What is it about being in a lift?

The Empire State Building and (below) TV's Ken Barlow has the honour of meeting Gazette reporter Steve Canavan.
The Empire State Building and (below) TV's Ken Barlow has the honour of meeting Gazette reporter Steve Canavan.
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HERE’S a tip, next time you’re in a lift, break into a chorus of ‘Hey Marcarena’ and 
perform a tap-dance.

Granted, it will result in a few odd looks from your fellow liftees, but that’s the idea.

TV's Ken Barlow has the honour of meeting Gazette reporter Steve Canavan.

TV's Ken Barlow has the honour of meeting Gazette reporter Steve Canavan.

Lift etiquette, I’ve decided, needs a overhaul.

When you think about it, lifts are very odd things.

For starters, you are way too close to other people. British people, by nature stand-offish and anti-social, don’t like to be close to friends, never mind total strangers.

Then there’s the question of what to do. Stand in silence, fiddle with your phone, attempt conversation, study your shoe?

And why do we always face the door? Why not the other way? Weird.

I mention this because I shared a lift with four men during a visit to a Blackpool town centre office the other day. We were in the lift less than 15 seconds, yet it felt like four minutes.

We’d been chatting freely before entering that little artificially lit enclosed space, but as soon as the door shut behind us a strange thing happened – everyone went quiet. No one made eye contact. Someone coughed and muttered ‘excuse me’. I caught the eye of the fella opposite and immediately felt embarrassed. I spent the remainder of the ride staring intently at a damp patch on the roof of the lift.

Complete silence.

Then the door opened and we shuffled out and started chatting, just like we had before we got in.

Which got me thinking how odd this was and whether it deserved some kind of name, perhaps ALS (Awkward Lift Syndrome)?

Maybe part of it is fear. After all it’s not pleasant to think we are hovering mid-air in a box which, if it crashed to the floor, wouldn’t be good for your health.

But even this is irrational as after some research (three minutes on the internet), I could find only one occasion when a lift has plummeted downwards, and that was due to exceptional circumstances.

It happened in the Empire State Building in 1945 when a B-25 bomber pilot took a wrong turn in fog and crashed into the 79th floor, snapping the cables of two lifts. In one was a woman. The lift fell 75 floors and the landing wasn’t soft – the car’s walls buckled and steel debris tore up through the floor. But the woman, though severely injured, survived - which, when you think about it, is rather reassuring.

So is this. A lift is typically held aloft by six ropes but, by law, each individual rope has to be capable on its own of supporting the full load of the lift, plus 25 per cent more. Which means five ropes can snap and you’d be none the wiser.

The worst that could happen, it would seem, is the lift gets stuck. Ask Nicholas White, who surely has the best lift story of all time to tell.

On a Friday night in 1999, he nipped out of his office on the 43rd floor of a New York building for a fag break. “I’ll be right back”, he cheerfully told a colleague. Not quite. The lift got stuck and nobody noticed for 41 hours.

He began hallucinating and contemplating death. “At one point I was wondering if this was going to become my tomb – if they were going to open the door and there’s my corpse,” he said later.

Eventually a voice came over the intercom and said “Is there someone in there?” Mr White jumped up and shouted: “Yes, there is effing someone in here. Get me out!” ... which, in the circumstances, was quite a restrained response.

The conclusion to all of the above?

Take the stairs.


When it comes to falling off cycles, it’s all about Bradley

BRADLEY Wiggins, currently more popular than Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa combined, got knocked off his bike the other week.

You might have heard about it. Indeed such has been the depth of news coverage, aliens on Neptune have been discussing it at their local over a pint and a game of dominoes.

Never before has the tale of one man and his bike been reported so widely.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand it is big news. What with the Tour de France, the Olympics and his continuing attempts to be crowned Most Convincing Paul Weller lookalike, it’s been a hell of a year for our Wiggo.

But what irks slightly is the very same day, in a different part of Lancashire, a man was knocked off his bike and suffered much more serious injuries than Wiggins. Yet no one was bothered. It was all about Bradley.

Lancashire Police’s press office were so besieged by calls they eventually issued the following statement: “We will not be issuing any further update on the Bradley Wiggins road traffic collision. We will NOT be naming the woman (driver) involved or confirming her identity. We will NOT be providing a condition update on Mr Wiggins. You could perhaps speak to Team Sky who could possibly help.”

In other words beggar off and leave us alone.

It sums up the celebrity-obsessed culture we find ourselves in. It is why bland songs by X-Factor winners hog the charts, and why Helen Flanagan wearing a bikini on I’m A Celebrity is deemed more important by the tabloids than the Abu Qatada deportation case.

There are countless celebrity-dedicated magazines. One is Heat. I went on its website while writing this to see what the top stories were. The answer? 
“TOWIE’s Joey Essex presents the weather. REEM!” and “Robert Pattinson v Ryan Gosling - who looks hottest in a green suit?”

I rest my case. We live in mad times.


Keeping company with Ken

I’VE had a couple of embarrassing moments with celebrities in the last few days.

First, at a media awards bash the other night, I bumped into Bill Roache, who has been playing Ken Barlow in Coronation Street since 1923.

We were in the gents and had one of those awkward stilted conversations that two men who don’t know each other often feel duty bound to have when at the urinals. The conversation was the traditional toilet exchange: “Me – I needed that.”

William/Ken: “Yes, better out than in.”

With that, he was off, though not before asking if he could have his picture taken with me. I obliged – I always make sure I have time for my fans – though I insisted on zipping up my trousers first.

Then, doing a story about 60 years of the charts and ringing prominent Blackpool folk to discover the first record they bought, I called Bispham-born Emmerdale actress Hayley Tamaddon.

Inexplicably I called her Helen, which led to several minutes of confusion. ‘It’s not Helen, it’s Hayley – are you sure you’ve got the right number?’ she kept saying as I repeatedly jabbered, ‘no it’s definitely Helen I’m after’.

She was very nice though, forgiving me for my faux pas, when slamming down the phone in a rage would have been entirely appropriate.