A humiliating moment last week as I tried to enter New Broadcasting House in London. The security guard looked at my pass. And then looked some more. And then some more. “It is me!” I offered, nervously.
“Yes. Perhaps a much younger version of you.” Naturally, I was affronted. Then I looked at the photo on the pass. In fact I’m staring at it now. I look like a young East German shot-putter from 1976. One of the women.
The person in the photo doesn’t have grey hair, nor dead eyes or wrinkles. I’m only sure it’s me because I’ve been carrying the damn thing around for years. If you put the pass photo alongside a current snapshot, it resembles something you’d see in a newspaper ad for something horrendous. “Has your life been horrifically damaged by breathing too much varnish? Look what it did to this man! Call us now and we’ll get you a million pounds in compensation.”
It was nice of the security guard not to laugh in my face. How do people at passport control stop themselves from sniggering? The backs of their hands must be red-raw from pinching. They should be congratulated on their wills of steel - somehow not exploding in laughter as ageing, balding, bloated wrecks try to enter the country on passports bearing the likeness of lithe, hirsute, young bubblies.
I popped to the BBC ID unit to enquire about getting a new photo. That could be done right away, I was told, but it would take four days for my new pass to arrive, during which time I’d have no pass at all. I’d be unable to get into any BBC building, and even if I accomplished entry, it would be impossible to get in and out of secure areas. Such as studios.
Alive to this obvious drawback, the helpful young man in the ID unit (who probably does still look like his pass photo) explained that people tend to order replacement passes just before they go on holiday. They come back from their break looking significantly older – like plastic surgery in reverse. I might remember that handy tip. Or I might carry on walking round with a photo of Olga Fraukop Schlurpidonger around my neck.
Exodus from TV Centre
I hardly ever wear make-up on radio, but TV demands it. As the make-up artists trowel on the factor 50, there’s often a waspish remark or well-sourced bit of tittle-tattle. It’s great fun. But times are changing. The last time I hosted Newsnight (and they were quite clear it would be the last time) was the penultimate edition from TV Centre. Now, Jeremy and Co come atcha from central London. TV Centre is increasingly empty these days and my make-up woman was wistful. She’d trained in the building and was sad to see its echoing, empty corridors and offices.
I didn’t have the heart to say I’d just been at the new Broadcasting House, whose make-up rooms seem four floors below ground, devoid of natural light and with barely a person in sight. On the plus side a dizzying spiral staircase is the only way to reach the corridor and your light-headedness by the time you reach -4 is quite satisfying. Like smelling too much varnish.
Eddie Mair co-presents iPM on Saturday at 5:45am and hosts PM from Monday-Friday at 5:00pm on Radio 4