My Week: Trevor McDonald Presenter of `ITV Evening News'
Saturday 04 December 1999
I arrived in Trinidad on Friday for the launch of Ken Gordon's autobiography. He gave me my first break in journalism in the 1960s by sending me to London, ahead of more senior people, to report for Radio Trinidad on the Trinidad and Tobago conference. I was terribly lucky to get an introduction to London, big stories and the big time. Today I give a speech at the launch, about Ken Gordon's life and press freedom in the Caribbean. I try to be diplomatic without getting too involved in Trinidad politics.
Nine hours on a plane may seem like a long way to go for three days, but it's really nice to see my family and old friends. My sister Eunice takes me to the airport in the evening. I manage to sleep through the entire flight.
I arrive in London at about ten. It's a dismal, grey and rainy morning, quite contrary to Trinidad. I head straight to Moss Bros in Regent Street to pick up my morning dress for the investiture tomorrow, and visit my hairdressers in Great Titchfield Street.
I spend the afternoon at home making arrangements for tomorrow, until the time comes to pick up Jack, my son, from school.
I receive a call from my daughter in South Africa. She was planning to attend the ceremony tomorrow, but has been delayed by a bomb blast in Cape Town. There seems to be no possible way for her to get back in time, which is a disappointment.
I collapse into bed, totally exhausted.
Up at half past seven to set off to the palace for the investiture. I am always amazed at how extremely professional it all is. They give you a huge sticker for your car, and then put you in various queues. It is always orderly - very different from Waitrose car park on a Saturday.
We enter the grand ballroom, and there is a slightly poignant moment when I am separated from my wife Josephine, Jack and my older son Tim.
There are about 150 people getting honoured, including Antonia Byatt, who is being made a dame. We all gather in separate rooms to wait, and joke about the sword missing the shoulder and clipping off the ear. It's gallows humour in a more elegant setting.
When my moment comes, I feel nervous but this is almost counterbalanced by emotion. It's been a long ride for me, from growing up in a little village in Trinidad to Buckingham Palace. I am pretty close to tears. Prince Charles is exceedingly charming and generous - he talks about how well I've done in my career (and leaves my ears intact).
After the Investiture, my family and I have drinks in the Lord Chamberlain's office. It's a great thrill; he's very gracious and kind. We meet the press outside and seem to get more than our fair share of attention.
I have lunch with my family at the Belfry in London. I have smoked salmon, mushroom risotto and roast beef. I feel it is a good moment to support British farmers and the lifting of the beef ban.
The lunch goes on until about five. I spend the rest of the day in a state of shock. When I initially received the letter about the investiture, I thought another would arrive later, saying that they had made a terrible mistake.
I discover that emotional situations use up lots of energy, and it's a struggle to get back to work. I have an amazing variety of meetings today, including a meeting with a radio station to discuss promoting Millennium listening, a chat with ITV2 about my regular show, a meeting with the editor of ITV and a chat with my colleague on the Tonight programme.
I manage to get home before eight, in time to see Jack before he goes to bed.
More meetings today. I have lunch with the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor of South Bank University, of which I am Chancellor. We discuss ways of improving the university's image.
After work, I relax by reading a bit of Evelyn Waugh and some Yeats poems. I watch TV rather distractedly for an hour and then go to bed.
Spend the morning doing a few errands; going to the bank, returning my morning suit and getting my hair cut. I go to the office for more meetings. With all these meetings, I'm starting to sound like the Prime Minister. I have lots of congratulatory letters to respond to as well.
This week has been much busier than usual. Going to Trinidad was really wonderful. It feels like cheating the system to get away and see so many friends. I didn't realise that a knighthood would be so important. Everyone has been so warm about it.
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