Jan Leeming Blog

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

BBC SALARIES

Date: 20th July 2017

 

Yesterday I was asked to join the ITV Breakfast programme and had I not been on the TGV to Avignon would  like to have accepted the invitation to clear up some misconceptions about the gargantuan salaries paid to some - a very few - who work in television.

For years I’ve suffered from the public perception that, because I worked in Television and with a relatively high profile, I must be rich. Far from it. Now, I suppose that misconception will be more prevalent.

I know it was 30 years ago but even so I’d have earned far more had I been a PA to a CEO in a job carrying a pension. I’d already been working in television for 15 years when I was ‘lent’ by BBC Radio to BBC Television News. I say lent because I was on a Staff Contract with Radio which gave me a certain degree of security. I don’t know if it still exists but there were 3 tiers of employment within the BBC - Staff carrying a Pension and with job security, Staff Contract with less security but still carrying a pension and Contract - with no security, no pension and the fear that one could be got rid of at a moment’s notice on the whim of a producer. I remember the PR man telling me that if I wanted the job I would need to sacrifice my Staff Contract and go completely Freelance.

So today’s ‘Stars’ are earning millions and though it is contrary to the ethos of what was envisaged when the Public Broadcasting Company was set up, that is the way of the world and though it is funded by the Licence Fee, the BBC seems to be in a ratings war with ITV and hence pays these eye watering salaries to keep their ‘stars’ in golden handcuffs.

When I transferred from BBC Radio to BBC TV News in 1981 I was paid the princely sum of £10,000 and for the first year a wardrobe allowance of £500. Over seven years and reaching audiences of over 14 million, my salary rose to the dizzying heights of £23,500 and still NO pension. 

I would have loved the security of a staff job but the bosses want the ability to hire and fire at will and very often, despite the viewing figures, the new boss sweeps clean and the ‘baby goes out with the bath water’.

Being a cautious Capricorn, every time I had any spare cash it was ploughed into the Equitable Pension Fund and we all know what happened to that - it went Belly Up and despite fighting them for 5 years I ended up with half the pension I should have received and I can assure you that was in single figures.

As for discrimination and the pay gap between the men and the women - it was ever thus. When working on ‘Pebble Mill at One’ in the late 70’s my colleague Marian Foster and I discovered that not only were the three male members of the team paid nearly twice as much as we were but they were also getting living expenses (we were having to fund our living away from home out of our own income - £6,000! ). As a united front of two we approached the Editor of the programme and I shall never forget his response ‘Ladies, if you don’t like it, there is the door’. We were doing a job many people would kill for and basically he knew he could easily replace us.

In TV News I was well aware that my male colleagues were paid a great deal more than I was but I wanted the job and had to accept the rather adverse terms. And in my day, we were prohibited form doing most outside work which would have proved lucrative.

Although the ‘Stars’ today earn eye watering sums, there are a huge number of ‘bottom feeders’ who are getting nowhere even remotely near what the high flyers are earning. And even when we do record programmes we are paid comparatively small fees and have to sign a form giving the Production Company for the BBC or ITV total rights to the programme without any residuals.

All that being said, and despite the insecurity, working in television as a reporter, interviewer and presenter has brought me great satisfaction, has enabled me to meet and talk with some fascinating people, and, apart from often being nervous before an interview, I’ve always looked forward to the next day. We spend so much of our lives working - what more could a man or woman ask. It is and continues to be a privilege to be part of the Television Industry.

When a member of the public greets me warmly and expresses gratitude for the pleasure of a performance they’ve watched, I feel humbled and blessed.

I’ve never even remotely earned the kind of money sloshing around in the industry today, but I’ve had an interesting and varied career and, at a time when I thought I’d have to ‘put my feet up’ I’m still working. Aren’t I lucky.
 

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BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL DAY

Date: 9th July 2017

Battle of Britain Memorial Day at Capel le Ferne.

Can't believe that this was my tenth BOB Memorial Day.  The weather couldn't have been better but sadly we only had one Veteran in attendance - Wing Commander Paul Farnes.  A few more Vets are still with us but too fragile to make the journey to Capel.  We've been losing the veterans at a rapid rate and I think back to the first Memorial Day I attended in 2007 and then there were 25 Veterans laying wreaths around the Pilot who sits at the Memorial looking out to sea and to France.

