Ch 63 – You Have Been Watching..
Vanessa drove up along the new road of Ealing Common. The dawn was up now and New BBC, Ealing was clearly visible. It was a low structure. Just four floors high.
The old hospital in the distance was twice that height.
We pulled up to the steel barriers that protected the access. Giant steel gates that were anchored by the thick walls, that were topped with wire.
Armed guards viewed us from a watchtower, that was positioned where two of those high concrete walls joined. Someone was watching us through binoculars from up there. I could see the flash of the lenses in the early morning sun.
Two security people were within the reinforced concrete, wooden clad gatehouse, by the entrance.
One of them came out and bent over at the window of the Mercedes and asked Vanessa her name. Then all our names. He asked her for some identification. She fished through her bag, finding her own press pass of the magazine she was editor for.
He checked his tablet and made a notation. Then stood and signalled his colleague that we were on the day list. He spoke into a shoulder radio, informing someone else of our arrival.
The other security officer pressed buttons that began the process of opening the heavy steel doors and closing the tyre shredders, so they lay flat to the road.
The BBC were very, very security conscious these days. Since the attack on Salford some years ago, when a bunch of ‘Terrorists’ had got onto the complex. They had forced their way onto the studio for Kate Dimbleby’s flagship, ‘Social-News and Current Afeelz’ programme, Pebble Mill Katz One.
From there the terrorists had forced the BBC personnel to broadcast their demands for an immediate end to Brexit negotiations and instant withdrawal from all EU regulation and laws. They said if their demands were not met, they would carry out drastic action. On the BBC.
When their demands were inevitably not met, they carried out that threat.
Every thirty minutes, they forced the BBC to transmit, live, a sitcom from the era before Political Correctness. They went in hard. First out being an episode of ‘Till death us do part.’ Then, ‘Love thy neighbour.’
The terrorist promised more if they were not given what they asked.
A weeping Jeremy Vine, unlucky enough to have been a guest on the Katz show when the Terrorists struck, was made to read out to the watching public the new schedule for the day.
Continuous episodes from, “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.” “Curry and Chips.” and “Mind your Language.” They promised clips from all the ‘Carry on Films.’ Also the episodes of ‘Friends,’ with ‘Fat Monica,’ and the male ‘Manny,’ nanny.
Vine begged for them to stop. But he would not himself agree to call for the immediate leaving of the EU.
“Never! Never!” he was heard to say through his tears. “I will endure! We must endure!”
The whole thing lasted for about six hours. I recall watching it live from the break room at The Department.
As it was all kicking off in Salford it was nothing to do with us in London. We just sent teams to help secure BBC sites in the city, then sat down to watch it play out.
I remember eating Pringles and watching the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ and ‘Baywatch.’
When the General Lee came on screen there was a clearly heard wail of despair and a shout of ‘Slavery,’ from one of the hostages. Before a terrorist told them to man up.
Which only made them sob all the harder and declare they were a gender neutralist.
For a moment we thought the terrorist might lose it. But instead the leader of the group appeared on screen and said the government had one hour. Or it would put on past episodes of “The Black and White Minstrel Show.”
They terrorists had discovered tapes of the old BBC show in the archives.
Reflecting on that day, one of those Baywatch girls had looked a lot like Vanessa, now I come to think of it. Or maybe it was just the blonde hair. I glanced at her. She had the figure for a swimsuit.
I do recollect it was a very enjoyable afternoon. Before Counter-Terrorism ruined it and stormed the studios and took away all the surviving Terrorists. The BBC quickly got some of their most eco-whining episodes of ‘The Blue Planet’ up, to cleanse their tortured souls.
Since that incident the BBC had taken their security very seriously indeed.
With the steel gates opened we drove up to the visitor parking area and Vanessa put us close to the reception entrance. She pulled the seat forward to allow Bixby out. I got out and looked around at the BBC building.
The Mayor had decreed no more high rise. He was very clear that no building could be more than two floors. Then had immediately begun looking for loopholes in his latest, daft ordinance, to exempt the BBC, who he had forgotten to exclude from the legislation. He eventually got them another two floors through some obscure, world war two era, radar mast and ARP Fire-watching, provision.
So NEW BBC was a squat, dumpy collection of glass and steel buildings. Not the impressive towers they would have liked.
But, the architects had made the most of it. The building’s facade was a long curve of glass, in the favoured BBC style.
There was a wide lawned area with socially distanced seating areas for summer lunches outdoors. Some small, Scandinavian wood steam-room looking huts around a hot springs pool. A sign that said ‘Tranquil Meditation area’ pointed down a gravel pathway that led to some yurt type buildings among manicured hedges and a huge golden sundial.
The front reception of the building had had wood panelling over the steel and concrete. A pale grey façade of natural, recyclable materials. A sign on the grassed area proudly boasted of how,
‘80% of the composites used in this construction were recycled from the Amazonian rainforest.’
That would have added a few million to this construction. But it’s always much easier to be Green when you aren’t actually paying for it yourself.
“Are we ready?” Vanessa asked us, as she locked the car. “Marmon? Are you ready?”
“I’m good,” he said. His voice stronger than it had been for a while. “I always feel good here. Its very much..like home.”
I’m sure this was the spiritual home of all ReJoiners.
“Let’s go,” he said. And set off towards the reception entrance.
I glanced at the guard towers once more. The occupants were still watching us. I was tempted to wave. But decided simply to follow Lord Bixby. Into the belly of the beast.
