As a matter of tragic fact, I can’t ‘whoop!’. For a start, I’m not an American, nor a CGI audience-whooper on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Then, I was sent to a British public-school, donchaknow, to learn how to be unexcitable. I have an A-level in sangfroid. Nor can I hail a taxi by stuffing two bacteria-coated fingers in my mouth and emitting a piercing whistle. God knows, I have tried to learn. But it’s like tying a bow-tie, it’s just another of those things you need to be born knowing how to do. You either got it, or you ain’t.
But if I could, I would. Such overwhelmingly positive messages rarely arrive by any better route than via muh gudfriend, the eminent clairvoyant, Mr Russell ‘Starman’ Grant.
So, spreading myself far and wide, like Marmite, here are two opportunities for you, beloved social network, to fix all that is wrong with my life. Help me find work, and help me find love on a blind date. You know you can. You do, you know.
Choices. You come to a fork. Which way, left or right? You ask God to set you on the right path, he answers ‘How in the Hell should I know?’ You ask old Beelzebub, he answers ‘How in Heaven’s name should I know?’ Whichever path you take is always the wrong one, relative to the other. Whichever path you take is always the right one, relative to itself. Just take one. Make the best of it.
Many years ago I was working for the BBC. I was on a rolling monthly freelance contract. One day, the station manager called me in and offered me a permanent staff contract. I practically fell through the floor. The de minimis requirement in those days for a BBC staff appointment was a 2:1 degree, preferably in the Humanities, from Oxbridge or a decent redbrick university. I had not gone to university. I had no degree. It was an unbelievable opportunity.
I asked for 24 hours to consider the offer.
An hour later, my wife called. ‘I’ve just been offered a job setting-up the news operation for a new commercial radio station start-up. I said I wouldn’t go without you as joint head. What do you think?’
What I thought was: if I accept the BBC offer, I shall need to buy a grey suit with pre-prepared dandruff on the collar and wait for my boss to die before being able to put any of my radical programme ideas into practice. It would be more fun joining the Department of Work and Pensions. Whereas if I went to the commercial station I could experiment as much as I liked, listen to rock music, be forever young and wear the T-shirt.
So I chose that path, and it ended up a messy disaster that had ramifications far beyond just getting fired – I never knew why I was fired, there were five possible scenarios but they wouldn’t tell me. It had nothing to do with being bad at my job, quite the opposite, but I ended up on an industry blacklist and out of work for a year, my marriage broke up (or down), I had two or three disastrous short-lived selfish unromantic affairs and ended up working in advertising, which was never where I wanted to be. Today, I am an unemployed caretaker eking out my life on the State pension in the thundering suburb of a provincial seaside town.
And about 40 years later, just last week in fact, the penny suddenly dropped.
Why had Alan Holden offered me the BBC job? Because it was me they wanted!
Faced with competition from the commercial sector, Auntie must have realised they had to take a more commercial approach themselves. They needed a different kind of person from the academic grey-suits; someone a bit more imaginative and adventuresome and, dare I say it, ‘modern’, to break the old Civil Service mould. My producer, Vin Bootle, must have suggested me for the promotion. Because, by the time I needed my old job back he was the station manager and I was never again employed by the BBC; not even as a person who unlocks the remote regional studio up the road, switches on the microphone and makes coffee for guest interviewees.
And I had been too stupid to see it at the time. Which about covers my epitaph. Was blind, but now I see.
So, important social network, I’m counting on you now. Work (I need to be able to take my dog). Love (she must love my dog). Shared values, whetever.
Good. You decide.