Thursday, 31 December 2009


Brian May is a pop star, a member of Queen and an astro-physicist of international repute. On radio the other day he admitted he did not approve of celebrity. Billy Bragg is a highly intelligent pop star and thinker. He admitted on radio that he too reckoned nothing to celebrity.

I only suffered a brief moment of celebrity when I appeared on TV but I know exactly why they are concerned. On radio I broadcast every week to about 26 million listeners worldwide and no one had a clue who I was. Just a disembodied voice that was remembered only by the most eagle-eared.

When the first two programmes of a TV series “Home Brew”, which I co-presented with a folk singer called Frank Hennessey, went out, I became a marked man. The first intimation of fame is that one thinks one's flies are undone. This is because wherever you go people give you a double take. The second glance is because the first one leaves them with a niggling feeling they have seen the glancee somewhere before. It always produced in me a hasty examination of my flies.

Even worse is the bolder spirit who is not going to let you get away with eluding his memory. He stops you in mid-tread and says, “I know that face. Don't tell me...” You have no intention of telling him, even if you knew what he didn't want to know.

“I'll have you a minute,” said this one guy in Cardiff. “On the tip of my tongue. Never forget a face.” A pause before illumination dawned. “Got you,” he said. “You are the Town Crier of Llandrindod Wells.”

I thought I ought to have some visual clue that would fix me in the minds of such people. So when I was invited to present the Welsh Sheepdog Championships I wore a different coloured waistcoat
for each programme. Worked like a charm. Fellow stopped me in Llandudno.

“Saw you on TV last night. Fantastic!” “Oh, you like sheepdogs then?” “Cannot stand them, yapping b.....s.” “It's not the sheep, surely?” “Course it's not.” “ Oh, so you liked me? Thank.........”
“You? You were crap. You gabbled.” “So what was so marvellous?” “The waistcoats. Bloody fantastic, man.”

I spent the rest of that brief career in the limelight convinced I could have sent the waistcoats on jobs whilst remaining comfortably at home.

Sometimes the voice is memorable.

I had a comedy programme called “Radio Brynsiencyn”. There was no budget so I had to use the people round me as characters. The singer Aled Jones's dad asked me to teach the boy soprano interviewing. Didn't charge me when I made him my junior reporter.

One of the most important women in my life was called Rose Roberts. She came to us as a cleaner but soon took complete charge of us, the animals and the house. She had a voice that would strip paint. I recruited her as the station cleaner and called her Attila the Hoover. She had a camp friend with a lovely Welsh accent. I re-created him as Goronwy Generator, who pedalled the bike that powered the generator that beamed the programmes. The entire Welsh nation is formed of actors. They read the scripts I wrote for them like real pros. Aled, who takes work more seriously than anyone I have ever met - he did his school homework in the dressing room of the Hollywood Bowl whilst waiting to stun a capacity audience - was soon a very professional interviewer. He was a quick learner.

His dad told me about the time he went to Lloyd Webber's flat to record “Memories”. Lloyd Webber asked him if he would like to do a run through. Aled said he would rather go straight ahead with the recording. The first tape was perfect. A stunned Lloyd Webber said: “It took Barbra Streisand a week to do that.”

Aled's dad told me: “I didn't like to tell him the lad was anxious not to miss Match of the Day.”
Rose and Goronwy were avid theatregoers and never missed a West End opening. They were in the queue at the London Palladium when Rose gave voice, briefly. It was enough.

“Blimey,” said a man in the queue, “it's Attila the Hoover!”

Now that IS celebrity.


It hardly ever snows heavily in the Fens. This week we have had blizzards. As I contemplated the snowy wastes from my window I remembered 1974 when Global Cooling was all the rage. A high-priority government report warned of climate change that would lead to floods and starvation.
It further stated that ‘leading climatologists’ speak of a ‘detrimental global climatic change’, threatening ‘the stability of most nations’.
The report was called ‘A Study of Climatological Research as it Pertains to Intelligence Problems’, written by the CIA for ‘internal planning purposes’ in August 1974.
Many of the terms bandied about 35 years ago are still being employed by today’s fear-mongers - about the very opposite phenomenon.
The usual disasters were projected: the ‘new climatic era’ was said to be bringing famine, starvation, refugee crises, floods, droughts, crop and monsoon failures, and all sorts of extreme weather phenomena. The Sahara would expand. World grain reserves, already at less than a month’s supply, would be depleted. A list of past civilisations brought down by ‘major and minor’ cooling episodes was given, which included the Indus, Hittite, Mycenaean, and the Mali empire of Africa. Any possible benefits to climate change were barely mentioned.

More parallels can be drawn. According to the CIA report, in 1974 climate science was developing ‘a successful climatic prediction model’, as indeed it still is. Government intervention had brought together eminent scientists who had previously been at odds with each other, then had established a ‘scientific consensus’ on ‘global climate change’.

The scientists claimed this pattern of cooling would cause ‘major economic problems around the world’. Dealing with this would, of course, require the creation of several new government agencies. The media at the time seized on all of this, just as it is doing now. Newsweek and the New York Times described the global cooling threat.

How is it that the parallels between that 1970s panic and today’s have been so little remarked upon? There have even been recent attempts to label the ‘global cooling consensus’ a ‘myth’, most notably in a well-publicised article by Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck, published by the American Meteorological Society in September 2008.

Predictably, the CIA recommended massive funding of the new field of research, climatology.
Thirty years later they once again join forces to warn us of the dangers of global warming. The world is about to end because of global warming. Temperatures are soaring, ice is melting, glaciers are retreating, seas are rising. The Royal Society says there’s no longer any room for scientific doubt about it. Britain’s Chief Scientist says it’s a bigger threat than global terrorism. Every schoolchild is now drilled to believe that man-made global warming is a Fact . Yet in February, The Telegraph reported that, although during January Europe, northern Asia and most of Australia experienced above average temperatures, large parts of the globe had their coldest winter for decades. According to the Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, the earth's warmest period was during the Holocene epoch. This period is dated from about 5,000to 3,000 BC. During this time average global temperatures were 1 to 2°celsius warmer than they are today. We survived.

All we can be sure of is that the climate is changing and something must be done. My modest proposal for saving the world is that we nationalise Skidmore's Island. Instead of fighting climate change we adapt to it. Let us redesign the United Kingdom. The first ten miles of the coastal area will be designated as a nature reserve and no building of any kind permitted on it. The next island band will be high carbon producing factories, office buildings etc. Within that will be a band of hospitals, old people's colonies and leisure centres. Residential accommodation will be limited to the high ground in the centre of the island, far away from the dangers of flooding .