Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Waiting to Go On


I'm sitting in the bowels of the BBC building. It is an impressive structure with a grand entrance and courtyard, but inside it is a confusion of corridors and would look like an ordinary office building if it weren't for the banks of TV monitors and rooms with red "On Air" signs outside of them.

Richard Madeley just walked past where my wife and I are sitting, but he appeared not to recognize me. I can understand that; a lot of people are nervous when meeting me for the first time. I'm sure he'll warm up later, during the show.

In case you're wondering, I have time to write because we got here stupid early, but I prefer that to intelligently late. And, really, what's the worst that could happen? We get to have a good nose around the BBC and a cup of commissary coffee that is almost (but not quite) the worst cup of coffee I have ever tasted.

Even this late at night, it is bustling with activity. There are other people waiting here with us (but none of them as long as us) to go on to other shows. Young people with security tags around their necks stride purposefully up and down the corridors and urge lost looking people like me to follow them. It wasn't quite so frantic in the BBC Southern Counties studio last year; there were only three people there.

Richard is on the air now. He's doing an hour on his own before having the two of us inflicted upon him. I just hope I'm still awake by midnight, much less perky and interesting. I wonder how ExpatMum is doing.

The strange thing is, after being told what they expect from me and briefed on the premise of the program, I still have no idea what I'm going to do. Or say. I don't think it would be wise to over analyze it, however; I'll just go one and say whatever comes to mind. What's the worst that could happen, aside from having to wear a paper bag over my head for the rest of my life?

Next time, I'm going to have my agent get me a slot sometime during the day.


After:

Well, at least I don't have to wear a paper bag.

The studio itself was no less hectic and not at all what I expected. There were six people in the booth (myself included) and all of us were vying for airtime. All the while those aforementioned earnest young people scurried in and out with papers or messages, and there were a lot of hand signals going on for the benefit of the producers on the other side of the soundproof glass.

First the good:

It was, as I had hoped, great fun, and I like to think I held my own. I have already received several e-mails from people in the States who say I did a good job. And I did not have to savage Britain – which is something I did not want to do. As it turns out, I didn't have the opportunity; I was too busy defending America!

ExpatMum and I provided, I hope, the requisite entertainment and actually got into a few lively exchanges. I recall at one point actually raising my voice and saying something like, "Are you telling me there are people dying in the streets over there? What did you do to that country while I've been gone?" (This was about health care.)

Overall I think we came across as well as anyone else and, as I said, it was good fun.

Now the bad:

Let's face it; I had an agenda. I'm an author. I've just published a book. I want-- no, I NEED-- people to know about that. I was told by the producers that this would be a panel format, but was assured they would mention my book.

They did not.

I'm not even sure if he introduced me as an author. After he said I was some guy from America with a blog, my mind went numb. Everyone has a blog; that hardly makes me special.

When I realized he had no intention of mentioning my book, I began frantically devising ways to start out a sentence with, "I cover that topic in my book, "Postcards From Across the Pond, and in it I say,…"

Ham-fisted, perhaps, but this was a golden opportunity, as if someone had handed me the winning lottery ticket, and I was not going to let it slip from my fingers and flutter into the storm drain. I was thinking so hard on ways to work the book in that a few times, when Richard directed a question at me, I realized I had no idea what the topic was and I felt like I was back in geography class being asked to explain the implications of the Peloponnesian war.

The next thing I new, the hour was up and I was unceremoniously ushered from the room, and the building.

I can't be too down about this because, as I well know, good things can come from the strangest of places. It just would have been nice to be introduced as an author.

15 comments:

  1. Bollocks and buggery, wish I'd seen you... and what a pain not to get to mention your book... maybe you can watch it back, and just maybe feel more positive about the promotion of book? Or just a lot worse... Well done anyway. Another experience to notch up...

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  2. I listened in Mike - I even taped it if you need a copy (though I'm sure you did that yourself?) - I thought you did fine, although you were somewhat tied to their agenda of what they wanted to discuss - the obvious topics of Healthcare, Guns and Capital Punishment. Although to balance things it seemed that it was universally agreed that America and Americans have a positive "can do" attitude and that this was and is a good thing.

