Thursday, April 22, 2004

One of my reasons for going up to London last week was to do an interview with the BBC World Service. They have a programme called The Big Question which goes out for half an hour every Saturday at 10.30am and they are putting together a piece on blogging.
A fortnight ago I spent some time on the phone to a very nice researcher called Claire, talking about stuff like what blogging is, why people blog and what they blog about. It was quite fun, actually, explaining the blogosphere to someone who appeared to be totally new to it.
After a couple of calls, wherein she picked my brains quite clean, we arranged for me to record an interview up in London. It was all rather convenient, me being in town at around the right time, really – nice bit of synchronicity.
So last Wednesday morning, I left the hotel on Baker Street – which coincidentally happened to be in the perfect location for both the Duran Duran gig Tuesday night and the interview – and walked up to Regents Park tube station, looking out for a guy I'd never met before called Sam.
One of the advantages, I suppose, of being 6ft tall and bald is that you're pretty easy to spot. (Sam, that is, not me. I'm 5ft 8 and blonde.) It obviates the need for that mobile phone call-and-watch-who-answers thing that I always end up doing when meeting people for the first time.
It was a truly glorious day, weather-wise. Beautiful blue sky, not a cloud in sight and warm like spring is supposed to be. Ah, one could almost have deluded oneself that summer was only just around the corner.
I've only done one radio interview before, which was by telephone and in Welsh. The DJ at Radio Cymru who interviewed me was terribly kind, didn't get huffy at my fit of nervous giggling and was very thoughtful as regards the fact that I was trying to talk intelligently in my second language. I was, at that time, concentrating too hard on trying to string a coherent sentence together to feel that nervous about what was going on.
I've a good few years of experience interviewing other people, so I was determined to be a good interviewee, particularly as language wasn?t going to be an issue this time round. The worst interview I have ever done, as a journalist, was a lawyer who never once, in the course of an hour long conversation, finished a sentence. Not one. I didn't get a single usable quote from him.
Bearing that in mind, I decided to try very hard to finish my sentences, not repeat myself too much and not to um and er too often. Beyond that, I wanted to make sure that what I said accurately reflected what I think. If anyone questioned me afterwards, I wanted to be able to stand by my comments, rather than be forced to say 'Oh, I didn?t mean that, it just came out that way'.
Bleedin' 'eck, but is that difficult, or what?!
I mean, I could talk for Britain if yapping was an Olympic sport. I have had phone calls that have gone on unbroken for over eight hours. I do not have an problem with thinking of things to say. In terms of talking about blogging and the blogosphere, well you only have to ask my non-blogging friends (yes, I do still have some) about that and they will look at you with a pained expression and then politely change the subject.
But stick a mic in my face and ask me a simple question, like 'Why do you blog?' or 'Given that the internet can be used for evil as well as good, how do you believe the blogosphere should be policed and, indeed, can it be policed?' or 'Is that Belle de Jour really a London slapper or just some sex-deprived dweeb from the provinces fantasising online with the worst pile of not-quite-erotica this side of the Black Lace imprint?' and suddenly it becomes terribly difficult to form coherent thoughts, let alone articulate them.
OK, so strictly speaking, Sam didn't actually ask me that last question. Well, not in those exact words, sadly, although he did ask me to talk about BdJ and the issue of anonymity. (FYI, my take on it is that BdJ is not getting attention because of the blog – as the writing is dull as all hell after all – but because, and only because, she is anonymous and everyone wants to know if she's a real whore or not. It's a triumph of titillation over content.)
We spent about 1.5 hours talking, pausing frequently to allow planes, trucks, lawnmowers and women with loudly clicking high heels to go past. We also paused for some small children, but that was so that Sam could get some quality background noise to add in later.
The weirdest bit was when I had to do a sort of soliloquy: 'Here I am, sitting on a bench in Regents Park in London on a gloriously sunny day. I have my laptop, a wireless connection to the internet and I'm about to log into my blog…'
Of course, being radio it doesn't matter that the laptop wasn't mine and I couldn't get the blasted thing to work properly, nor that I am not sure if there is a wifi hotspot in Regents Park and that I couldn't have connected to it even if there had been. The point was that it set the scene, a scene enhanced by the rattling sound of me typing pointlessly away on the keyboard of a half-dead laptop.
All in all, I was pretty pleased with how things went. I didn't screw up to often or too badly. I didn't corpse. I hope I said some intelligent things which reflect the reality of blogging, as opposed to some journalist's vision of what they think it might be. I certainly hoped that Sam had got what he needed from it, and that it would fit in with the rest of the item successfully.
It turned out, however, that there'd been a slight technical hitch for part of the interview. I'm not sure exactly what sort of technical hitch, but maybe it had something to do with, say, a 'record' button? I'm just guessing here, but these things happen easily. I once did an hour-long interview with Korda Marshall at Mushroom Records for the Melody Maker and totally failed to turn the tape recorder on at all.
But whereas it's easy to write up a print feature from notes, it's slightly harder to do the same for radio. So Tuesday I ended up getting a taxi down to the Bournemouth International Centre and doing another 15 mins in the BBC studio there.
Well, I say 'studio', but what I really mean is 'small closet with a mic and headphones in'. Apparently they do the travel bulletins from there of a morning. Wat leuk.
Of course, by then this cold had really started to develop nicely. I did my best to clear my nose, taking industrial strength decongestants and having a good ol' poke with the pipe cleaners, and with any luck it will have worked well enough that when they cut between the two interviews I won?t suddenly go from crystal clear to nasally challenged.
The best thing about doing the extra bit yesterday was that I got to say the name of my blog, so anyone who hears the interview can search for Chocolate and Vodka and hopefully find me. I felt a bit stupid having not thought about attempting to work the name of my own blog into the interview last week, really – I obviously have a lot still to learn about self-promotion.
So, after nearly two hours spent banging on about blogs and blogging, you'd think I'd have the whole half hour programme to myself, wouldn't you? Heh. Nope, they were after no more than three minutes of quotes. Which means I still have another 12 minutes of fame due me. Happy, happy me.
I'll let you know when the interview will air – probably not til the end of the month. It will be available online for a week, so no excuses not to listen.
In the meantime, I am now available for work as a punditette, (or maybe that should be punditess?). Please contact my agent for bookings enquiries.

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Still here?

by Suw on April 22, 2004

I see from the stats that some people are still coming here for their regular dose of chocolate and vodka goodness. Sorry guys, but I've moved to Blogware for good. Please update your links, bookmarks, blogrolls et cetera with the new url. If you're still getting this RSS feed, then you really need to change it to this one.

Soon this blog will be nothing more than a repository for past posts, and even those I am hoping one day to move somewhere more permanent.

So, come on over to Blogware and join the party there. Last one to leave, turn the lights out would you?

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