Tuesday, 19 November 2013


It's been a hugely tiring day, all of which was spent at the BBC Studios in Elstree, doing autocue for this year's Christmas special of the Matt Lucas Awards Show.

I don't often dust off the autocueing skills, and they were decidedly rusty today, largely because a lot of the default settings have changed on the software I was using. I spent the first half an hour of the day calling the auto-script help line with the man at the other end saying things like, "oh yes, that's been changed, most people don't use spaces on the screens any more..." Now I know how my Mum must have felt when she returned to secretarial work after a ten year hiatus to have children!

A year in modern lightning-fast technology is probably the equivalent of about ten in old money. Take your finger off the pulse and sudden up you're a Luddite.

Anyway, I sorted most of the issues before anyone else arrived, but spent the day finding solutions around a number of glitches which I was too proud to make another phonecall about!

We spent the day rehearsing and the evening recording, which is a slightly odd way to do things, because by the time you need to be absolutely focussed, you're sort of spent, having stared at a computer screen for more than twelve hours.

It's also a job where you can never switch off. The system you use is different from everyone else's, so when people say "go from cue 238", you have to reinterpret that in the prompt-script parlance, which doesn't have anything like as many markers. Of course, by the time they've named the cue, everyone else is ready to go... So the only way to avoid serious embarrassment is being one step ahead of the game.

Even going to the loo is difficult. You make a judgement, it seems like everything has ground to a halt in the studio for technical reasons, and you run like the wind, but return to hear that dreadful phrase "where's Ben?" And of course in the official breaks you have to be present so that people can rush over with script changes.

I certainly earned my money today.

As did the rest of the team. Some of the stuff that was being shot was really quite extraordinary. I don't think I'm at liberty to give anything away, but it's well worth a watch. And pay particular attention to the sequence involving French people! I say no more...

Food at Elstree never improves. I thought it might in the light of Children In Need and Strictly Come Dancing being recorded there this year for the first time. In fact today there was no heating in the canteen, which, when it's freezing cold outside, is not great...

When I say freezing, I mean FREEZING. I can't remember a mid-November day so cold. There were wisps of frost on the car windscreen when I left the house and by the time I'd left Elstree at 11pm tonight, there was a hard frost everywhere. The car temperature gage informed me it was -1.5 degrees. Bitter!

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