The first unlikely confidence booster came from the local newspaper hack.
Despite the fact that he had originally e-mailed me out of the blue – meaning that he was the one that had wanted to speak to me – and that I was merely returning his call, the hack (after he had worked out who I was, which took a while) seemed fairly bemused that I was even talking to him. Not only bemused, but openly bored and faintly irritated.
As our desultory, lacklustre conversation progressed, it became clear that he was expecting me to “pitch” to him in some way. As I was almost totally indifferent as to whether his paper ran a story on me or not, my “pitch” was not exactly an enthusiastic one. My growing resentment at his arrogantly misplaced assumptions didn’t exactly help matters either.
Terse, grudging questions ensued.
“So what are blogs anyway? I’ve never heard of them.”
You know what? I could quite cheerfully never answer this question again.
(We’ll come back to this again later.)
“And you’ve entered some sort of competition, have you?”
No. I was nominated for an award, by other people. I have already explained this to you at least twice. Please stop calling it a “competition”. It makes me sound desperate.
“What’s the organisation behind the awards?”
It’s just one bloke in the States, actually. There isn’t a big organisation; that’s part of the whole appeal. But now you’ll think it’s just some tinpot sad-sack geekfest, won’t you?
“What do you win?”
If I tell you that the prize is actually a Prisoner Cell Block H DVD, then all of your assumptions will be confirmed. I’m not even going to give you the satisfaction.
“Are you going to win?”
I don’t know. I doubt it. I’ll find out after 19:30 this evening.
That gave him his get-out clause.
“In that case, someone from this paper may contact you after 19:30 this evening. If you win.”
He couldn’t get rid of me fast enough after that.
Instead of leaving me feeling belittled (as might have been expected), I found that our exchange had an immediate and opposite effect.
Firstly, it freed me from any lingering desire for further coverage in the local press. After all, darlings: when one gets to my level of media visibility, one can afford to pick and choose.
Secondly, it removed any danger of being stitched up, in the manner of last weekend’s extended sneer in the Scottish Sunday Times. Paranoid? You betcha.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it made me realise that everybody I had talked to at the BBC had been uniformly interested in the subject, positive about covering it and making something good out of it, and generally on my side. This last realisation reassured me greatly.
(Although I still hadn’t forgotten K’s humiliating experience on the Radio Nottingham breakfast show from seven or eight years ago, when the presenter departed from the agreed brief and tried to do a John Humphries hatchet job on him and his business. If they were going to ambush me with snarkiness, then I would be ready for them.)
The second unlikely confidence booster came yesterday evening, with the announcement of the results.
“Live at #BlogIRC on irc.turlyming.com”, they said.
Sorry, did you say IRC? Wow, talk about Old School. I had last encountered IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in 1996-97, when I briefly installed it, summarily decided it was a knocking shop for sociopaths, and quickly uninstalled it.
Quick history lesson. Before the all-conquering Gaydar came along, IRC had been the hot place for gay men to chat, cruise, make dates, and indulge in frenzied one-handed typing in multiple windows. For some people I knew, this was pretty much all they required from the shiny new Internet.
“If this is the Information Superhighway”, I warned one newly obsessed neophyte, “then you’re stuck giving blow-jobs in the trailer park”.
Even now, K and I refer to Gaydar as the Trailer Park. Hey, who needs the gay scene any more, when you can be ignored, rejected, strung along and generally treated like shit by superficial w*nkers in the privacy of your own home? Such progress!
So yeah, IRC. Once I had finished installing it, and going round and round in circles trying to work out how the hell to access the #BlogIRC channel, a good half an hour had passed. On eventually joining the channel, I swiftly realised that I had crossed the line between “fashionably” and “hopelessly” late. With all the blog-celebs having already departed in their virtual limos for their virtual after-parties (I hear that Defamer‘s was quite the hot ticket this year), I was left stumbling over virtual streamers, virtual empty champagne bottles and virtual drunks slumped in virtual corners, trying to find out just what had happened (and running into a similarly bewildered Diamond Geezer along the way).
Eventually, news filtered through. Fourth out of five by the looks of things, although it wasn’t entirely clear whether the runners-up were displayed in order of votes cast, or merely in random order. In which case, maybe I could claim to be second equal. No, I wasn’t fooling myself nor anyone else. Fourth it almost certainly was.
So why was this a confidence booster?, I hear you cry.
(Well, actually I’m hearing you cry: For God’s sake, get on with the bloody story, do you think we haven’t got other blogs to read, what is this, bloody Proust, I’ll give you bloody recherche du bloody temps perdu, any more of this and I’m bloody billing you, mate.)
