Ever since Chris Evans left the One Show, they have had a few square inches of green sofa next to Alex Jones free on a Friday. Who wouldn’t say yes to the chance of parking their behind on that tiny bit of prime BBC real estate for half an hour? So here was my day . . .
2.30pm, the script meeting
You know Alex, obviously. To her right is Nick, the director. On her left is the live editor Elliot Falk. It is a grey and gloomy afternoon in London but the show has to be full of colour — not just the bright sofa, but actresses from War And Peace and an amazing, out-of-this-world singer called Foxes. It’s like presenting Top of the Pops with news stories.
2.59pm, great BBC people
Contrary to the satirical documentary W1A (which was not a comedy if you work here), these people put the hours in. Adam, on the left, has given me a brief about the War & Peace item which included details of every battle scene; that’s how thorough it was. Basically it’s his job to make sure I know what’s going on, even in the head of Tolstoy and on the battlefields of imperial Russia. One glitch: our proposed feature on stunt bikers has been cancelled after they crashed yesterday. What a shame for everyone. It could have been me!
Oh, a serious P.S. for you. On the roof there you see the base of the 32-foot funnel-shaped monument to journalists killed on duty. I always think of my dear friend and colleague Kate Peyton, whom I worked with in Africa, when I see it. She was killed in Somalia. Details of the monument — and its vertical searchlight — are here.
3.15pm, black-and-white movies
Now I catch up with the films that will appear. This is a gem of a story. In the sixties, a modest piano-playing lady believed she was channeling Beethoven. The dead composer was giving her new music! She wrote scores as if they were coming to her without effort. When we showed her compositions to an expert this year he actually said, “Looks like Beethoven to me.” The rather lovely part of this is that the One Show reporter Richard Mainwaring interviewed a retired BBC producer called Peter Dorling. As soon as he popped up on the screen you see above, I recognised him as the kindly gent who trained me when I joined the Beeb in 1987. So it was good to see Peter remains fighting fit.
3.30pm, the Baker’s chair
When I ask what we do now, Alex says you’re allowed to sit in Matt’s dressing room. So (very tentatively) I take the Baker’s Chair. After five minutes of just sitting, I throw a couple of shapes. Hope this is okay with you, Matt. As you can see, others have been here. I left a thank-you message too.
3.50pm, watching W&P
I am watching episode 5 of War And Peace on my mobile. Here is Jessie Buckley playing Princess Marya (Jessie being known among the W&P crew as “tears on tap” because she has to cry in virtually every scene). Looking forward to meeting her and Aisling Loftus (from a shop girl in Mr Selfridge, to Tolstoy’s Sonya). We are also doing a thoroughly bizarre item about the way one of the actors flashed his willy. But there is an edict: do not mention the offending object. So we have lots of peple in the street telling Angelica Bell what they think, without Angelica ever being able to tell us what they are looking at. Aisling helps hugely at the end of the piece when she says, “Sorry — what were they all talking about there?”
In make-up. My hair is carefully coiffed in readiness for ― wait, wearing a motorbike helmet? Look at Alex’s serious face. She is giving it the full Newsnight.
Getting serious now. We are on the air in two hours, which is not enough time to read War & Peace, so I have given up on that one. The show starts with Alex riding a mystery passenger around London, and then the “passenger” is revealed as her Friday partner. The crash helmet they have give me would be tight on a two-year-old, that’s the only problem. So I can’t get it on and I can’t get it off. Eventually we are there! Hey, I’ve landed!
5.30pm, meet the Russians
Rehearsing with the War & Peace girls. I say “girls” deliberately ― they seem so stunningly young, and it is a tribute to Jessie in particular that she manages to put 10 years on just by applying total actress-gravitas on-screen. Both these actors are big characters who laugh all the way through our encounter. They have clearly loved filming what has become one of the standout BBC dramas of recent years. Still on iPlayer if you want to catch up.
7.25pm, Fox in the studio!
This singer launches and we are struck dumb by her voice. She is Foxes, singing out of the darkness at the back of the studio just as we close. “It might be a prayer/Or maybe a piece of conversation/Wherever we go we make a sound.” Something uber-spiritual about her presence and singing.
7.31pm, One Show teamshot
Team shot. Foxes, me, Al, Jessie, Aisling. Wish we’d had room for Gyles Brandreth but I think he had skipped bail by this stage. Gyles stole the show with the story of animal owners who want royalties when their pets photobomb other people’s holiday snaps (which then go viral). Gives me a chance to leave you with a photo of a horse. Ta-ta for now!