First Floor, Margaret Powell House
403 Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 3BN
Telephone: 01908 231123
Riddle me Glasgow, Eggheads and more.
The somewhat accurate account of how I became a television sensation by volunteering for the Milton Keynes Reader Service started right at the beginning of my involvement on their committee.
For most people, joining a charity committee isn’t sprinkled with as much glamour as I had the opportunity to experience.
“You’re going to be on television!” they told me. “Boy, you’ll be a star.” These words may have fallen directly from the mouth of our lovely Service Coordinator, Karen Preece or they might only be for your exclusive reading pleasure here.
Regardless of the truth, the glitz of being on television, the eventual fame, or the opportunity to improve awareness for the charity and the help we provide, overcame my innate introversion. So of course, after a breath of thought, how could I say no?
First came the paperwork; of course there would be paperwork and a lot of it too! The daunting amount wasn’t so much the problem as the distinct feeling that I was signing away my first- born to BBC Scotland. I won’t bore you with the minutia of TV appearance contracts, but I will say that the BBC made it suspiciously easy and their staff were very polite and professional.
Arriving at the train station on our departure date to Glasgow, we descended on the platform with auspicious grace – only to have the train nearly leave us! Imagine our shock; how could it be that the signal-man could somehow overlook us walking towards the train? Still, even with the inappropriate whistling for the train to depart without us, we managed to make it on board without breaking the golden rule of classic BBC television: you don’t run when cameras are rolling.
The trip itself was neither eventful, nor subdued. What was expected to be a pleasantly quiet journey of many grand napping opportunities turned somehow into a buzz of social back and forth.
My initiative to quietly sleep my way to Glasgow was completely overturned by our Treasurer, Steven’s anecdotes; our former chair, Paula’s banter, my fellow committee member, Jeff’s commentary and what I felt was a pleasant spirit of camaraderie. I graciously relented and cut free all plans to slumber, letting myself get pulled into this and that conversation before, unknowingly, we arrived.
Thankfully, the scramble to disembark was just as auspicious and graceful as our embarkation. The obligatory facility visits were made after partaking in the very necessary discussion of fried mars bars and haggis for dinner.
We walked a convenient distance to our first hotel which, if not entirely healthy, was at least bold enough to offer us the mature scents of smokers generations past. Now, I personally felt that the faint scent of cigarette smoke seeping from the carpets added strong character to this establishment. However, I chose not to comment too loudly on it so as not to overburden the staff with compliments.
The next day, the men of the group spent the day in as English- a-fashion as to make Churchill and Thatcher leap for joy over our decision to continue the proud tradition of Englishmen in foreign countries the world over. That is to say, of course, we pottered off to the nearest museum.
After what was admittedly, a very interesting time learning about 1920s Glasgow and its newly discovered riches in Italian ice-cream-making immigrants, we walked back to the hotel, refreshed and with fingers crossed that the coming challenge focused heavily on 1920s Glasgow and/or Italian ice-cream-making immigrants.
Some hours later, after learning of our treasurer’s fond memory of Irn Brew (now rekindled), we sat in the lobby of BBC Scotland. The beginnings of our nerves were showing as we cradled tea and leant in to speak in harsh whispers of the possibly famous people traversing the floor.
Thankfully, the staff were very supportive. They were, despite what Steven assured me were possibly 12 year olds in office wear, professional in manner and very helpful in calming our worries. Though in retrospect dear reader even I have to admit I felt suddenly quite wizened in comparison to their youthful energy and positive outlook.
After we were ushered upstairs and briefed on the backstage dance that is required of all television stars. There was yet another round of paperwork. Though this time, with a camera present, it felt as though signing away our liberties in some police procedural drama. If Jeremy Vine had seen how well we held our cool, he would have had no choice but to support our meteoric rise to star in Broadchurch, or even the Bill.
What happened next is forbidden from these pages by enough red tape to piece back a Humpty Dumpty the size of Jeremy Clarkson’s bank account. Let us just say that our performance during the show itself is best enjoyed on the big screen. Besides, such quizzing prowess should not be belittled by whatever simple description I could muster for it here.
Nevertheless, with nerves of steel to carry us through, we survived the evening. And really, because they deserve a faithful mention as well, Jeremy Vine, the Eggheads and the stage crew were a joy to meet and they, more than the experience of being on television, I think, were a large part of what made it fun.
In all, the experience was a pleasure. What started with some mix of nerves and trepidation ended in a journey that was a delight, well worth a repeat performance.
Nana is at the far right on the front row