Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Bright Eyes: A Bushy Tale

Just wanted to say thanks to the friends who pointed out that I made it to number 35 in the “Most Annoying People Of The Year” ,on BBC TV3 last night:


- beating Heather Mills who only managed number 36. If it’s any help, we froze most of the rabbit meat from the rabbit cull on my “vast” country estate and are donating it to charity, and the fur coats we made were sent to Oxfam. Actually we only shot 5 of the little buggers, the other rabbits took the hint and f****d off round to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s place on the real Watership Down, near Newbury, 20 miles to the West of here. I’m sure they’d rather be shot by the man who owns Watership Down than the man who wrote “Bright Eyes”.

The TV people actually invite you on the programme to talk about what an annoying git you are, but you’ll have noticed I was not present in the flesh, having refused to partake, forcing them to use “younger”, better-looking footage of me. (I was even better looking when I was younger; I know it’s hard to believe).

Anyway. Happy New Year.

What a laugh. Pass the 12 bore and the vodka, and some ammo. And some ice. That’s it, I think.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Get Yourself a wife who can mend things.

Christmas isn’t always Christmassy but this year is, at our house because for the first time my 4 kids and two grand daughters are all here. My elder daughters are the mums of the two toddler-girls. If you think I am not old enough to have grandchildren, you are right. I was a child bride when I married for the first time, - and a cradle-snatcher the second time.

So we get up in good time to put the turkey in the Aga, only to discover it has conked out for the first time in 13 years we’ve been at this house. What a bastard.

Julianne, my pulchritudinous next of kin, spent half an hour lying on the kitchen floor with a screwdriver. After she’d finished her cocktail, she set about trying to mend the Aga. I’m not really into technical stuff like hanging pictures and mending Agas, so Jules is the one with a tool kit of her own and a certain Aussie “three wheels on my wagon/never say die, make my bloody day” attitude, useful for times such as these. Luckily we also have an electric oven. Our butcher does four sizes of Turkey: Pathetic, Normal, Huge and Fuck Off. We had a Fuck Off one, so it was going to take 4 hours, and the Aga had thrown a tantrum. Luckily, after a short prayer service in the kitchen and all of us holding hands and thinking lovely thoughts, the pilot light popped on, and the turkey was doomed.

If you’re not married yet, don’t marry one of those pooffy little wives that can’t mend washing machines without calling a bloke and who keep squirting perfume on themselves. Get one like mine, she smells nice without perfume (saving a fortune) can come in from shopping and change into a ball gown and full make-up in five minutes, AND knows how to set the burglar alarm or jump-start the car with those funny red and black wires, which I don’t.

Anyway, so she’s got dinner (lunch) for ten on the table, hot, with everything perfect and all I’ve got to do is carve Horace. I thought I’d give it a name this year. One of my two four-year-old grand daughters throws a fit because the other one has pulled her cracker first, - and is now howling and screaming the place down. She is banished upstairs, by her mum. We’re all trying to ignore it, and ultimately it’s Grandpa Mike who goes upstairs to calm the furrowed brow and coax the unfairly pre-crackered child down to the lunch table.

Now I’m on piano duty. The little kids have both got fairy outfits on (good job they are both girls) and are grand-jete-ing around the front room as I play selections from Coppelia (which they don’t know) and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (which they do). Next year, they are getting tool kits.

Have a great Christmas, you guys. Don’t grumble unless you really deserve to. I’m off to escalate myself to the next level of alcohol poisoning ready for this evening. My son –in-law, Peder and some of the rest of the family enjoy a bit of a jam, so I bet the ukeleles will be coming out.

Don’t forget, - Christmas is when you have to be nicer to each other than usual, so if you feel like kneeing someone in the bollocks, do it with a smile and buy them a drink afterwards.


Postman Batt

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Mozzyman's Restaurant


Places To Eat in Southern Italy – for gourmet Mosquitos


It could be a scene set in any new restaurant. Anton Mozzy, proprieor of Mozzyman’s the smart new place for Mosquitos to visit in Positano, Southern Italy, patiently takes another order as the place fills up to heaving point. Mozzyman has chosen as his location - Mike Batt’s body, asleep at Villa Maura on a hot August night. And it’s a happening place. The clientele includes bog standard Mosquitos, flies and more importantly in terms of cutting edge (and we mean cutting edge in a flesh-tearing way) - some of the top movers and groovers from the new strain of Tiger mosquitos now prevalent on the Italian Riviera.

