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15 December 2017


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Bitterne Parker: Lee McKenzie
Sunday, 24 May 2015 00:00

Lee McKenzie 460pxLee McKenzie is a lifelong resident of Southampton and studied Mathematics at the University of Southampton. However, he declined work opportunities in accountancy and statistics and instead spent many years as a presenter on BBC Radio Solent, where he presented programmes like Sunday Scene and Toast 'N' Roast, as well as reporting news and sport. These days he works as a sports reporter specialising in horse racing. He has commentated at every racecourse in the country and has covered all the major races for a variety of broadcasters, including more than 20 Grand Nationals. In June, he'll be in Azerbaijan for the first-ever European Games, commentating for a worldwide TV service.


The Qs & the As

What’s your link with Bitterne Park?

My parents moved to Bitterne Park from Thornhill when I was four. We lived in Halstead Road and I attended Bitterne Park Infant and Junior School in Manor Farm Road, then Bitterne Park Secondary School.


What’s your earliest memory of the area?


Walking to and from school (though if we were feeling lazy we caught the bus home). It was a good 20 minute walk for those little legs, but we didn't think anything of it.


How could the area be better?


Re-design the hideous green and gold extension to Bitterne Park Secondary School in Dimond Road. I have fond memories of the school and teachers, but if I lived opposite that building I would have campaigned strongly for planning permission to be refused!


Tell us something we probably didn’t know already about Bitterne Park


The sweet shop opposite Bitterne Park Infant and Junior Schools had five different sherbet flavours – lemon, lime, orange, raspberry and rainbow crystals. It was very hard to choose.


What’s good – or not so good – about the wider city?


Southampton has improved hugely in the last 20 years. I'm happy here. However, the Above Bar precinct looks drab next to the magnificent West Quay shopping centre, and increased public access to the waterfront can't come quickly enough.


What’s your passion in life?


The best thing of all is being on a sandy beach in warm summer sunshine, whether in the UK or abroad. I love the south of France and Australia. But I enjoy my work too, so I'm not too miserable the rest of the time.


How do you put bread on your table?


Figuratively speaking, travelling the country (and sometimes the world) reporting and commentating on sport, mainly horse racing. Literally speaking, you can't beat a fresh crusty French loaf.


What has your career taught you?


That you can never do anything perfectly. Every day I reflect upon how I could have done my job better. But it's best not to let it get on top of you and, instead, try to learn from the imperfections. One day I may eventually get close.



What really gets your goat?


I am going crazy at the moment because there are vast quantities of litter lining the verges of the country's trunk roads and motorways. It's never been worse. If you can't trust governments and councils to do something simple like keeping the place clean, how can you expect them to solve far bigger problems?


How do you relax?


Unfortunately I can't get on those beaches as often as I'd like, but in the meantime I'm happy doing DIY and keeping the garden looking smart. My shelves don't fall down, which I regard as something of a success, and my hanging baskets are worth all the work by the time we get to June.

Which is your favourite pub?


My favourite pub ever is the Station next to Bitterne Station. Many years ago, when I was a student, it had a huge lounge bar with comfortable armchairs. It had the atmosphere of a slightly faded luxury hotel and I've never experienced anything else quite like it.


What are you drinking?


I don't drink alcohol – I've never liked the taste. Wine, beer, spirits, they're all no-go areas for me. So it's Coca/Pepsi Cola, milk shakes, or blackcurrant juice (the real stuff is hard to find but I've managed to track down several good suppliers).


What do you listen to?


I spent my earlier years as a radio DJ and still follow the current Top 40. Despite what many people believe, there are plenty of good new songs around if you give them a chance. Not all the catchy tunes were written in the 1960s. But I'm also a sucker for classic MOR, so I couldn't resist going to see Barry Manilow at the Ageas Bowl last year!


Can you recommend a really good read?


I prefer non-fiction these days; the background stories behind real-life (alleged) crimes particularly interest me. I do have a favourite but I won't mention it because the case is still subject to legal issues. But here's a clue: it happened in Italy!


What’s a great day out?


I've taken many friends on tours of the Old Walls in Southampton and don't understand why the Old Town gets so little publicity in travel books – it's every bit as good as many other historic cities in the UK. It makes me mad when these books describe Southampton as a “modern” city only fit for shoppers – they just haven't done their homework.


What scares you?


Using an angle grinder to cut paving slabs for the patio. I bought one three years ago but then got cold feet and have never taken it out of the box.


What would you most like to change - in the world and in yourself?


In the world – if I were to start on that, I would need my own website! In me, I'm too impatient. I expect instant results because the next thing on my mind is only seconds away.


What’s on your ‘bucket list’?


I've never been to New York and I must cross that one off the list some time. But since I left school I've discovered that the greatest thing about being an adult is that you can do more or less what you want to do, so the list isn't very long.


Tell us a joke


My favourite joke is:


Q “Why don't estate agents look out of the window during the morning?”


A “Because if they did, they'd have nothing to do in the afternoon.”


With apologies to all estate agents. Nothing personal; you can adapt it to whoever you want to have a go at!”


Finally, what would be another great question for other Bitterne Parkers?


"Where in Bitterne Park did you play as a child?" We used to spend most of our spare time in the mysterious piece of undeveloped land at the top of Halstead Road. We referred to it as “The Field” though I've since discovered it's called “Frogs Copse”. But we never saw any frogs there!


Thanks so much for taking part!

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions.

Read about other Bitterne Parkers


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