Last week I recounted in horrifying detail the beginning of my first PM in New Broadcasting House. We did our last show from TV Centre on the Wednesday and next day I arrived at work, ready to prepare for hosting the nation’s favourite radio news programme.*
When we left my dramatic monologue, I had just successfully adjusted the back of my chair. Now I was ready for the fresh challenges of hooking my phone up to the office wi-fi and working out how to open the drawer next to me. Thankfully, after only 30 minutes of constantly re-entering a password in the wrong place, and a phone session with Mike from IT, I could read my junk email. And the drawer crisis was solved when Bruce came round distributing keys.
I was on a roll. I had solved three seemingly insurmountable problems in only an hour! Sadly this was time I would normally have spent reading newspaper articles and discussing ideas with the team. Many of them were similarly caught up in chair and wi-fi crises. How we got through our 11am editorial meeting I don’t know. The first problem was where the hell to hold it.
In the old offices – which we always hated but on this first morning in the new place were being described in wistful terms – there was a meeting room right next to us, just for us, and we’d mince in and out at will. In New BH there is no such dedicated room. After ten minutes of wandering around like lost children, we found a handful of chairs in a corridor to sit and talk through the important issues of the day. Top of the agenda: does anyone know where the toilets are? Then – is it true there is free tea and coffee available from very hot taps? Third: where are the bins?
There are no longer bins by everyone’s desks and it was generally agreed it was the end of civilisation as we knew it. Disposing of rubbish now requires – brace yourself – getting out of your chair and walking to one of the brightly coloured bin and recycling areas. Imagine the horror. Yes, there were rumours that Newsnight had secured a secret bin, and we were pleased that more recycling was going on, but generally there was tut-tutting about this new affront to humanity.
That entire first day, we operated in this kind of self-absorbed fog. We tried to concentrate on our jobs but somehow were always distracted by the office mechanics. How do you transfer a phone call? What’s happened to the sound on my PC? When will the lambs stop screaming?
Bosses turned up to watch our programmes make their historic first broadcasts from the new building. A photographer captured our confusion for future generations. And, through it all, we tried to focus on the news, but in truth it probably wasn’t our best show ever.
I like our new studios, though. There are more computer screens than were needed to put humans on the Moon, and technical wizardry means we no longer have to hunt for the TV remote – it’s all done with touchscreens!
We were all a bit pooped after a day of crashing innovation coupled with trying to sound like everything was fine. And, do you know what, the next day, it was like we’d been there for years.
*I made that up.
Eddie Mair co-presents iPM on Saturdays at 5:45am and hosts PM from Monday to Friday at 5:00pm – both on Radio 4