“I’m afraid we have only two servings of Mike Batt’s left knee, there’s been a run on it” says Anton, to a frustrated group of the Tiger Mosquito in-crowd, - “ but the ear lobe, lightly marinated in sun-tan oil is very popular and full of vitamins. A warm bum cheek salad with mixed leaves complements it very well”

Here's a blog from KATIE

Hi all,

This one is a PIGGYBACK BLOG, - I'm just passing on Katie Melus's latest note that she sent me today and which is now going up on her own site (http://www.katiemelua.com)

'Ere it is..




Hi Everyone,

I'm such a poor 21st century candidate, I haven't done a blog a tweet or even taken a picture of my pet dog for anyone that might be interested. Please accept my apologies. I know I need to catch up on a few things. First of all thank you for all my birthday cards and wishes back in September. I received and read them all and I was so touched by the effort and time you put into them.

Since September, things have been pretty crazy leading up to the studio time and it's now been two weeks since we started recording. Iit’s been suggested that to take small bites of pictures while we're in the studio- (as William does) - as a way of staying in touch. I think I'll try it. Otherwise it's so easy to go underground and stay hidden in the recordings. For some reason the studio we're in and the way the control room and the live room are set out really remind me of the Star Trek Enterprise Star ships. I keep picturing us flying through space and time!

I don't want to talk too much about the album as you'll hear it soon enough but one thing I'm working on at the moment is a song which has so many words but no breathing space and I am totally adamant not to cheat with protools so just now I've been practicing getting my lung capacity to be bigger and get through a whole verse with just one breath. I'm not too far, there are ten lines and I can do seven so far. I'll let you know how I manage!

Ironically I had a small incident with air supply last Saturday. Mike (@Mike_Batt) tweeted about me nearly drowning. I told him about my little "episode" the other day in the studio cafe, when he came to visit and see how it was all going. The incident was all my own fault. What kind of nutter goes scuba diving in December in a lake near Heathrow airport? I did! You see, I'm really keen to get my drysuit diving qualification done. For those of you who don’t know about diving, - people usually dive with a wet suit, which is just like skin. It keeps you warm but you get wet. With a dry suit you stay totally dry, and they're usuful in extreme cold waters. I want to quilify as a drysuit diver so I can fulfil my longtime wish of diving in the Arctic or Antarctic circle and see penguins, whales and ice!

So there I was last weekend shlugging my airtank, BCD and the heaviest rubber suit you've ever seen! One thing I forgot to mention is that your neck is where the drysuit ends so it has to be super tight round you neck. My neck was so small they had to add a rubber band round the opening to make it extra tight! Getting to the water was both extatic because the gear becomes much lighter, - and horrifiyng cause the water is 7 degrees. We swam out to the middle of the lake and when we first descended I was shocked by the icy water hitting my head; it felt like the North Pole in my brain. We reached the bottom which was luckily only 15 meters down.

Once there, we were practicing standard procedure, taking out the regulator from your mouth (your air supply) and replacing it. I don't know what happened, I think I was stressed by the cold, the tight rubber ring round my throat plus the visibility was very poor - the water was pitch black - so I wasn't concentrating. When I tried to replace my regulator I didn't do it properly, so I breathed in and choked on a lungful of water. I tried to stay calm and clear the regulator but I kept choking on water. Because of the pressure, the force and speed at which the water invaded my mouth was such a shock. I did start to panic, especially as you can't go to the surface because of the bends. It was the first time (out of 40 or so dives that I've done) that I had to pull the "out of air" hand signal. Luckily my teacher was right there helping me through my sorry state of horror. She replaced the regulator in my mouth and I managed to summon up the strength to breathe out any tiny bubbles of air to clear the water out of the regulator, and when I next inhaled I finally had some air! Looking back at it now I was such an idiot! There's a button on the regulator that clears the water and it's probably what my teacher used to help me, as well as having it properly in my mouth. I really hope this hasn't put anyone off diving, it's still one of my favourite things in the world to do and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Hope you are well, wherever you are. I’ll try to get some pics and more frequent blogs going from now on!

The new album is scheduled for next May, so we have a busy time ahead.

