Like me, you may be feeling a little sad at the forthcoming departures from Radio 4 of Harriet Cass, Charlotte Green and Robin Lustig. For years they’ve been as much a part of our listening experience as Today presenters crashing the pips or PM presenters crashing the bongs. Things will not be the same on air. And personally, in our office, I will miss the friendly warmth, the infectious laugh and that well-managed beard. But enough about Harriet.
The elaborate cover stories to explain their impending absences have done the trick. No one suspects a thing. But if there’s one thing you expect from this column, it’s the unvarnished truth. And sentences beginning with “and”. So let me reveal the explosive facts. And no messing.
Harriet Cass is to return full-time to her role at the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6, where she is known simply as H. She has worked part-time for the Service for more than 30 years, expertly combining the role of smashing international spy rings with doing the Radio 4 continuity rota and flawlessly pronouncing Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In this increasingly dangerous world, where even Chief Whips can pose a threat to security staff, Harriet’s calm demeanour will be invaluable at dealing with, and being able to say, the world’s trickiest trouble spots.
Charlotte Green is to devote herself to a lifelong dream of swimming around the world without the aid of water wings. Privately, Charlotte has been building up to this immense challenge for the last decade. What began as a joke, doing widths at her local pool, has become something of an obsession. Before long she was circumnavigating the Isle of Wight, and her greatest triumph to date has been doggy-paddling to each area of the shipping forecast. Everything is in place for her globe-swimming challenge except a decision on whether to go east-west or west-east.
Robin Lustig was, I regret to inform you, sacked from the BBC. It came as a shock to me, too. But on a routine inspection of his home, they discovered more BBC stationery than in the whole of New Broadcasting House. I’m told by someone who witnessed the discovery that there was an entire conservatory filled to the brim with staplers. It would have taken a criminal mastermind to smuggle that many pens, paper clips and The World Tonight headed notepaper out of the office unnoticed.
I can tell you that the BBC Press Office has been briefed to dismiss all information in this column as “one of Eddie’s light-hearted but increasingly irritating little jokes”. But we both know the truth.
I don’t know whether you believe in karma. I don’t know whether I believe in karma. But here’s a true story. After writing the tissue of lies above, about valued and treasured colleagues, I set off from home to work on PM. On arrival, I discovered that my BBC pass no longer worked. Couldn’t get into the car park. Couldn’t get into the pedestrian entrance. It took ages to fix. It could have been coincidence. It could have been karma. Or it could have been H.
Eddie Mair co-presents iPM on Saturday at 5:45am, and hosts PM from Monday to Friday at 5:00pm - both on Radio 4