Cummings’ goings: Any bids for this Keith Chegwin calendar?

Unwanted Christmas Gift Auction at The Salutation Inn

Unwanted Christmas Gift Auction at The Salutation Inn - Credit: Archant

BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings offers up some February musings, including some novel ideas employed by pubs to get patrons in, why 7.50am is a particularly rubbish time for most of us and why Mike d’Abo’s autobiography should be published.

Pubs have to get creative during January and February / Photo: Bikeworldtravel [shutterstock]

Pubs have to get creative during January and February / Photo: Bikeworldtravel [shutterstock] - Credit: Archant

January and February are the hardest months for our pubs. We’ve been celebrating those who pull out all the stops to offer creative and seductive inducements to get us spending again. My favourite idea came from The Salutation Inn in Berkeley who take the prize for the most cheeky and altruistic concept. They hold a special evening where everyone brings their unwanted Christmas presents and they simply auction them off for a local charity. Some of the best ideas are the simplest and I think this is genius. I’ll be suggesting this to the landlord of my local for next year. They throw in a leftovers supper with a scrummy bubble and squeak and before you know it the pub is full in the bleakest of months and great fun is to be had.

Feeling great at ten to eight

The start of the year seems to be full of fantastic offers designed to entice us to to shake off the winter lethargy. I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and throw one in myself. Every morning I want to offer you a little nugget of magic to look forward to at exactly ten to eight. When I say EXACTLY, I mean precisely on the dot of 7:50 with no room for error.

To help me with this unique gift I’ve had help from hundreds of people including a saint, a rock god, the WI, poets, musicians, Olympic gold medallists, farmers, florists and hundreds more. After months of scrupulous audience research we pinpointed this specific time as the ultimate pressure point as people stumble into a new day.

This is the time when stressed parents are trying to get their children to get downstairs to have some breakfast. For commuters, it’s that crucial time as the rush hour explodes into life along the A40 and around the Air Balloon roundabout and for farmers it usually signals they are half way through milking. The challenge for me is the make sure everyone gets a special time check to savour. I have therefore collected hundreds of recordings of some wonderful people announcing the time to give my Breakfast Show audience a little surprise and a small gift to liven up the morning. The jeopardy for me is that a dire forfeit has to be paid if I get my timings wrong and mess it up.

I always get a little nervous at about 7:40 as the devilish deadline looms. Guest ‘time-checkers’ have included Stevie Winwood, The Fonz (Henry Winkler), Sir Bob Geldof, Alan Titchmarsh, The Drifters, Charlotte Dujardin and many musical numbers from local bands, buskers and choirs.

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Martin Clunes is a particular favourite with our audience as is Neil Morrissey and Caroline Quentin. Also on the roster we have the lady from the speaking clock, Graham Spring, the stadium announcer at Kingsholm, the announcer for Great Western Rail and that bloke who does the big voice on the X Factor. Some mornings it could be a world famous person, other days it is simply a kind hearted member of the public who pops ups at the required time to help people through the morning rush.

Wherever I go, people love to tell me what they tend to be doing at this time of day - where they are on their commute and how they always look at the clock when they hear the time check. Most people love it when I fail to hit it bang on time and therefore have a forfeit to pay for my miserable failure. So tune in for this small delight and listen out for this year’s list of punishments if I fail in my morning task, which includes committing to an evening course in accountancy, having the letters DJ put in front of my name on my column and having to go to Kingsholm wearing a Bath scarf.

Mike D'Abo

Mike D'Abo - Credit: © Thousand Word Media Ltd

It’s all in the title

I hope that this year we see the release of Mike d’Abo’s autobiography. He is currently two-thirds of the way through it and when I caught up with him the other week we spent a couple of happy hours chewing over possible stories, gossip, anecdotes and that all important title. This man lives in parallel worlds. We can sit in his Stroud home chatting about the weather, politics and cricket with his twins racing around the place and then the next minute he will have an answerphone message from Ricky Gervais to deal with.

I think this should be the essence of the book - one ordinary life interwoven with something extraordinary. He was educated at Harrow, studied at Cambridge, was lead singer of Manfred Mann, wrote the classic songs Build Me Up Buttercup and Handbags and Gladrags, lived in New Mexico, has had three marriages, has a Bond girl for a niece, an Ivor Novello award and also composed the music to the classic advert ‘A Finger of Fudge’!

However when I got to know him he was battling for freelance radio work, he’d recently been waiting on tables in a Cotswold restaurant and generally working all hours to pay the bills. At 70 he can reflect on the recent good times and put this life into some sort of perspective. When I told him my favourite stories he’d shared with me over the years he grabbed his pen and furiously scribbled. How could he have forgotten these classics? The one where Sean Connery walked in on him at a swinging sixties party at a rather inopportune moment. How about the one where James Taylor turned up at his party and whipped out his guitar and played Mike some of his earliest songs which would later become massive hits. Then the day he was walking along a London Street and Graham Nash from The Hollies introduced him to two new mates, David Crosby and Steven Stills.

The title is proving a little tricky. I think it has to be a play on words with the hits he is known for, either Handbags or Buttercup - he was thinking about d’Abo’s Diaries. It will end up a stunning read full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll laced with great humour and self deprecation. I’ll let you know when it’s published.

Under the moon of love...

When you kick off your radio show at 6am in the dark winter months it’s always good to share moments of chilly charm when the occasion arises. Here is a stunning picture from Richard who responded when I asked for photos of the magical moon we were all waking up to. If you live in Lechlade I suggest you copy this and convert it into a Christmas card for later this year.

Body talk...

Apparently my doctor tells me I have a grumbling appendix. I didn’t believe it at first but now I do. Every morning when I tentatively prod this sensitive area all I get are complaints about the cold weather, the general election coverage and those annoying roadworks on the A40 at Over.

Nearly there...

We can count the weeks now until the spring. On the way very soon - daffodils, the Cheltenham Festival, the clocks going forward, lighter evenings and creme eggs neatly positioned by the till at every garage in the Cotswolds

Stamp it out...

I was told a tale from Tetbury the other day about a teenager who was sent out to buy a book of stamps. He came back an hour later empty handed not knowing where to look for this elusive object. The poor lad hadn’t a clue what sort of shop would sell such an archaic item. I think he should made to change a plug and make a telephone call from a phone box.

Mobile madness...

At 8:40 every morning I make a live on-air call to a mobile phone that has spent six months travelling all over the county and beyond. Our ‘Phone with no Home’ has provided us with some wonderful moments, fascinating people, tremendous stories, occasional disasters and a few answerphone messages. The phone is passed from person to person and could end up anywhere. Recently, however, my phone seems to have developed a rebellious streak. During ‘dry’ January it got locked in a wine cupboard in a pub in Eastington and then had a happy couple of days at The Anchor at Epney. It then broke all the rules and ended up outside Gloucestershire in a builder’s yard in Wantage. I hope to regain control over this misbehaving mobile. Tune in at 8:40 to find out.


Mark Cummings can be heard on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am