All the best,


Sunday, 22 November 2009

General Blog on life at Batt Battlements, Nov 2009

Here comes the blog. They used to be called newsletters when I first started doing ’em. It’s quite like making yourself write a diary. I looked back the other day and found the blogs I wrote (in the archive) when I first found Katie. Even before that, when I was forming the Planets. I used to write a proper diary. I’ve got books full of personal diary stuff, but there are huge gaps. One year, I was only writing on email (we had experimental early email computers back in 1982, before fax came in, would you believe) to my then new wife, Julianne. She was in Sydney doing a TV series and I was in London. These people we knew had the very first “web” system, - the earliest internet. We each had a tiny computer and a phone modem that actually fitted over a phone. We used to upload letters to the “mainframe” and download them. You could even be online together and write stuff to keep in touch. One year’s diary is just my printouts of those letters because we wrote to each other every day for six months giving full details of everything including thoughts about events. Then when fax came in, mid eighties, we thought those guys had gone out of business, and suddenly WHAM, back they were! The internet – every home should have one, etc.

Funny old world, innit!

Writing my autobiography. I’ve been writing it for about four years now. Stopped in my tracks a bit by my mate Gary Kemp’s book, - it’s really well written! But just because his is brilliant doesn’t mean mine won’t be OK. They are different I style. His reads like a novel, almost. There’s a conscious effort at good writing. I’m just spilling my brains out, a bit like this now. Trouble is, I’ve written about 80,000 words and I’m only half way through my life to date! Only up to my boat trip around the world. I wish I could take three months off and finish it properly. There are also all sorts of dilemmas about which beans to spill and when to let sleeping dogs lie (just to mix my metaphors for a moment). There certainly are a lot of funny and not-so-funny stories about life trying to make and maintain a living in the music business.

There’s a short extract at my recent POSTMAN BATT blog at: http://tinyurl.com/ygemuru

Katie goes into the studio this week with new big name producer (Not T Bone Burnett as previously announced) – all will be announced in Duke Horse. I’m very excited about her and this producer working together. Also she’s written some great songs either solely or with various co-writers. Can’t wait to hear it finished.

Gurrumul is in town at the moment. Andrew Bowles, our Managing Director, took him record shopping at HMV in Oxford Street on a day off. He’s got really wide tastes (is a huge Cliff Richard fan) – and insisted on paying for all his own records. He is just back from a triumphant TV duet with Sting, on French TV. Germany and now France have taken him to their hearts, just as a large number of UK broadcasters have, and our “gradual” organic marketing of him seems to be working here. He has built up a healthy sales base – not Earth-shattering but respectable, and it keeps growing. His new single “Gurrumul History (I was born blind)” has just been added to the Radio 2 playlist and is out soon.

Florence Rawlings has just finished her thrilling two-month tour of Europe supporting Sir Tom Jones – who was brilliant – (what a voice!) His crew and management were really kind and helpful to Florry, and her band and crew, so if any of you are reading this, thanks! F was also great, (what a voice!) as were the band. Her album, although already available for download, is coming out on CD in the middle of January. The new single is “Love Can Be A Battlefield”, on January 4tth. http://www.florencerawlings.com

We finally finished the art and mastering of my MIKE BATT MUSIC CUBE which is a bit of a collector’s item, being 16 discs (two of which are DVDs) and costing a couple of pence shy of sixty quid. I know it’s a lot but if you divide by sixteen it’s not much per album, and represents a life’s work. My two favourites are ones that haven’t been out before. There’s the orchestral Suite to “Watership Down” and by contrast, an album I’ve compiled and called “The Orinoco Kid” – [Early singles and curiosities] – Starting off with Summertime City, which I’ve never allowed to be re-released since it was in the charts in about 1976 – and going through some rare singles of mine at the time, followed by seven Wombles tracks, - not the obvious ones. That was a fun one to do. There’s more details on this site (I mean my main site, if you’re reading this on MySpace).

Just got back from a 12-day stint at a great spa-detox place in Austria. There’s no caffeine or alcohol there, and they feed you very small amounts of nice but medically supervised food, and you learn all about the importance of chewing food and stuff like that. I came away feeling great. Trying to keep up the regime now I’m back.

The Ergo movie is going from strength to strength. We have our first two virtual (CG) models made and rigged ready for animation – Elsie and Ergo. The first animation tests on Ergo look great. I’ve been tinkering with the script but now I think we are ready to record the character voices and start storyboarding. It’s a really fun project to work on, and we have a small but great team of people working on it.

Well, that was more of a NEWSLETTER than a blog, really. If there’s a difference. If not, it was just as much a newsletter as a blog. Whatever it was, it’s the end of it now, so stay cool, boogie down, mind the fleas don’t bite and get well soon. (If you are ill, which I hope you aren’t).

