Ch 65 – Waiting Room.
We all emerged safely from the elevator ride. Karen, the BBC girl, was young enough that she hadn’t felt the need to use the oxygen masks provided in the internally, plastic walled, quad segregated lift. Neither had the youthful Lady Vanessa. Old man Bixby was definitely in the ‘at-risk’ category. But probably believed, as many did, that the latest outbreak was transmitted by lint from clothing.
Not an airborne virus. So he didn’t use a respirator either.
Me? I just didn’t care.
Karen, with the big earphones and small breasts, led us along the many corridors of Broadcasting House South. Or ‘Black City’ as it was sometimes known. For the vibrancy and ethnicity of the area.
It was a double play on words. Old BBC had been called White City. So it was quite funny. If a bit racist. Definitely not something you would repeat to a privileged, white, young, and agitated group of weekend-anarchist kids, who were intent on levering a historic statue out of the ground, to throw into the Thames.
The BBC building was huge. Far bigger on the inside than the out. Perhaps it was a TARDIS? The BBC had enough money these days, they could well have their own space program.
Since the failed, planned Tory cuts to the BBC, they had grown stronger than ever.
So that now, thanks to the News Bill that made BBC news virtually compulsory, the licence fee was twice what it had been, in real terms, before the Johnson government had unsuccessfully tried to turn them into a subscription channel.
The girl paused by another lift. She led us to a door and a staircase beside it. We went on up. It was only one flight when she motioned us to go through yet another door. This was marked, “Studio F. Studio H. News-team Nine. FakeNewz Editing.”
There was a hand sanitiser dispenser by the door which she motioned us to use.
Bottles hung upside down in it. More than the usual two. Dermi-Soap and AntiBac 100%. You only needed to hold hands underneath and the foam or gel automatically came out.
The BBC was clearly very concerned about the latest reports of Covid-22 appearing in Brussels. A whole new strain, apparently. The Broadcaster had added a third bottle to the range. Some purplish coloured gel.
Vanessa took some of each into her tiny hands. And I followed suit. It might ease the cramp in my damaged one. I could hardly move the fingers at all now. The hand had all but seized up.
Lord Bixby took a squirt and looked at the mauve liquid suspiciously. He raised the swirl of liquid up to his nose and sniffed.
“What’s this?” he asked the production assistant.
“What do you think?” I said to him. “We’re in the BBC. It’s complementary lube.
Come on, let’s go.”
The BBC woman motion opened the door and took us down another corridor. There weren’t many other people about. It was still early in the morning, and the BBC was more a daytime organisation. The last time I’d been here had been when I was being interviewed about my part in the botched Tommy, NHRN, arrest. And subsequent riots.
I’d remember I had seen a Celebrity. The great, Sandi Toksvig. At least I thought it was her. It could have been Peter Dinklige. Or, perhaps, Andy Hamilton. Or Sadiq Khan.
We turned down one muesli coloured corridor into another. Then another. Finally to one with a receptionists desk at the end of it. I looked up to check the CCTV. It was positioned so it could see any person along any hallway. It was a good setup they had.
We all went along this corridor where another BBC girl emerged from a room and came up to us. She excitedly greeted Lord Bixby. He was like Obama round these parts.
“Sarah Paxton. Assistant Art director for Newz and Current Afeelz. I’m so glad you could come, Lord Bixby. Hello, hello,” she nodded and smiled to Vanessa and myself.
“We will put you all in here. Whilst the studio is made ready. Someone from editorial will be along shortly. To run through some questions for you. We are going need to background notes so we can set up the opening monologue intro. Graphics.
Sound clips and so on. Editorial will work on a punchy title for the piece. Something with the word ‘gate’ in it, no doubt. So if you can, please fully answer all questions in as much detail as you are able. That will aid the procedure immensely.
There are clipboards and papers in the room for statements. And please make sure you do fill in the personal questionnaire for us. It’s for the legal team. One of them will be coming along shortly too.”
She opened the door to one of the so called Green rooms. The sign on the door read,
“The Lord Lenny Henry Suite. Black Laughs Matter.”
We all went through into the waiting, monitoring and assessment area.
The Security Guard, Sandra, took up a station by the entrance. He stood, solid. And massive. Arms folded across his muscled chest.
None of us looked around the place like tourists. We had all had media dealings before. Lord Bixby was here so often to bat for whatever the latest ReJoiner story the BBC were pushing, that he probably had his own car parking space.
