Canteen Days

“Canteen” | a place in a factory, office, etc. where food and meals are sold, often at a lower han usual price.[Cambridge English Dictionary]

“Craic” | (Irish English) enjoyable time spent with other people, especially when the conversation is entertaining and funny [Cambridge English Dictionary]

 

I hear some people are finding it hard to stay at home and shun human contact during this Covid-19 crisis. Understandable, especially if their regular lifestyle involves daily socialising. But I am experiencing an unexpected bonus. Ever since I stopped going to work I have found it increasingly difficult to find the time to keep up with this blog; suddenly I have no excuse but to knuckle down and resume normal service. Thanks pandemic, for the first time in ages I have time on my hands.

I am fascinated with communal eating, and it’s ironically apt at the moment, when eating out is banned until further notice, by edict of BoJo. In particular, canteens are a thread which runs through much of my life, from school dinners to university refectories, via worker’s canteens, in the UK and overseas.

Even without the virus crisis I just miss the canteen experience these days, as a social diversion, a welcome pause in the working day. Looking back, there have been periods when no canteen was available on a daily basis, such as when I went freelance after leaving the BBC in 1983. At such times, the lack of a canteen was a minor disappointment, something missing in the working day.

Of course, it’s not just about the food, but the craic as well. Actually, like Commisario Montalbano I am rubbish at eating and talking simultaneously, so it’s eat-first-chat-second for me if I have a choice, but for sure there’s not much to be said for eating alone. .                 Continue reading

Working for Auntie 1973 revisited (RIP Michael Dean)

Some time ago I wrote about my short-lived spell in the BBC2 Presentation Programmes Department in 1973, not long after the demise of Late Night Line-Up in 1972. Its predecessor “Line-up” had started out as a kind of early evening trailer when BBC2 first went on the air in 1964 but later that year it morphed into “Late Night Line-Up” featuring “open and candid discussion among invited guests”, transmitted live after the 9.00 p.m. watershed.

In my earlier post I mentioned Michael Dean, whom I got to know post Late Night Line-Up, as a friend and colleague, when I moved over from BBC2 programme directing to BBC1 Presentation Department as a Network Director (AKA Transmission Control and Trailers.) At that time Michael was working for Auntie as a continuity announcer prior to returning to his native New Zealand, and we used to chat and have a laugh or two in the tea room from time to time, often about NZ , whence I had just returned after a six-year stopover. At the time I knew Michael had worked on Late Night Line-Up, but did not fully realise that he had been a celeb as a “highbrow” arts and current affairs presenter and interviewer on the show, along with colleagues such as Denis Tuohy, Joan Bakewell, Tony Bilbow and Philip Jenkinson. Continue reading

Working for Auntie: Huw Wheldon

When the name of Huw Wheldon cropped up in a Today programme piece this morning about the death yesterday of the pioneering art critic John Berger, I realised that I have left out an anecdote from my posts about working for Auntie in the seventies.

It happened soon after I started work in BBC Television Presentation department at the TV Centre in White City in 1973. The office was on the fourth floor, and when I was on the early shift I would take the lift from the main entrance foyer shortly before 8 o’clock, usually in a dazed state after the two hour train and tube journey from mid Kent. One morning I was joined in the lift by a man I vaguely recognised. In the few moments it took to get to my floor, Sir Huw Wheldon, Managing Director BBC Television and legendary broadcaster managed to find out who I was, where I worked and what my job was. Continue reading

Working for Auntie in the seventies (continued)

Previous post: 1973 – 74

A few more incidents and situations come to mind from my relatively short stay in BBC TV presentation department in the mid seventies.

 

 

Disqualified!

I got a surprise when an outside broadcast involving royalty was scheduled to be transmitted during one of my shifts. I haven’t been able to track down what the occasion was, but I remember that I was told that I should leave the control room prior to the broadcast, to be replaced by a colleague. Continue reading

Working for Auntie: BBC, London: 1973 – 1974

Warning: this post contains anecdotes and shameless name dropping………

1973 was not a good year to be in Britain, let alone to return there after six years in New Zealand. Return we did though, with very little money, no home and two lovely kids. My immediate priority was to get a job.

The first bite I got from hawking my CV around was at Scottish television in Glasgow. I had a couple if interviews there, and the company were keen to take me on, but there was a problem with the ACTT union closed shop. No ticket-no-job but no-job-no-ticket. After some negotiation they did offer me a trainee post, which I had to turn down, mainly because we could not afford to live on the trainee salary. Pity really; I liked it there, they seemed a friendly bunch. I recall being introduced to a genial up-and-coming comedy performer by the name of Billy Connelly. Maybe I should have accepted that offer.

At the same time I was trying my luck at the BBC. Continue reading