Do you ever get those dreams where you’re in a public place without a stitch on? It happened to me when I was sitting at the LBC microphone for the very first time. Don’t worry, I wasn’t literally naked. There are cameras everywhere in the studio and in any event, I have a no-nudity clause in my contract: LBC insisted on it. But at 4.03pm on Monday 3rd September the sense of vulnerability and shock that accompanies those nudi-dreams coursed through what doctors agree can still legally be described as a body.
More than a year after the possibility of doing this was first suggested, many months after 3rd September was pencilled into my diary, and after two weeks of test programmes, interviews, publicity photographs and preparation, it was about to come down to this moment. The 4pm news bulletin would finish. A jingle with my name in it would play, and then the microphone would go live. I would have to say actual words.
A sensible person would have written a script for this moment. Or perhaps, as is sometimes the norm at the nervy start of new broadcasting ventures, recorded something, just to be on the safe side. A scrap of clothing: a loincloth to prevent embarrassment. I opted for nudity.
The day before, I had gone for a long walk in the countryside. A cloudless Sunday demanded I enjoy what could be the last hot day of summer. For ten miles I followed a route through forests and fields, soaking up the isolated beauty while considering what to say the next day at 16.03.
Previously in this column I’ve discussed my unhappy relationship with maps. On this occasion I had an app with detailed photos and written descriptions of every stage of the route, as well as an Ordnance Survey app that clearly showed me at every stage where I was. To be on the safe side there were separate maps from the people at Google and Apple.
I got lost three times. On one occasion, after becoming trapped in a field – where I swear to you the advertised gate did not exist – my only means of escape was to throw myself through a hedge. I wish I was joking about that, and so do my scratched arms. On the plus side, my extended meandering gave me plenty of time to consider what I wanted to say at 16.03.
My goal was to introduce myself to LBC listeners – who were used to a different voice at that hour – and to say hello to people tuning in for the first time. I would highlight how LBC was available around the UK and the world, and chat about what the new show might be about. Most of all, I wanted to present me, unscripted and real. Easier to hide behind some well polished words; much more honest, and thrilling, to just speak.
With 20 seconds to go, I had second thoughts about the naked speaking thing. If only I had written a script for emergencies. What if I got mentally lost and had to throw myself through a hedge? I was naked. Think of the scratches!
Ten seconds. This was about to get real. The mic live light came on: it was just me, the microphone and, somewhere out there, the listener. I can’t remember what I said. The detail has vanished, as the detail of naked dreams do. But like the dreams, I remember the feeling – intensely so. And I loved it.