Wednesday, 24 December 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas

And I'm spending it at 5 live. The photograph above is of the trees outside the Westfield, that massive shopping arcade which has just opened opposite Television Centre. I went there yesterday to buy some dinner, and after walking for about half an hour found myself in Waitrose. I bought some sushi, green tea and a flapjack and then walked the half hour back. I can report that it was all quite busy, and nothing was closing down.

When I agreed to do the show tonight I had no idea I'd be missing the kids so much. I haven't seen my older daughter for 2 days now, and whilst I was driving in to work this evening she was with her sister at a crib service, both dressed as angels. I called up this evening and she proudly informed me she'd put out a mince pie and a carrot for Father Christmas and Rudolph along with "a glass of milk and a glass of water", an evening combination she's partial to.

The show tonight finishes at 0030, which means half an hour's more sleep than usual before they both wake up. The subjects under discussion tonight include Christmas, Christmas TV and which is the best religion. I hope my mood improves as I don't feel too up for it at the moment. Thankfully I'm not working Christmas Day, which was a tough call as the money would have seen us well into January, but I've done it for the last 2 or 3 years and it felt right to give it a miss this time.

Happy Christmas everyone, thanks for taking the trouble to read this blog. I'll probably shut down for a bit until the New Year, but if you're a 5 listener I'll be doing breakfast next weekend. All the best.


Friday, 5 December 2008

Josh Hartnett, James DeGale and Boy George

Josh Hartnett

All in a week's work, with grateful thanks to London Tonight. On Sunday, as mentioned in my last entry, I went along to the Old Vic to see luvviedom in excelsis.

Six mini-troupes of actors all frantically rehearsing six 15 minute plays that had only just been written. At lunch I spotted Sally Phillips, Julia Davis, the butcher from the League of Gentlemen, Dervla Kirwan, Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson from Spaced), Tim Piggott-Smith and a lovely lady who I think used to be in EastEnders.

I didn't get to interview Martin Freeman because his wife had broken her hand the night before, so due to childcare issues he had to pull out. I also didn't get to interview Kevin Spacey as he wasn't in the country as his plane back from NY was delayed and there were some question marks as to whether he was going to make it back to London in time for the performance.

I did get to interview Josh Hartnett, Michelle Ryan (Zoe off of EE), and Jenny Agutter (one for the target audience), but first I got to see them trying to learn their lines, act and work out the direction all at the same time.

Josh alongside Sanjeev Bhaskar, which was strange, and Michelle and Jenny alongside Tim Piggott-Smith.

It's always rewarding to watch talented people at work, and getting access to the rehearsal rooms was a real privilege. The concentration levels were immense - trying to turn a freshly-laid script into a watchable play in the space of 11 hours is very hard work, and the collaborative creative process was absorbing.

I didn't ever quite forget we were watching Josh from them Hollywood films and Michelle off of EastEnders, largely because we were trying to shoot them with a view to putting a decent news package together, but part of me could have sat there all day picking up the trade shorthand and seeing exactly how it's all done.

Josh in the end was very helpful - I got a good interview and he was willing enough to do an opener down the barrel, which meant we had a great start to the package.

I interviewed Michelle a few years back in the line up for the Glamour awards when she'd just left EE and she was dripping with charisma. Every hack in the room thought she had a hell of a lot about her (even the girls, who aren't slow to find fault).

This time she was much more guarded and professional. Still obliging enough, but wary of evil people like me...

James DeGale, Frank Warren, Billy Joe Saunders and Frankie Gavin.

Frank Warren has signed James, Billy and Frankies up to go professional after their Beijing experience.

DeGale got a Gold, Billy Joe was just outside the medals and Frankie Gavin was sent home without throwing a punch after failing to make the weight.

Their professional 'coming out' was at a restaurant called Fredericks on Camden Passage in Islington. There was a presser, a photocall and then as many one-on-ones as you like.

I did an as-live with James DeGale for lunch, then more interviews than I actually needed and started to feel seriously unwell. I'd gone to bed with a ropey gut the night before but woken up not feeling too bad. Being freelance, it's not a good idea to call in sick, ever. So I went in. I left Fredericks with some good stuff from DeGale slagging off UK Sport and the ABA, however the story du jour was Olympic funding, and the reason for being there (a story in itself) was the fact Frank had signed these guys up to tour the country under the banner of The Olympians.

Having got all the material in the can I went back to base to edit. Because all I wanted to do was keel over I decided to focus on getting the piece edited and to air, when in fact I should have been doing some phone bashing to get the views of UK sport and the ABA.

In the end the piece wasn't as strong as it could have been. Wednesday was spent mostly at A&E in agony.

Two different doctors couldn't decide what was wrong with me. I left with a prescription for buscopan and a recommendation to take some paracetamol. I was booked to work at London Tonight, but had to call in sick and given how bad I felt I wasn't in any way sure I could work Thursday, so I knocked that one off too.

On Thursday I got an appointment to see my GP who gave me a prescription for some more drugs and a call to work for London Tonight on Friday. Were they sure? Apparently so....

Boy George

... which meant I found myself at 10am on Friday morning in Snaresbrook Crown Court to hear the verdict against Boy George. Court cases are a newsdesk's nightmare. Whether they conclude at 4pm or 10am, they have to fit into the evening's schedule, or even worse the jury stays out another night. Then the resources thrown at the story on the day are wasted and the programme has a big hole in it.

Conveniently we were getting a cuppa at the court canteen at just gone 10am (as was Boy George) when the call on the tannoy went out to file into Court 2. The jury delivered the guilty verdict, the judge said he'd sentence after Christmas, but that jail was "the most likely option" and ordered George too stay at home over Christmas and New Year.

I did a live from outside the court into the 11.11am update, then drove to Shoreditch to do a piece to camera for the package outside the flat where the sordid deeds took place and actually got my piece sent to the gallery server an hour before TX. I was quite pleased with it. And it was the lead, which was nice.