Today we announced that the show had three weeks left. I was surprised at my reaction. I thought I would get really tearful but actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I kept examining my feelings when I said it and my body didn’t fall apart.
Dave Baker, our producer, had created an insane show. The process of putting one GFL out on air is complicated and time consuming. I am merely the jockey. The producer comes up with the ideas, writes a script. The researcher and assistant producer research and produce the props, the stories, the information. When it’s all just about there, I’m given a skeleton script and off I go. If the horse is lame there’s nothing I can do to get it over the jump. If the horse is a three legged nag with a heart of fire then I can just about get it round the course, but if, like today, they give me Shergar, then that’s what you get. A bloody good ride.
There are three teams that work their bits off all week. There’s also an overall Editor, Caroline Blackadder, who is extremely experienced (she needs to be) and an endless back up team of runners, technicians, home economists who produce the one they made earlier and countless others who through sheer grit, determination and very low wages, get the show on on a daily basis.
There are no duffers. If there were, the show would shudder to a grinding halt.
We rehearse the show from about ten in the morning, putting down voice overs and grabbing stills of things then, believe it or not, we walk through all the physical bits, rehearsing each recipe so that the camera ops know exactly where to point their lenses. I go back into makeup at noon’ish and then, at 12.30 on the button, we go out live.
I have the PA counting down the times in my ear. It’s very precise. Each recipe usually takes about seven minutes, but some take five and some take ten, but three words a second means there are a lot of words. Telly time is different from real time. Three minutes can feel like a lifetime if the contributor is bad, or a golden moment if they are good.
Wearing an earpiece requires split brain work. I have always known I have a split personality, not to mention voices in my head, but being miked up all the time can be exhausting. Being able to go to the lavatory without a battery pack stuffed in my drawers is like taking off a tight pair of shoes. The freedom! Although I do know that an average wee takes 23 seconds. I know because I have to!
That’s how it’s been for the last five years. Five days a week, not counting high days and holidays. We did go through a year of pre-recording two out of the five shows, but it was a nightmare, having to remember when to lie.
Anyway it’s back to Mr Baker and his Monday show. The line-up was ridiculous:
- Nancy Lam – high energy
- Jocelyn Brown – higher energy
- Sean Marshall – cool energy
- and Mike Robinson – no energy (joke)
The noise, and the control, that had to be exerted to make sure that nothing too explicit was said live on air, was exhausting.
Mike made faggots. Wonderful meaty balls wrapped in caul fat, sitting on a bed of creamy spinach and roast potato. British food at its best.
Jocelyn talked about her life as a backing singer for John Lennon, Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross… the list is endless. She shared little bits of her life. John Lennon taught her how to make sushi – good eh? She also sang us a snippet of her disco hits and then proceeded to cook us a fabulous plate of Southern Carolina chicken with potato salad that was so moreish I did just that – I had a lot more.
Nancy made hot chilli prawns that choked us all but tasted like heaven. Sean made Red Snapper in Goan Sauce with a touch of heat that also choked us but had us gasping for more.
And now I am hungry for more of it all.
Funny, eh? That’s my day at the office. I wonder whether I’ll turn into one of those sad cases who pretend to be still working when the job has ceased. Maybe I’ll time myself in my home kitchen, get Jim to stuff some batteries down my knickers when I go to the bathroom, or maybe I’ll just roll over and die? Watch this space.