Peace and Love


Saturday, 21 November 2009

Katie Melua made me think about the Bay Of Pigs

Katie, (Melua) has just written a song with Guy Chambers, -called “Here Comes The Flood”, for her new album. The week after it was finished the UK is now flooded – apparently the most rain we’ve had in a thousand years. I hope she and Guy don’t write about a nuclear war. That reminds me of the Cuba “Bay of Pigs” missile crisis.
– forgive me quoting my own as-yet unpublished (unfinished) autobiography:

“Then we moved to Bradford. By now my Dad was “Chief Assistant” at the engineer’s department. Which meant he was a chief, but also that he was still an assistant. His job was involved with sewage. He had a trench coat and wellies and would often be called out in the night to go walking through sewers, which basically meant walking through shit. We lived on the edge of the posh district of Heaton, near Manningham Lane. I took the 11 plus exam in Bradford, and apparently surprised my parents by passing it. I got to go to Belle View Boys’ School on Manningham Lane, where John had already been for two years. It was an old, Victorian style school, noted for the fact that J B Priestly had gone there. Not that we knew who the fuck he was.

We played a lot of war games, killing Germans in the park with hockey sticks as machine guns, shouting ak-ak-ak-ak-ak. We learned to roller skate at 40 miles an hour down Emm Lane and just save ourselves from falling under the wheels of lorries and busses by doing a rapid 90 degree turn on Manningham Lane.

The Bay Of Pigs crisis happened while we were in Bradford and we all really thought we were about to be wiped out by a nuclear war. I was annoyed that I was probably going to die before ever having sex (preferably with either Janet Williamson or Allison Peebles from school, neither of whom had ever shown more than a coquettishly rejective interest in me, but for whom I had got the cane for chasing in the school playground at age eleven). Kennedy and Kruschev faced each other across the world stage and played the ultimate game of brinksmanship as Russian warships headed towards Cuba under threat of nuclear retaliation from America. My 13 year-old brother John worked out that the nearest target town would probably be Leeds and that the blast would come from there. We took over the cellar of our house without telling our parents and accumulated a hoard of tinned food, stolen, tin by tin, from the larder. We hoarded blankets, torches, maps, clothing, food, drink and a radio. We were ready, so that if it happened, we would be able to offer our parents a solution.
After the crisis was over, it was in Bradford that I “remember where I was” when president Kennedy was assassinated. I was at home at 7, Marriner’s Drive, Heaton, and we grew up overnight watching the reality of it all.”

I suppose quoting bits from a previously written account is a slightly lazy way to do a blog, but the I am feeling slightly lazy today. It is Saturday after all. For those expecting a funny story like http://tinyurl.com/l83nf7 or http://tinyurl.com/ygcyawg sorry to disappoint. I WILL be writing a new “newsletter” (which is what we called blogs when I started writing them, many years ago - when I started my website),for my main site http://www.mikebatt.com later today. All my blogs going back years are archived there, for those with time to kill.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

How To Have Fun Without Any Clothes On

You know when you are in a hotel room, you can see the crack of light under the bathroom door? Always useful for finding it in the dark, especially when you are in a different hotel every night, as is often the case for me these days. I was on tour with Katie Melua, and we were in York. I got up for a wee in the middle of the night, and, using the light under the door as my guiding star, I wandered, half asleep and completely naked, towards the bathroom. Eyes half closed, not very alert, - I opened the door and stepped into the bathroom. Except it wasn’t the bathroom. It was the corridor of the hotel.

Just as I heard the sickeningly final clunk of the door closing behind me I realised the awful truth. I was standing, completely naked, with no key, in the brightly lit corridor of this medium-to-posh country hotel. My door was firmly locked behind me. There was not even so much as a magazine or room service napkin lying around to offer me any “cover”.

Luckily, at 4am I was the sole occupant of the corridor. It didn’t take me long to realise that I had only one option. To go down to the hotel reception and see if there was a night porter to let me back into my room. There was. He was sitting at the desk reading a newspaper. I decided that being shy would be more embarrassing than pretending this sort of thing happened quite often, so I just strode up to the desk as nonchalantly as possible, leaned a casual arm on the check-in desk and told the guy I’d accidentally locked myself out of my room. I didn’t need to mention that I was totally, stitchlessly, bollock-naked.

To his great credit he just got up, all stiff upper lip and sang-froid, took the master keys, said “This way, Sir” and led me back up the stairs to my first floor room, let me in and wished me goodnight.

