In 1988 I did a screen test for London Weekend Televison – LWT.
A trip to Southbank, a piece to camera, an interview and then a wait for the outcome.
I got a phone call from Maeve, the producer, saying they loved what I’d done BUT…
“I looked like a pile of shit.” I offered.
“Yes.” said Maeve. ‘You looked like a pile of shit, go and get your hair done.”
So I borrowed 15 quid from Jonfan next door and drove to Tunbridge Wells, Lionel washed, trimmed and gave me a successful blow job.
I took the train to Waterloo, walked through the back streets and did my second screen test. My newly coiffed barnet won me the contract and so began four and a half years of extraordinary experiences.
I learnt how to interview.
I learnt how to listen.
I learnt how to garden.
I learnt how to spot the Essex element.
I learnt how to make four minute films.
I learnt how to hold my own.
I learnt how cut throat telly was.
And I learnt how to anchor a show with Frank Bough.
I learnt what a consummate professional Mr. Bough was.
I was the enfant terrible he was the avuncular mentor
I still got into trouble though. Like the time I was confronted with the boss who insisted I attend a camera rehearsal on January 2nd. A blind marmoset could have done the job just as well. I did, however, turn up with teeth gritted. When the boss in question asked me, in the lift on the way to the 18th floor, whether I was questioning his authority, I replied in my best Aldgate East.
“Fucking right I am.”
I visited the 18th floor many times. The 18th floor was equivalent to the headmasters office. It was where I got detentions regularly.
Frank knew nothing of my reputation for anarchic foreplay and I knew nothing of his personal peccadilloes.
The first time I met Mr. Bough he asked me, as we sat together for our ‘6.0’clock Live’ Friday Night Show, what my favourite sport was.
If I had said water sports we may have got on like a house on fire, instead I froze. I wasn’t into that kind of gentlemanly activity although I liked watching footie and tennis. I knew as much about cricket and rugby as somebody from Sentinel, which is the most isolated tribe in the world. The Sentinelese attack anybody who comes from the outside, they keep themselves to themselves, which is pretty much what I did for my stint at LWT.
I started well, as the new face of the station, all red lippy and enthusiasm, a series of ‘Good Life Guides’, a gardening show, a Friday evening debacle called ‘Friday Now’ and then I got bored. Was reprimanded endlessly for being a loose cannon on a live programme. Hauled up onto the 18th floor to be told that I couldn’t be trusted. TRUE. That I didn’t appear to give a shit. TRUE. That the men who watched me gardening didn’t fancy me. I told them that the men who didn’t fancy me couldn’t get it up and told them all, including the erectile dysfunctioning audience, to fuck themselves. On the five minute walk to Waterloo East I Sacked my agent and took the 15.33 back to TWells. By the time I got home I was reinstated as the braless-dungaree wearing presenter on ‘The Gardening Roadshow’ with Roddy Llewellyn and Daphne Foulsham.
Ah! Thems were the days trolling round in an ancient van digging up gardens, planting the ashes of dead relatives in raised beds, and using as many lavatories as we could. Daphne was the wife of a boat owner she taught us the protocol of the nautical toilette.
“When sailing” she would say “Given the possibility of being stranded the WC is a thing of beauty, and must be respected at all times, so remember – ‘Always when you can never when you must’.”
Another lesson learnt, to this day I never miss the opportunity to take a pee where ‘ere I can, whether it’s ‘The Ritz’ or Charing Cross Station.
Thirty years ago I didn’t know how to defend myself diplomatically I came out fighting like an East End thug, which is exactly what I was. Frank, as I recall, was always dry mouthed, something to do with his nasal habits. He had the patina of an Oxbridge education and a great line in cardigans. He was always very generous with me. I was his junior in every way, had I been a proper journalist I would have known about his forays into the subterranean world of whip-craft. As it was/is I’m a complete novice when it comes to reading between the lines, especially when they are blurred. I loved sitting next to him every Friday night, but then somebody in the gallery accused me of nearly saying the ‘F’ word. I was about to say ‘farting’ around, I wasn’t believed and I was removed from my comfy Friday night seat and sent out on the road instead to interview everybody from Norman Wisdom to Truffling pigs in Epping Forest.
In my memory Frank was never rude or patronising, if anything he was complimentary and utterly supportive.
Frank has just died, aged 87. The great thing about innocence is that it leaves you with the capacity to love unconditionally which I was able to do with dear Mr. Bough. Whatever he did in his private life was his own affair.
Danny Baker poster this little clip of me, him and Frank which I am happily sharing with you.
I wish Frank peace and tranquility wherever he finds himself in his after life.

2 thoughts on “Condolences.”

  1. Did you go to Paris? Wow – those WERE the days! Sad to hear that Frank Bough has died – & sadder still that so many otherwise excellent broadcasters have such dark shadows in them. Danny too has his share. Increasingly though people with real working class backgrounds are vanishing from our screens. Your personality still shines through! I despair that so few women (unless firmly established as a national treasure) over the age of 55 are still allowed (& I do mean that) on the tv.

  2. Dearest Jeni Barnett……’ve been on fire!
    I think by now, hopefully, that you know, that I have watched, listened and read your words…….. well, for most of my life!
    So I say, the usual, thankyou!
    I wanted to say that…….. and that this affluent town we live in, has been fed once again!
    As white, middle aged, probably the ones who I delivered coal to, passed me by on the Pantiles, pushing a pram with there baby in it……. I passed them by with my rickety, broken, old trolley, carrying 2 billion pints of milk and 3 trillion boxes of Egyptian chips, for them to feast on!
    I hope they’re full……….. and happy?!
    I’m now at home……. with my wifey, cooking some proper food with my kiddies!
    Teaching Layla and Leon, how not to be a van driver and cook for the week!
    Me and Layla are prepping the bestest, biggest cottage pie for tomorrow!
    Ofcourse, for after our walk down the avenue……… I can’t afford to take them where I grew up!
    Loads of love, the Borowski family!

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