Category Archives: General

A quick taster

So you probably know  we got married.
Karen and me. We got married.  Friday 20th.  It was great. We had a seriously good time–so good I’m still reeling  and trying to bring it all into focus to write something about it.

But while I do, here is something I prepared earlier. It’s the short speech I gave before the Best Man’s speech. I’m not sure that this was fully in compliance with the traditional order of events, but I really don’t care.  There was stuff I wanted to say, and say it to all the friends and family.

This is my script. It was NOT delivered exactly as written. I kind of surfed the euphoria a bit and ad-libbed a few times.  “Check against delivery,” as it used to say on the advance copies of political speeches I occasionally saw in my previous life.

Seemed to go down reasonably well.  It got a few laughs anyway.  For those who did see it live, thank you for being so appreciative.

Well, it’s been a while coming, hasn’t it?

I mean, not many people wait until their 60s to dip their toe into matrimony for the first time.. Usually once you get into middle age, you’re a bit set in your ways, but this seems like the right thing to do now.

From another point of view it’s been twelve years. Twelve years since Karen and I decided we’d been typing at each other on social media long enough and went to see Buster Keaton in a silent film called The Cameraman. It was great fun to see him inventing all the slapstick stunts with the tripod that we were still doing 100 years later. And afterwards we decided maybe we should do something one day again soon. So we did, and 12 years later we still haven’t stopped talking.

But maybe the real wait has been six years.

Let me take you back to March 2012. Karen had joined me at the BBC at a retirement party for a fellow cameraman.  As usual, a whole bunch of old hands showed up and I found myself in conversation with quite a few of them. Most of them seemed to think I was likely to be the next departure, and on the whole they were encouraging me to take the plunge as soon as I could. And so so, they reckoned, should Karen.

Well, we chatted about it and started thinking out loud about what retirement would mean and then she said something along the lines of, “That would be a good time to “sort out the paperwork”.

“Sort out the paperwork” was our euphemism of choice for the “upgrade” of Karen and Derek’s long standing separation to a full divorce.

Hmm. I said. “Well, if you did do that, I’d be happy to do the next bit of paperwork”

There was a pause. She looked at me, looked at the glass of BBC red wine I was holding, which was definitely not my first of the evening, looked back at me and said “Does that mean what I think it means?”

“Er…yes. I suppose it does,”

There may have been less romantic proposals, but maybe not by much, and I couldn’t let it end there. So a little while later, when were leaving the party I did, in fact, get down on one knee and proposed properly, just so it was official.

And for the avoidance of doubt, I said it AGAIN once I’d sobered up the following morning.

And here we are.

Before I hand over to Steve for the ritual character assassination I do just want to say a few words of thanks.

When I started seeing Karen I was a bit nervous about meeting her extended family. I needn’t have been. Without exception, everyone on her side has been welcoming to the newcomer. Particularly, I want to thank Chris, Tom and Clare who took to to “mum’s new bloke” without so much as blinking an eye and made me feel like one of the family.

Thanks also to the staff here at the hotel for arranging all this for us.

And finally thank you to all of you for coming. Some of you have come some distance to join us today and I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that. We hope you’ve had, and will continue to have, a good time.

And now it’s Steve’s turn, but first

At this point I muttered something about traditionally giving the Best Man a present but thinking that he’d appreciate this rather than a set of cuff links or something and handed him a bottle of decent (as recommended by the local Majestic Wine Warehouse) Pino Grigio (As recommended by a mutual friend)
I ran the first draft past Karen and she made a few suggestions, which I incorporated and reminded me of the following .  I’m including it for completeness.

We actually first became acquainted online in the late 90s: the earliest post from “Roy Gillett” on UKCA I can find quickly in my archive is from 2000, and even then we were disagreeing *very politely* on the existence of God 😀

In 2004 we nearly met, but Brendan [Brendan Stallard, an old online mate of ours]  couldn’t find a slot in the schedule so it fell through. I can’t find the one where we all met up in the Black Friar but it must have been shortly after that.

In 2005 you were helping me with getting a facsimile signature into my E mail sign-off, and I was helping you with family research on the Censuses.

At the end of the year, or early in 2006, the famous “Life on Mars” thread started – and you, as an old UMIST student, queried the credibility of the price of a ticket to Old Trafford as portrayed on the screen. I aced the game by being able to produce an actual stand ticket from Easter 1980, priced at £1.40. It’s fair to say I have a certain reputation for record-keeping.

After that the conversation sort of carried on and deviated into other matters – culminating in me saying I was going to The Cameraman, and you offering to meet up for a drink between work and then….(see above)

Steve’s speech, since you ask, was pretty damn good.  I was only very slightly embarrassed and Karen didn’t recoil in horror once. Well, in twelve years she’d heard most of the anecdotes already,

I want to write a bit more about the planning and build up and the event itself but it’s going to take a while and I need to wait on the photos from the official photographer.

Thank you for reading.

PS I should probably mention that the headline picture is an early preview of the set from the official snapper–an old BBC mate, Jon Daly Photography. An the embedded speechifying picture is courtesy of Louise Nicholson, probably my oldest friend there.

 

What?

In eight days time I shall become a retired person. A<gasp> pensioner. 

Well, sort of. I’ll be in receipt of an occupational pension. (At least, I assume I will be. So far I’ve heard very little from the pension fund. Maybe they don’t adopt me until August 7th)  But as far as the government is concerned I have another five years and eleven months to go. They moved those goalposts while I wasn’t looking. I will get free prescriptions though unless they change the rules in the next week and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did.