So much has happened in the intervening ten years - possibly one of the most exciting being my research into and making of a documentary on Squadron Ldr.  René Mouchotte, the first name I sponsored on the Foxley Norris Memorial Wall.  I chose a French name because of my French ancestry and what a wonderful world of research opened up before me.  It took six long years to get anyone interested in making a programme and then it was only a 15 minute documentary for BBC South East but it was better than nothing.  There is so much material on René and his family that I could easily have made a 1 hour documentary without having to pad it out at all.

Because of my work on René and support for the BOB Memorial Trust, I was given membership of the RAF Club - an honour of which I am very proud.  My work also led to an association with the Allied Air Forces Museum at Elvington near York of which I am a Vice President.  That in turn has led to much involvement with the French and I've been thrilled to have been invited for the last four years to the Bastille Day Celebrations at the French Ambassador's Residence in London - a great occasion.  The French certainly know how to throw a party.

On BOB Memorial Day with Paul Farnes the only Vet in attendance this year who celebrated his 99th Birthday on 16th July

BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL DAY

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GINA FRATINI - R.I.P.

Date: 17th June 2017

 

In the 70’s I worked for HTV in Bristol and had my own programme called ‘Women Only’ (not sure that would be allowed now in our politically correct world) although we did have male interviewers working with us. We entertained some fascinating guests on the programme and one of them was Gina Fratini the Fashion Designer. Her creations were pure Romance - she made the wedding dress for Princess Anne, dressed many famous people including Liz Taylor and Joan Collins and refused to work in anything other than pure fabrics her particular love being silk for its flowing quality.

I was already buying Gina designs when the budget allowed (my budget - I’ve always had to buy my own wardrobe- again different from today) and then I came to interview her and still have the programme which I transferred from tape to DVD. The producer allowed us to devote the whole programme to Silk looking at aspects of this fine material from the Silk Road, through the silkworm to Gina’s lovely creations. With absolutely no prompting, Gina invited me to buy from her at wholesale prices so I was able to indulge my love for her clothes particularly evening wear. During my newsreading years for the BBC I was invited to all manner of delightful functions which required evening dress. I wish I’d been able to keep all the Gina’s I bought over the years but I still have a few which I can still get into- just about!

One which I’ve never been able to let go was a gorgeously romantic and floaty design in graded silk. Mine was pink and I know that Anita Harris had the same design in Blue because she wore it on Television and then much later I learned that Liz Taylor married Richard Burton for the second time on a beach wearing the Gina in a green hue.

For many years Gina was a lovely acquaintance and then she shut her salon and we were reduced to Christmas cards. She left the UK to go and live with an old love, Tony Newley and we lost touch. I’ve often thought about her - she was as lovely in nature as were her designs. She had the sweetest of smiles, almost beatific and the loveliest voice.

I wish we’d not lost touch but that is the way of the world. A close friend of hers was kind enough to email me with the sad news that she had died. So R.I.P. lovely Gina and, if there is a heaven, hopefully you will meet up with your loved ones.

The same friend sent me a link to a short video they made for Gina. In it I saw several of the designs I had the delight and honour to purchase and wear. Here’s the link  

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=em-subs_digest&v=yu1iYcXALqc

And this is the dress.  Sadly, in the old days people smoked and unforgivably 'on the dance floor' so the lovely floating sleeves got burns and had to be shortened but it is still a gorgeous outfit.This photo was taken in 2011 by professional photographer - Alan Ollie - not only a super photographer but great to work with.

GINA FRATINI - R.I.P.

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TV PROGRAMMES - THE LOCH, FEARLESS & THE FULL MONTY

Date: 17th June 2017

RECENT TV - THE LOCH, FEARLESS, THE FULL MONTY

As I had a busy week, had to record these three programmes.

Just as well I recorded The Loch because although I found it gripping, I also found it necessary to re-run some of the dialogue as much as 4 times as I was unable to get subtitles but maybe that was because I’d recorded the programme originally without them assuming that as it was in 'my language' I wouldn't need them.

One’s ears have to become familiar with accents and when you only get one shot at it, it can be very frustrating. We not only have much more regional accent TV but we also have a new school of ‘mumble’. Marlon Brando got away with it because he was Marlon Brando. Apart from his sex appeal I never liked his acting because for much of the time he was unintelligible.

Fearless had me on the edge of my seat and the only reason I knew Emma Banville, the lawyer, would not meet a nasty end, was because we need her for another 5 episodes.

