Second night nerves

Even if you’re not a thespian, you must have heard about ‘first night nerves’, but when you are a seasoned thesp, it becomes apparent that first night nerves are actually a God send. The adrenalin pumps, the brain focuses, the middle distance disappears and off you go. It’s the second night that’s the bitch. Concentration is down. The adrenalin is more under control. There’s ever such a slight smugness that you’ve got over the hump and BLAHM!, that’s when those mistakes creep in.
I turned up to LBC, which is situated on Latimer Road, near Shepherds Bush, and only fifteen minutes from my flat. The traffic was easy, but already I was taking liberties. Instead of having my brief case – I’ve used it for years it’s made out of red plastic and kept together with good will and gaffer tape – I had a flimsy purple folder I’d bought in Waitrose. I had scant notes, three different coloured pens (red, blue and black) as well as a lovely pencil from ‘Scramble’, the sound studio I voice ‘Heat’ ads in.
I had my purse with a little money, my car keys and my phone. I was travelling light. I drove to reception and picked up the plastic key to let me into the car park. When the black end is inserted, wrought iron gates, with fierce barbed wire rolled atop of them, open very slowly. Yesterday I tried inserting the red end and sat there for 10 minutes wondering why I couldn’t get in
I parked my car, buzzed to get into reception, flirted with the Greek receptionist, who looks like my cousin Malcolm Hoppen, father of Zoe with whom I spent some time in San Diego, and was greeted by Steve Campden and Chris Lowrie, my producer and engineer.
I felt like an old timer, having been there for precisely one day as I skipped up to the second floor. It felt less strange but not yet familiar. Anna Raeburn was at her desk, all intent and intelligent. She told me I looked nicer with my hair down and suggested, rather than dictated, that I should keep back from the mike. This was endorsed by Steve, who told me that sitting back in the chair was wrong. Sitting forward on the chair was wrong. But sitting in the middle was right. Steve had told me that before but it had gone right over my head. See, second day and you think you know everything until…

Scott, the programme director, gave me a little book called ‘The little book of BIG conversation.’
‘Radio is all about ‘YOU’, he stressed. ‘Telly is all about US.’ His self-penned book is about the intimacy of radio and how to form a relationship with YOU out there. So I asked Steve to stick a ‘YOU’ sticker on my purple folder.
I used my computer, for the first time, with very own password to get info on American Dolls, and then up I went to another studio to do a trail with Jim Davis. Jim is tall, dark, and yes you’ve guessed it, handsome, he’s lovely…
I should say here that everybody has been so supportive and helpful, unlike TV where most people are back biting or shoving their own clip boards up their own bottoms.
Jim Davis was a music jock for twelve years and told me the main difference between talk radio and his prior existence is pace. ‘TALK SLOWLY’, he said. Not easy. Panic always make me – well, most people actually – rattle out words like a speed train clattering along the rails.
The studio, after day one, felt a little more familar, although to be honest I couldn’t describe it to you. I’m still unaware of my surroundings and still looking for my bits as well as approval. I need to know I am doing okay. They need me to do okay otherwise they look like weedy wets who have made a wrong decision.
I laid out all me bits in order of priority and it was off to the canteen for a pre show bite. I attempted a plate of green salad which I ate with my fingers. Steve offered my a plastic knife and fork but I preferred my own digits.
I met up with Lee Janogly, whose married name comes from Georgia where they have one of the World’s longest life spans. I put it down to Hunza apricots. Lee didn’t put it down to anything. Then, just before 1.00pm, it was a sprint up to the third floor for the show.
Everybody has a pass, which they press against an infra red light which opens the door. Once in, there are buttons to press to let yourself out again. So far I have forgotten my pass and forgotten the button-pressing procedure. I’m surprised I’m here to tell the tale.
I reshuffled all my pieces of paper, left my socks rolled up for my first gag, and off we went. The studio is cold so I pulled on my socks at the top of the show bumping into the mike for maximum effect.
One running order was in front of me, one to the left of me. I kept yesterday’s copy as a security blanket, and one on a screen to the right of me. I had so many notes, pens, pencils and scraps of paper, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack in a barn where the overhead light has blown and the generator has stopped working due to atmospheric interference.
The show started. Lee Janogly was great, talking about weight issues and binge eating. The phones started up and I took my cues PERFECTLY until the second night nerves kicked in. Inevitably, I completely lost my way. I sent us to ad breaks where there weren’t any ads, handed over to traffic updates where there were no cars, re-read emails that we had already discussed and practically lost my headphones in the process. I could only hear out of my right earphone, since the left one is left off so that you can hear yourself speak, which I could. I just couldn’t hear myself think.
Steven, behind the glass said, ‘No, we’re not at the break yet’ with a hint of hysteria in his voice. Whilst all the while Steve Allen, he with the acid tongue was waiting to have a pop. And he will – at my lack of professionalism, and posh voice, which may I add is the result of working in my thespy industry for nearly forty years.
When I arrived at drama school in1965 I was told, categorically that my East End intonation was merely another dialect and would JUST not do. I had to learn The Queens English, recieved pronunciation and how to stop that wretched slang before I started.
So, for years I’ve been dotting my ‘i’s and glottally stopping my ‘t’s before anybody could accuse me of coming from the dreaded working classes, which of course I do. And to add insult to injury I am also a bloomin’ immigrant, coming here and taking your jobs…
Now, of course, the estuary twang is a la mode, but if I’m nervous, I resort to my drama school training and sound like Joanna Lumley on acid.
By the end of the show, the second night curse had really taken hold. I was cutting off callers, finishing their sentences, speaking on their behalf and totally wrapping up the airwaves with confusion although with a lot of good will.
Now, though, after two days I honestly feel I have found a new spiritual home. There’s something satisfying about hearing people talk, letting them talk (which I haven’t done enough of yet) and then hearing them laugh.
So, dear Mr. Allen, budge up on the settee. The old girl is nuzzling up next to you. Not that I could possibly compete with your badinage, savage wit or blue-sequined jacket. Although, would I want to?
I’m off now to Lavender Hill for a troll and then my acupuncturist for some needles. Day three looms – another kettle of fish altogether. That’s normally when, after two days of thinking you’re getting it right, you completely fall off the edge. Should be fun listening. It’s like learning to drive – stop, start, stop, start. Right now I can nearly do a reverse, but I’m having trouble with my 17 point turns.
Wish me luck, and Marmite Girl, thank you for emailing in – this cross pollination of mediums is fab. That’s it for today. Cu2morrer.