Just thought I’d pass it on. Don’t ever trust that crack of light

Sunday, 27 September 2009


What is it about British Airways tea? How do they get it so black, thick and stewed? As representatives of Britain, they generally do fairly well, but am I the only one who has noticed they can’t make a simple cup of tea? I personally drink my tea with smidge of milk, almost none, and sometimes black. So I’m used to strong tea, but BA tea is evil, stagnant stuff that probably takes the lining off your stomach.

We Britons drink more tea than anyone else, - it’s our national drink, - but when it comes to making a good old British cuppa, BA get nul points.

Maybe they run special courses in “How To Make British Airways Tea”. Maybe there’s a special ingredient apart from tea and water, that you only get told about when you pass your STEWardess or STEWard exam. Why don’t they just give you a tea bag and a mug of hot water so you can dangle the bag to create your perfect colour.

BA passengers of the world, unite! March on their offices, Jam their computers. DEMAND a better cuppa; because you’re worth it.

Here comes a poem WHAT I WROTE about BA Tea. *clears throat*

"The BA Stew"
(Ode to the inadequacy of British Airways Tea)

Maybe we British just hate to complain,
Maybe we’re wary of seeming a pain;
We sit there and suffer again and again,
Yearning for “builders’ brew”
But drinking the BA stew.

What’s going on in that stainless steel jug?
Can’t they just give us a tea bag and mug?
I’d be so grateful I’d give them a hug,
Just for some soothing sips
Of Tetley’s or PG Tips.

Think of the wonders Great Britain has done,
Think of our telescopes aimed at the sun;
Think how the Battle of Britain was won,
(So many owing so few),
But still we drink BA stew!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


A Night In The Wild Woods

Something told me she was lying but I still wanted to believe it was true. “In a quarter of a mile, turn right”. She’d been right many times before, and the prospect of a right turn in a quarter of a mile was normal enough, so despite the unmettalled surface of the road down which she was directing me, I ventured onwards. I was further seduced by the fact that the area is criss-crossed with many equally small, seemingly impassable but metalled roads which DO lead somewhere. There, I’ve given the punch line away. My satnav lady was indeed leading me down a road that led nowhere. Or at least, nowhere from whence I would be returning that evening, or at any time without ropes and shovels.

I looked down to check the little map that was unfolding before me on the satnav screen, bemused that it would choose this route. As I did so (I later found) I omitted to notice and therefore drove past a sign which said “Not suitable for motor vehicles”.

It was dark, and as I drove into the road, I could see that I was driving downwards, through a wooded area. The “road” was getting narrower. It was now a footpath. I thought maybe I should turn back, but the lady said, “In four hundred yards, turn right”. Ok, I thought. She sounded good-looking, which didn’t help. I think I am programmed to obey good-looking women. On I drove. In any case, it was dark, and I was now far enough down this track to realise that reversing out was not an option. Tree roots started appearing to the left and right of me, further narrowing the bridle path which the road had now become. I was now driving with nearside and offside wheels up on the mud bank, in some cases several feet from the ditch below. The canopy of trees was now low enough to scrape my car, and on two occasions I experienced the “holly tree carwash”. By now, all I was hoping was that I could somehow get the Bentley through this ditch and that the woman would not have been lying, - that that the right hand turn that supposedly lay tantalisingly ahead, would indeed exist, and that I could get through this ditch before it became completely impassable. At this most lonely of moments, feeling like Mr Mole lost in the Wild Woods, and now with my nearside wheels in the ditch and my offside wheels six feet up on the mud bank, so that my car was at 45 degrees to the ditch (the ditch itself being too narrow for the Bentley to be driven horizontally) I heard the reassuring, fresh sound of this lovely girl saying “In two hundred yards, turn right”. Yes! So there WAS a turn in two hundred yards! What did it matter if my car was scratched to hell, it was only a car. Only a Bentley. I’d get it re-sprayed. It would be an insurance job, but I’d be free, and home again soon for a pint with my son before closing time.

