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Robin Lustig's week

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Robin Lustig 16:22, Friday, 17 July 2009


Editor's note: We're trying something new. Every Friday afternoon during the Summer we're going to publish a diary post from an important Radio 4 personality. We're starting with Robin Lustig, presenter of The World Tonight since 1989. If you'd like to hear from a particular Radio 4 personality (a presenter, a programme maker or even a senior manager), leave a comment and we'll see what we can do.

One of the many good things about working for The World Tonight is that you get weekends off. And as someone who spent more than a decade working on a Sunday newspaper, I still find the notion of a two-day weekend a wonderful novelty.

But when I travel, it's different. After a hard week at the studio coal-face (six programmes in five days since you ask, three at the World Service and three at The World Tonight), I was up on Saturday morning for the 10-hour flight to Mexico.

The following day, Sunday, we were straight off into the countryside to start collecting material. I love travelling, and will always leap at the chance to shove my passport into my pocket and head off to some distant location. So I don't really resent the occasional missed weekends (well, not too much, anyway).

When I started as a reporter, long before the days of mobile phones or laptop computers, I was taught that the first thing you had to do when you went out on an assignment was find a public phone box that worked, so that you could phone in your story.

The 21st century broadcaster's equivalent when you're overseas is find a location from which your satellite dish can transmit a signal. More often than not, you end up on the roof of your hotel.

But our Mexico City hotelier wasn't keen on letting us on to his roof - and his car park, which is the usual Plan B, had high walls round it - so we started touring city centre hotels to find one with a roof or a balcony facing in the right direction. Eventually, mission accomplished: sound engineer Jacques Sweeney pronounced himself satisfied; producer Beth McLeod negotiated a special cheap deal on behalf of licence fee-payers, and we were ready to roll.

We do a lot of "multi-platform content delivery" these days. Which means we blog, we write for News Online, and we even pop up on other people's programmes. So after a week of scurrying about for The World Tonight, and a quick chat with nice Mr Humphrys on the The Today programme, we were up at 5am the following Sunday to contribute first to The World This Weekend on Radio 4, and then immediately afterwards to Newshour on the World Service. The joys of working west of the Greenwich meridian meant we were done by 8am, and were able to take a few hours' break to visit the stunning Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan, an hour's drive from Mexico City. (The pictures are in The World Tonight Flickr group here).

I love coming home, of course, but I don't much like 10-hour overnight flights (yes, of course, in Economy). So I was perhaps just slightly grumpy when the BA pilot informed us that it had been raining at Heathrow (rain? In July? Who would have thought it?), and that the airport was in a bit of a mess. We parked about a mile away from Terminal 5 and waited first for the steps and then for the bus to carry us back to civilisation. But I mustn't grumble: I wasn't due back on air till the next day - and I did have a weekend off to look forward to. Jet lag? Don't know the meaning of the word.


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