    All in all I enjoyed it - well done, you did very well. Isn't it amazing how someone's voice always seems a surprise when you hear it for the first time? I don't exactly know what I expected of your, but it was different to my expectation.

    Best comment of the night? Sorry Mike, but that has to go to Expatmum "Living in America is like living with 260 million Labrador puppies" :-) A nice comment focusing on their inherent helpfulness and friendliness.

    Steve

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  3. Just to cheer you, I have this morning ordered your book from Amazon. I shall look forward to a good read. So to hell they didn't mention you are an author or about your book, so you could say I have ordered it to cock a snub at The Wise of TV-land, but no, I ordered it because I enjoy your blog. So well done young man.

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  4. Lesson number one - you'll just have to learn how to be a pushy American. Mention your book - everyone else does that and it doesn't always have to come off sounding crass.
    At least you only had to defend America. I am now on record (living in the US remember) as apparently having said that Americans have "zero" sense of humo(u)r, which I don't think I ever said.
    I am wearing sunglasses on the school run this morning.

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  5. Ladybird: I've just ammended my post to say Richard did say I was an author. That was what I was most disappointed about. After writing for 30 years and finally getting a book published, I wanted to hear myself introduced as an author. I was, I just missed it. (It was all very hecitic.)

    Steve: Believe it or not, I did not tape the show. Both my wife an I were in the studio so there was no one to do the taping. I will contact you about getting a copy. Thanks!

    Granny: Thanks for ordering my book. I hope you enjoy it.

    ExpatMum: After 'Listening Again' I see that Richard put those "zero sense of humor" words in your mouth. But no one will believe you; keep the sunglasses. ;)

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  6. I just listened via the link on Expat Mum's site. The puppy comment was hilarious. The comment about it better to be shot than stabbed and set on fire was great too - You both made me laugh! Job well done I'd say.

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  7. Hi Mike,
    I just listened via the link on Expat mum's Blog and I thoroughly enjoyed it!!
    I was also thinking to myself "plug your book! plug your book!" it's a real shame that they didn't mention it but people who listen in are probably googling you as I write this!
    What you said about most Americans not owning a passport is very similar to here in Brazil... the society and beliefs are very similar to the U.S. and most people travel within the country being as it is so vast and every state very different... some very hot, some very cold.
    All in all I think you both did an absolutely wonderful job and I look forward to hearing you "on the air" again, but next time get the book-plug in within the first few minutes! hehe
    All the very best!
    Donnie

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  8. Congrats, mate! How exciting to have been on the BBC!

    I can't wait to hear the broadcas!

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  9. Thanks, Pam. Glad to know people A) actually listened, and B) enjoyed it.

    Donnie: That's interesting about people from Brazil; I guess when you have a big country, you don't feel the need to travel outside of it.

    Jonathan: Thanks. I've put the link to the show on the blog.

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  10. I wish I had known you were going to be on TV. I would have watched! I might have even recorded it to watch again!

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  11. Kat, it was a radio program. If it had been TV I would have been much more nervous about it. On the other hand, I could have just waved my book for everyone to see ;)

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  12. Good job - I listened in as well and I think you did pretty well not bad-mouthing the Brits too much. I'd say you're no more likely to be lynched in your local pub than you were when you were just some American guy.

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  13. Thanks. It would be nice to not be lynched.

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  14. It was amusing Mike but boy were there some heavy subjects being mentioned. You did get a joke in so that got your sense of humour across. Still don't know what the Scottish lady is called - something Leslie? What does she do?

    Anyway prior to the radio broadcast I have asked someone to get me your book as I turn 21 soon.
    Look forward to reading it.

    Remember there's no such thing as bad publicity?!

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  15. Hadriana: I had two pages of jokes with me and didn't even get to look at them, I was too busy fielding accusations of people dying in the streets in the US while the rest of the population takes pop-shots at the few remaining healthy people. And I was never introduced to the Scottish woman. What does she do? Talk a lot.

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