But yes. Retired. A pensioner. Friends of mine who’ve gone before say it’s a bit like being a kid on the summer holidays again, only with my own money. I can do anything I like. Anything. (You knew  that within the law  is to be taken as read, didn’t you?)

But this poses, if not exactly a problem, a bit of a conundrum. When you can do anything you like, how do you choose? What shall I do? I was never much good at amusing myself on summer holidays as it happens.

I’ve had some ideas. This is one of them: whitter away on a blog. I don’t see that taking up all that much time, especially as I have no intention of making any kind of regular commitment to it. I’m not going to be like Tim Fenton (Zelo Street–over there on the right) putting up three well researched posts a day regular as clockwork.  It will be as the fancy takes me.

Someone has already noted that I will probably get out on my bike a bit more–there may be note at some point about how I came a bit late to cycling and now love it–and that was always my intention. I  I’d like to do more mass participation rides as long as I can find some that knackered old gits can complete in their own time.

Learn, at long  bloody last, to play a musical instrument? Actually take lessons rather than just aimlessly noodle on one? Possibly. Although I suspect that it was lack of any perceptible musical talent rather than lack of time is what’s inhibited  me in the past. Perhaps, like Dan Weir in Iain Banks’s Espedair Street, I should take up the bass guitar because my fingers are too clumsy for anything else.

Get properly stuck back in to my family history research? I’ve been looking at that on and off for the best part of twenty five years but I’ve discovered nothing much new for the last five. I think there are courses I could take and there’s a  possibly of field trips–particularly to Worcester, where my father’s family came from– to look at actual paper records.

Travelling a bit would be good if the pension will stretch, but I’d always want to go with Karen, the other ‘arf, and she’s still working for a living.

Maybe  something I hadn’t thought of will suddenly come along and, in my late mother’s words, “hit me over the head.”

I think for the first couple of months, though, what I’ll be mostly doing is not going to work.

Why?

Camerasutra

So why am I retiring from what quite possibly could seem to be one of the best jobs there is? I mean we get to swan around the world at someone else’s expense, stay in four star  hotels and get front row seats at the best events, don’t we?

Well not really, no. And over time I may explain the reality of this peculiar line of work.  But it’s very far from the worst job in the world either. Looking back it’s probably one of the  the best and most interesting jobs I could reasonably expect to have had had given my qualifications, experience and aptitudes. I was lucky to fall into it. And I did fall but again, that may be another story for another post.

None of which explains why I’m retiring. I think the most succinct answer is, “Because I can.”

Six months ago I got a letter from the BBC’s pension fund. Six months hence my pension would, for want of a better term, mature. I would be sixty years old and have forty  years worth of contributions (the maximum) in the scheme. (I chose to pay slightly increased contributions from the word go in 1980)

For old gits like me that means  a full, index linked final salary pension which, I have been reliably informed by previously retired staff, is plenty.

(I’ll insert here the standard apology to my younger colleagues who’ve had their pension entitlements hacked back. Sorry, guys, but there’s not a great deal I can do about it. )

 

At the same time I was noticing that the job–at least for me– was becoming increasingly routine and even, on occasions a bit tedious.  That was partly my fault I suppose for not keeping up with the technology and learning laptop editing or one man satellite truck operation and a handful of other new skills but there you go.

The Old Bailey has a certain charm occasionally but getting up at 04:30 on a cold February morning to go and stand there for several hours in the rain is not inspiring.

And I was going to be sixty. The job was getting increasingly physically harder with more to carry . (Many colleagues have spinal issues. Something I have, thankfully been spared, but for how long?) In short, I was getting tired. Why not go while was I’m still healthy and with–I sincerely hope–many more years to find something else interesting to do?

So I talked it over with Karen, the other ‘arf, and in April, after a morning standing in Downing Street for little apparent purpose, I told by manager I was off on my next birthday.

I don’t think it came as much of a surprise. He probably knew I’d turned down a trip to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games on the grounds that I might be retired before they ended. It didn’t actually work out like that but it would have meant being terribly busy at a time when I’ve been making strenuous efforts to wind down.

That’s all there is to it. I can’t do it for ever, so I chose to stop when wanted rather than go on a bit too long and have someone whisper in my ear that I really ought to stand aside.

If you want to try to talk me out of it–although it’s a bit late–comments are open.

 

 

 

Setting the scene

Camerasutra

OK, the blurb to the right is a bit premature; I haven’t actually retired yet. That happens in a couple of weeks but I wanted to get this up and running in advance .

(Old mates can skip the next paragraph.)

I’ve been working for the BBC for nearly 35 years. All of them in Television News, and the vast majority of it on the road. I’ve travelled a bit and seen a few things but with a Significant Birthday looming I’ve decided it’s time to move on and maybe do some Other Things. This blog might be one of them.

I don’t really know where I’m going with it yet. I got the idea when people started to tell me I should write my memoirs. Well, I’m not sure that’s going to work all that well. I’m not convinced I have enough material to turn into a book. On the other hand I do like telling (and retelling and repeating ad infinitum) the odd anecdote. I do it on Facebook a bit and it’s always seemed a shame that material there scrolls off rather quickly.  So expect Tales from the BBC from time to time.

I might get a bit ranty on current events as well. Some things in the news infuriate me and I like to vent.  I might even want to shout my approval occasionally. While I was employed by a national news organisation I was a bit inhibited by their Social Media policy.  I think they would have liked their social media policy to read DON’T but that was clearly impractical so they asked us to be careful. I can be less careful on my own page.

The point is that it’s my  blog. I can put whatever I want here (within the law)  It might evolve in unexpected directions or I might decide it’s just not worth the effort any more.

Comment if you like. Or not. Up to you. I’m all ears, er, eyes–whatever.