We've all made ghastly mistakes on live broadcasts, such as confusing the identity of speakers or getting their area of expertise wrong. Once, on the Today programme, I asked a non-English-speaking Russian man about wisdom teeth, thinking he was president of the British Dental Association. It's too long a story to explain here. And, of course, every political interview leaves one kicking oneself for missing out some killer question. But I think the mistake that still rankles in a curious way is the time I failed to report on the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe's first wedding.
In 1968, I was a reporter on The World at One and was sent with a portable recorder to cover Thorpe's wedding at Lambeth Palace. I was required to send the taped report back to Broadcasting House via what we called the Hole in the Wall - a tiny, unmanned studio somewhere off College Green, close to the Houses of Parliament, a makeshift place often used for political interviews. It would be a close-run thing, but we reckoned I could just about get a package back in time for the lunchtime deadline.
I got the right wedding noises, did a wrap-around commentary and rushed off to the tiny local studio. Panic! I couldn't find it anywhere. Of course, no passing pedestrian knew where it was, and I had no means of getting hold of HQ quickly to warn the main studio (this was long before mobile phones) of my predicament. They had held open a special space at the end of the programme for this mini-scoop. I failed them lamentably, and slunk late back to the office, carrying my now-useless account of Thorpe's recent nuptials.
The Hole in the Wall is still there, for all I know, but to me its whereabouts are forever wrapped in mystery tinged with deep shame.Reuse content