And finally - The Full Monty. At one and a half hours, just a tad too long but highly enjoyable. What a great thing to do - these well known guys taking everything off to promote the cause of Prostate Cancer. If caught early, this cancer is curable but if left it is a killer.
My son had testicular cancer 10 years ago and I have to thank the programme Hollyoaks for him ‘having a feel’ and doing something about it. The theme of the episode which Jonathan watched was Testicular Cancer and it spurred him to make a check. He had to have surgery and has to be checked every year but who knows what would have happened had he not watched the programme. We then both supported Orchid which is a purely male Cancer Charity dealing with testicular, prostate and penile cancers.

So well done to Alexander Armstrong who came up with the concept and Bless you to all the chaps who took part - a very brave thing to do. 

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UP, UP AND AWAY - Trip on a Microlight

Date: 17th June 2017

On Wednesday I was incredibly fortunate to be taken by a friend for a Microlight flight over part of Kent.  I've done most things - flown with the Red Arrows, the Blades, in helicopters including a Chinook; I've wingwalked and travelled in many small aircraft; was 'thrown' out of an aircraft at 14,000 feet in a Tandem jump during my sojourn in the Rainforest on 'I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of here .......' but microlighting was not something I've experienced.

Obviously the weather conditions have to be correct and it was a beautifully sunny day with the right amount (or the acceptable amount) of wind.  We took off from an old WW1 Airstrip hidden in the countryside near Sandwich with sheep grazing just yards from the strip.  I was excited and not afraid because I know that if the engine fails, the pilot is able to glide to a safe landing.  

(Years ago when I was married to the love of my life who owned a motorised glider, we went to Cornwall to see friends.  I'm glad to say that Eric took both Jack and Cecily, separately, up in the glider for an experience they were not likely to forget.  On our way home the engine went silent, Eric went white and I said my prayers.  We had actually passed over some factory which was belting out polllution and something had happened to affect the air going into the engine.  We lost height rapidly but after clearing the factory airspace the engine kicked into life again.  However, I learned that day, that we'd probably have been perfectly okay as a glider does what it says and it glides.  Eric was ex RAF, an aerobatic pilot, and knew full well how to handle any emergency.)

I was able to take some good photos as we flew over Deal and Walmer Castles, Dover Castle and the spot where Bleriot landed in 1909, Capel le Ferne with it's Battle of Britain Memorial, Bodiam Castle and back close to Canterbury Cathedral.  It's quite difficult to get a fix and take a decent photo because you are travelling relatively fast.  However the photos of Canterbury Cathedral really excited the Press Office and they asked for permission to use them.

It was interesting that, though it was a sunny day, I could see in the distance West of our flight path a 'band of darkness' which I thought was pollution.  I later realised it was probably pollution over London exacerbated by that terrible fire.  I cannot even write down my feelings.  If it is true that the company which refurbished and used non-fireproof cladding to save money, then they should be charged with Corporate Manslaughter and serve time in prison.  I also think their assets should be frozen and used towards re-housing and helping in every possible way those poor folk who lived in the Tower Block.

But onto more pleasant memories and though I've dozens of fab photos from my lovely flight, I thought I'd better post the one I took of our fanatastic local - Canterbury Cathedral.

UP, UP AND AWAY - Trip on a Microlight

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CROATIA AND THE MAKARSKA RIVIERA- JUST YOU SINGLES HOLIDAYS

Date: 11th June 2017

ZADAR http://www.justyou.co.uk

Continuing in my proud role as Ambassador for Just You Singles Holiday, the latest adventure was short haul to Croatia and the Makarska Riviera.    As always it was a packed and delightful itinerary.

We had an early evening flight, landing at Split Airport at dusk followed by a 2 hour coach trip to a village near Zadar.  The journey was taken in the dark so it wasn’t until the next morning that we woke to the beauty of Croatia - a mountainous country clinging to a sea dotted with many islands both large and small.

Our first trip was a short one to Zadar itself, heavily bombed in WW2. They say it is an ill wind which blows nobody any good and during the clearing up after the war they discovered a Roman Forum in front of the 9th Century Pre-Romanesque Church of St. Donatus. The church itself shows many signs of having been constructed using much ‘debris’ from Roman times so there’s nothing new about re-cycling.

We were taken to the Sea Organ of Zadar - a construction of pipes under the sea where wind and waves play a tune according to Mother Nature. The day was dull, damp and windy and apparently ideal conditions to hear the Sea Organ. Indeed, some of us returned later in the day to see the Hotel in which Hitchcock apparently got his inspiration for ‘The Birds’ and as it was now sunny and windless, there was no ‘music’.

