As I cycled to the BBC Radio Cambridge studio yesterday morning I had to use all my resolve to keep my nerves under control. And it wasn’t just the traffic on Milton Road that was giving me butterflies in the stomach (those massive great swallowtails from the Amazon rainforest were clog-dancing in there, I’m sure).
Last week I received a call from the lovely publicist at Orion, to say that Woman’s Hour were interested in inviting me to take part in a discussion on tomboys - linking to the fact that Emily Wild in Adventure Island is something of a tomboy, in the grand tradition of George in The Famous Five. There followed a lot of Yikes! and OMG! on my part, two long chats with the producer/researcher for Woman’s Hour (I don’t think I could have done it if she hadn’t been so positive and reassuring) and finally that long cycle ride of doom.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I reached the studio - I’ve never appeared (if 'appear' is the right word) on radio before in any capacity. I wasn’t expecting a red carpet or anything, but was a little surprised at how distinctly low-key it was. I was ushered into a small room with a microphone, a set of headphones lying on a desk and a computer display on the wall and left to get on with it. It reminded me of recording speech materials for experiments in the soundproof booth in my previous life as a psycholinguist - expect there were no checks to make sure the microphone was at the right angle or that the recording system was working. Or even to make sure I didn’t spill coffee everywhere!
When I heard a voice coming over the headphones I didn’t even realise the sound engineer in the main studio was talking to me! Eventually I cottoned on, and from that point it was fine. I had clear instructions to follow. Jenni Murray then came over the headphones to say hello to me and the other guest and flag up a couple of questions she’d be asking. Again, she was so nice and reassuring it made the whole thing much easier. I scribbled more notes and watched the clock click very slowly round to 10.35, heard the link to our item over the headphones and gulped down lungfuls of deep breaths... Then I heard those terrifying words...'I’ll come to you first, Helen...'
I have no idea at all how it sounded on air. I know that the programme is on the website, but I can’t bear to listen to it.
It was a great experience, and I’m so pleased I did it - and delighted to have been given the opportunity.
I had a lovely message from the producer afterwards to say it had gone well and they were really pleased with the discussion. They may even ask me back one day.
The programme is on the Woman’s Hour website if you want to hear what we had to say about tomboys. Just don’t tell me if I sound ridiculous. I’d rather not know!