the BBC and fiftyfiveUP

BBC Radio

When the BBC invites you to an interview on the radio to talk about your latest venture, well that is pretty-cool. However when two stations call you up within the space of 48 hours to discuss your new online publication live on air , that to me was validation that in we have something that has the potential to really have an impact on the group of people we are aiming for. Also, having the opportunity to air your thoughts, plans and aspirations about to a potential 200,000 listeners , especially only 4 weeks after the first issue was launched, was a great opportunity

Focus the mind

It is an obvious thing to say, but interviews tend to focus the mind particularly the night before you are due on air.  A friend of mine told me a couple of days before I was due to be interviewed by Gary Philipson on BBC Radio Tees not to worry as it was only a couple of local radio stations, so no "biggy." I wasn’t particularly worried or nervous about being interviewed but nonetheless, having done my homework I put him straight about audience numbers and  informed him that whilst Radio Tees and BBC Radio York may be in his words 'only' local stations, they have a rather substantial number of listeners, in fact 200,000 of them to be more accurate. So yes my friend, it was a "biggy" and a big-biggy for me at that! So my mind was very focused for my inaugural chat across the airwaves with Tees and rightly so as it turned out, I mean, nobody in their right mind want to come across as sounding as though they don’t know what they are talking about. You know the old saying," he who fails to plan, plans to fail?" Well there should be a similar one that goes something like, "He that planned meticulously can be totally undone by the Law of Sod!" Let me tell you more about it.



Being a radio interview virgin and eager to please and sound appreciative I had just said a big, fat, unequivocal YES to the first slot the BBC TEES researcher offered me which was 11:30 on the Gary Philipson's mid-day show. Unfortunately it could not take place at the Studio because of all the COVID stuff going  on, which was a shame really so I agreed to do it over the phone. It was only driving back to the office after agreeing the time and date with Tees that I cursed myself, suddenly remembering it was the same morning of my Cataract pre-op COVID test at the Woodlands Hospital Darlington which was at 12:00 that same day. Just to put this in perspective, my original cataract operation was due to take place in April 2020. After waiting 5 months it had been cancelled  due to the Pandemic outbreak so attending this new appointment was vital. Still, I thought relaxing a little, they said it was going to be a 10 to 15 minute interview so no sweat, I can just drive to the hospital and do the interview from the car whilst parked up, easy!

That morning

I had had a pig of a morning already before I had even got into the car to set off for my Interview/COVID Test so I wasn't at my best as I headed off towards the A1.  However, I had given myself plenty of time for the journey and time to gather my thoughts before the interview. 


Why is it nowadays that, whenever there is a severe road restriction, the council or whoever makes the decisions and has known of said impending issues only places a warning sign that the road is closed about 50 yards before you get to it. Such was the situation at the bridge in the village of Skeeby (arterial road between Dales and the A1) where repairs to said bridge had taken a retrograde step when a construction digger and driver decided to become a destruction digger and driver reversing into newly laid bridge escarpment. So with traffic in front and behind me and nowhere to turn, I was well and truly stuck. Talk about a case of the heebie-jeebies in Skeeby! Still OK though as I had 35 minutes to get to Darlington and I was only 18 miles away. 10 minutes for the interview and then straight into the hospital. I could still make it, although it was going to be tight.


Baby Jesus

Ten minutes later and with the very real threat of my IBS revisiting after a holiday of 4 years the traffic still hadn't moved. "Shit I WAS going to be late". It is very funny what one says to oneself in those types of situations isn't it? We should have digital voice recorders installed in our vehicles and play the stuff back to ourselves when the mists have cleared. I think we would find it quite cathartic. Whilst sitting at the bridge I went from a lot of swearing interspersed with phrases like "You couldn't make it up" and "Today of  all days" and as most of us do including the ungodly, then turned to religious pleading where Jesus got a mention many times. "Jesus Christ, now what has happened? Please, please Baby Jesus, make the traffic move" and the much celebrated, " For God's sake, why me, why today?"

I am pleased to report to any earthly religious body that may be reading this, that on this occasion, the guy in the sky was indeed listening and low, the traffic began to move at about the same time the sensation of a 'nervous wee' started off downstairs, as if I wasn't already stressed enough. 


