Cummings’ goings: It’s OK to name-drop
PUBLISHED: 16:57 10 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:57 10 March 2014
© Jane Hobson / Alamy
BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings shares some of the colourful anecdotes he acquired from his audience...
I experienced a glamorous few hours the other night which was akin to stepping into the pages of a celebrity magazine. The red carpet was soft and velvety as I sauntered into the venue with lights flashing and champagne flowing.
The venue was a village hall near Cirencester and to be strictly accurate, the flashing lights emanated from my headlights bouncing off the window behind which a bawdy bunch of women awaited my performance! Also, to be precise, it was tea that flowed that night and I made up the bit about the red carpet.
However, let me now take you into the world of the afore-mentioned glamour, gossip and showbiz. I have a long held theory that everyone has a cracking story to tell, experience to share, anecdote to recite. The key is how to unlock these goodies especially from the reticent and from those who wrongly believe their story is not worthy of sharing. On the radio, I’m convinced people enjoy listening to other people’s experiences way more than listening to their opinions. It has always been my job to find effortless ways of weaving these nuggets into my programme.
So back to the village hall on a wet, cold, drab winter’s night and the time had come for the extraction of some little gems. This particular corner of the Cotswolds is a well-known habitat for spotting the rich and famous. I asked my assembled throng for a few examples of unabashed namedropping and after a slowish start, the confidence grew and a flood of tittle-tattle unleashed itself into a torrent of titbits. For security reasons I’ll keep the names of my contributors a secret.
One of my audience told the story of the night. She was playing in a ukulele band in a pub in Ashton Keynes. She had only just joined the band and in the audience was our national treasure, Pam Ayres. Pam, as ever, was lovely. She complimented the band on their performance and followed her praise up on Twitter the next day, giving everyone a great thrill and lifting the profile of the group.
Princess Diana was often spotted in Waitrose and WH Smiths in Cirencester - my favourite story was the one where she told a member of the Stratton WI how well her two sons were developing and confided that William had just learned the art of spitting.
Another tale I was treated to was the moment Liz Hurley had forgotten her credit card number in a local organic farm shop. My storyteller was the one dealing with the purchase and had to gently explain the situation to the actress/model/farmer behind the dark glasses who was eventually persuaded to give her autograph as method of payment. Of course it was a proper method of payment – having to do it the old fashioned way by signing that little slip of paper once the card had been swiped. She left happy with her farm-reared paprika and truffle pork pie.
On the front cover of my imaginary glossy magazine must go a picture of a naked lady and Dom Joly. Why? Because this was the best titbit of the night, literally. One of the most engaging women in the room who had been listening intently to my patter all night had hidden in her past something no one else in the room had heard before. She had decided to pose as a life model as you do, and one night her naked body from her neck down to her waist had been sculpted into a plaster cast model. This had then been put up for sale and to her horror/amusement was bought by, of all people, Dom Joly’s wife!
So somewhere in the Joly household resides her naked form and she is quite inquisitive to know where it is and more importantly how it is being used! She presumes it is now a door stop or possibly somewhere the kids might park their bikes.
• Ofsted or High society magazine ?... You now have an interesting choice about how to research the performance of your local school. You could assiduously thumb through the latest Ofsted report or simply pick up a copy of Tatler magazine. Congratulations to Meysey Hampton primary school near Fairford who have been named in the top ten UK state schools by Tatler.
• Goats’ cheese shocker... How will the foodies in the Cotswolds cope with the news that there is a shortage of goats’ cheese? With rising demand and lower production of goats’ milk, middle England is on the verge of a gastro crisis. What on earth are we going to find to go on our red onion marmalade tarts now? I have done some in-depth research to see if this could be the beginning of a wider catastrophe but thankfully supplies of couscous, olive tapenade and balsamic reductions are still looking quite healthy. [EDITOR’S NOTE: reports from Italy say that due to poor crops the price of risotto rice could soon rise substantially. More middle-class gloom.]
• Say goodbye to Christmas... Despite it being nearly the end of winter I keep finding bits of Christmas all over the house. This happens every year, we take down the decorations before Twelfth Night and then over the following months spot something festive. I still have a festive loo seat cover and numerous wreaths while Clive the camper van still resembles Santa’s grotto.
Don’t get fobbed off
A very strange thing happened to me in a supermarket car park in Cirencester the other day. As I returned to my little Ocean-Blue Golf I zapped my key fob, the car flashed, I got in, placed my three bags of shopping on the back seat and got ready to set off home. Just as I was about to start the car, I had a sense all was not right. Had my wife tidied it? What were the jump leads doing in the footwell? Why was there a copy of Horse and Hounds on the passenger seat?
This was early afternoon on a Monday when my jet lagged phase usually kicks in after an early start. I thought I’d gone totally mad. It was my car, my keys had opened it and it was in the place I’d parked it. I got out and to my horror saw my identical car two spaces away. Obviously my keys had opened the same model so I grabbed my shopping before the owner got back and scarpered.
When I recounted the story on air I was staggered at how people have had the same experience. My favourite story was from Sally in Sharpness. Her family runs a garage business and one day they sent one of their lads off to Berkeley to pick up a Mini and bring it back to have some work done on it. When he came back they were rather astonished to see a yellow Mini arrive on the forecourt when the one they were booked to fix was red! The same key opened and started both cars. He was quickly dispatched to return it and pick up the right one.
However when he got back he had to park it facing the other way round so heaven knows what the owner thought when they returned!
My how you’ve grown!
When I was a little lad we used to go on holiday to Scotland in an old T2 camper van. This was in the late Sixties and I’ll never forget the thrill of stopping off at a motorway café for a well-deserved break and greasy fry-up on our eight-hour epic journey.
This love of the driver’s hard-earned stop off has lived with me ever since. As a football reporter I got to know the UK motorway network well and formed a deep bond with Leicester Forest East, a love-hate relationship with Watford Gap, and a brief flirtation with Membury. Then as a bearded hippy traveller I fell in love with the wonderful pit stop American diners with their burgers, waffles and homemade apple pie seducing you off the Pacific Highway on your way to San Francisco.
When I moved to Gloucestershire I calmed down a bit and settled into a comfortable menage a trois with Strensham and Michaelwood. However, now as I drive along the M5 my heart is beginning to beat a little faster again and the intoxicating flush of anticipation is almost unbearable. Another little beauty is entering my life, The Gloucester Services between 11a and 12 are taking shape with the Northbound services opening later this year. This 40 million pound cheeky minx will be selling locally sourced food, employing over 300 people, and is based on the Westmorland concept at Tebay. You know you’ve embraced middle age when you are quite happy to admit one of the highlights of your year is the opening of a new service station.
This article by Mark Cummings is from the March 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.
Mark can be heard on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am
104.7FM and 1413AM, Stroud 95FM and Cirencester 95.8FM