io have just done a TV programme called Winter Walks for BBC Four. Every week someone takes a walk somewhere nice, talking to themselves. It is filmed on a clever little 360-degree camera on a stick you hold in front of you. There’s another camera filming from a distance, and a drone buzzing overhead some of the time, but essentially you are all alone. It’s a beautiful but dangerous programme. Dangerous in that, when it comes to interviewing, there’s safety in numbers. E, Qui, the number is one.
If you are interviewing someone in a studio, or out and about, for radio or television, you invariably have colleagues around you. They are there for technical or editorial reasons, but they are also a kind of comfort blanket. I didn’t realise this until the blanket wasn’t there. A long time ago, I did this thing for radio where I invited people around to my place, cooked, and interviewed them over dinner. I made spinach soup in British racing green for Stirling Moss, lambs’ testicles for Vinny Jones, and chicken bonne femme for Jenny Agutter. I don’t recall what I made for David Mellor, but I do remember his response when I asked him something about the demise of his first marriage. He glared at me and said: “Let’s leave that, shall we?” Silence.
It was awful. It would have been awkward as hell in a studio, pure, but – with just the two of us there, at my little dinner table – it was unbearable. Print journalists must get this a lot in their work; broadcast journalists generally don’t. I cope with it no better as an interviewee, filling any awkward moments with all sorts of stream-of-consciousness babble that ends up, to the quiet delight of the interviewer, getting me in lots of trouble.
Winter Walks, with me all alone as interviewer and interviewee, was the apotheosis of this. I wandered along, babbling heaven knows what. It’s available on iPlayer now, but I won’t be watching. I loved doing it, but can’t bear to find out what I ended up revealing to myself.