And all the time I wanted to be somewhere that wasn’t so new. Where you didn’t have to dig yourself out a place to stand far away from the envy of angels (the mutton birds)

And so dear listener, this blog comes with a warning. It is reflective and I know some listeners do not like those. But this time it has nothing to do with (my) alcoholism, (my) cancer or (my) relationships. In the week when Ceefax came to an end, I want to talk a wee bit ‘bout my time at the BBC.

I became a staffer with BBC Scotland in the eighties and the culture and context of the time in Queen Margaret Drive was middle class smugness. Kenneth McKellar, Moira Anderson and Bill McCue were gods and goddesses. And yes, to a certain extent I was middle class at the time as well (I have since become downwardly mobile but am happy with my semi) but I had been working as a community worker in Viewpark near Bellshill, Whisky Valley near Hamilton and Easterhouse near Purgatory (then).

My first job as a researcher was on a documentary which was to bring three sets of primary schoolchildren from three different areas of Glasgow and put them on an open-topped double decker. ‘Won’t they fight?’ said one of the production team. ‘Why the f**k should they?’ I said – forgetting I was working for Religious Broadcasting.

My reward? I’d to chaperone the kids from Barrowfield Primary at a time when I couldn’t drive and not all taxis entered Barrowfield. So each morning I walked in and walked back out again with the appropriate number of kids and got them back home again.

I worked as a producer on the Jimmy Mack Show (a brilliant pro who taught me so much) but one drunken evening, a production assistant (whom we’ll call Jeanette) told me how middle class she thought the show was. So we took it to Easterhouse Shopping Centre; not The Fort but the poor people’s one which stands with two pubs (Griers and the Centaur) at either end and we got the Director of Housing down and the Community Policeman and walkers on stilts and fire breathers and we had a brilliant time.

Okay, it could be argued that it was tokenism but I believed then, and I still believe now, about giving people a chance to get their voices heard.

And it wasn’t just me. If this blog sounds like it’s memememe, then it’s cos I’m proud of what I and others did. (Study buddie Fi once believed, after she’d done a Post Grad in journalism, that those who went into broadcasting after the course were either dumb blonde bimbos or people with egos – I agreed with her. I was the latter and still am)

Off The Ball, when it first started under the amazing Alan de Pelette and the amazing but now dead Lyndsay Cadden, was all about giving the ‘ordinary fans’ their voice. Lesley Riddoch and Speaking Out was another where ‘ordinary people’ got their voices heard. And let’s not forget Fair Do’s produced by memememe initially and presented by Margo McDonald.

One middle class radio reviewer said ‘no-one uses that phrase these days.’ Later that day I was changing in a council pavilion after a game of football when the jannie walked in and said, ‘Fair do’s lads. Nae washing your boots in the sinks. It clogs them up and I’ve got to wash the f**kers.’

The first prog Margo and I did was about women who had had Caesarians but, altho’ they had had epidurals, they still felt the knife, and couldn’t speak out. And, in that same series, I did a simple package about burns and injuries – or at least it was meant to be simple – but the interview with the wee injured seven year old took place in a flat above some drug dealers. The steel panelled door downstairs and the swords on the wall upstairs confirmed this. My tape recorder seemed helluva big on the way back to the car and I have no idea how many eyes were on me that day nor for what reason.

I think the BBC is still middle class – too keen to avoid proper confrontation and to stand up for itself. Middle class traits – but I’m not sure what the answer is. They should stop navel gazing at the moment. Girls and boys were abused and they should maybe concentrate on that. How did it happen? Where were the teachers from the approved schools? And why are all the other institutions not being shouted at? The navel gazing has taken us away from some of the real questions. When did what an editor writes in a blog become so freaking important? Maybe the administrators have actually taken over. Actually they did in Queen Margaret Drive when they moved the reception from the programme making side of the building to the admin side.

I’m proud of what I did in my time there and could maybe have achieved more if the alcohol had not taken over and left me in a quiet comfort zone where I earned more than enough to feed my ‘habits’……

Anyway, must go………if there is anyone out there who has stuck with me through all of the above…thanks…there is a faith to be kept.

Cya, (keep)ing it fun and still wearing that badge? Yes, and, still remembering my BBC ID number.

Johnt850, who’s talked ‘bout his cancer and his relationships on live radio but never his alcoholism.

I suppose I should finish this with out-takes but it’s tricky in this medium. So two stories.

One of the best docs I ever did was ‘bout prostate cancer where ‘ordinary’ men and their wives spoke out about the two things that worry men most ‘bout getting treatment – impotence and incontinence – and how it was possible to overcome these. One interview took place in an old fashioned Edinburgh hotel and after I’d finished recording, the man tapped one of the stone pillars and said, ‘jt, d’you know that just six months after I’d finished treatment I’d an erection as rock solid as this?’

To which his wife replied, ‘And just as bloody useless.’

And then Jimmy Mack at the Garden Festival when the interview with the mime rapper was dying on its feet; there wasn’t a record (black vinyl seven inches thing) cued up; and the band were out the back ‘smoking’ – when the production assistant, Jayne, spotted this giant rabbit on stilts and got him to go to the tall audience mic so Jimmy could interview him instead; Dave the audio cued up a disc somehow; and I got the band to hide the evidence, sorry, to put out their cigarettes and get back out there – and we stayed on air. Nowadays we might have to explain it wasn’t a real rabbit – except me, Jayne, Dave and the late Jimmy Mack all know it was.

And in the week when the great Michael Marra died, here’s the lovely Eddi Reader with her version of Mother Glasgow. Extraordinary voices – both Eddi’s and Michael’s…..and, those belonging to ‘ordinary people’…….


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