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Sian LLOYD's column: I'll never forget my teenage Valentine.

Byline: Sian LLOYD

I MUST say,I rather thought Sue Lawley overstepped the mark with Charles Kennedy on Desert Island Discs last week. To be honest,I've always found her a bit frosty,but I felt she went a tad too far in the bad-taste stakes on Radio 4 that Friday morning,going on about his drinking and ``Chat Show Charlie'' image (yawn).I rarely get worked up about these things,but even the dopiest listener couldn't have failed to notice her prickliness and grumpy twist on reality. It really was a case of snap,crackle and take a pop.

I told Charles Kennedy as much when I saw him at a dinner up North in Alnwick that very evening. He,of course, was way too diplomatic to express any real agreement,but pointed out with a chuckle that he rather suspected she wasn't a Lib Dem!

Well,I remain peeved. Desert Island Discs is one of my favourite programmes,and if I was ever invited to appear on it,I'd think:''I've made it! I've arrived!'' It's meant to be a warm tribute to the participants,not a thinly veiled version of Newsnight. So come on Sue,leave the savagery and sneering to the dreadful Anne Robinson,and show your guests the respect they deserve.

The dinner in the lovely market town of Alnwick that night was a tribute to Alan Beith, who's celebrating 30 years as the local MP. Three hundred people had gathered at the town hall, with many more wanting to attend, so it was just as well that the one and only train I could make,for once,did actually get me there in time. Not that I was hungry in the slightest.

At King's Cross station there's a special offer of a half price ginormous block of Galaxy with every magazine. I couldn't resist of course,and had managed to scoff half of it by the time we got to Peterborough. Nor could I refuse the variety packs of British hand baked biscuits brought round with alarming frequency by the ever so attentive GNER attendant. Food was the last thing on my mind by the time I got to picture postcard Alnwick.

Afterwards we zoomed down to Newcastle to spend the night Chez Fells. I first met Professor Ian Fells at one of the infamous `Scientists meet the Media' parties at the Royal Society, years ago,and we hit it off immediately. His wife Hazel is an Oxford maths graduate and can complete the Times crossword faster than anyone I know. She's also a great cook and entertained a big gang of us for lunch on the Saturday.

Ian is Mr Energy Expert in the UK. You'll have seen him pop up on all sorts of news and science programmes. His like- minded friends were on their way down from Edinburgh that Saturday,and up to all sorts of exciting things. Like building wind farms,buying and selling aeroplanes,as well as the odd diamond mine,and in general trying to save the world from carbon dioxide emissions.

One of them has even bought a Karl Lagerfeld designed grand piano, soon to be hoisted by crane up into the top of a six-storey tower he's building in Laughton! Apparently,he's a bit of a whiz kid on the old ivories, to the extent that the resident pianist at the American Bar in the Savoy gives up his seat to him every time he calls by. He's also thrilled that I'm going to be working in his home territory when I go back to Australia over the New Year.

He's going to pass on the contact details of the President of the Welsh Society for Southern Australia,and promises faithfully that the food,folk, wine, weather and scenery,in short EVERYTHING, is way better down South than in jungly quirky Queensland. I'll take his word for it. I'm a Celebrity get me back to Oz -at least the South! -as soon as possible!

Chester was our destination that Saturday night. Lembit was the guest speaker at an MBNA sponsored Tuxedos and Tiaras charity ball for Hope House Hospice at the gorgeous Grosvenor Hotel. Lembit being Lembit,he hadn't actually briefed me on the theme for the evening. I'm convinced he thinks I'm psychic! By pure chance,I was wearing my Chloe tuxedo suit in any case, so that proved a stroke of luck.

From the moment they served my favourite Sauvignon white wine with the goat's cheese starter,I knew it was going to be a good do. Now I know a little bit about Touraine wines because my sister Ceri used to live in Tours. On a good day I can even recognise the vintage,and this was indeed great stuff. As was the Australian wine they served with the braised lamb shank and wonderful Welsh rarebit at the end of the meal.

Frank Sinatra,aka treacle-voiced Tony Justice, sang as we ate,my favourite photographer,Barry Hamilton from Rhyl, snapped souvenir piccies for us to take home, Radio Wales' Alan Daulby smoothly hosted the event and strong man Geoff Capes did a great job as auctioneer. It was a really classy fun-filledevening,in fact one of the best charity does I've been to in ages.

The aim was to raise loads of money towards building North Wales' first children's hospice,in a beautiful and tranquil location near Conwy.

About one third of the children currently using Hope House,near Oswestry,live in North Wales, so a new hospice for these children has been under construction since May this year. The cost of Toe Gobaith will be around pounds 2 million, with another pounds 750,000 needed every year to run it.

A few years ago I presented a programme for Sky TV at a children's hospice down in the South West. It was an amazing place,dedicated to helping families make the most of the precious time they have left with their loved one. I bonded with one teenage lad and he promised he'd send me a valentine's card a few weeks later. I got the big red card with hearts and roses on the morning of February 14, and immediately phoned the hospice to say thanks. But I couldn't speak to him. He'd already died.

CAPTION(S):

Icy quiz queen Anne Robinson; Strongman Geoff Capes proved his mettle as an auctioneer during the charity night for Hope House hospice
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 7, 2003
Words:1077
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