It has been such a weird week. So full of this and that, I’ve hardly had a moment to reflect. But I feel really unbalanced not writing, so, even though my eyes are propped open with matchsticks, here goes.
It’s 22.44 and the rain is hammering down outside the cottage. Feels more like autumn than mid summer. Last year it was 29 degrees. Dominic came today and pruned the clematis on the wall and a great big bush outside the kitchen window. I don’t know its name but if left untamed, it takes over like the triffids in ‘The Day of…’
On Sunday Jim and I had a row about what Dominic was and wasn’t to prune. I, like most townies, have a real problem cutting back any plant. It hurts my heart. After my wedding, when my best man cut my newly harvested carrots and potatoes in an unfriendly manner, I threw him off the property and out of my life. Truly. Those beautiful vegetables came out of the earth and he chopped through them like he was castrating a wart hog.
Dominic, however, did a good job, even though the rain has less leaves to drip off.
Right now, Jim is in the flat recovering from ‘The Merchant of Venice’, my mother is downstairs reading all my blog posts to date on Jim’s computer, BB is sitting with Rob, her drummer friend, in the kitchen listening to her latest ‘track’ which she’s been writing in the studio at the end of the garden and the dog is prostrate on his bean bag.
We bankrupted ourselves building the studio – ‘Le Shed’ – several years ago. But it’s paid for itself in bucketloads with all the music that gets laid down. Listen to how street I am – ‘laid down’ is a musical term for recording musical phrases, man!
Since we last talked I have done my Saturday night stint at LBC. Firstly, I must say a huge thank you to you for supported me. I was fecking dreadful but you have all been kind enough to overlook the glaring irregularities. Jim gave me his assessment. He said he was like an expectant father pacing the floor. The carpet had deep feet indentations where he had walked a hundred miles turning the radio on, then off, on again and off again when he felt me sliding into gobbledegook.
On the first ever GFL, Uncle Leo, our floor manager, gave me the cue to start. I was so stiff with fright, I missed his cue. The same thing happened on Saturday. I saw the red light and froze. I could see Alec, the engineer, and Lucy, the producer, smiling at me through the window, but I sat there like a baboon caught with his pink butt in the headlights, and then I realised I had to say something.
The thing about radio is that it’s just you and your voice. No audience, no camera op geeing you up, no floor manager trying to make you laugh by throwing carrots at you out of vision. Just you and the empty blackness of a Saturday night in the Metropolis.
I tried to set up the evening. I was sitting in my swivel chair with my ‘cans’ balanced on my head, one ear on and one ear off. To my right was the computer screen with your emails, to my left another screen with the names of callers. To my top right, the clock, counting down the seconds and behind that glass screen, Lucy and Alec.
Picture me. I had cut out all sorts of newspaper cuttings. I brought in funny props. I had typed up my topics. I had thought it through, but nothing prepared me for 2 hours of – well – silence that had to be filled.
It was terrifying. I did not set up the topics well enough. I did not give the audience a chance to hear what I was saying. I was speeding through things at a rate of knots until I realised that the callers weren’t calling, the emails weren’t coming, the texts weren’t appearing. I was using up all my material so fast and confusing the Nation to boot.
Lucy calmed me down and finally the verdict was I didn’t drown – I had paddled like crazy and then begun to swim although there was a lot of flotsam and getsum in the process.
Inevitably, the two hours swung by. Wonderful women called in and talked to me. Christian Dion spoke to us from the States and one geezer shouted very loudly in capital letters on an email: ‘WHO ARE YOU?’
I had forgotten to say my name, the telephone numbers, the text number. Poor old Will, presenting the traffic, couldn’t tell you whether you were coming or going because I got so lost.
I learnt there are some rules which were imparted to me today:
Well, I nearly managed the humour but I forgot that I had a brain, let alone opinions. As for the storytelling, I wouldn’t have known the beginning from the middle from the end if Mr. Grimm or Mr. Aesop had bumped into me in the lavatory, which I may add, is just outside the studio door.
I was told about the ME and YOU rule. On telly it’s about us. The team is the thing. On radio it’s about the ‘I’, the ‘EGO’ – there’s no side stepping. For 450 years I have tried to keep my ego in check and now I am being told to give it full reign, let it trot, canter then gallop.
I have to say, though, that it was a wonderful experience. The old dogs new tricks scenario – here I am nearly pensionable, learning a brand new skill. I must be the luckiest woman in the world. When I said to my boss that I had so much to learn, he said mischievously ‘And yes, I’m the one to teach you.’
I cannot tell you what that felt like. I don’t need to. You’re not an idiot. You know what its like when your driving instructor takes their foot of the dual controls and you’re free-wheeling alone. Well, that’s what happened on Saturday night. There were moments when I was negotiating the Cresta Run and not falling off my trolley.
Since the fear of the first show was so great, I cried a lot on Sunday. All that tension coming out. Okay, I’m an over-emotional trollop, but my mind kept re-running what I should have done, didn’t do, could have done, forgot to do.
By 9.00pm, Jim and I drove home together. We plus BB had a takeaway curry. It tasted so good. The best tandoori in town, spiced up with a dollop of adrenalin and a soupcon of cortisol.
Today I went into LBC and watched the lunchtime show go out. I am sitting in next week. Everyday, 1-2pm.
Now I have some rules to work with, I should be better. But I know myself. Once I learn the rules I set about breaking them. I hope they know that!
I also met up with my driving instructress from 25 years ago, Eric Lanlard in his new patisserie in Battersea Reach, and then drove half way round London to get home.
I could tell you about Eric’s petit fours later but right now I have to go to bed and dream about my agent in Glastonbury, my husband in Battersea and my future in question.
When I left GFL for radio I felt like Allana Partridge, since I have four and a half year cycles I wonder whether I’ll spend it with LBC.
Only time will tell, but there is something about the lone voice and a microphone that is both terrifying and exciting, if I really do RISK IT FOR A BISCUIT, I may turn into Theresa Wogan or even Frasier, now that would be NICE wouldn’t it…..