The other morning I arrived at work a little too early – my BBC helicopter had made excellent progress – and decided to sit outside for a few minutes, enjoying what I believe they call the piazza outside New Broadcasting House. Or it might be a plaza. Pizza?
Whatever it’s called, you’ve probably seen it on TV. It’s the venue for photo-ops with newly anointed BBC director-generals or chairmen. It’s where camera crews from ITN and Sky position themselves during BBC crises (for a while in 2012 Kay Burley actually lived there). And of course, One Show viewers know it as the place of all sorts of outdoor frivolity. Musical acts, sporting competitions and, on one famous occasion when the ratings had slipped, a public execution.
You can experience the piazzaplaza for yourself, so if you’re ever in town, feel free to add it to your list of attractions. At Buckingham Palace there’s always the chance you’ll see your actual royalty gliding through the gates in a shiny black vehicle. At the London Eye, enjoy the view as your pod moves as imperceptibly slowly as the queue you were in for five hours. And at the BBC, marvel at the sight of some of Britain’s finest broadcasters with faces for radio, as they shamble in and out of the revolving doors, blinking manically in the sunlight, or fumbling in their Aldi bags for their BBC security pass.
On the sunny morning in question, I positioned myself at one end of the plazapiazza: far from the entrance with the letters “BBC” above it. It’s always useful to see a familiar object from a different perspective. (Well, not always. You should never stand naked over a mirror, for example.) I sat and for the first time truly marvelled at London’s most expensive extension.
Like suddenly stopping in a busy airport or railway station, the sensation of being a fixed point in a whirligig of activity was empowering. There was hustle, there was bustle. There was Bussell, I thought, but it was just a lookey-likey. I did spot Nick Grimshaw off Radio 1, running at speed through the pizzazz. Oh, to be that young, I thought. Radio 4 presenters never run, though one, to my certain knowledge, is on castors. People milled, chatted, drank coffee. The architects of the palazzi had hoped this place would become a vibrant public area and they’ve achieved that. For five blissful minutes I could have been in Rome, or Madrid. But I wasn’t – I had to go to work. So I dragged my sorry carcass towards the revolving doors, stepping over Corrie Corfield in her sleeping bag, and left the happy scene behind.
You know you’re old when…
You and I have a lot in common. I’m writing this… you’re reading it. We’re also sharing the slow steady march towards the grave, marked in my case by increasing deafness, blindness, achiness, forgetfulness and tiredness.
I’ve relayed some of my ageing experiences before, but yesterday I reached a new low. Preparing to come to work, I forgot whether I’d already showered. I thought I may have done, but couldn’t be sure. I felt the towel to see if it was wet. I smelt under my arms. I had literally no memory of whether the showering had occurred.
Naturally, I erred on the side of caution and took a(nother) shower – I’m not French, for God’s sake – and as soon as I did, I realised I had indeed showered about an hour before. I am 48 years old. And scrupulously clean.
Eddie Mair presents PM, Mon-Fri 5pm, and iPM, Sat 5.45am, both Radio 4