King of Hearts
A few weeks ago I was having dinner with Vladimir Romanov, the controversial businessman who appears to enjoy chucking money at Hearts Football Club. He doesn't speak much English and my Lithuanian isn't what it ought to be, so most communication was done through the universal languages of gesture and mime. Not for the first time I cursed myself for leaving my puppets at home.
To be honest, this wasn't a dinner-for-two. It was at Radio Scotland's Off The Ball awards and among the other famous faces around the table were Alex Salmond, Tam Cowan and TV legend Arthur Montford (the nicest man in the world, by the way). Mr Romanov had brought an interpreter and Mr Cowan could not resist having some fun.
"Please translate for me," said Tam, "although I am only a humble interpreter...as soon as our eyes met I knew that I loved you." Luckily, the interpreter stopped himself mid-way through the translation.
Now, fast-forward a few days and I'm walking along a BBC corridor with Tom Connor, the Editor in charge of Radio Scotland's sports programmes. We're talking about the whole Hearts saga this season; signings, famous victories, sackings, resignations, defeats, transfers, rebellions.
"You couldn't make this up, " says Tom, "in fact we should make a drama out of this."
As if in a cartoon, two lightbulbs appear above our heads and I make a mental note to tell Services about the missing lampshades in that corridor. We then take Tom's suggestion to our Head of Radio Drama, Patrick Rayner. He, in turn, recruits producer David Neville and David, in turn, commissions a radio play from writer Colin MacDonald . Sorry about all the turns. You must be dizzy.
The end result can be heard this Tuesday morning when, at 11 o'clock, we broadcast King of Hearts - a funny Valentine's Day love story set against the backdrop of this roller-coaster season at Tynecastle. The script has been changing every day as the writer tries to keep pace with the frenetic world of Scottish football. In fact - and this is true - it's going to be so up-to-the minute that we have the actors on stand-by to perform live if Colin has some last-minute re-writes.
So, a bit of a first for us at Radio Scotland. A collaboration between Drama and Sport, a topical and evolving script and possibly a live performance. If you miss it on Tuesday you can hear it on our Listen Again service.
At rehearsals this week, the actors, including leading man Paul Young, and Jenny Ryan (pictured below) told Colin they loved the story and the dialogue and that he really seemed to be able to inhabit the mind of a die-hard Hearts fan.
Praise indeed, considering Colin is a devotee of Hibs.