return North.
Given his sartorial reputation, I was just glad I was wearing my best suit from tailor James Michelsberg (www.michelsberg.co.uk) and a shirt and pocket square combo my sister had given me for Christmas.
Jon said he was excited about Channel 4’s move to Leeds later this year and Tom said that a number of independent programme makers have already announced plans to open bases in Leeds on the back of the Channel 4 announcement.
Jon asked me about my media background and we chatted about the young people’s debate planned for last night’s Channel 4 News programme.
Several times while we were talking one of Jon’s colleagues kept politely interrupting to ask him to key his pin into his mobile phone so she could access some information.
“I hope you’re not on his banking app,” I said.
She smiled politely and walked off.
I don’t think my first audition to be a comedy writer for Channel 4 went very well.
I’VE mentioned the exploits of Team Row4Victory several times in this blog.
And I’m delighted to say that the four Yorkshire oarsmen are now more than half way through their challenge of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
I’ve been following their exploits since they set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean in mid December.
Given they are miles from the nearest ship, never mind dry land, Row4Victory’s communications via social media have been excellent allowing their many supporters to share some of their experiences.
This stunning photo was taken while they were cleaning the hull of the boat – the whale apparently stayed with them for several miles.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing on their 3,000 mile voyage.
They have encountered swells which have been as big as houses and then the sea as flat as a millpond which they say is like rowing through custard.
Never mind the sores and aches and pains that each of the boys, Will, Fraser, Glyn and Duncan, have suffered, there have been more serious challenges including a shin injury that prevented Fraser rowing for some days, Will spilling boiling water on his leg, Glyn smashing his head on the bow cabin wall and Duncan jumping into the sea to clean the hull of the boat and landing on top of a jellyfish which promptly stung him.
But they remain defiantly resolute and in high spirits and currently lie in fifth place out of the 27 boats taking part.
They even took the time to drop me an email from the mid-Atlantic to thank me for being “a valued member of the team”.
All I’ve done is help promote what they are doing, but at a time when they are facing a huge challenge they took the time to offer kind words which is the measure of the men they are.
Team Row4Victory are rowing in support of The Royal British Legion and Soldier On! two wonderful charities.
If you want to support them you can donate through their website www.row4victory.com or by texting 70070 with the code ROWV59 followed by the amount.
Go on boys!
IT comes to something when one of the highlights of Christmas TV was a dusted off tape of a Morecambe and Wise show that hasn’t been screened on TV for 50 years.
I don’t know about you but I struggled to circle many programmes to watch that were listed in the bumper festive issue of the Radio Times.
I was keen to watch the new version of Watership Down produced by the BBC and Netflix which promised to not scare the living daylights out of viewers, which the original certainly did.
However I couldn’t get into it and switched it off after 20 minutes.
So what did I watch?
Well it will be no surprise that the shows on Morecambe and Wise, Ken Dodd and Tommy Cooper were avidly devoured.
Then it was a case of looking for some quirky stuff.
Bradley Walsh, who appears to be TV’s current face du jour, presented a programme on ITV called When Dummies Took Over The World.
Other than having the last broadcast interview with Sir Ken Dodd, the programme didn’t really deliver much except a reminder that when we pine for the golden era of TV in the 1970s and 80s that did include programmes starring puppets including a fluffy green duck called Orville with an annoying voice, a small bear called Sooty that didn’t speak, a bigger bear called Nookie with a dirty mind and a dog that spat called Spit.
Try explaining Bob Carolgees’ creations Spit the Dog and Cough the Cat to a millenial.
And whose idea was it to get a foul mouthed bear called Nookie and a ventriloquist called Roger de Courcey, who openly admitted to hating kids, to front a children’s TV show?
And Sooty – he’s never spoken and still has his own shown on children’s TV after 70 years.
The only revelation from the programme was that after Keith Harris went bust losing £7m he was forced to do blue x-rated shows with Orville.
I could use a line there about fowl language from a duck but that wouldn’t help my Channel 4 comedy writer application.
Have a great weekend.