As I chuck reams of paper into re-cycling bags I came on an information paper, issued by the National Farmers’ Union on how to deal with radio interviews – all good sense but presumed you would have time to prepare, seldom so. An issue would ‘erupt’, you had a clear speaking voice, articulate on your subject so you were ‘put in to bat’. The instructions would have been useless in India, broadcasting at 2 a.m because of the time difference, on your mobile phone, with Hindus ringing bells outside. I was very naive, knew nothing about performing rights. I had a letter from my Grammar School headmistress saying she was delighted to have heard me on Radio 4. Totally thrown, could not remember where or when I last broadcast. Turns out they dig in archives to find something mildly near the subject. My ideas, and certainly circumstances, had changed, and it was near nonsense.
I attended a course on Instructional techniques, I was useless, still am – don’t obey any of the rules, wanted my staff to be happy, they just wanted to earn lots of money. I repeat myself, but not the instruction. Now I am working with somebody who is quite deaf (she either does not know or will not admit it) and I tell her what to do whilst walking in the other direction. At the course we were divided into teams, and given tasks. It got to lunch time; one team did not come back. Eventually they were found in the bar. Red faced instructor expostulated. Ah, they said, you never told us to come back and de-brief on the instruction sheet.
My pithiest rejection came from Mills and Boon. Short of money, I thought writing for them would be money for old rope. I dashed off a couple of gooey chapters, already seeing best-seller fame. A reply came ‘You might have actually read one of our books before trying to be published’. I wrote a few articles for ‘The Banker’ then shot myself in the foot. No great lover of the USA I wrote a very bigoted article on their agriculture policy. Not only had I not done my homework, but you could not generalise on a country with so many variables. I was not asked back.
One piece of advice on broadcasting was ‘Refute any incorrect statements’, but the biter can be bitten. On a Radio London phone-in programme I was laying into Thames Water, low popularity levels. Phone call came in (if anybody has done phone-in broadcasts they are terrifying) from the Chairman of Thames Water, saying I had got my facts wrong. I had, but they were putting backs up everywhere at that time, they had more leaks than the government.
Most embarrassing is when you have given a well-thought talk, ask for questions, deafening silence. Either your talk was deadly dull, you confounded them with your erudition, or the bar is open. Have you ever had moments when you wish you had never opened your mouth? Or put pen to paper?
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