The reception area was very large, with a wood effect, non slip, laminate floor. As with all modern office spaces, the area was mostly empty of anything at all. Just the reception desk. A glass Covid-22 wall separated reception from the waiting area.
Vanessa flashed her press pass again. I must remember to get one of those when I re-sourced all my fake I.D.s. People seemed to trust that Press pass for some reason.
I thought I’d get one with a BBC logo. Head of Sound Archives, or Classical Costumes or something. I’d ask Georgios the Greek, up at Seven Sisters. His fake I.D.’s were exceptionally well designed. He’d know what level of BBC employee would be the most useful for me. Some job title that was high enough to have some clout. But lowly enough that no one would be expected to recognise me. Something to think about for later.
If there was a later.
The receptionist asked us to wait here for a moment.
Pictures lined the far wall of the reception area. Famous BBC personalities.
Receiving awards. Posing for cameras. In costume, and so on.
there was Bruce Forsyth. Doing the Generation Game, fist to forehead silhouette stance. No sign of Anthea.
Another picture had Del Boy and Rodney, standing arms around their shoulders in brotherly love. Beside a dirty, yellow, Trotter’s Independent Traders, three wheeled van. Anagram was TiTs. I have only just noticed that.
I recognised the Two Ronnies. Surprised they had survived the Politically Correct culling and the re-historifying of pre-snowflake life.
Charlie Farley and Piggy Malone might just have squeaked through if the review board had been feeling very generous. I doubted Diana Dors and ‘The Worm That Turned,’ would ever be screened again.
There was a photographed framed print of BBC favourite, Ed Balls, hugging his wife, Yvette Cooper-Balls.
Ed was oddly dressed in what appeared to be a clownish romper suit. It seemed so strange I went closer for a better look. And discovered it wasn’t Ed Balls at all. It was Mister Tumble. Hugging a long, soft toy, giraffe.
Easy mistake to make.
I recognised a large picture of a laughing Barry Cryer. As with Arthur Smith, and Jenny Eclair they’d been on TV and Radio my whole life. I struggled to think of a single actual programme they had been in. Couldn’t think of any and gave up.
James Corden had a double sized picture to fit into. He had gone to America and hosted The Late Show. The BBC mourned the loss of one of theirs, from their most viewed comedy of all time. Gavin and Stacey.
I had never liked it. I was with Stewart Lee. He had quipped at the time of Corden’s move to the USA, “Britain’s loss, is America’s loss, also.”
One very popular entertainer was missing. I assumed Jimmy Savile’s picture was upstairs somewhere.
“Can Miz Queen come to reception. She has guests.”
The receptionist had spoken into her head set. She smiled at us. “If you could go through to security, Miz Queen will be with you momentarily.” She waved a hand over a sensor and the twin doors in front of us opened. We walked through into the waiting area of the foyer, of New BBC Ealing.
There was a tall screen on the wall beside the security desk. It was a solid colour. The background was a blue shade and the caption read,
Checking the key beside the image I could tell that today’s SDR, Social Distance Requirement, was one metre.
The BBC had been instrumental in calling for the government to adopt a colour coded reference check for the aftermath of the Covid outbreaks. They had wanted to include the daily colour warning in all their weather reports and they had got their way. Originally it had been red, yellow and green. But the BBC and Channel Four had pushed the government into a series of more complex, and more middle class, BBC appropriate, shades.
0.25m – Celery
0.50m – Spruce
0.75m – Mimosa
1m – Cornflower
1.25m – Melon
1.5m – Peacock
1.75m – Mocha
2m – Damson
As soon as we reached the security/waiting area one of the three waiting security officers there came towards us. He was a tall man, wide and broad. He had a bright, friendly, white toothed smile. But his manner had a no-nonsense attitude to it.
“Please place all your belongings on the conveyor. Any coins, keys, belts or electronic devices must be placed in the trays provided. Any liquids need to be left here. Refreshments are available on each level.”
I was glad now, that I’d left the pistol behind in Vanessa’s garage.
One guard was seated at the X-ray machine console. Scanning our bags. The other stood off to one side of us. He was far smaller than his colleague. But he seemed alert enough. Ready for action should any arise.
None of the security had firearms. But I could see CS and pepper sprays on their belts. Plus a telescopic stick that appeared so thin it must be a charged tazer device.
I put my trouser belt into the plastic container. I saw the tray had ‘Property of Virgin Atlantic,’ stamped on the base. Looking at the leg of the machine by the screen operator I could see the ‘VA’ Stamp in the metal. The BBC, and the other media stations had been able to pick up this expensive, precautionary X-ray equipment, for next to nothing when the airlines disappeared.
The few that survived the Covids hadn’t survived the Greta Cult.
When people referred to EXtinction these days, they meant jet airliners and foreign holidays.
“Please step through the arch when signalled to do so,” the guard said. His wide and muscular chest barely concealed beneath his light blue security shirt. I could read his identity badge. BBC logo in one corner, so he was probably employed, not contract.
The badge read, ‘T1-Sandra Batkawayo.’ He didn’t look like a Sandra. He looked like a Shaka, he was so dark skinned.
“Mrs Bixby,” he called and Vanessa walked through. Ladies first.
He called Marmon next and Lord Bixby passed freely through the metal detector.
Then the guard placed one hand on his hip. With the other he motioned with hisfingers for me to move through the scanner.
And as I had expected, as soon as I stepped through the sudden warning burr of alarms sounded, and all three of the guards rapidly moved in to surround me.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file