Monday, 29 March 2010

Radio Manchester

It’s seven thirty in the morning and I am standing on Sheffield train station en route to BBC Radio Manchester. Why is that radio interviews always seem to necessitate getting up really early? Do people not listen to the radio in the afternoon?

The train I board is running an hour late and my carriage is full of people on their way to the airport, looking at their watches anxiously and tutting. I try to sleep.

I arrive at BBC centre on Oxford Road and am taken straight to the waiting area. “Just think of some funny anecdotes,” says the producer, and leaves me with a glass of water and the Wham! song “I’m Your Man” playing on a wall-mounted speaker.

The presenter, Heather Stott, then introduces her studio guests, a wedding dress designer, a marriage counsellor and a woman who advises women how to get out of abusive relationships. How to get married, argue and split up, interspersed with some pop from the eighties.

I am trying to think of which stories to tell, but am too busy listening to the previous guests. I am struck by how cheerful everyone is, especially the woman who advises women in troubled relationships. I had no idea it was possible to be so happy about a subject so grim.

The interviewees walk out of the studio, their chatter just audible over the Trammps’ song Disco Inferno. I look at the notes I was supposed to be making for my amusing anecdotes. All I have written is “Venezuelan brothel. Corpse. Covered in baby poo.”

It will have to do as the presenter, Heather Stott, invites me in to take a seat in front of a microphone. Heather is one of those rare people who looks a great deal more attractive in the flesh than on her publicity photos. She is bright and bubbly, and satisfyingly open-mouthed as I relate the story of my journey in my great grandfather’s footsteps.

Just before we go into the sports news to hear about Rooney returning from groin injury, Heather says, “And we’ll be back in a minute when Robin will tell us about what he got up to in a Venezuelan brothel.”

I wonder how many other daytime radio presenters have gone into a break with that announcement.

The rest of the interview goes okay and Heather gives the book a good plug at the end. She shakes my hand and says she looks forward to reading the book. I like the fact that she doesn’t pretend that she already has.

I meet with an old friend, and when she has to return to work, spend the afternoon touring Manchester Waterstone’s branches, signing copies.

On return to Sheffield I am told that I have two more radio interviews planned for Friday. Yes, in the morning.

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