13 thoughts on “Second night nerves”

  1. Jenny! What a lovely surprise to hear your dulcet tones on LBC – hubby and I SO miss you and GFL, the replacement prog is a load of boring rubbish with unskilled presenters.
    We’re now enjoying watching repeats on 269.
    Like your Mum, I heard SA this am and will be listening out at 5am tomoro for his inevitable comments. I do enjoy him but he has been so bitchy about you in the past! However, along with all your other fans, we know how much you are loved (and sorely missed!) Still, maybe you could become a regular feature on LBC – that would be great and they need a witty, erudite lady such as yourself.
    Already looking forward to tomoro’s prog.
    Pat(& hubby) xx

  2. Just caught up with your blog after a few hectic days christening on Sunday and son’s bithday meal yesterday, and then t’internet died, needed son to sort it out for us! I too remember Billy Cotton on a Sunday, Listen with Mother (or in my case Grandmother!) I too stopped watching Wimbledon bout 30yrs ago. I’m going to set my reminder on my mobile to listen to you on t’internet tomorrow. Lots a luv Judi xx

  3. Jeni – just thought I would tell you that you sounded more confident today and your voice is almost back to how I know it. I know you made one or two little errors but you didn’t go to pieces and it really didn’t matter at all. I was interested in Lee’s comments as I too have tried many diets over the years. Look forward to tomorrow’s show.

  4. Hi Jeni!
    Loving you on LBC. Almost died laughing this morning. Steve Allen’s people answered my email by saying, “you really must not believe all he says, jeni and steve have beenfriends for was on his say so that she got the fact they only had dinner on friday night”.
    Yeah right…..

  5. I’m here in Sydney but tuned you in over the net. You’re on at 10pm here and what a delight to hear your voice. The demise of GFL was very tragic and after all this time,still miss the nightly fun. While wasn’t too interested in last night’s specific weight-loss topic but listened intently anyway. You do sound different on FM…everything always sounds deeper. They must do that on purpose.
    You’re voice is such a comfort and you’re truly a very talented professional Keep it up – I’ll keep listening. Frankly I didn’t notice any of the mistakes you mentioned…so remember you have a global audience!!
    The internet is an amazing thing, isn’t it.

  6. Unfortunatly haven’t heard your show yet, inconsiderate daughter hogging tv digital, but i am sure you are your usual wonderful self. Thank you for the name of the sweet breath doggy stuff.
    Are the ITV aware that you are available, not that I watch it, but now Parkinson is retiring, we all believe that you would be the ideal person to take over. Good luck for the rest of the week.

  7. Hi Jen,
    Managed to catch some of your show, via the internet, during my lunch break and you sounded great to me. We all make mistakes from time to no worries.
    I was getting a few funny looks though. The lead on my mini!! headphones is only about a foot long, so I have to lean across the desk with my face nearly up against the screen. Still it was well worth the giggles from my colleagues. Hope to catch u again today.
    Very best

  8. Hi Jen, on a completely different subject, are you going to see Barbra Streisand at the Dome? I am originally from Yorkshire but now live and work in Mallorca, my partner and I are going to see her in Dublin on the 14th July.Bankrupted myself buying two VIP packages, i wouldnt dare state how much, but, the VAT was 800 euros!! Keep up the blog its champion!

  9. Hi Jeni
    Well less than two hours till I can tune in to LBC and HEAR YOU AGAIN WOMAN!!!! 10pm is your 1pm time…
    I have painted my nails, read your blog and now time to watch Lifestyle channel before tuning in…
    love ya!

  10. I too have managed to catch at least part of your shows over the past couple of days.
    They sounded great to me and it’s wonderful to have you around again.
    Have to say that Paul Hollywood sounded gorgeous even on the radio!

  11. Hope you found a troll on Lavender Hill!
    What a fantastic idea from the person above who suggested you take over from Parky. Now wouldn’t that be fab!!! x

  12. Just caught you on LBC online – you sound like a real radio head already! Lovely to hear from Paul Hollywood too. Am certainly going to try to get my hands on my husbands sausages!!! Will be listening again tomorrow.
    Lots of luv

  13. Jen,
    I caught your show on Monday and thought it fab – right up my street. I’m going to tune in tomorrow too. I hope your acupunture went well yesterday, I’m off to have some right now (havn’t in over a year) and I’m really nervous: need you to tell me to get a grip! And about this raw food business … What if you crave something warm? Xx.

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