Come along for the ride!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"And now …. the end is near …."

I left the “bike” from the title of this blog at home this morning and was making my way into work by public transport; the dreaded tube. It’s New Years Eve so things are pretty quiet – I can handle it!!

During my walk to the station, I was remembering a Christmas Day which, if my memory serves me correctly, must’ve been the Christmas of 1999. I’m pretty sure that was the year because I remember we had celebrated Christmas Eve with M’s Mum in Kensington and I had travelled back to our flat alone that night, with a view to being picked up by someone in my family the following morning (we never had a car back then), to spend Christmas Day with them.

This was before we were married I hasten to add!

To be honest, the exact year is irrelevant; the reason the memory of the actual morning is so clear, is because it started so differently to any other Christmas Day up until then. (Ok, ok, if you discount the Christmas spent in Florida before driving up through Chicago to celebrate New Years in Minnesota, then this was the most different!)

My lift home on that 25th had been, shall we say, considerably delayed and I had some time on my hands. So it was that I found myself going for a jog around Battersea Park on a breathtakingly cold but beautifully clear Christmas morning, alone but for the occasional fellow jogger or dog walker (hey, dogs need to poo you know, even on Christmas morning!!?!).

I had a jog which was twice around the park, went home for a shower, some breakfast and some time to contemplate the day ahead. When I say ‘contemplate’, what I mean is ‘play music loudly’, which I did until I heard a horn beeping from the street below, indicating that my 'lift' had arrived.

Time to go.

Talking of time, it’s moving on and I haven’t actually got to what I want to say yet.

As I remember so clearly the Christmas Day I have just described to you, so I will remember this New Years Eve; or at least, I think I will.

Today is my last day at my current job; I am off for pastures new. And, as excited I am about my new job (I’m going back to working in education), it is with a certain degree of mixed feelings that I leave my current post.

I came to the BBC World Service when Joseph was just 6 months old and it has been a pretty special place to work.

As with any job, it is often the people you work with that makes a job special and, looking back through some of the pictures of our days at work and our evenings spent eating or drinking together, I am reminded just how many good times we have shared. Luckily however, it wasn’t just my colleagues that made working at Bush House so special.

I’m not sure that one should miss an actual building but Bush House itself has been a beautiful place to work. The architecture is described as “typically British” and is packed full of beautiful (not to mention listed) Art Deco features, from the lights and stone floors to the staircases and the many lifts in each of the four buildings (out of five) occupied by the Beeb.

Its locality is great - perched just back from the banks of the river Thames, nestled perfectly in between the Strand and the start of Fleet Street, almost directly at the bottom of Drury Lane; it’s been a veritable gateway to the whole of London.

Inside its huge marble walls, you are working with people (quite literally) from all around the world (gone are the days that stuffy Englishmen in tweed suits and matching ties sat puffing on a pipe while reading the news) and now, wandering through the canteen while deciding what to eat, you could easily hear 10 or 15 languages from one end of the room to the other.

Actually, writing that down reminds me of what a disadvantage it is nowadays to lack the ability to speak another language – something I plan to rectify in the New Year – especially in a place such as the World Service.

I’ve had the chance to sit and listen to plays being recorded. To talk with reporters that most people only see on the television or on their radios – actual heroes of mine - Jeremy Bowen and Justin Webb to name but two.

If I stepped into a lift, I might find myself saying good morning to, and having a brief chat with, Alan Johnson, the BBC journalist who was kidnapped in Gaza back in March of this year and held hostage for 114 days.

Another real life hero.

If you know me at all, you will know that I hate being treated like a fool by anyone, especially by high street stores or companies and nothing got more results than a complaining e-mail sent from my BBC address.

People sat up and took notice, replied with a bit of respect.

Do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts is treated badly by snooty staff in a clothes store, only to fall over themselves when she walks in the next day looking well heeled and polished?

Well, shop staff would act quite differently towards me if they caught a glimpse of my BBC staff pass around my neck (supposedly hidden under a collar). I would wonder why they were suddenly being helpful, before realising what had happened. Although we were told to keep our pass out of sight, I have to admit to rather enjoying the change in 'snootys' attitude!

But all this week I’ve had that strange feeling you get in the period between Christmas Day and New years Eve – an uneasy feeling of ……. anti-climax.

You know something is going to happen – you just don’t know what.

Well, like that, but double.

Even sat here today, everyone wondering if we should go for lunch early then out for a few drinks, I feel I should be doing something ….. else. Some more work? Sorting this out, tidying that up, arranging for …. oh, I don’t know!

Maybe I should just shut down my computer and leave. I’ve deleted all the old e-mails I’ve ever received or sent. I’ve cleared out the drive allocated to me on my computer network. I’ve burned to CD all the documents I’ve written, printed and collected over the last 2000 plus days.

Ooh, before I go, I want to clear a couple of things up.

Whenever I've met someone for the first time at a dinner or drinks party, they would always ask what I did and where I worked. I would tell them and they would often straighten up slightly, allow a slight sneer to fall across their face and announce confidently, "oh, I pay your wages then?" before taking a large swig from whatever it was they were drinking.

"Actually, no", I would reply, keeping the smugness from my face as best I could. "As a matter of fact the BBC World Service is funded by a grant-in-aid administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (see here). Your licence fee funds the wider BBC but has nothing whatsoever to do with the World Service. Can I get you a drink?"

Put that in your proverbial pipe and smoke it!

Incidentally, the licence fee you pay includes (but is not limited to) the following:

BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live Extra
BBC 6Music
BBC 1Xtra
BBC Asian Network
BBC local radio network

BBC 1 (analogue TV)
BBC 2 (analogue TV)
BBC 3 (digital TV)
BBC 4 (digital TV)

BBC iPlayer

BBC news websites (and internet)

and more ……

Now, please don't tell me that you don't think your licence fee is worth that lot??!?

The other thing I want to say is this;

On the back of everyone’s staff pass in the entire corporation, there are printed the BBC “Values” (you can read them here).

Whatever you think of the BBC and whether you think it is good value for money or not, the absolute core value for the corporation as a whole, is that "the audience is at the heart of everything we do".

And you know what?

Every one of those words is absolutely true.

Goodbye BBC World Service; it's been a special time.

I will remember you fondly.

For more of my Bush House snaps (and those taken nearby) see here. I will add to them as soon as I can!


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