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The end of the day

The last working day of the calendar year today, and I decided to go to the office in weekend clothes as nobody else is around. Normally I wear suit and tie on the basis that I might just be asked to go on television and thus ought to be prepared, but today I reckoned I could chance it.

So guess what happened? Yep, I was asked to do a live broadcast this evening on a French news channel. (France 24, but it was an English-language programme.)

On a day when I wasn't hoping to clear my desk for the holidays, and more importantly when the temperature was above freezing, I might have gone home to change clothes and come back in again, though the journey is a good hour each way by public transport. But that was out of the question; likewise Anne was busy and I was not going to ask her to drop by with my suit. I racked my brains; most of my friends who I could ask that kind of favour of had already left Brussels for Christmas.

My brother-in-law. God bless liberaliser, who happens to live in Brussels barely a kilometre from my office. He is roughly my size - a bit taller, a bit thinner. He kindly came around in the afternoon with a suit and a selection of ties (and his fiancée). I had deliberately worn a shirt today that doesn't go with any of my own ties, because I didn't think I would have to wear one. Fortunately we identified one of his that went with my shirt without potentially endangering the TV cameras.

(Perhaps some of you are wondering why the suit is such a big deal. The fact is that a TV interview like this is a performance, and to perform well you have to be wearing the right costume. It helps me to get my mind focussed into public debate mode; it probably helps others to slot me comfortably into the role the situation demands. If I had not been able to get hold of a suit, I would not have done the TV show; I would be too unnerved by my own pullover, comfortable though it is. Gore Vidal famously said that one should never miss an opportunity to have sex or appear on television; I try and take a more relaxed attitude, at least as regards television.)

So I shuffled into the borrowed clothes at the end of the day. Oof, the trousers! Did I say earlier that my brother-in-law is just a little thinner than me? I knew nothing about the studio set-up, and imagined myself sitting very very still on some soft cushiony sofa, minimising both the compression of my viscera and the chance of bursting through the waistline. But fortunately once I arrived I found I was to be filmed seated behind a table. I removed my brother-in-law's trousers (and that's not a phrase I use very often) and shuffled back into my comfy green jeans. Behind the camera, of course, but in full view of the amused studio crew in the next room.

Then it was time. Sitting in the otherwise empty studio trying to address the camera as if it were a person. Trying to ignore the only visible human presence, my own image projected onto a screen high above the camera; when I look at it, I see myself appearing to cast my gaze despairingly into the heavens. I beg a glass of water from the floor manager; he puts it on a chair, out of shot, rather than on the table.

It's a peculiar programme, with the presenter and one panellist in their Paris studio and me and two others being beamed in from afar. The guy in Paris is taking one side; I am on the other. Then they switch to someone in Berlin on my side, and then to an opposing view somewhere else in Brussels. The programme is in two twenty-minute segments; each of us gets roughly two goes of two minutes each. I think my ally and I make more sense than the other two, but I suppose that is natural. My earpiece gets dislodged in the middle of the second half, but I manage to reinstall it without losing too much of the debate. (I've heard it all before anyway.)

And then, it's all over; the broadcasters spring for my taxi home, and it's the start of the Christmas holidays. Whew!

(And I will give my brother-in-law his clothes back sometime.)

Edited to add: The programme appears to be on-line here, for now anyway.

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
autopope
Dec. 20th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
Hah. I occasionally get radio interview requests out of the blue, and it's a bit disconcerting -- when the researcher or producer calls, I have to balance out my natural desire to spread my name about against the risk of sounding like a complete tit, and somehow it just feels wrong to turn down the Today programme on Radio Four (even though I know I'm only marginally competent to talk about the subject they want to talk to an SF writer about). [*]

Luckily nobody wants to do TV interviews with SF authors at short notice (unless there's a Worldcon on), so I usually have time to smarten up first[**], but there's nothing like the bright lights and camera pointing in your face to focus the mind, is there?


[*] If I don't think I can do it, I say so -- and always try to recommend someone who I think will be able to do a better job.

[**] I have a strong dislike of ties, but a smart jacket covers a multitude of sins.
liberaliser
Dec. 20th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :-) Always glad to serve the cause of reason and common sense in foreign affairs, namely yourself.

Here's hoping it's a long time before you have to use that phrase again.

And God bless you too. Happy Christmas!
outerego
Dec. 20th, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
It would have been funny if you brought out a comedy Santa Claus suit first ;-)
Now that is a tv interview I would pay to see!
liberaliser
Dec. 20th, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
My first choice would be to see nhw as a teletubby. I think he's a Dipsy.
myfirstkitchen
Dec. 20th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
I always imagine people behind desks on telly are wearing trackies, or shorts, or even tartan blankets. Green jeans = good.
irishkate
Dec. 20th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
reminiscent of CJ with no trousers after sitting on paint in the rose garden in teh West wing...Congratulations on surviving the day!
applez
Dec. 20th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
Online link? Curious to here you duel it out in French. :-)

EDIT: Realise you said you were on an English-language program (headslap). Still, if you have an alternate-language broadcast link, I might find that interesting.

Edited at 2007-12-20 11:13 pm (UTC)
rigel_kent
Dec. 21st, 2007 12:06 am (UTC)
Watching you on the webervision as I type! At @ 23:45 UTC. They just took a break from the hourly news break.
I must say that I find this type of format rather distracting, especially on a subject I am not wholly conversant with.
But you are hitting your points and looking good!
nwhyte
Dec. 21st, 2007 07:55 am (UTC)
Glad you were able to find it! I've had a look at their website but they seem to have bumped us off the front page and lost it in their archives somewhere.
nwhyte
Dec. 21st, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Aha, found it.
vnp
Dec. 21st, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC)
I remember a half-year old performance of my boss in a Brussels studio participating in a debate of the same kind. Same experience! Excluding the suit but including the earpiece that was always falling off :-) and the creepy feeling of sitting in a coffin talking to a camera while (as you see on a small TV screen) out there there is a whole crowd of people debating a hot subject, and you are trying to put in a word.
manjushra
Dec. 21st, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
However the Bonn correspondent looked very fetching in her enormous brown shawl.
nwhyte
Dec. 22nd, 2007 08:20 am (UTC)
She was the only co-panellist who I actually knew; we exchanged emails about the experience afterwards!
manjushra
Dec. 22nd, 2007 10:39 am (UTC)
In which case I withdraw my ironic remark on her attire!

Is it my imagination or has your accent changed over the years?
nwhyte
Dec. 22nd, 2007 01:14 pm (UTC)
Quite possibly - it's eleven years since I lived in the UK!
mireille21
Dec. 22nd, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
Whilst not nearly as conversant as you on teh topic, I must congratulate you on your well presented and well articulated arguments, in particular from the comfort of your green jeans :)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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