The problem with the BBC these days is that, unless you have a proper pass, it’s almost impossible to do any business within any of their buildings without being chaperoned like some sort of 18th Century virgin!
I arrived in plenty of time for my interview, got myself signed in at reception, and then sat, like a muppet, on one of the Beeb’s non-functioning sofas, waiting for someone to come and collect me. I waited. I waited. I huffed a bit. I chatted to the lovely lady who puts bags through the airport-style security barriers. Eventually, a man came rushing down; “we didn’t know you were here!” I explained that I’d watched the woman behind reception calling someone to say I was there. He seemed genuinely apologetic, but not apologetic enough to offer me a glass of water or a cup of tea, which would have been nice, but at least I was in the building.
By the time I got into the studio, I was receiving worried calls from the producer in Leeds. As it turned out, everything was okay. They shuffled the order of the show around. I got to listen to I’m So Excited by the Pointer Sisters as I waited my turn. I had a lovely chat with Georgey, who was witty and charming. And that, I thought, was that…
As I left the studio, the man who’d shown me in came running over to take me out of the building again. As we reached the giant revolving doors which separate the special BBC employees from us hoi-polloi, I told my guardian that I needed the loo. “When you pass through the doors,” he said, “turn right, and then it’s the first door on the right…” He shook my hand, said goodbye and headed back into the fortress.
I went through the doors and the security man grabbed the temporary pass I’d been given. “Oh,” I said, “don’t I need that whilst I’m using the loo?” He gave me a somewhat smug look, “you can’t use the toilet here. You’re only allowed to use the toilet if you’re accompanied by a member of staff.” “Then can YOU take me to the loo?” I asked. “No. You cannot use the toilet.” I tried to explain that using a loo was a basic human right. What if I had a medical condition? What happens when my prostrate blows up like a balloon? What if I were a pregnant woman? He was having none of it. I genuinely felt like some sort of terrible criminal.
I went up to the reception and asked if there was anything they could do to help. “Sorry sir” (she was very polite) “you need to be escorted.” There was a fair amount of buck-passing and “don’t shoot the messenger”-ing. I let out an enormous, desperate for a wee sort of sigh and said, “okay, could you get on the phone to the man whose task it was to escort me around the building, and ask if he’d come back down here?” She picked up the phone. At this point, the security guard behind her took pity on me. “I’ll take you through…”
And so it came to pass. I was, of course, hugely grateful to the kindly security guard who deigned to take me to the loo, but absolutely furious with the one who’d made me feel like some sort of worthless animal for asking if I could go. In my view there is absolutely no way that this should have been allowed to happen; not to anyone, but particularly not to someone who's just given his time to speak as a guest!