Thrills and spills in the BBC radio car

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The Independent Online
Yesterday we started our new interactive novel "A Man For Today" in which you, the reader, are Jeremy Plinth, Junior Minister for Arms Sales at the Foreign Office. Very early one morning you are tricked into agreeing to appear on the Radio 4 "Today" programme, even though you would much rather stay in bed. At 6.30 a BBC radio car turns up to collect you ... Don't forget that YOU are Jeremy Plinth! And at every juncture, YOU have to choose the right option before you can continue the story! Right, here we go!

"Mr Plinth, sir?" says the uniformed chauffeur of the BBC radio car, as you sleepily walk down your tiny Chelsea garden path.

"That's right," you say. "You're taking me to Broadcasting House, presumably."

"Not exactly, sir. We'll be doing the interview here in the radio car. That saves you going all the way to W1."

You are about to get in the back of the car when it suddenly occurs to you that it might be more egalitarian to get in the front beside the driver. You are about to get in the front when it suddenly occurs to you that he might find this a bit self-consciously matey and over-familiar. You are about to get in the back when the chauffeur solves the problem for you by saying:

a) "For God's sake stop dithering and get in the back!"

b) "You can sit in the front if you like, but I must warn you I'm a Spurs supporter, so you can imagine how cheerful I am right now as company."

c) "Do you want to drive while I sit in the back and read the paper?"

d) "If you sit in the back, sir, I'll take the wheel and drive until we're ready."

Yes, of course - the chauffeur politely puts you in the back and takes the wheel, and off you go through early morning Chelsea. You don't often see London this early, so you look around with keen interest at all these people going off to work. You don't look with very keen interest at all those homeless people sleeping rough, because as a rising politician you can't afford to let yourself get bogged down by sentimentality, and besides, none of these people has got a vote probably, so they aren't very important for the next election.

Dawn is beginning to break as you head north past Hyde Park, and then something very strange strikes you. Yes, even a rising politician has a few brain cells left, enough to alert you to the fact that something is wrong. But what is this odd thing that is setting off all the alarm bells in your sleepy brain?

a) You have got your shoes on the wrong feet.

b) When you said goodbye to your sleeping wife, she said, "Goodbye, Charlie," which isn't your name.

c) You forgot to ask the Today programme how much you were getting paid for this.

d) If the interview is being done in the BBC radio car, why is the man driving you somewhere else?

Yes, why are you being driven somewhere? Surely the whole point of the radio car is so that it can be done on the spot, ie outside your Chelsea address! So you bang on the glass and the driver says, "Yes, sir?"

And you say: "Look, where are we going? Why can't we park outside my house and do it?"

"Not very good reception," says the driver. "Too low in Chelsea. We have to find somewhere where we can send a good signal, so I'm heading for Notting Hill."

Of course! Simple when you think of it! So you nod off to sleep for a while, but when you wake up you realise you are going through Swiss Cottage, which is way to the north of Notting Hill and you panic, and start bashing on the glass again, but you suddenly realise that he has closed and locked it, and you are a prisoner! The driver refuses to look round. You try to get out of the car at some red lights but the doors are locked.

What on earth is going on here?

a) The chauffeur has forgotten he has got you in the back, and is absent- mindedly heading home for breakfast.

b) The Today programme has got Malcolm Rifkind to do the interview instead of you, and is too embarrassed to tell you.

c) Your wife has discovered that you are two-timing her with a mistress in Fulham and has paid for a contract killer to dispose of you.

d) The Labour Party reckons that if it kidnaps no more than three Tory MPs, of whom you are one, it can win the vital vote of confidence in the House tonight!

Yes, the truth of the matter is that ...

I'm sorry. We seem to have run out of space. More of this some other time, perhaps.