My Greatest Mistake: Corrie Corfield Radio 4 newsreader

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The Independent Online

It was Christmas Eve 1986. I was working as what is called a studio manager, which is basically a sound engineer, at the BBC World Service at Bush House. I used to mix and record programmes and work on live transmissions. I was what was called a specialist SM, which meant I had particular duties for one section of the foreign languages, and mine was the Latin American section. These duties included an overnight shift which used to broadcast from midnight until 4am.

On this particular Christmas Eve we'd decided to have a party in the studio to help things along. We unplugged one of the tape machines and plugged in a food processor in its place. Using this, we knocked up some Margaritas and Piña Coladas and goodness knows what else.

As you can imagine, everyone got very jolly and very merry, and I can't remember exactly why - this was a good two years before I moved into newsreading - but I ended up in front of the microphone. I think everybody was having a go at just saying something.

Anyway, I think somebody had said to me: "Just wish everybody a Happy Christmas." So what I actually said on air was: "Feliz Navidad and bueno Nuevo Ano." I just thought that that was: "Merry Christmas and a good New Year." In fact what I hadn't realised was that the word "año", if you say it in a particular way, is actually "anus". Which is not a very nice word.

So fundamentally I'd wished everybody from Tierra del Fuego to Caracas a very merry Christmas and a happy new arse. There was a rather stunned silence from the Spanish speakers who were broadcasting.

Of course this had all gone out very late our time but it was probably early morning over there. It was a rather embarrassing moment. After that I just stuck to broadcasting in English, I thought it was safer.