In the morning, we woke up a bit blurry headed, and so more tea was had, and after a post-mortem on the shenanigans of the night before, we headed off in the car to a National Trust place called Morden Hall Park, and met with Fenella’s friend Sally, who among a great many other lovely things is a dog-walker and dog-sitter. She is also a trainer and can help owners with dogs with behavioural problems. Sally had nine dogs with her: Fenella’s two, her own two, and five more of her clients’ dogs. It was great fun, strolling through the park with all these assorted dogs. They’re all wonderfully behaved and so were allowed off the lead, and I made a special friend in Hattie, a little old Staffie lady, who believes she is a princess and is quite above all this hanging around with filthy mutts. Once all the dogs had had a good run and a swim in the River Wandle, he headed for the caff, and had some lovely grub, coffee and a chin wag. At this point the dogs were tethered to a fence, and sat so beautifully, that Sally hardly had time to eat because of all the people coming over to compliment her on such a lovely pack of woofs.
We took Fenella’s dogs back to the house and relaxed for while, with a cuppa. I was starting to feel blue about having to go back that afternoon, having had such a great time. Reality’s such a bitch at times. Fenella enquired about which train I had to catch and I explained that I had an open ticket, so I could catch any off-peak train between then and December. Then she made a suggestion. Since I didn’t have work until Friday, why didn’t I stay another night and go with her to work? She explained it might be a bit dull to hang out at Radio2 for a whole evening, but I was welcome to come and go as I pleased. Blimey. AS IF hanging out at Radio2 would be dull! AS IF! Outwardly, I was composed and being quite cool about the whole thing, “Yeah, I suppose that’d be alright…”, but inwardly I was wooping, punching the air and high fiving myself… if of course, that were possible.
As we got in the vicinity of Western House, we stopped to eat at a lovely little Thai canteen, and had Phat Thai, spring rolls and tempura vegetables, washed down with tins of fizzy pop. Bliss. We headed off then, and were quickly whizzed through security once we were in the building. I was given a pass that says, “BBC Visitor” which gave instructions to return it upon departure. I have to admit to still having mine, and yes I realise this makes me deeply uncool. The lift up to the correct floor is absolutely tiny, but before I could continue with my fantasy of being trapped in there with Huey Morgan, we arrived.
Busily Fenella gathered up the papers and documents and bits and pieces she needed to do her first bulletin, and as i sat there feeling a bit wowed about it all, Sally Traffic popped in to say hello. Then with the six o’clock news over with, we went for a wander. We stood and gawped at Simon Mayo through glass for a bit, listened to Bob Harris talk about bum cancer from Nashville and then went to get a cuppa. I was making myself feel useful by carrying some papers round for Fenella and increasingly felt like Baby Houseman, when she carried a watermelon. “It’s okay, I’m carrying papers you know…”. I then met Steve Wright who is a) more dashing than I imagined and b) really very lovely indeed. The sort of person who is so smashing, you feel that you’d like to hug him. I didn’t though, rest assured.
After a bit of a natter with Steve (first name terms, see?) we set up in his studio so that Fenella could do the remainder of her bulletins from there. What I hadn’t realised was that after a certain time at night, instead of filing ones nails, shopping online or practicing a golf putting technique with the aid of a coffee mug, the news presenter is actually in control of the ENTIRE station. So every segue, link, programme and back-up programme (I probably have the technical names all wrong, but you get the idea) on that evening, were entirely as the mercy of two red heads, who 24 hours before had been in a nightclub, arms aloft, yawping, “So let me go faaaaaarrrrrrrrr!” at the tops of our voices. Now obviously as a visitor I did very little except make tea for me, Fenella and Trevor Nelson (Trev’s producer was new that night, and couldn’t get the hang of the machine) and collect news scripts from a printer. However, the idea of duct taping Fenella to a chair and taking over the airwaves for my own evil purposes did cross my mind.
At about half eleven, and after five bulletins, alot of BBC tea and much gossiping, Janice Long came in. Now it had all been exciting and wonderful (except going to the loo straight after Jo Whiley and finding the seat warm) but this was the best bit. I love Janice, and having met her in person and chatted a while, I love her even more. She is where it’s at. She is passionate about music, really properly knows her stuff and knocks many of these young pretenders of broadcasting into a cocked hat. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her. What made it even more of a pleasure was when Janice began her programme with a little on-air chat to Fenella, who had just delivered the midnight bulletin. “Thanks Fenella, so how was the Dodgy gig?” she asked. “Great thank you Janice”, replied Fenella, and continued to tell her a bit about the gig and how good the music had been. “That’s great Fenella. And was Clair from Crewe there?…”. Blimey. A mention from Janice Long, who was sitting just feet away, smiling at me through several sheets of glass. SQUEEEE!
Anyway, hometime. A swish looking car with blacked out windows was waiting outside Western House for us, and transported us back to Fenella’s, like proper celebs (or drug dealers, take your pick). It was about 1am when we got back, and so straight to bed. Fenella explained that we had an early start tomorrow, and so I set my alarm for 8am.
I was up and at ’em by 8:30, and we caught a train to Victoria just after 9. My host was a bit concerned about me, a provincial type, travelling through the capital at rush hour, but it was fine. Nothing to it, just busy, that’s all. We said quick goodbyes on a delayed and slow moving Victoria line tube, as Fenella got off at Oxford Circus, and I continued on to Euston. Once there, I found the next train I could take was almost an hour away, but that was okay because t gave me time to grab a coffee, acclimatise myself to reality and de-Londonise. Ann rang to catch up on each other’s gossip, and it was just the loveliest way to feel like I was going home.
I had a wonderful time, was really glad to have seen great friends and to have made new ones, and to have had some truly money-can’t-buy experiences. A great gig, a lot of love, a kick through the leaves in a pretty park, a fantastic and generous host for my stay and to have been able to learn so much about one of my favourite things in life: radio. Enormous thank yous to everyone who made that possible.
And that’s why I love London again.