The stuff of nightmares

As anyone who is a BBC Studio Manager (which I maintain is one of the best jobs in the world) will be able to tell you, the job comes with nightmares (in as many metaphorical and literal forms as you might want). Anyone who has been a BBC Studio Manager will tell you the rather vivid nightmares keep coming long after you last walked through the revolving doors at Broadcasting House. I’ve been out of the game for very nearly five years, but my last shift meant getting up at 4:20am, making my way to Television Centre, grabbing the Radio 4 bull by its early morning horns and riding it all the way to Droitwich. I later held some leaving drinks at The Eagle on Goldhawk Road. It has since closed.

And so back to that ominous time, twenty past four, on this Monday morning. The lad’s got a bit of a bit a sniffle and those teeth are just about to break through (still). Also he’d not eaten for eight hours and had done a massive shit. Up we get – change, feed, paracetamol suspension. But then no sleep, not for another hour and a half. As we pace the hallway for the thirtieth or fortieth time, me battling to keep the muslin over his eyes, I curse the Nest. That it lights up each time we pass is a reason for him to remain up and at ’em, that it doesn’t show highlights of the day’s various cricket matches is a disappointment to me. I break out some Radio 4. My faith in humanity is restored when I hear the mellifluous tones of Street Crime UK’s Susan Rae.

He falls asleep not long after Farming Today starts (read into that what you will). I put him to bed. I go back to bed. I fall asleep. I am transported back to the always-familiar surroundings of S2 Cubicle, one time home of early morning Radio 4 Continuity. Senior Announcer Chris Aldridge is the other side of the glass. The early morning sun is beginning to break through the blinds at the back of the room.

Chris hands to the sports presenter, who I fade up on time, and things take a strange turn. BBC Radio Sport The Musical is unexpectedly initiated during a cricket match report by Colin Croft. A liniment of 5 Live Sport producers immediately descends upon the studio, wheeling a powerless (but smiling) Chris Aldridge out down the corridor, probably locking him in the studio local radio use to interview people who have been fired from The Apprentice. He is supplanted by Mark Saggers and a trombone. The rest of the BBC Sport Brass Band Society cram in there alongside him; Pat Murphy on the tuba, Jason Mohammad on flugelhorn, the late, great, John Myers on the trumpet. Obviously. They crack on with the song from the Hovis advert.

It’s not long before former professional sportsman, football pundit and night club DJ Pat Nevin turns up and politely requests my attention. He’s brought a box of records, some maracas, and Hazel Irvine off of the snooker. I rig some turntables in a corner of the cubicle and tell him how much I enjoyed his set at the Moustache Bar that time. Pat’s all set and, for the first time, the Radio 4 audience gets to hear the unlikely combination of brass band improvising over a selection of Stoke Newington’s favourite northern soul records. I forget to fade up Hazel’s maracas and start to fill in a log.

Two men in blue overalls turn up. “It’s the Steinway for Mr. Inverdale’s performance.” Of course it is. We move the main mixing desk from its usual place, the middle of the room, to one the back corners. Invers must be able to make eye contact with everyone, preferably all at once, and so must be able to sit in the prime position. Silence soon descends. The solo flugelhorn of Jason Mohammad announces the arrival of Sir John.  The producer opens the door for him. We’re all expectant and just about ready, only for Alan Green to abruptly arrive (“I was stuck in traffic, can you believe it?”) and demand to play The Entertainer.

I sit in the Studio Managers’ Common Room with a cup of tea afterwards. We all agree I did very well in the circumstances and that it was an awful thing to happen to someone on a one-off freelance shift to break up nine weeks of parental leave. Nobody knows what happened to Chris.


I think my subconscious might have planted a metaphor or two in there.