There were three pieces to the equation now. Number one, I have to have a wee. Number two, I have to do the interview, and three I just must get to the hospital. The wee took priority obviously because nobody likes cold, wet denim against their legs, but time was against me. It was now 27 minutes past the hour. The interview was in 13 minutes, I could be at Scotch Corner Hotel toilets on the A1, parked up in five minutes , then five minutes for toileting and hand wash and three minutes to calm down in the hotel carpark before I chat to Tees. Once again I could just about do it, but once again it was going to be very tight.  I would just have to move my COVID appointment by 15 minutes which the hospital very graciously did with the receptionist telling me she would make the COVID Ward aware I was going to be late and that I should not be any later.  So, very much relieved , all I had to do now was toilet and pray there was a good mobile phone signal at Scotch Corner. I parked up and quickly phoned my wife to test the line and it was good. The wee and hand wash then followed in good time even with a mask on and in less than 300 seconds I was back  in the car ready and good to go with 3 minutes to spare. What a dude!


DJ Gary Philipson of BBC Radio Tees, smashing fellah. Is that a Brooks Saddle?

It is amazing the games you can play with a pair of reading glasses, a COVID mask and a car mirror when you are bored. It was now 10.45 and still no call from the Tees Studio. Then at 10:50 I decided that I would have to go, there was no way in Heaven I was going to let the hospital down. So I did, I drove off and headed to the A1 when just as I was about to leave the new roundabout that takes you onto the old Roman Road the phone rang with the Tees Radio Researcher's name showing up on my console. "Bloody hell, you just could not make this up" I heard myself saying. Swinging the car around the island (legally) and hitting the handsfree I exited down a lane I have never been down before. "Hello, is that that Tony, sorry we are late pet," she said. "Are you ready for Gary? He's going to be with you in about 3 minutes, he has just started playing 'Eye of the Tiger,'" That's ironic," I said, "I feel as though I have been through 12 rounds with Rocky Balboa AND run up and down those steps fifty times with the day I have had so far." Ignoring me she carried on, "Putting you through now, Gary will be introducing you after the music, speak to you later."


You have got ten minutes!

Eye of the Tiger burst forth from my speakers. I had to find somewhere to stop but there was nowhere.  Suddenly there was somewhere , as a freshly laid tarmac gateway to a field came into view. I swung in, sweating like a good'un, and stopped the car. The music carried on playing, DUM, DUM DUM DUM. . . I had a couple of minutes at best I thought grabbing  my notes and taking a slurp of water to clear my throat when out of the blue a lumpy large fist knocked on my car window. It was a farmer. Well whadya know? I wound the window down as the last minute of Eye of the Tiger was about to conclude. "Yes mate," I enquired, "what can I do for you?" "You can't park there you know, this is my bloody land" he instructed. I swear that at this point I felt a tear in my eye. Panicking, as the lead singer of "Survivor kicked in to the last twenty seconds of his song I pleaded, "Please, please can you just leave me for 10 minutes, I am due to do an interview with BBC Tees in a few seconds." "My," he said chuckling, his incredulity shining through. "You are going to have to get a spurt on then aren't you." At that point the music coming out of the speakers stopped coming out of the speakers and Gary's voice started, "There you go ladies and gentleman, that was Eye of the Tiger. . . . . . " The farmer seeing the look of terror in my eyes capitulated and nodding said "OK, go on then, but only 10 minutes mind you, I have a delivery just about to arrive.," just as the words, "So here is Tony Talbot of fiftyfiveUP to tell us all about his new project." left Gary's lips.

BBC Radio Tees Middlesborough

I remember very little about the interview other that it went well with Gary coming across as a very interested and genuine kind of guy. I hope I got my point across about what we are trying to do with ffUP, I think I did. However the interview was over before it had begun as the time went so quickly which is a good job really as farmer Fred was out like a whippet after a sausage at the 10 minute point. Despite his abrupt behaviour I did thank him and got on my way up the road, but the strangeness of he day did not stop there.

I did get to the hospital just 20 minutes late from my original appointment time only to be told that  I had got the wrong day and that my appointment wasn't until the following day at 10:30. Quite spooky as my scheduled interview with BBC Radio York was at 11:00 on that same day. Now there's a story which you just couldn't make up!

You can contact BBC Radio Tees Switchboard on 01642 225211