Here it is!
I received an email out of the blue, inviting me to read a poem of mine on BBC Radio Merseyside. It’s going out at 13:55 GMT today. You will hear me calm and steady. I hope. Because what I really am is trembling and nauseated.
Roger Phillips has the lunchtime show and he contacted me on Wednesday, to say that all of today’s programmes are being broadcast from alongside the Mersey under the banner heading, Turning The Tide. They found my poem about living near the Mersey on The Healthy Waterways Trust website, and asked if I’d be willing to read it for the show. Did Shake have a speare? Of course I agreed!
Once I told everyone I knew that video didn’t actually kill the radio star, reality – i.e. absolute gut-wrenching terror – set in. As many of you know, I am a member of Write Out Loud, the country’s largest poetry organisation, dedicated to getting us all reading our poetry in company. That means I read out a minimum of two poems once a month to a tolerant audience. I also give regular poetry readings at Walthew House, Stockport’s charity for the blind and hard of hearing (the latter seem to be my best audience, if I’m honest). I read to other community groups and last year I did a grand tour of two Stockport churches, sharing the War Poetry Canon to commemorate 1914. I even read the lesson in church from time to time. So no biggie, right?
A follow-up email from Roger about calling me this morning at nine ‘after the news’ had me reaching for the (carefully lined with a plastic bag and toilet paper to stop splashback) sick bucket. Did that mean I’d be live on the BBC? To thousands of Scousers who might find my accent wanting (I’ve moved a lot). What if I messed up? What if I threw up? What if the dogs barked and yapped and yelped and yipped while we were on the phone? Would Mr Phillips pass the recording of me bludgeoning them with a bucket to the police? What was I thinking?!
That’s when I gave thanks for Hairy Boy, my first-born child, my clever son, my current favourite offspring, because he had the good sense to fall in love with Hairy Girl. If Hairy Boy is Mountain Man, Hairy Girl is Mountain Dew: beautiful and smart and – the best thing ever about her; I can’t believe I never saw it before – she works for another BBC local radio station.
I sent off a frantic email: Help! I’m going to be on the radio! I’m going to snatch my three minutes from Andy Warhol (we have just come out of a recession) and I might make a fool of myself because I only have eight years’ experience of performing poetry! and followed it up with a frantic text: Sent you an email! Read it! Today! Now! Are you well? We haven’t seen you in ages xx
She talked me down off the ledge with sensible advice and an admonishment to have fun. Has she met me? Fun is my middle name, as in Tilly Illhavefunifitkillsmelikethistensionangstanxietyprobablywillbeforelong Bud.
So Rog phoned this morning (having spent four minutes in conversation, I think we’re close enough friends now for me to give him a diminutive) just after the news (a man of his word) and I recorded my poem, (feeling like Marilyn Monroe, in a breathy, high-on-drugs way; not a breathy, sexy-in-white way, unless you count the zero colour in my face), holding on to my breakfast, grateful to be unlive, and then dancing a jig around the living room when we were done.
Radio – I think I’ve found my medium. I can sit in my pyjamas, cuddle my sick bucket, and read poetry to the world who, because my poems are for the most part short, won’t have time to reach for the off button before I’m done.
Next stop: hospital radio; a mostly unconscious audience. They’re going to love me.