This column first appeared in the April edition of Surrey Life. I have tinkered with it since and posted it below. To read all my columns as they were published, click here (£). To read my first column for Surrey Life for free in my blog, click here. To read my latest column. Go buy the magazine or subscribe to the digital version. It's great, particularly if you are rich.
I have a theory about radio. Ninety per cent of it is turning up. This probably holds true of many jobs, but if you can nail reliability in radio, you are well on the way to making a decent career.
Almost all radio is made by small teams of people with specialist skills at very odd times of the day, every day, and usually live. If you are a creative person who can turn up ready to work at 6am every Sunday morning, eschewing parties, weddings and weekends away without complaint, you will get on.
Which is why being ill is not a good thing. Especially if you present a breakfast show. If tens of thousands of listeners are going to let you innervate their waking thoughts on a daily basis, you need to turn up on a daily basis, and sound happy about it.
You may have a favourite radio presenter. If, one day, they aren’t there, you feel disappointed. If you are let down regularly, there’s a good chance you won’t come back. Why should you bother, if they’re not going to?
So if you work in radio, try not to have a complicated private life that makes you prone to emotional and overwrought states of mind. Try not to have a drink or drugs habit. Try to make sure you have at least two alarms. And try not to be ill.
I was ill recently. Not the sort of ill which would stop me from writing an email or minding the kids for a bit, but ill in a way which found me running a temperature, feeling dazed and producing a startling amount of liquid from my nose.
I went home early after my first show of the week and emailed my boss at 2.30pm saying I felt a little grim. “A little grim” isn’t ill enough not to present a breakfast show, but I wanted to flag up my less-than-bushy-tailed condition. My boss was understandably keen for me to indicate whether or not this meant I was going to make it the next day, as the number of people who are a) able to do my job and b) available to do my job is somewhat limited at the best of times.
So I emailed again at 4.30pm saying I felt better (I did. I’d just mainlined a maximum-strength lemsip) and promised to be present and correct for my show at 6am the next morning.
Bad mistake. I woke up at 3.45am sweating and delirious. I got dressed and staggered to my car. I was hallucinating as I drove down the A3 towards our Guildford studios and arrived a dripping, incoherent mess. The three hours I completed on air were not my finest.
My boss, bless her, came in the moment the show finished and sent me home with instructions not to return until I was better. I took two days to stop coughing, sneezing, and … leaking. Apart from the dreadful broadcast (which I’m told at least had some comedy value) I felt very stupid for making the wrong call.
I wasn’t trying to be a martyr - I’m as lazy as the next person. If I had the remotest inkling I was going to be anywhere near as ill as I was I would have cried off the day beforehand. It’s just… I have this theory that ninety per cent of radio is turning up.