On television

This is a departure from my usual posts but I thought I should perhaps chronicle one of the more ridiculous experiences I have had recently.

Yesterday I was on annual leave. At around half nine in the morning, I got a phone call from an editor at the Guardian (I write the odd piece for it) asking if I could send over something on the Germanwings air crash – the press has jumped on the fact the pilot had depression and there were some pretty awful headlines out there. I agreed and sent the copy over (it’s here, if you’re interested), then on I went with my day.

Later that evening, I was unable to concentrate on my novel, so I was, obviously, scrolling through Twitter. I received a message from someone at the BBC asking if they could call me. I agreed and they did. They asked if I would like to be on Newsnight. ‘Oh’, I said. ‘Oh I see’. ‘As a bonus’, she said, ‘Benedict Cumberbatch will be there.’ ‘Oh, goodness’, I said. So I said yes and they said a car would be with me imminently.

Now prior to this I had been loafing around. My evening plans had been shifted to another day and I suddenly realised that it was half nine, I was in a tangle of blankets and hoodies and that I was aiming to get to the BBC for 10.15.

Never have I got into a suit and some decent shoes so quickly.

Seriously. I went to an awards dinner earlier last week and I swear it took me an hour to get ready. Last night I acquired some kind of transient superhero status which allowed me to simultaneously do up cufflinks, put contact lenses in and shove my wallet into a bag. I was ready in ten minutes. If I could bottle that superpower and keep it forever I would. Instead I just had to pace about waiting for the taxi. Also I announced it on social media BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE DO NOW.


Now I don’t know if any of you ever drive through central London, but trying to get from the badlands of South London to Oxford Circus in 30 minutes on a Friday night is borderline impossible. Brixton, Trafalgar Sq and Regent St were DRAMA (at least Soho was moderately entertaining). It took an hour and a half, which gave me lots more time to panic and ask the producer to see if she could keep Cumberbatch hanging around (look, I love Sherlock and his Frankenstein was some of the best theatre I have ever seen and I am not above fangirling). Also, it meant that I got to try to work out what the devil I was going to say, courtesy of the poor taxi driver who very kindly engaged with the whole process in the most charming way (sadly I couldn’t do any actual research because, obviously, my phone had barely any battery). Despite that, I discovered as we approached Westminster that I had some kind of quick-acting RSI in my right shoulder because I had been clutching the wretched thing for the entire drive.

Hilariously, the drive took so long that at 11.20 I got a call from a chap telling me my taxi was outside. I informed him that I was already in a taxi. Turned out that he was my return driver and that I hadn’t actually got to the BBC yet.

Anyway. New Broadcasting House is swanky and has lots of bright lights (it looks pleasingly like a glo-stick) but obviously it also has those bizarre sofas which are neither entirely comfortable nor entirely uncomfortable. Also, protip: if you’re going to rock up to the BBC, it’s a good idea to know who you’re meeting and what programme you’re doing. I knew neither. Nevertheless, I persuaded them to give me one of these:


Obviously the poor lady at reception could make neither head nor tail of my handwriting. I refrained from asking of Cumberbatch because I was probably already getting odd looks. Bear in mind it was half eleven, I was knackered, I was a bit stressed and I hadn’t planned what I was going to say because I didn’t actually know what I was going to be asked. I have done TV a stuff a few times but I generally have more than ten minutes’ notice. Amazingly, though, I was once going to do a live show in North London and I had to be there for around 7.15. By half six my taxi had not arrived to pick me up. You won’t be surprised to hear that I didn’t make it.

Anyway, since I had missed Newsnight I was to be on shortly after midnight (several of my friends, bless them, who should really have been out having fun, were glued to the BBC News channel, which I find alternately pleasing and amusing). I was whisked into the bowels of NBC (or, rather, we took the lift to the lower ground floor) and I paced about a bit more, drinking water nervously but trying to look cool. Yeah. I actually had to ask the chappie shepherding me around what channel BBC News was on Sky, which obviously screams ‘ALL MY FRIENDS HAVE BEEN INFORMED OF MY IMPENDING APPEARANCE, YEAH?’. Tres cool.

And then, I was marched to the studio and had a minute or two to discuss the piece and then, there we were, on air. And it was ok. I felt like I was slurring slightly, which happens when I am tired, but aside from that, I thought it went pretty well. If you fancy it, it’s here. Yes I recorded it off a recording. I’m keeping it real:

And that was it. The return journey was far quicker, obviously, and in the end I had spent four hours on a five-minute interview. But it was exciting and I can’t pretend I don’t enjoy that kind of thing. Also it seems I’m finally reconciled to the fact I speak the way I do on film (though I don’t quite believe I speak like that ALL the time. I consider this my ‘TV voice’).

Telly – it’s less glam than it sounds, but more glam than most things. And I got to put on a decent suit, which I don’t get to do very often in my line of work. And I get to swan around saying ‘I WAS ON THE BBC, YOU KNOW’, though I’ll try not to do too much of that because my friends are very indulgent but they also might tell me to shut up at some point.

This post has not been remotely psychological, but, then, it’s not like I’ve got a remit (I’m not the BBC after all *snort*) so whatever.

I just wish my poor shoulder would stop aching. Super-quick, panic-induced RSI, brought on by the BBC. I should sue, really.