OK, I’ll tell you why. Because limping home in fourth position meant that for the radio interview, I could settle back into the familiar role of Humourously Self-Deprecating Under-Achiever. Thus, instead of trying to put myself forward as some sort of poster boy for British blogging, I could instead slip into line with all the other Plucky Runners-up for which our country has become so famous. (One word: Eurovision.)
Upon arriving at the Radio Nottingham studios this morning, I was escorted upstairs to a small waiting area just outside the studio. And standing in the middle of the waiting area, who else should I see but…. Robin Hood, in full gear, with tunic, boots, sword and hunting horn, looking as if this was the most natural thing in the world. Only in Nottingham!
(Actually, working only a few doors down from the Tales Of Robin Hood heritage centre, and therefore regularly bumping into Robin Hood, Maid Marian or Friar Tuck nipping out to Saint James’s Street for their lunchtime cobs, this was the most natural thing in the world. I scarcely batted an eyelid.)
Yes, I was being “bumped” again – although only for ten minutes or so this time round – in order to make way for a “surprise” entrance for Mr. Hood, who “stormed” the studio unannounced in order to…
…well, in order to advertise for his replacement, actually. With the current Mr. Hood swanning off to Hollywood in order to work as a fight choreographer for the likes of Angelina Jolie, a vacancy has arisen down at t’heritage centre. Applicants should submit their CVs to Tales Of Robin Hood, 30-38 Maid Marian Way, Nottingham, NG1 6GF. Not a bad career path, is it?
Eventually, I was ushered into the studio alongside mid-morning presenter Jeff Owen, who was due to take over from breakfast presenter Karl Cooper at the top of the hour. (You see how easily I slip into the vernacular?) Before my interview began, Karl and Jeff spent a couple of minutes indulging in the sort of cheerful banter which is traditional in the run-up to changeover time.
The conversation soon settled upon my earworm of the week: Tony Christie’s newly re-released (Is This The Way To) Amarillo. According to Karl (who should know about these things), this is currently outselling every other record in the Top 20 put together, and is thus a dead cert for Number One on Sunday. Talk about conversational home territory! By this time, I was smiling and nodding and making “oh really, how interesting” faces all over the place, and really getting quite impatient to join in.
Jeff went on to reminisce about how Amarillo had been used to advertise a certain brand of sherry in the 1970s, except that he couldn’t quite remember the brand of sherry. There was a fractional pause while he ransacked his brain… and while I resisted the almost overpowering urge to butt in with a quip of my own.
“Maybe it was Is This The Way To Amontillado, Jeff?”
Oh, how Nottingham’s ribs would have been tickled! All the way from Beeston to Bestwood! From Clifton to Chilwell! From Holme Pierrepont to Hucknall! From…
…but it wouldn’t have been right. After all, I hadn’t even been introduced yet. Best leave the joshing to the pros. Mentally gagging myself, I awaited my turn.
“So, Mike… what is blogging?”
The dreaded question. The question which I had fluffed so badly during Saturday’s phone interview. The question which I had been sweating about ever since. The question to which I had constructed a hundred and one elegantly informative answers in my mind.
All of which had one thing in common. The expression “reverse chronological”.
Because how else could you explain the one thing – the only thing – which unites all weblogs, regardless of content?
Except that I had just realised that “reverse chronological” was quite the wrong expression for the Radio Nottingham audience. Too dry, too academic, too wordy.
Which meant that I needed to come up with another answer. Like, NOW.
As all of the above thoughts, and many more besides, passed through my mind (like: Wow, do you think they’ll notice the POOLS of sweat which my palms have ALREADY left on the table after just three or four MINUTES, I mean how EMBARRASSING is THAT?), time slowed down to an infintessimal crawl.
Dead air, folks. As tumbleweed rolled over the studio floor, so K – listening to the live stream in his office, not much more than two minutes’ walk from the studio – felt a sharp surge of terror.
But somehow – and this is where my memory of the interview almost completely packs up on me – I stumbled to the end of the answer. God knows what I said, but at least I said something.
And from then on, it was plain sailing. Having crossed the biggest hurdle of them all – the “what is blogging” question – I wasn’t stuck for another single word. As Karl and I bantered about the Bloggies, and the virtual awards ceremony, and whether I had come fourth or “second equal”, and about how pleased he was that I’d linked to the show (“I know you need the traffic”, I quipped), and about the exhibitionist tendencies of bloggers in general, so I found myself – quelle surprise! – actually enjoying myself.
Darlings, I could have danced all night. They practically had to drag me out of that studio. But I was just getting into my stride! Sod the news! I’m on a roll here!
As I wandered through the city centre to the office, the strains of (Is This Way To) Amarillo blasting through my iPod, it was all I could do not to start swinging my arms, Peter Kay style, and greeting the early morning shoppers with a smile and a wave.
Good morning Bulwell! How’s it hanging, Arnold? Coming atcha, Top Valley!