Being told off by James Naughtie
ANNOUNCERS' WEEK: DAY ONE
3.30AM The alarm goes off, but it doesn't bother me. That's because I'm already staring at it. In fact, I've been staring at it on-and-off since about two o'clock, when I jolted awake after a horrible dream in which I overslept until half past seven, raced in to find Radio 4 on a loop of Sailing By and got told off by James Naughtie, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and my old primary school teacher Miss Carruth. Still, it could have been worse. I could have been naked.
I drag myself out of bed, awash with relief and exhaustion, through the shower and into whatever clothes come to hand. Then I make a large flask of tea. This is a Very Important Task, as it will get me through the initial period from 5.20 - when I'll guide Radio 4 through the shipping forecast, News Briefing, Prayer for the Day and Farming Today - until 6.00 and the start of the flagship Today programme.
I arrive at work at around 4.30, read through News Briefing, tweak my scripts and do some timings. It's around now I notice I'm wearing jogging bottoms, a sequinned blouse and odd socks, and my hair is standing on end like a fright wig. Thank goodness it's radio.
Everything up to and including the Six O'Clock bulletin comes from a separate studio, so it's 6.25 before I join the mêlée in the main Today studio. I'm constantly amazed at how fresh the presenters look. (I'm beginning to think those muesli-yoghurt pots on the tea trolley that no one ever eats must be some kind of organic facial scrub.) The programme trail which runs before the news provides just enough time to say hello and machete my way through the mountain of newspapers that invariably engulfs my keyboard.
Once inside the Today studio, it's vital to stay focussed, for the distractions are legion. While you are reading there might be a sports or business presenter, Cabinet minister, religious figure, celebrity or other esteemed personage arriving or departing; someone could be making frantic signals for water, getting tangled in their headphones, rustling paper, whispering, wheezing, fumbling, rumbling or just having a jolly good stare. Well, it's not often you see someone in a sequinned blouse that time of the morning.
By the end of the shift, I have consumed my own body weight in carbohydrate but I'm still standing. Yes, the early starts are tough; but the payoff is being a part of one of the BBC's most prestigious and influential news programmes. It's like having a ringside seat at the most exciting show in town.
I hear they're planning a new webcam for the studio. Note to self: do something about fright wig.