BBC Surrey's Nick Wallis on the mic and behind the scenes of local radio
PUBLISHED: 18:51 19 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:53 20 February 2013
Welcome to a brand new monthly column with BBC Surrey's Nick Wallis, in which he'll be sharing everything from what goes on behind the scenes at the radio station to stories of his busy family life in Walton-on-Thames
Welcome to a brand new monthly column with BBC Surreys Nick Wallis, in which hell be sharing everything from what goes on behind the scenes at the radio station to stories of his busy family life in Walton-on-Thames
Abridged versions ofSurrey Life'smonthly On the Mic column below.
Tools of the trade
I rather like my microphone not the studio one at BBC Surrey that Ive talked into for more than two thousand hours over the last three years, though Im sure that does an excellent job, but its my reporter microphone Im fond of. Its gun-metal grey, about eight inches long, perfectly balanced and heavy, with a rigid metal mesh protecting the business end. It has presence. And its very, very good at doing what it does
The Olympic spirit
The countdown has finished. The torch has been and gone. The Olympics are here. Now. On our roads and in our faces. Faster, higher, longer, wetter... medal-ier. Woo. Im in the zone. Im stoked. Im hyped. Im... Theres no doubt London 2012 has been a huge story for BBC Surrey from the moment it was announced that our county would host the Olympic cycle road races. Weve covered every single aspect of the preparation and organisation, and Ive enjoyed every second. Its just I havent got excited until now.
A summer holiday?
Good morning, Britain. I am not in Surrey. I am on holiday. Somewhere Else.
Our holiday cottage is, for the moment, quiet. My wife and children are sleeping. I am downstairs watching the dawn break with a cup of tea in one hand and the laptop on the table before me. Peace and happiness abounds. It is, needless to say, raining.
A holiday with three young children is very different from the concept of a holiday as my 25-year-old self would have understood it.
During the course of a normal week in Surrey, the kids have any number of distractions school, nursery, friends, grandparents to occupy them. On removing those distractions, by going on holiday, we have put the onus of childcare completely upon ourselves.
Its fine, though. Theyre having fun. Boat trips, train rides, usual stuff. I wait until they are in bed to see if it is possible to drink more than two bottles of beer before collapsing from exhaustion.
Body like Brad Pitt?
I can help you lose that weight, said Dan, my new-found personal training buddy. Good, I thought, because thats what I want to do. Thats not all I want to do. I really want a body like Brad Pitts in Fight Club, but Im not going to tell him that. Not yet. He might laugh.
I have to get up at 3.45am for a living, six days a week. Then I put everything into my breakfast show on BBC Surrey. When I get home, all I want to do is eat, or sleep. The motivation to spend what little free time I have faffing about in a running kit has gone south, as has most of my physique.
So I joined my local gym. Just like that. Didnt realise how easy it was. Tick a few boxes, hand over your direct debit details and youre away. It was Dan who showed me round, and it was Dans polite enquiries that led to the awkward personal discussion about my spare tyre.
The truth is, I have a problem with gyms. Why pay money to bounce up and down on a machine alongside a bunch of people you dont know when you can do real exercise running for free, in a vast and convenient gym situated directly outside your front door?
The clock hour
Radio is about stories. Whether you are listening to the narrative development of a song, or the heartbreaking personal testimony of a person who has lost a loved one, radio excels at enriching the world we live in with the lives of others. At its best, the medium can be so compelling we find ourselves reaching into somebody elses world, connecting with their stories, and intertwining them with our own emotions and experiences. Every radio professional should be working tirelessly to create those moments of connection with the listener, but finding those stories and the people to tell them takes no little skill. On a breakfast show, those tales also need to fit in around all the things you would normally expect from breakfast radio news bulletins, weather reports, travel updates the complete delivery of all the information you need about the world around you. The secret is in what we call the clock hour.
I have a theory about radio. Ninety per cent of it is turning up. This probably holds true of many jobs, but if you can nail reliability in radio, you are well on the way to making a decent career.
Almost all radio is made by small teams of people with specialist skills at very odd times of the day, every day, and usually live. If you are a creative person who can turn up ready to work at 6am every Sunday morning, eschewing parties, weddings and weekends away without complaint, you will get on.
Which is why being ill is not a good thing. Especially if you present a breakfast show. If tens of thousands of listeners are going to let you innervate their waking thoughts on a daily basis, you need to turn up on a daily basis, and sound happy about it...
Its 3.45am. The answer to the question I usually get asked within five seconds of telling someone what I do. I present the Breakfast Show, six days a week, on BBC Surrey and in order to be sufficiently present in both mind and body, I have to get up at 3.45am. Its all anyone ever wants to know.
For the record, its okay. Im used to it. Im used to the rush of adrenaline that courses round the body from 6am to 9am, followed by the inevitable post-show catatonic trough. Im used to stumbling around Walton-on-Thames at three in the afternoon looking like a bag of spanners in the closest approximation to pyjamas I can get away with, assailing unsuspecting shop assistants with a series of half-formed yawns until I realise Ive forgotten what I was there for in the first place.
Its okay. Its part of the fun.
Sleeping is cheating
But when I was offered the job of Breakfast Show presenter at BBC Surrey, I didnt hesitate. Who wouldnt want to present the biggest show on a newly-created BBC radio station in Gods Own County? People who dont want to get up at 3.45am, I guess. Which is fine. We have a motto at work sleeping is cheating.
The job itself is a doddle. A wise sage once told me the knack of being a radio presenter is saying something engaging, informative, intelligent and pithy, using vibrant, accessible language that will instantly strike a chord with thousands of people from wildly differing demographic groups and age ranges, every time you open your mouth. As I said, a doddle.
I have had the privilege of sitting in the presenters chair at BBC Surrey for going on three years, and the people I end up chatting with never fail to impress, astonish or move. I have also got to know more of the county than I ever thought possible. Its sometimes very easy just to flit about in your own little bubble, but this job has taken me to all parts, from the urbanised commuter zones to the wilds of the east and south. For the last five years, I have been happily settled in Walton-on-Thames, with a patient wife and three delightful young children.
A monthly missive
I love this county dearly, so when Surrey Lifes fearsome editor suggested I hop on board, I was both thrilled and honoured. I hope you will find something in this column each month that makes you smile, reach for a stiff drink or possibly weep with pity.
And I do hope I might eventually tempt you towards tuning your radio to BBC Surrey of a morning. Wed love to count you as a friend.
- Nick Wallis presents the Breakfast Show on BBC Surrey (104FM and 104.6FM) from 6am to 9am, Monday to Saturday. You can also read his blog by visiting his website: www.nickwallis.com.