The Way I Was: The ideal me in the mirror: Margaret Howard tells Nicholas Roe about a once-in-a-lifetime look

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IT WAS 1984 and this picture was taken in a photographic artist's studio for the front of my book, Margaret Howard's Pick of the Week - the first one I'd done, so they decided they would have a mug shot on the cover.

I went to the hairdresser's at lunchtime and that took about two hours, and then I went to this studio thinking, 'Oh well, I'll get back in time to finish the script'. But it went on for hours. Really hours.

I went in with my own make-up, thinking I looked all right but no, there was this girl with brushes who painted my face. There were inches of slap. No friends would recognise this as me at all - it's so glamorous.

I'm not used to being photographed - I'm used to being in the public ear, not the public eye. Oh, but it was lovely, this ideal person emerging in the mirror. It was nice to have it once in a lifetime.

Of course, 1984 was the year we all dreaded because of George Orwell. It was supposed to be an annus horribilis but for me it was an annus mirabilis because none of the dreadful things that Orwell had spoken of was happening to me.

I had this nice programme. I had suddenly done something that I'd never done before, which was to write a book - and that, for somebody like me who left school at 16, was a great achievement - and then I won the female UK Personality of the Year Sony Award. I was a star, wasn't I?

In those days I was entrenched in my regimen of doing the programme. It governed my life. My days were controlled by the need to listen and to watch BBC programmes. I would wake to the sound of the Today programme and fall asleep to the sound of Around Midnight. I took it all desperately seriously, but I enjoyed it for the whole 17 years I did it. People said, 'Wasn't it monotonous?' But every week was different. I was frightfully proud to be in charge of this jewel in the crown of the BBC.

I felt pretty sick when I had to go. I felt it was the end of the road - but that was later and this is 1984 and we shouldn't be talking about that.

I was younger and prettier in those days and I had more energy. I can see it shining out of the eyes. But I was very alone, I think. I lived in a sort of isolated way inside the programme.

You know, when I went to collect the Sony Award I nearly didn't go because I was so busy? Then I thought I'd better, and I breezed into lunch at the Hilton on my own - now that's very odd, isn't it? In my World at One days we would have had a table and a whole gang would have been there.

But, very fortunately, there on the table was an old friend of mine, Eamonn Andrews, so we chatted about old times. I made some sort of speech, God knows what I said. Then I went back to the office with my award and finished the script.

I wish I could remember 1984 a little more vividly. I do remember having the photograph taken and I do remember winning the prize. I look quite happy in the picture; I think I was.

I can't remember whether I went on holiday that year, or whether I had a boyfriend or, you know . . .

I look at it and all I can remember is the work, what the work was.

Actually, I do remember now what I did: I went to Spain with a friend for this wonderful holiday. Then somebody rang up about the book. I'll never forget it. It was the middle of the night and the telephone rang. There was some chap saying, 'I've been left out of your book]' I couldn't believe it. It was so funny.

Margaret Howard now broadcasts on Classic FM radio.

(Photograph omitted)

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