I listen to Radio 4. All day, and even at night when it switches to the World Service. I hardly ever turn off, even when I wake at about 3am and inexplicably hear songs being sung for toddlers. (Really? At that time of night? Yes.) Well, it helps me get back to sleep. Rarely, it gets too much (the same drama for the third time), and then I turn to iPlayer, mostly.
I love the news, the documentaries and the comedies, The Life Scientific, More or Less, In our Time, Short Cuts, all of it. It had occurred to me over the years to go to a live recording. But I thought ‘What’s the point? I listen to it on the radio anyway’ and my usual inertia set in. So I was delighted to get a text the other day from a friend, asking if I’d like to come along. Yes! My son is on a school trip and I would otherwise be moping (and eating) home alone.
We meet in town, have a lovely catch up. She tells me it turns out her boyfriend is in the Romanian mafia and she has been under police protection. This makes an entertaining story and I wonder what the two men sharing our table think as we cackle like a pair of witches. Especially when I ask her ‘so, how long were you going out?’ (I wasn’t sure if it was one she’d mentioned before, or a new one) and she says ‘a week’.
Aside: years ago, before I knew that shit had hit fan, I was having lunch with my best friend from nursery school. We were sitting for hours, nattering away as we do. I told her about the night before: we’d had some old friends over. Unusually, I’d not cooked for my guests, but ordered a takeaway. (They’d never eaten Persian food and though I make a pretty mean ghormeh sabzi myself, I had sent out for the full Monty.) So we were sitting over nibbles, and there was no sign of our meal. Eventually I phoned the restaurant. The man sounded stressed. His English wasn’t very good and he was shrill and pretty incoherent, but eventually I understood that our dinner had been intercepted by the police. The delivery driver was now sitting in custody with a feast for two families. I was telling my friend this, when a total stranger sitting at the next table leant over and tapped me on the arm. She was weeping with laughter. ‘You should write a book’ she said.
So I was sitting in the audience at the BBC (feeling like I was in W1A as I entered the building, before going through airport style security). Clare in the Community. I like that show. The actors sat on chairs arranged in a line, stepping up to the mike as needed. ‘Clare’ is Sally Phillips and I know her from the telly, but her husband ‘Brian’ confuses: he sounds thinner than he looks. Ah, mystery solved: I never could make up my mind whether Nina Conti played the nanny or the Scot. Both.
Another aside: I first became a fan of Nina Conti, when I heard her on R4 – Woman’s Hour I think it was – and was astonished by how funny and clever the show was even though, as a ventriloquist, you’d think radio an inappropriate medium. Check out the audio visual version.
I had a great evening. What’s not to like? It was funny. It was an evening out, the tickets were free. I was with a friend. I laughed (not always in the same place as others; you’ll probably hear me when it’s aired). I wasn’t 100% absorbed though, because a little bit of me was thinking ‘I could do that!’ I don’t even know which job I was peevishly thinking about. Sure – I could read the lines. They all held copies of the script. Easy peasy. But I’d never ever get the job if I tried. I can’t pretend to be an actor, or to be versatile with accents. I expect the ones lined up there were all RADA or something. And what do they do the rest of the time? They can’t surely be paid much for these rare recordings. So it’s stupid for me even to entertain thoughts of becoming a member of the cast, much as I would enjoy it as I used to love reading aloud to my kids, doing the voices, trying to bring it alive. And the producer, who came on from time to time and made jokes also, well, it’s even less likely I could ever be her, with no experience. And I needn’t kid myself that I could be one of the writers, though what a fun job that would be, if you could be pretty consistently hilarious and think up plots and characters, especially as part of a team. This course has a lot to answer for: I wonder if we are all wandering about thinking we are going to be Director General.
I realise of course that I’m not going to pursue a career as a comedy writer for the BBC. But progress is being made: I am thinking it is not out of the question that I could write something, somewhere, and have people read it. This blog is a step in the right direction, but only a tiny one: it’s anonymous and I don’t tell people about it.
Still got a way to go.
Photo is of a typical Persian starter (only I’d run out of walnuts).
PS Disappointed to read on wikipedia that Sally Phillips is a born again Christian. Is that true? Surely not.