It was not to be. The little yellow line which followed the little green line on my screen showed me I was nearly at the corner. Possibly with my suspension in a mess and my car needing to be completely rebuilt, but NEARLY AT THE CORNER. I turned right. To my dismay, the road she had promised would be there wasn’t there. I was lodged at 90 degrees across the farm track, with no room behind me, just a high mud bank, two feet of grass in front of me, then a strong stock fence and no way of manouvering because every time I tried, my wheels spun hopelessly. I got out for a good look, leaving the engine running and the lights on, as there was no other lighting in this Nowhere Land. Realising I was completely and hopelessly stuck, I decided that the time had come to make a phone call to a rescue service. Except when I tried to open the driver’s door, it had locked itself. Engine running, lights on, I’m nearly out of petrol and my phone is on the car seat. “Bollocks” was the word that came into my mind first. I’ve had this car for three years, since it was new, and because I’d locked myself out of it before, when I first got it (late for a meeting, stopping to get something out of the boot) I knew there was no way to get into the car other than to break the window. On that first occasion the guys at Bentley had said, “Oh yes, it does that. The only way into the car is to break the window, Sir”. So, knowing there was no point in calling Bentley, - and it was 10pm at night anyway, - I looked around for something heavy that I could use to smash the window. A large log seemed promising, but after slamming it against the offside passenger window three or for times, I gave up. There now seemed no option but to walk back up the quarter of a mile ditch, leaving the engine running and the lights on, but at least the car was locked.

So I began my journey up through the pitch-black woodlands, protecting my face with my arms in case of brambles and sticking-out tree branches, using my feet to feel the ground before taking each step. I knew there were some houses at the beginning of the ditch. When I arrived at the “civilised” end of the ditch, I walked into the well-lit, gravelled back yard of the first house and knocked on the window, where I had already been spotted by the occupant, Mr Suspicious, who frankly I don’t blame for deserving his title. Opening the kitchen door just enough to talk to me, he seemed incredulous that anyone could get a vehicle down through the ditch, and I must’ve presented quite an unusual sight, - stressed and filthy, wearing just a shirt and trousers on a cold night. To him, I must have been Mr Potential Axe Murderer. “Didn’t you see the sign saying Not Suitable For Motor Vehicles?” he said. “No, I think I must’ve been looking down at my satnav” I replied. “I’m a member of the AA, would you mind letting me use your phone to call them?” Still acting with extreme suspicion, he looked up the AA in the Yellow Pages and handed be the phone through the three inches of open door.

“Hello, my name is Batt, I’m a member, can you please help?” I said. They couldn’t find me on the system. “Wait a minute, Sir, I’ll search the system”. He put me on hold, and on came Greensleeves or some other non-copyright tune. Then I realised. Shit! I wasn’t a member of the AA, it was the RAC that I was a member of! “Oh damn, I’ve just remembered I’m an RAC member, not an AA member!” I said, realising that Mr Suspicious was now becoming Mr Very Suspicious and I had just become Mr Dickhead as well as Mr Potential Axe Murderer. Nevertheless he looked up the RAC and posted the phone out to me again. “Hello, My name is Michael Batt.” I began.

“Do you have your registration number? Sir?” the guy says. I didn’t. I’ve never known my registration number; it’s never been something I’ve treasured as memorable or interesting. “NO, I’m afraid not, but my car is a quarter of a mile down a drainage ditch in woodlands, I’m locked out of it, the engine is running, the lights are on and I’m running out of petrol do you have me on your system?” I couldn’t help allowing a certain degree of stress and urgency to permeate my delivery.
“Yes, Sir, it’s a black Bentley Arnage T, you are on our system but we can’t help you unless you give me the registration number”. I couldn’t beLIEVE it. “So I have to ring my son, who hasn’t been answering the phone because he’s playing loud rock ‘n’ roll music, try to get him to answer, and then ring you back, while I’m standing in the FREEZING cold outside someone’s kitchen, on a cold night with just a shirt on?” (I made sure Mr Suspicious could hear; he had now been joined by Mrs Suspicious But Seemingly Less So).

“I’m afraid so, -you can call us direct at this office instead of the main RAC number” came the reply.

“Well give me your number then” I said, disgruntled and irritated.

There was a silence. Maybe he hadn’t heard me. “Will you give me your telephone number please?” I said. “Ah! You’ve said ‘please”. In that case I’ll give you the number” came the sanctimonious reply.

“Are you telling me that if I hadn’t said “please” you wouldn’t have given me your number, when I’m a fully paid up RAC member?” I asked, incredulous. “Yes, I am saying that, Sir, I don’t like your tone, and was about to terminate the call”. So the RAC man didn’t like my tone. I hadn’t even said “bloody”, although I had NEARLY said “You nasty little c**t”. I was a little stressed, for sure. I was stuck a quarter of a mile up a ditch and the man wouldn’t help, even though he knew I’ was paid up because I was on his system, but he wouldn’t give me the number because he didn’t like my tone when he told me he wouldn’t help. So anyway, everything’s alright now because I’ve said “please” and got his number. Now I have to try to get through to my house so my 18 year-old son can look up my registration number in the book, or, knowing what a petrol head he is, he probably knows it anyway. Trouble is, he’s playing loud rock ‘n’ roll on his guitar and can’t hear the phone going.

