My next job is in radio or rock music

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The Independent Online
If you want to wallow in obscurity for the rest of your life, don't get mentioned in this column. Sometime last year, I described Bo Walton as being a Herefordian youngster who looks good, in a lean, muscular, chiselled, yet quite cuddly sort of way. I have since wondered if my assessment was quite right. After all, my admiration of Bo may flow from his being young and slim: these are things I have left behind and seeing them in others makes me a bit wobbly in my judgement.

But I find my view passes a tougher test. The other day I was with Bo in a chic little flower shop in one of the few medieval alleys left in the town, and a thirty or perhaps fortysomething woman customer breezed in and did a double take. 'My goodness, you are good-looking,' she said to the boy. Bo didn't blink, blush or bridle. I think the boy is tailor-made to handle the admiration he will probably increasingly garner. I bet that when Gloria Hunniford has him on her show (I would lay fair money the event will happen before the year is out), she will coo at him in fine old style and he will still be a nice fellow.

Mind you, I am worried that he now carries a portable phone in the pocket of his designer reefer coat. I want one myself, of course, but I think a country and western singer-songwriter such as Bo should remember he is giving us the white man's blues. This music is about failure and heartbreak, and where it is about competences they are of a cowboy or romantic, certainly not a bureaucratic, kind.

Still, this phone affectation is the merest falter on what has been and will, I hope, continue to be a steady progress. A couple of years ago, Bo was a chicken plucker (or some such) at Sun Valley's poultry meat plant in Hereford. Faxes flurried like chicken feathers in a pillow fight when record company executives read about the lad here on the Gardening Page. In no time, he'd got a record contract with Arista.

Then came news that Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) liked the demo tape that Bo and John David (a colleague of ur-rocker, Dave Edmunds) put together. I have heard a sneak preview of Bo's first album, due out this autumn. It won't do any harm at all that Knopfler is playing on some of the tracks. In the music press, Bo has already been tipped for big things in 1994 by Knopfler's manager and Jonathan King.

I only hope my own demo tape is as effective. Last Friday, BBC Hereford and Worcester needed a guest to fill in before Prunella Scales came on. The station had a press release from the ruthless self-promoters at the Pudlestone Village Garden and Nature Club about my up-coming appearance there. I went into the studio to give a rap about what I was up to. The disc jockey caught the mood nicely when he suggested that Pudlestone might be a nice follow-on from an appearance at Wembley Stadium. Well, of course, I have not done Wembley. But Pudleston does indeed come up the day before I am due to speak at a dinner of the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors (the Binmen, as I call them) at the Hilton in Coventry.

As usual, I have not the smallest idea of what to say at either venue. I told the disc jockey I was thinking of giving them the thesis from my forthcoming tome (The Future of the World: Rediscovering Faith in Progress). And then he said, well, surely living in the blissful countryside rather takes the edge off one's environmentalism? No, I said (and perhaps I should propound this line in my speeches this week): rural life is very worrying ecologically. After all, our electricity has to be cabled miles and miles; our water and sewage respectively arrive and depart only because of immense pumping operations. Our post arrives in a van. Above all, every activity - from shopping to disco-dancing - involves long drives. Cities make far more sense and, I opined, I am looking forward to retiring to one so I can keep warm in the public library and operate as a passive policeman from my window overlooking the street scene.

But I hope we do not have to move yet. This place is still revealing arcane delights. On the bus home from the city I was thinking how much I had enjoyed the show the girls from the Sunday Sport put on in Marilyn's, our biggest disco, the previous Saturday. The audience participation bits were funny, friendly and sexy. I do, by the way, think there might be a huge market for a really exotic soft pornography that couples can enjoy together. I was mulling the forms it might take when the bus stopped at a junction. A fellow passenger leapt up to the driver and said, 'Hold on a minute, mate, I'm just going to pop into the pub here and drag out a pal of mine.' So we all sat there happily, chugging diesel fumes into the square, while the errant toper was detached from his pint and got on the bus to return to his village. Not all the intermittent amiability of the late-night 73 bus in the Smoke can match that sort of service, which is taken for granted here.

I am hunting about for jobs, perhaps in broadcasting. But I am worried that my remarks on the local station will reveal my unfashionably plummy voice. The kids call it snobby, which is unfair. Anyway, I have sent a tape of the encounter to a BBC commissar who is looking for a 'green' voice for the new Radio 5 Live. They say they want a 'tabloid-style' programme. In the environment field the tabloids have been by turns hysterical, scare-mongering and sentimental. Heigh-ho. I am hoping the new show, Ecolive, can instead be lively, irreverent, unorthodox. If to be tabloid is to be brisk, I can promise to be at least as brisk with Greenpeace as with Gummer.

Or I would take a record contract. Perhaps Knopfler could lay a riff or two behind my readings of Larkin, Eliot and Auden? Our poetry gig at the Seven Stars, Ledbury, went terribly well, probably because the landlady - a symphony in tangerine - opened the proceedings with verve. The landlord rousingly closed with Masefield, the local boy.

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