Tag Archives: Jeff Zycinski

Travels From my Twilight Zone

You’ll remember Jeff Zycinski and his autobiographical The Red Light Zone, about his years as Head of Radio at BBC Scotland. It was very good, and as I said at the time – barely two years ago – you could remove the radio and you’d have excellent coverage of 25 years of life in Scotland.

Not only has Jeff now been seriously ill, while narrowly avoiding the dreaded virus of 2020, but he has written another autobiography, mostly about the years before the radio years. And it is an even better tale. ‘Morphine, memories and make-believe’ describes it perfectly.

We start with Jeff not being the slightest concerned that ‘it might be mouth cancer.’ Well, it was. So first we see him in his hospital bed, at the start of the year. And while he works on getting better, we read about his early life in Easterhouse, the seventh son of a Polish father and a Scottish mother.

It has completely changed my outsider’s view of Easterhouse, and it has reinforced my feeling that we are all mostly the same. A few years younger than me, and a Catholic boy in Glasgow, it still seems as if Jeff had a childhood I can relate to. It is fascinating in its ordinariness.

He tells it so well, and I’m beginning to believe he could tell me absolutely anything, and I’d believe it, and have fun. So, yes please, go on!

The second part of the book is fiction. Probably. The first story about the man not far from Loch Ness reminded me of Jeff. So, about that money..? All super stories, really enjoyable, and just that bit different from many other stories.

Then we return to Jeff’s health – please stay well! – before he takes us on a trip round Scotland, outlining the best of the places mentioned in the biographical first half. And I hope he has been allowed to hug his children again. Even if they are adults now.

The Red Light Zone

It seems that being Head of BBC Radio Scotland – and I might have got the exact correct title wrong – is pretty much like being the Bookwitch. (You come up with ideas, and then you make them happen.)

Jeff Zycinski, The Red Light Zone

I had never heard of Jeff Zycinski. But then I don’t really listen to the radio. I sort of assumed he was Scotland’s Terry Wogan, or something, but it turns out he was more the man who came up with the idea for a programme like that and put ‘Wogan’ in front of the microphone. (Or should that be behind?) Except he did it with people and programmes in Scotland, which means no one has heard of him.

Or have they?

Anyway, now that he has left the BBC, Jeff is ‘telling it all’ in his book The Red Light Zone – which is a much less daring title than you might think. It’s not sex so much as the warning that you are on air. Good title, unless you are being sent it in a cryptic message on Facebook, making it look like Badger the Mystical Mutt had been hacked. (This is the first book I’ve reviewed, published by a fictional dog.)

Jeff’s 25 years at the BBC make for interesting reading. There is some gossip, and we meet the Princess Royal as well as Chris Evans, and I now know much more about the various BBC DGs down in London, but it is mostly ordinary stuff. The running of radio for a quarter of a century.

I liked it. In the end so much that it acted as a painkiller, and I also had to put up with the Resident IT Consultant stealing the book whenever I wasn’t looking. Occasionally when I was looking, because I’m a nice witch. He liked it too.

If you remove the radio aspect from this biography, it still works as a description of 25 years of life in Scotland. I like the sound of Jeff’s wife. And their children. But I would rather that the dog had lived…