Finally, having explained that I need a hammer to break into the car window, and for another reason I was about to find out, Mr Suspicious suddenly becomes Mr Friendly Samaritan and invites me into the kitchen, something his wife has been silently urging him to do for a while now, by the rolling of eyes and the exchanging of glances. He offers to come with me, with a torch and a hammer, down the quarter of a mile woodland path to the car, to smash the window, switch off the engine and the lights, and get the registration number. I thought at first it was because he fancied the fun of breaking into the Bentley with the hammer. Maybe indeed I should by now have been regarding him as Mr Potential Hammer Murderer. But as we walk like two old friends, down the bit-that-looks-like-a-road-before-you-get-to-the-narrow-bit-where-you-can’t-turn-back, it all becomes clear. He says, “You’re not THE Mike Batt are you, the music bloke”. Ah, so now I know why I’m not still standing shivering outside the kitchen door. “It’s just that my daughter’s a brilliant singer – although I’m biased, being a bit of a proud father! Sings in the Hampshire Youth Choir, you know. Maybe you’d like to listen to her sing? She’s a huge Katie Melua fan, so even an autograph would be great”

We get to the car. Mr Proud Father rubs his chin and agrees I’m stuck. “The neighbours won’t believe this! Pity I don’t have a camera”. I’m thinking, “Thanks Christ he hasn’t got a camera”. I tell him to stand back and protect his eyes while I swing the hammer, and after three blows, it shatters. I reach in, open the driver’s door, switch off the engine, get my phone, write down the registration number and we start back up the ditch towards his house. Now the conversation has become music, how lovely Katie is, what do I think of the charts these days?

Now that I’m no longer Mr Potential Axe Murderer, I’m invited into the kitchen again. By now I’ve decided the RAC can go fuck themselves and we ring the farm near where the vehicle is. The lady is very helpful, but says it’s actually the people next door I should be talking to. I ring the people next door, and the lady tells me it really is rather inconvenient to have a Bentley at the bottom of her garden at 11.30 at night and that her husband has called the police because a lot of stolen cars get burned out in this area. By now I’ve told her that it’s a hell of a lot less inconvenient for her than it is for me, but I thank her for her trouble and I call the police myself, directing them to the address of Mr and Mrs Rather Nice After All. Soon, Police Constable “I Used To Be In The Met But Crime’s Worse Around Here I Can Tell You” arrives in a panda car. I tell him about the RAC. He says,” Would you like me to call our recommended contractor and get him to haul you out – but it’ll cost”. I say yes, just get my bloody car out of that hole, I don’t care any more. The policeman is quite enjoying this job. “Who’d have thought it, an Arnage down there? I can really sympathise”. He calls the garage that they use for this kind of job.

“You’re not THE Mike Batt are you?” says the copper. “Well, yes, I’m afraid so, - it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it” I quip.

Now that the policeman has arrived we get offered the cup of tea that would have been a lifesaver an hour ago, before they realised I was THE Mike Batt. We wait forever for the towing bloke because the policeman has given the wrong address. Mr Nice Bloke After All tells him three times what the address is, as we wait by the gate, - the policeman’s preferred place to wait, so he can have a fag. He’s supposed to be off at midnight but he’ll stay and see this one through, he tells us. He’s obviously dying to see the Bentley in the ditch. By the way, he says, what do I think of the charts these days?

Then the copper gets a call from the towing man saying he’s arrived at the address he’s been given. Mr Nice Bloke After All points out politely for the fifth time that the address was wrong. “Just leave this to me if you don’t mind, Sir” says the policeman, jumping into his panda car and speeding off. Returning HALF AN HOUR later with the towing man who has one MASSIVE recovery vehicle and one big one, driven by his younger pal.

So we walk down the gully again, me, PC Leave It To Me, Mr Nice Bloke After All and the Towing Man.
“I couldn’t get a mini down here, never mind a Bentley,” says the copper. “My four wheel drive couldn’t get down here,” says Mr Towrope. And we are still at the wide bit, - we’ve only walked 20 yards. As we get into the ditch bit, they are saying stuff like “How on Earth did you get a car down here” and “My God, this is going to be expensive!”

