The star who gazes down upon his fans

Adrian Nicholas, Capital Radio's Flying Eye, has become a hero for the traffic jammed. Jon Ronson got high with him For Adrian, locomotion is everything. When he describes a tailback, the pain an d empathy in his voice are palpable
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Wednesday morning, Capital Radio. A seemingly endless stream of celebrities wander through the reception - smiling game-show hosts, alluring television personalities. A red-cheeked young woman crouches silently in the corner, clutching a camera and an autograph book. Oddly, though, she appears wholly indifferent to all the glamour striding past. Even when Chris Tarrant waves her a cheery hello, she barely glances up from the photograph album she earnestly examines. When I crane over her shoulder to study the album more fully, I see that every picture on every page is of the same person: a tall young man with curly blonde hair and pop-star good looks. He is Adrian Nicholas, Capital Radio's "Flying Eye in the Sky" traffic and travel correspondent. Soon he appears in the reception, and the woman springs into action. She lurches towards him, thrusting a note into his hand. Then she takes three photographs, stammers a hello, and chases him out to his car.

"You won't believe this," she yells, "but it'll be a year in June. A year since I first met you. Remember? The Capital roadshow at the Queensway shopping centre?"

"Of course, Margaret," he replies. "Is this note for me?"

"Well, I don't see any other Adrians about," laughs Margaret. "It wouldn't be for Russ! Don't be silly. Of course it's for you."

Even though Adrian has only been the Flying Eye for two years (his co-worker Russ has been at it for almost a decade), his indubitable flair for the job has elevated him to the very apex of the profession. He receives more fan mail, more requests for personal appearances and higher ratings than any Flying Eye before him. What was once a prosaic aspect of Capital drive-time programming is now an essential ingredient of the station's output, and it's all due to Adrian.

A brief perusal of his press biography helps to explain matters. Adrian is an accomplished cave diver, and has achieved the accolade of having a cave in Florida named after him. He snowboards, skydives, wrestles, flies fast jets, and makes personal appearances at nightclubs in Enfield.

"Mentioning no names," he says, "I know some Flying Eyes who don't even like flying." He tuts. "Stupid."

For Adrian, locomotion is everything. He recognises the misery of the traffic jam, the misery of immobility. When you hear him describe a tailback, the pain and the empathy in his voice are palpable. He is the Richard Dimbleby of the Flying Eyes in the Sky. Adrian cares.

"With this job and all my hobbies," he enthuses, as we drive very fast towards Elstree Aerodrome, "I can spend half my life going over 150mph. Sometimes, I look down at all the traffic jams around the Blackwall Tunnel - all those sad people with their boring jobs - and I just know they're looking up at me and thinking: `I'd love to be up in the Flying Eye. I'd love to be up there with Adrian.' You probably think I'm a prat. You probably think I should be committed. Well, hell. You're probably right."

It is not hard to understand, then, why Adrian is the nation's only Flying Eye to be honoured with his very own fan club - founded by Margaret. She painstakingly records every broadcast ("There's a tailback at the Blackwall Tunnel ... roadworks on Putney

Bridge..."), assiduously collates her 2,000 photographs, and produces a fanzine: "Flying High".

In March, Adrian plans to fly to the North Pole, dig a runway out of ice, and skydive through the aurora borealis and into the world's northernmost village. They are expecting him. "I've told them that I'm going to appear from the sky and stay for dinner," he laughs, and then punches the air with his hands, allowing the car to veer perilously close to an impending roundabout.

"Yes!" he yells. "Yes!"

But before all that, there is the relative drudgery of the traffic reports to perform. Adrian will do 10 today, and our plane trip will last two and a half hours. We arrive early, so we head to the aerodrome canteen. Before long, Margaret's fellow fans Bill and Pandora arrive. They'd caught the train to Elstree and walked the four miles to the aerodrome, through the bitter-cold winds and the heavy M1 slipway tailback.

"Hi!" bellows Adrian enthusiastically (Adrian's entire vocal range rests somewhere between an enthusiastic bellow and an elated holler). "Keeping well? Yes? Good show!" And he wanders through the canteen, winking, swapping jokes, posing for photographs.

There is time to kill, and little preparation to do. Adrian never plans his reports in advance, not even the "cheeky" asides to the DJs that are so integral to the broadcasts.

At 4.30pm, the three of us - Adrian, his co-pilot, JR, and me - head towards the four-seater plane, and upwards into the sky.

"Where do you want to go?" Adrian asks me. "We'll take you anywhere. How about Buckingham Palace? Wembley Stadium? You know what looks beautiful from the air, especially at night? Croydon. It glitters like Dallas."

JR agrees with him. "Croydon is beautiful."

Indeed, twilight London looks magnificent from the sky, sparkling silver. We fly low enough to read what's on at the Odeon Leicester Square. We gaze into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, hover over Canary Wharf, circle the dome of St Paul's. Every 15 minutes, Adrian performs his report, gesticulating robustly, punching the air, waving his arms about as if conducting an opera.

"Seven Sisters Road is blocked ... the A2 is terrible as always ... avoid the Blackwall Tunnel".

Among all the silver, we look out for flashes of blue, signs of collisions and mishaps. JR is particularly adept at spotting car crashes and disasters. He was the only pilot to fly over the blazing Windsor Castle ("unfortunately, the camera jammed, or I would have got a great photo"), and he once alerted the police to a fire at Canary Wharf. Sadly, it was a false alarm; the roof of Canary Wharf is perpetually clouded in mist, which looks uncannily like a perilous cloud of fumes. Today, however, there are no accidents to report.

On the ground, Margaret will be diligently taping the broadcast - cutting out all the music - and now Adrian looks even more alive than ever.

"Isn't this fantastic?" he shouts over the engine noise. "But imagine this: imagine if you're standing on the wing, and you just jump. Just fall. Falling through the air. Silence. And then, whaaam! Your parachute opens. I'll die skydiving. It will happen. We all die skydiving, eventually. But it'll be worth it."

Two and a half hours later, we fly back to Elstree. Margaret, Bill and Pandora have already left on their four-mile walk to the station, and Adrian is heading for Enfield, where he is putting in a personal appearance at a local mobile disco.

"I live life to the full," he says, as he drives me to the tube station. "Every minute is precious."

Now, we pull into a traffic jam ourselves.

"Damn," he says. "Oakwood. Always the same. Look at that tailback. All the way to Cockfosters. Damn." And then he whispers to himself: "Wasting time. Wasting time."

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