The chauffeur, a very burly, down to earth man named Dave held a rear door open for me. I settled myself on the back seat and gulped from a bottle of complimentary water as the cab drove away from the curb. En route to our destination Dave and I put the world to rights. We talked football. We talked Princess Diana. We talked conspiracy theories. It alleviated my nerves and kept me calmly distracted.
After an hour of crawling through rush hour traffic my carriage finally parked outside a modern building somewhere on the Isle Of Dogs. The towers of Canary Wharf engulfed the skyline nearby. I couldn't quite believe this adventure was happening. Only two weeks before some one had contacted me from a television production company. They'd asked if I would like to be a contributor on a fifteen minute pilot for a new chat show on Channel Five. The subject matter was older mothers.
A youthful assistant greeted me at reception and I was escorted to the Channel's offices upstairs. There, I was debriefed by the production manager, offered a croissant and juice, and then shown to the make up department. Heated tongs straightened my ruffled hair and a natural look applied to my flushed complexion. I wasn't so keen on the liner applied beneath my eyes. It appeared too heavy. But the overall effect was camera friendly. My armpits on the other hand couldn't be tamed in the morning heat. No amount of deodorant was going to prevent the two large wet patches appearing under both my arms. The make up artist kindly offered tissues to stuff into my armpits. It helped ever so slightly.
A blond, animated character burst into the small mirrored room. She greeted me with a blustery "so you're the woman I'm debating with today". It was Carole Malone, journalist, broadcaster and celebrity Big Brother contestant. She's a vivacious, articulate woman and I began to doubt whether I had the intellectual muscle for a televised exchange with her. To her credit, Carole was very reassuring. She actually agreed with my positive views on older mothers but today she was going to play devil's advocate. What had I let myself in for? Facial enhancements applied, Carole vanished like a whirling dervish in black patent heels to warm up the small audience gathering in the studio. Meanwhile I was left stuffing more tissues under my sweating armpits.
|Get ready. I'm debating with YOU today Older Mum.|
While I was having my makeup touched up another bright face entered. I instantly recognised the female form in the light floral print dress as Natalie Cassidy. She's the actress who played Sonia in East Enders. Natalie recently become a mum herself. She was hosting the pilot show and we went through some of the prompts she was going to ask. Natalie had a vested interest in the topic of older mothers. Her own mother was aged forty four when she had given birth to her. She tragically died from cancer when Natalie was nineteen.
In the studio a microphone was attached to my t-shirt and its battery placed in my back pocket. I looked apprehensively at the round plinth that housed two black chairs. Now I felt woefully under dressed. I had hoped for a table to conceal my jeans and trainers. My complete casual ensemble was going to be broadcast. But then I reminded myself that this was only a pilot. I was authentically dressed. In character. As a mum.
Carole and I took our places. My arms were pinned to my sides to ensure no exposure of the pools of perspiration etched onto my t-shirt. Then we were off. Natalie introduced the show and the debate began; how old is too old to become a mum? I don't clearly remember the exact words that escaped my mouth but I do recall not stumbling over my sentences as my heart pounded and my head drew an anxious blank. I definitely didn't swear. I actually surprised myself by holding my own against Carole. I was sparky. Lively. I had expected a panel discussion but this was a tabloid debate. Very Punch and Judy. And fun. I engaged with the heckling from the audience. I even received claps when I made a salient point.
After twenty minutes, it was all over. I hadn't even started. I wanted to express more opinion. To champion older mums. To thoroughly lay my argument out. The production team were pleased though. I came across well. I was concise and enthusiastic. I listened to the audience.
And then I was out of the studio and back in the make up room wiping my face on again.
Dave was waiting outside. I was relieved to see him again. We talked about the nature of celebrity all the way home. He regaled me with tales of notable passengers like Annie Lennox and the first patient to receive a heart transplant in the UK. After another crawl through central London the cab pulled up outside my flat and I bade my jovial driver farewell.
And what was the first thing I did when I got home? I had a shower of course and can thankfully say that my lawless armpits have been restrained.
If the programme is commissioned I'm going to be invited back for an hour long show. Older Mum In A Televised Muddle might be transmitted into your living room.
Watch this space .....