Wednesday 31 October 2012

Life from the padded cell of BBC Somerset

So, I spent the vast majority of yesterday stuck in a cell at the BBC.  Doing a shedload of publicity for my new book, Kind Regards – the Lost Art of Letter Writing (Michael O’Mara Press). This is not a plug, btw, as I don't get any royalties for the book, sadly I don't make any more money whether anyone buys it or not.  :-) On the other hand, if you buy my Kindle books, I do - so please, be my guest.  

Anyhow, I’d fecklessly agreed to doing any radio or TV interviews that came along, in the sure and certain knowledge that nobody whatsoever would be remotely interested.  Wrong.  Seven interviews?  In one day?  Ruddy hell.
So I pitched up at BBC Somerset in Taunton clutching a copy of the book and some hastily scribbled notes and prayed they wouldn't ask anything too demanding. Cos the night before had been pretty late and I'd had about two hours' sleep.

I like Radio Somerset.  A lot.  They’re young and fun and make you feel right at home.  So I camped up in their kitchen for a while and ferreted around the fridge to see if there was anything worth eating (nope) and read Saturday’s papers (yawn) and nearly forgot what I was there for.  Then someone popped up and took me down to my studio and got me set up in. 

Now then. It sounds glamorous, right, 'doing press'?  Wrong.  The studio is tiny – a minuscule cell of a room.  You couldn't even stretch your arms out wide – if, indeed, you wanted to. No window. No air. Just a desk, a shed-load of equipment and monitors and stuff – and you.  And then they stick headphones on your head and poke a mike towards your mouth and …leave you.  It’s surreal.  You just sit there, twiddling your thumbs, staring into space, waiting for the next disembodied voice to come through on the headphones.

Huh?  I carried on tapping into my phone.
‘Liz?  Are you there?’
Oh, come on Liz, whoever you are. 
Then I realized.  I was Liz. Liz was me. Why the hell did I use a pseudonym, for pity’s sake? 

And we were off.  I spoke to people the length and breadth of the country – from Norfolk to Bristol, from Sussex to Lancashire, from Wales to Wiltshire.  It could have been a bit boring, a bit samey, but no.  Each presenter was very different and so I obligingly morphed myself into a different person each time (just to keep it interesting).  So, one interview I was all bantering and blunt, the next I was grave and quasi historical, the next sort of sweet and simpering.  I felt a serious case of multiple personality disorder coming on. 
And somewhere in the middle or thereabouts, somewhere around number four or five, if I recall, I had a really surreal encounter.

There was the telltale crackle that meant someone was on the line and so I sort of woke up a bit, ready for the off.  And there was this long sigh through my headphones.
‘Hello?’ I said.
‘Er, hello?’
‘Er, this is…Liz,’ I said, in a very unconvincing manner.
‘Oh God…’
‘What?  You alright?’
‘I am so so bloody tired.’
‘I know the feeling.’
Long pause.  This was the oddest start to an interview ever.  Was I supposed to interview her?  
‘Umm, how about a coffee?’  Trying to make conversation. 
‘Yeah. Thanks. Thanks a bloody lot.’

Heck, was she ever going to start talking sense?  Then I realized, slowly, that she couldn’t hear a word I was saying.  Was just some woman somewhere, some poor sap in another box in some other radio station maybe, who was just talking out loud to herself. 

Anyhow.  It was all rather good fun really.  But I don’t think I’m cut out for radio.  Reasons being…
1.       I have too much hair.
2.       I forget it’s the BBC and swear.  Pissed off?  Who knew that pissed off was considered ‘foul language’? 
3.       I fling my arms around too much.  Ouch.
4.       I talk too fast.  But, on the other hand, I’m good value – you get a helluva lot of words out of me in ten minutes. Twenty minutes and you’ve got a small book.
5.       I’m too intolerant.  Shouldn’t try to hurry up the presenter when he umms and aaahs.
6.       I can’t help falling into the same intonation as the person to whom I’m talking.  Honestly, I’m not taking the piss (there we go again) but it could be misinterpreted.  To Wales in particular – I’m sorry.  


Expat mum said...

Ha ha ha. You have to tell how that "interview" ended. Did the other person ever get to ask a question?

Ross Mountney said...

Great post. You're so much braver than me. I tend to write books and tell no one...! Training myself to get over this!

Anonymous said...

This is excruciatingly funny, Jane, especially your self-reflections.
You'd make a brilliant alternative agony aunt.

DD's Diary said...

Well look at you, media star! Very funny post, you should definitely put it in your next novel ... and who knew pissed off was rude?! xx

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I get caught out like that too - pissed off is quite genteel in our house. Wish I had heard you!

Rob-bear said...

I worked for ten years in radio as a news reporter and presenter. I know of what you speak. But you did have fun, and, frankly, nobody sees your hair, and they probably wouldn't care if they did. And, on meeting you, they'll say, "You don't look like you sound."

Sorry I missed your show.