When did you last see your credibility?

John Walsh ON MONDAY

I'VE BEEN having this recurrent nightmare, in which I'm an aspirant Director-General of the BBC. I expect you've had it too. It's not the prospect of running the major flagship of British cultural enterprise that so appals me, nor of having to tell Jenni Murray and Libby Purves and James Boyle where to get off that keeps me awake at 3am. No, it's the idea of having to face that ghastly final Governors' Interview.

Imagine it. The first invest-igations have been conducted by head-hunters. They'll already have assessed your competence to answer questions about licence fees and budgets with a straight face, your sexual orientation, your ability to sit on a chair alertly and not fidget or dissemble or reek of Gordon's Gin at three in the afternoon. They'll have already been on the qui vive for the scuffs on your brogues, the disint-egrating shirt collar, the tell-tale signs of dandruff (or is it cocaine?) on your lapels.

A second round of interviews, before a Selection Committee on the fourth floor of Broadcasting House, will have established your political soundness, your opinion of John Humphrys, the amount of cash you once kindly donated to the Labour Party out of, you know, simple post-election joie de vivre, your brief student flirtation with the International Marxist Group, your wife's devotion to Stars in Their Eyes, your brother-in-law's 40 per cent equity share in a Dutch porn channel, and why you chose to name your children Xerxes and Nefertiti back in the Eighties.

Now it's the big one. Somewhere in an airless Star Chamber off Piccadilly, around a table groaning with blue Ty Nant bottles and red- Biro-ed, dog-eared briefing notes, all 12 of the BBC Board of Governors will be ranged in baleful majesty, like constipated seraphim. Sir Christopher Bland the chairman, a figure as awesome as William Blake's Ancient of Days, will lean over to murmur to Baroness Young as you enter (checking, while pretending to adjust the belt of your Hackett strides, that your flies are done up), a kindly seigneurial hand will wave you to a chair and ...

I've known interviews in the past that were almost as alarming. Trying to get into Oxford University one December, I found myself being grilled by a languid don, in a room full of leaping shadows and guttering candlelight (there was a power cut), about why I'd written that I admired the work of Alexander Pope for its "sincerity". A fruitless discussion, from which I emerged weeping most sincerely. I've a friend who once faced a BBC board for a minor position at the script end, two days after a small lung operation that had left her with a compulsive yawning disorder. "Do let us know," murmured the Head of Personnel (Minor Positions), "if you find the prospect of working here the least bit enervating ...". But the final, now-or- never interview with the Olympian figures of the British establishment: what can it be like?

Surely the Governors won't ask all over again about the candidate's "vision" or strategy," their views on " globalisation" or "management structuring" or "transmedial enablement"; they'll already have supplied their views in writing. No, the Governors' Interview must be something more capricious, more wrong-footingly Kafkaesque, designed to disconcert, in order to establish the next DG's ability to think on his or her feet. "Mr Dyke," I can hear them asking the head of Pearson TV, "What is the capital of Guatemala?"

"So, Miss Hodgson," I can imagine them asking the Director of Policy and Planning, "is it your belief that Roquefort is the prince of cheeses?." "Tell us," Sir Christopher will say to Will Hutton, "Have you ever handled a firearm?"

"What we really want to know, Mr Byford," the Baroness will ask the Head of the World Service, "is: how do you spell `syzygy'?"

u

THE CURRENT New Yorker reprints this cutting-edge piece of criminal reporting from the Santa Fe New Mexican: "A thief stole 60 CDs and a Sony Discman (on) Friday from a home in the 1000 block of Camino Anasazi, leaving the toilet seat up before he left the premises." Jeepers. What is the world coming to? If things get any worse, no decent middle-class household will be safe from a hundred raised-toilet-seat indignities. You could come home and find that, along with taking the video, the fax machine and the food processor, some ruthless felon has left your tube of Colgate uncapped, deliberately left a coffee mug down on your best mahogany table without a coaster underneath it, and put your copies of Vogue and Vanity Fair in the wrong date-order.