I am an Assistant at Canterbury Cathedral and always interested in any connections with St. Thomas Becket. In Zadar the Cathedral of St. Anastasia was visited by Pope Alexander 111 who ordered the Canonisation of Thomas Becket and his visit is marked by a plaque. Croatia is a predominantly Catholic Country so Cathedrals and Churches abound.

We had free time and I chose to visit the small Museum run by a Benedictine Order of Nuns. Benedictine Orders are usually enclosed but this one was certainly different. The nuns hid the Church Treasures in the Belfry during WW2 knowing that Airmen used it as a landmark and that it would probably not be destroyed. Possibly in thanksgiving for this, the Pope gave them dispensations and they are allowed to mix with the public. One nun, who spoke excellent English, was explaining the story of the treasures and afterwards I commented that her habit was the same as that worn by the nuns who taught me - the Daughters of Jesus. One of our group then asked which Convent I attended and when I replied “Abbey Wood’ she said she too had been to that school. We didn’t actually meet at school because I left the year she joined the sixth form but how surprising to have that kind of meeting far from home. We compared notes and names and she told me that our headmistress, Mother Dominic, had been killed in a car crash at Sevenoaks in Kent.

Croatian Wine is extremely palatable and is probably not exported because it's all drunk by the thirsty tourists!  After lunch we visited one of the many wineries in Croatia and tasted four of their offerings.

Our Tour Manager was a totally delightful gentle giant called Alen and like other Tour Managers with Just You, he always had additional information to give us added on to what the official guides told us. During our trip, all the guides spoke exceptionally good English - better than that spoken by so many at home. I visited a Grammar School in Split 20 years ago and was astonished at the superb grammatically correct English they spoke - but then they are taught Grammar properly which is very often not the case in our own Country.

Cathedral of St. Anastasia

CROATIA  AND THE MAKARSKA RIVIERA- JUST YOU SINGLES HOLIDAYS

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CROATIA - THE KRKA NATIONAL PARK

Date: 10th June 2017

THE KRKA NATIONAL PARK http://www.justyouholidays.co.uk

This trip was an optional. Could have had a day on the beach or by the pool but wanted to get as much as possible a flavour of Croatia.

It was a long coach journey but we passed through some superb scenery, often framed by mountains. Although there were several relatively young women on the trip (40’s and 50’s) for the more ‘long in the tooth’ comfort stops are always part of the itinerary - very important as we age!

I knew there was a spectacular Waterfall in the Park but had no idea that we’d be on a boardwalk with small waterfalls everywhere we looked. We had the additional good fortune that it had rained heavily in the night so the waters were swollen and feeding all the tributaries.

We also visited a Living Museum comprising a set of stone houses which once housed wool workers. They had different methods of washing the various grades of wool defining whether the end result would be fine or coarse weave. The waters were also used to power a set of very large mill wheels.

I can only put one photo into each blog and have a very busy week ahead but will try and make time to put more photos into the gallery for you. Meanwhile, this is one of the picturesque smaller waterfalls in the National Park.

CROATIA - THE KRKA NATIONAL PARK

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SPLIT

Date: 9th June 2017

SPLIT AND THE DIOCLETIAN PALACE http://www.justyouholidays.co.uk

Twenty years ago I visited Split and was very taken with the Diocletian Palace and very keen to see it again.

It is an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD. Today it forms about half the old town of Split. It’s called a "palace" because Diocletian intended is as his retirement residence but the structure is massive and more resembles a large fortress: about half of it was for Diocletian's personal use, and the rest housed the military garrison.

As always with Just You, we had an excellent guide. Since my last visit much more of the Palace has been excavated and our guide took us on a walk through the ‘subterranean’ rooms. Later than Roman times, the inhabitants of the houses above used to throw their rubbish down holes into the ‘basement’ and the build up of detritus when removed  has actually saved these large rooms which were fascinating to walk around.

The main meeting place in Split is the Peristyle which formed the northern access to the imperial apartments. It also gave access to Diocletian's mausoleum on the east (now Cathedral of St. Domnius) and the Belfry with 366 steps up which I climbed! Not sure how much longer I’ll be able to do feats like that so I’m going for it whilst I can.

The Palace is built of white local limestone and marble of high quality, most of which was from quarries on the island of Brac. The Palace was decorated with numerous 3500-year-old granite sphinxes, originating from the site of Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III. Only three have survived the centuries. One is still on the Peristyle, the second sits headless in front of Jupiter's temple, and a third is in the city museum.

