To negate against my erratic attention span, which results in most of my books being bookmarked on page 17, or thereabouts, I’ve recently taken to enjoying literature via the medium of audiobook.
Frank Skinner, Stephen Fry, PG Wodehouse, Bill Bryson and Danny Baker just a few of the writers whose prose’s accompanied my car sojourns around the avenues and highways of Yorkshire. I don’t know how they got in the vehicle, regardless though they’re tremendous travel companions.
The latter a presenter, writer and consummate raconteur*** whose quick fire delivery of highly creative notions I first stumbled upon during an early 1990’s Saturday evening radio show broadcast, on BBC Radio Five (later to become Five Live).
*** – Not to be confused with a raccoon, as a less bright acquaintance of mine once mistakenly posited instead of the word raconteur. Danny Baker is an extremely erudite and talented guy, but I’d venture his ability (and indeed desire) to mimic the Procyon lotor, native to North American, as beyond the Londoner’s skillset.
Baker’s show titled 606, after the broadcasts start time, this audio nugget I serendipitously became acquainted with. This fateful meeting the consequence of being unable to switch off my MW radio while otherwise engaged extinguishing a grill fire. This blaze distraction meaning Radio Five broadcasts continued in chez Strachan’s kitchen after Sports Report handed the live radio baton to the six o’clock news
That minor incident may’ve rendered my wife’s and yours truly’s steaks a little bit more well-done than preferred. However, it mattered not as encountering a show marrying together my two great amours, sport and humour, was akin to locating a broadcasting holy grail for GJ Strachan.
I became an ardent fan of the show, which week after week never failed to entertain. Consequently, my early Saturday evenings in the early 1990’s became the habitual routine of, while my wife bathed and put my young kids to bed, I cooked tea accompanied by 606’s aural freshness under Danny Baker’s watch.
With a bottle or two of San Miguel beer refreshing my palate, I’d wander between cooker, fridge, hob and microwave in our small kitchen/diner preparing a meal for my spouse and I, being royally entertained with a broadcasting format which was pure gold.
What made 606 so listenable was that Baker wanted to avoid his football phone-in becoming a vehicle for whinging capricious fans, wittering about their team losing that afternoon. Instead, his agenda was that he, hold onto your breaches, wanted to entertain – Encouraging listener calls about off the wall football related experiences.
If memory serves me correct, he encouraged calls on diverse events such as ‘Famous footballer they caller had met in Sainsburys’ (footballers wives couldn’t ring in), ‘Funny ref stories’ and a mixture of light hearted occurrences during that afternoons game, be that at any level on the football pyramid. In its earlier iteration, DB also intertwined the calls with classic music tracks,
I don’t recall many calls from back then. Although I do recollect a guy ringing to say the ref in the amateur game he’d played in that day had forgotten his whistle. As a consequence the official was forced to spend the game signalling infringements by striking a spoon onto metal drinks tray, which he’d borrowed from the club’s bar.
If memory serves me correct, another guy rang to say he’d hoofed the ball out during his amateur game. Unbeknown to him it hit his watching wife in the face, so he got a surprise when he got home to witness his missus with the resultant shiner.
I don’t know if these stories were true, but it didn’t really matter as they painted gloriously funny images in my then less cynical twentysomething mind.
When Danny Baker left the show after a few years of this uniquely formatted frivolity, under a series of other hosts, including MP David Mellor, 606 went from great entertainment to just another vehicle for fickle fans to lambast their teams.
Callers with very little idea about the game chatting to Mellor, now a Chelsea fan after many winters previously supporting Fulham. To my mind, switching team allegiance the most treacherous point imaginable on a football fans moral compass.
Anyhow, the reason I’ve been meandering fondly along route 606 is, as alluded to earlier, among the audiobooks savoured was Danny Baker’s second in a trilogy of autobiographies, titled ‘Going Off Alarming’.
This an aural gem containing hilarious, sometime fantastical, existential anecdotes enhanced by the effervescent delivery of former presenter DB. Among these yarns Carry On actor Kenneth Williams part in securing a new home, his dog Twizzle’s return for the dead, the inception of the aforementioned 606 on BBC Radio Five, classic tales of his forthright old man and late comedian Tommy Cooper’s ability to render him helpless with laughter without even speaking.
As with his Cradle to the Stage tour, which I was lucky enough to see in York in 2017 (see signed programme above), the audiobook is great, great entertainment. Danny Baker’s delivery adding significantly to already whimsical anecdotes.
If you buy only one audiobook this year buy ‘Going Off Alarming’. Or if you want to push the boat (or sieve) out, get the other two journals in the trilogy ‘Going To Boat in a Sieve’ and ‘Going on the Turn’. My reverence of Mr Baker’s art may seem overly servile and gushing. Yours truly makes no apologies for my deference, though, as far as I’m concerned I seek to give credit where credit’s due!
If laughter isn’t for your bag, I’d recommend David Mellor’s book ‘Mind the Gap’…… Or, I would if it existed.