Just got back to Casablanca after an extraordinary week in the UK, which culminated in my appearance live on Blue Peter.
Challenging in the extreme, and involving this series of events:
1. Ian and I taking a boat (courtesy of the marina office) to board our Dutch barge, so that we could retrieve the huge knitted taxi cover that we’d foolishly stored aboard, prior to the floods in Surrey, and elsewhere.
2. The joy of attaching the taxi cover with Velcro, despite high winds and driving rain (please excuse the pun).
3. Drive up the M1 and M6, via Manchester, to Salford. (Four hours by knitted cab, for anyone thinking of attempting it). Not a fast way to travel, but colourful enough, and we scored countless ‘thumbs up’ and several honks. My favourite comments (yelled from the pavement) being: ‘You’ve dropped a stitch!’ And ‘But why?’
4. Overnight stay in Salford in The Hello Hotel (the glamour of live TV). The ‘Grab and Go’ breakfast was served in a bag. I had porridge.
5. Lengthy explanations to many MediaCity security guards as to why we had driven up to the Beeb knitted.
Anyway, two rehearsals, ten cups of coffee in The Green Room, and two loo breaks later, we had whittled away at the five hours preceding the live show. (I remember the toilet breaks especially, as we had to be swiped in and out of the facilities. Security is tight at MediaCity; perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to drink quite so much coffee).
Was it all worth it? Yes, yes, yes! As anyone who has grown up in the UK during the last 50 years, or so, would certainly agree. Blue Peter is part of childhood: the studio, the presenters, the insane challenges they set themselves, and the ‘here’s one I made earlier. . .’ Unforgettable.
And what were the highlights for me?
Seeing the huge signposts in the studio with endangered words such as: Ramfeezled, groak, snogly’geared, smellfungus, and ninnyhammer emblazoned across them.
Being interviewed by the lovely Barney Harwood, who is too good to need a script.
Meeting beautiful new girl Lindsay Russell, and hearing Radzi Chinyanganya being called a ‘ninnyhammer.’
And let’s not forget the Blue Peter badge, which is shamelessly coveted by our 13-year-old Archie, who watched the show live with friends at school, and who can’t stop ‘casually’ asking me questions about Barney.
Also great to meet the leaping group of children from a local school, who participated in the mini studio game show, that the Blue Peter crew had devised. Having them there made it far easier to talk about my passion for endangered words, and seeing them so enthused was fantastic (although I suspect much of their exuberance boiled down to all the waiting, and possibly the endless packets of complimentary Gummy Bears).
Another unforgettable moment for me was getting to hang out with eleven-year-old Harry, Junior Bake Off champion, who never stopped smiling and who cracked some excellent jokes. When I gave him a copy of my book (Around The World in Eighty Years) I made him promise to track me down in a year or two and send me a copy of his first book.
And Carnaby Street’s knitted taxi? It never made it on to the set, which is tiny these days, and nothing like the aircraft hanger that the show used to occupy (anyone remember when the baby elephant Lulu appeared on the show in 1969)? See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Cj2TtFd_E to refresh your memories. Good to see that live TV still has a role to play.
So there you have it. Thank you Blue Peter, thank you endangered words and thank you Barney, Lindsay and Radzi.
Thanks also to the studio crew: the various cameramen I had to dodge on my ‘effortless’ walk-in, the soundmen, make-up artist, dresser, producers and assistants who all crushed together, as if sensing my clumsiness, to give me enough space to squeeze past. There was one tense moment, when I thought Barney was going to say: ‘And here is Safia Shah to tell us more about why we should protect endangered words. . . .’ And I would come clattering onto set entangled in Ramfeezled and practically beheaded by Groak.