One of the four walls is right by the ocean with a wide and  lovely boulevard filled with cafés and flower beds. (The Walls are still pockmarked from the War in the 90’s)

Split has much improved as a venue in the twenty years since I first visited but the tourist numbers have also increased dramatically. One element was missing. On my first visit there were many black-clad widows sitting crocheting the most superb place mats and table coverings costing relatively little. Today there are none. When I commented on this fact to an old lady in a shop, she told me she also knew how to do this work but it was now too time consuming and there are other ways to make a living. I shall treasure my place mats even more now as part of a dying heritage.

It was a very hot and sunny day and I got some lovely panoramic views from the top of the Belfry.


 

SPLIT

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CROATIAN ISLANDS OF HVAR AND BRAC

Date: 8th June 2017

HVAR AND BRAC ISLANDS http://www.justyouholidays.co.uk

We had a lovely walk along the promenade to the small Harbour in Tucepi where we boarded a boat for the 2 hour trip to the island of Hvar. I’m not the best sailor in the world but the day was idyllic - sunny with gloriously still seas.

Hvar has one of the smallest natural harbours you are ever likely to encounter and we were only there for a brief stop before continuing on to the larger island of Brac.

We were to have lunch on the journey between the islands and we’d pre-ordered with most of us having mackerel served up with the Captain’s home made wine - well that is what our lovely Tour Guide told us. Mind you he did say that you could drink and drink and never get a headache because it was naturally harvested and didn’t contain sulphites which are in most wines these days - and that’s what gives you the hangover not the grape juice! I did not test the theory.

We were followed by a flotilla of seagulls eager to grab the remains of our lunch and my goodness did they swoop and grab but they looked magnificent.

By the time we reached Brac, the weather had changed totally and rain was threatened. Despite this, some of us were determined to get our swimsuits wet - mind you it rained so hard we could have just stood in it to get them wet. But at least I can say I’ve swum in the Adriatic.

The sunny part of the journey - with Bridget and Lani

CROATIAN ISLANDS OF HVAR AND BRAC

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DUBROVNIK

Date: 8th June 2017

DUBROVNIK http://www.justyouholidays.co.uk

We had a long coach trip to Dubrovnik from Tucepi but the scenery was superb. We must have spent nearly an hour each way crossing the border into Bosnia and then back into Croatia.

Dubrovnik was founded in the 6th century and after being a part of various empires, back in the 14th century, Dubrovnik became the capital of the Dubrovnik Republic which was one the most important mercantile and maritime centres on the Mediterranean. The town was destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1667 which killed more than 5000 people. The Republic was dissolved by Napoleon in 1808 and in 1815 Dubrovnik became a part of Dalmatia and Croatia. Since 1979 Dubrovnik is on the Croatia UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Sadly in the Bosnian War of the 1990’s Dubrovnik was heavily bombed but being a WHS it was quickly repaired. Obviously not much of the original building is extant but they’ve done a very good job of bringing it back to roughly how it would have looked centuries ago. It is a totally walled town/fortress jutting out into the Sea. As always our guide was excellent.

It was one of the two hot days we had during the holiday and the heat reflected off the limestone paving - although it is limestone it has been worn and polished and looks like marble. We visited an old Franciscan Monastery, the oldest Pharmacy in Europe, and the Cathedral but were unable to go inside the Church of St. Blaise who is the Patron Saint of Throats. As I was coming down with a cold, I thought he might be able to help!

I love legends and that of St. Blaise is very interesting. He was the bishop of Sebaste, Armenia, in the early fourth century. He was imprisoned and later martyred for the faith. Saint Blaise was known for his ability to heal both people and animals. Tradition says that a mother brought her son, who was choking to death on a fishbone, to the bishop. The bishop then healed the boy. When St. Blaise was being taken to prison, he encountered a poor woman whose pig had been taken by a wolf. At St. Blaise’s command, the wolf brought back the pig unharmed. The woman is said to have brought St. Blaise food and candles while he was in prison.

We had free time and as it was so hot in the main thoroughfare, some of us slipped away and had a great lunch in one of the narrow back lanes which rise at a precipitous angle from the main thoroughfare.  We were actually sitting on a slope.  My companions decided to walk the city walls but I needed to write a script and make a small video for Just You so I was able to make that the excuse for not going with them.

During the period when Dubrovnik was part of Yugoslavia, it was a very popular holiday destination called ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’. It’s been through much but has reclaimed it’s place as a holiday destination as witnessed by the crowds of tourists. It was a very beautiful city and well worth the time it took to get there. 

Cloisters in Old Franciscan Monastery

DUBROVNIK

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