Then we'll know the barbarians are at the gates at last.

u

I'M A sucker for secret-state conspiracy theories. Years ago, when Edge of Darkness, the brilliant TV thriller starring the late Bob Peck, was nailing us to our sofas, my friend Mike noticed something odd. In the first episode (which he watched at a preview screening) the cop investigating a murder assures a security man that he's a legitimate officer of the law; if you want to check my credentials, he tells the man, ring this number. Mike, for no special reason, jotted it down on his spiral notepad. But when the first episode was actually screened, a week later, the phone number given to the security man was quite different.

How strange, thought Mike. He rang the original number - and heard an unearthly noise of jagged bleeps. So he rang the operator. What, he asked, does that noise signify? The operator listened. "What you've reached there," she said, "is a large computer database. But you'll need a scrambler to access it." Well I'll be damned, thought Mike, I've got through to a secret MI5 mainframe, just like the fictional one.

An hour later the phone rang. "Is that Mike Tucker?" said a voice. Yeah, said Mike, "Who's this?" "Could you explain, please," said the voice, "why you dialled this telephone number an hour ago?" and recited the First Number.

I, er - must have made a mistake, said Mike, a little spooked. A wrong number. Silly me. Still, no harm done, eh?

"You'd be well advised, Mr Tucker, not to ring this number again," said the voice, chillingly, and rang off. Mike didn't.

I thought of the episode when I heard how Henry Porter, the famous journalist, had fared in the early stages of writing his fine first thriller Remembrance Day. It's set in a modern world of bombers, telephones, sonic triggers and fiendishly complicated "description gateways". While Porter was researching these matters, he carried a foolscap notebook, full of narrative speculations and urgent plot-queries: where you could buy a simple detonator, a list of known IRA cells in London, the position of the garages that service MI5 headquarters by the Thames, plus lots of telephonic electro-bollocks to astound the reader.

Guess what? One day, he left the notebook on the counter while shopping for plates at an ironmongers in Moreton-in-Marsh and drove away, oblivious of his loss, to host a cricketing dinner that evening. Next day, Scotland Yard rang him. "We'd like to interview you," they said. Moi? said Henry. But why? "Not us, sir," said the Yard, "Special Branch, Gloucestershire, to be precise. And they did. Three large blokes gave him the third degree for over an hour, refusing, incidentally, to explain how they'd tracked him down when neither his name nor address was in the notebook.

He protested his innocence. He explained he was a would-be novelist, not a bad guy. He showed them the menu from the previous evening, as proof of the circles he moved in. "You do believe me, don't you?" he asked. As a matter of fact we do believe you, they said. Why? asked Porter. "Because no terrorist would be so stupid as to carry such a book around with him," they explained, "and no terrorist would think of ordering a Mersault '93 to go with the poached salmon at a cricket dinner." There are hidden depths, clearly, in the higher echelons of today's provincial crime fighters.

u

LIKE MOST ageing rockers in Greater London, I went to see Bruce Springsteen at Earl's Court. The place was crammed with thick-set, horny-handed vandriver types in leather jackets, jeans and Pringle T-shirts, like a convention of former Millwall FC fans now matured into late-40s bourgeois quiescence.

Testosterone filled the air, and Bruce played up to it He wrestled with a 12-string guitar like Laocoon with the sea serpent during a sulkily downbeat Born in the USA. He strutted his pimp roll through When I'm Out on the Street and growled apocalyptically through Thunder Road as we sang along, sad-eyed loners all of us, despite now having litters of children and colossal mortgages in Kent and Surrey. The Tunnel of Love days of uncertainty and bruised-love songs were ignored. At 50, Bruce is happier reverting to his late teens when he was one of the boys in the band. Watching him singing a duet of Rendezvous with his missus, Patti Scialfa, and a duet of Two Hearts with Stevie Van Zandt, it was evident which inspires the more sincere passion. At the end of the show, the band took it in turns to sing a line from If I Fall Behind. As they stepped up to the microphone, one by one in the creepy gloom - Roy, Nils, Bruce, Stevie, Clarence - Mrs S took her place in the line-up. "Hang on," we thought, "what's that bird doing there with Bruce and the lads?"

u

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Life and Style
Sony Computer Entertainment President and Group CEO Andrew House, executive in charge of Sony Network Entertainment, introduces PlayStation Now
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

    £32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?