We arrive at the car. They are all inwardly delighted but outwardly sad to see that the paintwork is scratched to Hell. I suggest that if only Mr Towrope could get some wood blocks or planks I could drive the car out of the ditch and then do a 27-point turn through a farm gate. But we decide to knock on the door of the farm – which had been invisible to me in the pitch darkness when I had first got stranded. The lady there gets out of bed and came down, and – perhaps because the policeman is still with us, - rather more good naturedly than expected, shows us how, if we can get the car out we can indeed drive it through her neighbour’s field, although it would be a difficult drive partly across a hilly pile of dirt, instead of dismantling her stock fence. “This is the fourth one we’ve had this year, who came up the track because of their satnav” she says. In fact the other three had come the easy way, from the opposite direction, - I was the first person on Earth to drive a Bentley down that ditch from that direction, over those roots and gullies into that Place Of No Apparent Return. Mr Towrope was now becoming Mr I Can Get You Out But It Will Cost You, and saying there was no point putting wood under the back wheels, even though he had plenty of it with him. “You’ve got three tons of car there, mate, you’ll just drive the bits of wood further into the sand”. The fact that the car’s belly was beached on a mud bank, preventing the back of the vehicle from going further downwards, seemed to have escaped him. We’ll need to come back in the morning and bring our big vehicle in and use a block and tackle for this one” he says. “I’ll probably bring my boss for a look, first thing in the morning. Looks expensive, though!” So we thanked the farm lady and walked back up the gully. Mr Nice Bloke After All had already gone to bed by this time, and it had been he who had offered me a lift to Guildford Station, ten minutes’ drive away. So I asked Mr I Can Get You Out But It Will Cost You if he would could drive me, or get his mate to drive me there, - the plan being to reconvene at 11am the next morning. The young guy eventually agreed to take me when I said I’d “buy him a drink”. So off we set, and five minutes into the journey, the radio controller from Mr I Can Get You Out’s company comes on the radio singing “Underground, Overground, Wombling Free”.
“Who’s that?” I ask my young friend driving me. “Our controller” comes the reply. “Well tell him not to give up his day job,” I say. That’s the moment when I resolve to get the car out without the dubious help of these clowns OR the RAC.

At Guildford, I give the young guy twenty quid for his trouble and he drives off, happy. My son and his friend pick me up from the station, and we get home to Farnham at about 2.30am. A quick medicinal beer in the kitchen, a phone call to cancel the tow truck the next day, and I’m in bed by 3am.

Waking at 7am, I have already got a plan. I get the old Land Cruiser out, meet Nigel, our company carpenter down at the shed, and we load up with shovels, rope and wooden duckboards. I call Rosanna, my assistant, who lives over near Guildford, close to the scene of the incident. I ask her not to come directly into work this morning, but to go straight to the scene and sweet-talk the farming neighbours so that our path will be smoother when Nigel and I arrive. In the daylight it doesn’t all seem so terrible. Nigel and I arrive to find that Rosanna has made friends with both farms’ owners. The lady from the night before is a seemingly charming, horsewoman type who makes us tea and tells us that she has a daughter called Rosanna. Nigel, myself and Rosanna start digging away the mud bank so that we can roll the car about six inches backwards onto the wooden boards. Rosanna asks the horse lady if we could possibly borrow a trowel, and spends half an hour lying next to the car digging away the dirt, like an archaeologist looking for old Roman bones. We make a wooden ramp under the back wheels, so that if we can get traction, I’ll be able to drive out into the two feet of space in front of the car, make my 27 point turn drive off to freedom with a hearty “Hi, Ho, Silver!” Which is what happens. One quick turn of the ignition, a foot on the accelerator and the huge engine lifts the vehicle free, and I am able to drive it via the circuitous route through the field and the dirt mountain, up onto the hard standing that leads to the road.

Two days later, my car is returned to me by the local Bentley garage with a clean bill of health. Driving it down the wall of death with two wheels in the ditch has not harmed any of the underbelly or other parts of the car, except to loosen one small clip on one of the exhausts. More surprisingly, they manage to polish all the scratches out.

Funny, I never got a call-out bill from Mr I Can Get You Out But It Will Be Expensive. I’d love to have seen his face when and if he ever came back later that morning to be told that my secretary had dug me out with a trowel.

Mr and Mrs Very Nice After All got a Katie Melua autographed album, and our friendly farmers and tea-making horse-lady and her nice husband got flowers. I am left with a funny story to tell. The satnav company are going to get a piece of my mind; oh, and I’m going to join the AA.