Tuesday, 16 August 2016

My TV and Radio career

'Career' is way too strong a word! But I have had two genuine encounters with media people over the years.

The first occurred in early November 1993, at Laugharne in west Wales. Laugharne is the place where the poet and radio playwright Dylan Thomas ended up. He acquired a boathouse down on the river estuary, overlooked by a shack in which he painstakingly crafted his poems. Here are the pictures I took then of the boathouse:


I was in the area on a late-season holiday break with Mum and Dad, and we visited the little town. I was at first a little disappointed that Laugharne is not much like the fictional village described in Thomas' radio play Under Milk Wood. I learned later that he had in mind Old Fishguard, which when I saw it in 2008 looked like this:


Anyway, Dad had had double-knee replacement surgery earlier that year, and didn't want to walk far. Mum wanted to stay with him. So I set off on my own to quickly see the boathouse. It was a damp morning, but otherwise dry and mild for the time of year.

The boathouse didn't have a garden as such - just a reasonably spacious paved patio. I saw a couple of people down there, and a maintenance chap. Descending from the clifftop, I had already decided that I wouldn't have enough time to go into the boathouse and stay a while: it would be unfair to leave Mum and Dad too long. A rapid exterior examination would have to do. This brought me onto the patio, whereupon the two people came over and introduced themselves. A man and a woman. I didn't catch his name, but I'm pretty sure her name was Penny.

They were filming for S4C (the Welsh equivalent of Channel 4), the theme being Dylan Thomas, his boathouse, and the sort of people who came to visit it. They'd been hanging around for nearly two hours, without anybody turning up. But now they had me. They simply wanted shots of me looking at the property and taking photographs. I was an especially suitable visitor because I was carrying not one, but two cameras, and was clearly someone with a keen eye for a picture! I duly obliged. I'm not quite sure, but I think they asked me to say a few words about my experience. All this was filmed. I quite enjoyed it. It would become part of a TV programme to be screened in early 1994.

Here they are. I got them to pose for me, as a souvenir of the occasion:


I never saw the programme. You could only watch S4C in Wales. Nobody got in touch to offer me a contract.

Forward now to August 2016. It's Bridgnorth in Shropshire. Bridgnorth is a nice town, set right up on a sandstone hill. and overlooking the River Severn. It has an impressive olde-worlde main street, dominated by a market hall:


It was a bit windy underneath those arches!


I must have looked a bit of a scarecrow when I left the hall to move on down the street, but despite this, a man bounded up and accosted me. His name was Nigel Bolman, and he worked for the BBC. I got a picture of him, shot from the hip:


He was interviewing members of the public about the 2016 Olympic Games, then in full swing at Rio de Janeiro - but with a twist. Lots of medals were being awarded. But who did I think ought to be getting a medal, but wasn't likely to? The answers would form part of a radio programme.

It was an opportunity to shine. I am rarely short of words. But I do sometimes misunderstand questions put to me. I was very slow on the uptake here. At first I thought he wanted me to reel off a list of B-list athletes who deserved a medal. I confessed at once that I had taken no interest whatever in the Olympics, and couldn't name anyone. No, not athletes: ordinary people whose labour and dedication merited recognition. I still thought he wanted me to name names. I couldn't think of any. My mind was blank. No, types of people I knew about. Ah! Well...all I could think of were people in my circle who spent a big chunk of their waking lives caring for other people, such as elderly relatives. Which wasn't at all highly original as an answer .

By this time I felt I had disappointed him. I had been hard work. And his dogged perseverance had not struck gold. True, he had held the mike close and had recorded every word, but somehow I knew that he wouldn't be using any of that. I felt a little foolish for not grasping at once what he'd wanted, and more than a little sorry for failing to say anything sensible or coherent. I had wasted his time.

It was an amiable enough parting, but I put that down to his good professional manners. He was probably muttering 'stupid, ignorant woman' under his breath.

Of course, it may be that 95% of all persons approached out of the blue in the street, and asked to give succinct and intelligent answers, would - like me - be unable to extemporise. That thought was some comfort. And I had been a willing and co-operative interviewee. I'd fumbled, but nevertheless I had sincerely attempted to give him was he was looking for. All the same, I knew my radio career was over.

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Lucy Melford