Vanessa had been on the TV too. She was on Only Women’s Hour, for her ecology and Animal Rights work. And she had been on some panel shows. Been on with Lord Bixby a few times, too. The ‘Beautiful people.’ Who knew what was best for you.
And as I said, I’d been in here before too. Back when I was a minor news story myself. For the whole Tommy, NHRN, arrest and riot catastrophe. Back when I’d decided to speak out for justice, and so ruined my police career.
This was a hospitality room. A waiting room really. They put you in here until they were ready to ask questions from you. Or to put you in front of a camera.
We were in the ‘A’ list room. Some of the BBC waiting rooms were just like those boothed, mostly glass, partitioned seating areas they had in airports. All you got in there was a newspaper and some fair-trade, foul-taste, coffee beans and a hot water dispenser.
This one was the good one. For their highest profile guests.
Sir Bono of U2. Chairperson of the Arts Council of the Metropolis, Lord Ricky Tomlinson. Dame Stacey Dooley. The bloke who was a hobbit. Who the BBC now worship for some reason. Can’t think of his name. He introduces MasterChef..Anyway..it was the best room to wait in. So it meant they were treating us with respect. For now.
There were many Vid’Screens and some internal video monitors on the walls. It had very comfortable, plastic cushioned seats. A table in one corner was laden with fresh fruits. And, if allowed by the rationing for health calender, some German pastries.
Fresh tea and coffee. In those big, silver pots. It was almost as good as Premier Inn.
I was very hungry so wandered across to look. No pastries today. Shame.
I took a couple of satsumas and a dry and unappetising looking cereal bar, that must have been a BBC staple, as they had two bowls of them. Head of catering must assume that everyone loved them as much as the BBC canteen did. As they had had these same crappy bars last time I’d been here.
I took a seat away from Vanessa and Marmon.
Bixby looked over the snack table, didn’t fancy anything, and walked off. Vanessa poured herself a coffee. She made one for him too. Funny relationship they had. He hadn’t asked her if she had wanted anything. And she hadn’t asked him. Just poured it. I hadn’t been married for quite a while. You forget how it goes when you are single. Or perhaps she was just used to taking care of him more. Now he had BDS.
She handed him a cup and saucer and told him to take another pill.
“The topper. The green one,” she instructed him.
His James O’Brien Syndrome, medication. Lord Bixby had stage three Brexit Derangement Syndrome. His chances of recovering from stage three were not good.
So far, the only recovering patient I could think of, was Femi. And there were some doubts whether he had ever really been a stage three. He might conceivably only ever been a stage one. But had been hamming it up for the EU, ReJoin and Soros money.
The problem for all the stage threes was that they were extremely susceptible to wild fantasies. They’d believe almost anything providing it blamed Brexit for something.
Rainy day?..That’s Brexit. No cornflakes left? ..Brexit. Poor lovemaking last night?..Brexit.
And because they blamed Brexit for everything, the chances were they would quickly contract stage four. And from that, there was no way back. No known cure.
No useful medication, bar permanent sedation. Without a permanent supply of ‘happy head’ drugs, the Stage Fours were like Bedlam patients. Scouring their own faces of the walls. Inserting cutlery into their own orifices.
Once reached, stage four meant time for a rubber room. With nothing but a toilet and a bed and a copy of the 2004, European Constitution. For the afflicted to use a highlighter pen, on any loop-holes they might find in the Treaty. That might allow member states to block another member from ever leaving.
It was therapy, the doctors said. Giving them some task. Though it was really only to stop them screaming out their lungs and sobbing out their own eyes.
The medication Bixby had taken had done him some good. It was working, whatever it was. He was no longer the lolling, track suited, floppy figure that had slumped on Lady Bixby’s designer sofa. He was back to his authoritative, charming, cultivated, annoying, ReJoiner self.
Good for him. He was a massive prick. But he was also a sick man. Brexit had driven him half mad. I suppose he could be considered a victim.
Bloody Hell! Did I just think that? Bixby was a victim? Do give over, Joe! He was a borderline traitor!
I needed to get away from these people, if I was finding excuses for everything. I was becoming Liberalised. Social Democratised. Before you know it I could be wringing my hands at the state of the NHS funding, and saying “Everyone is to blame for every other person’s life choices, except their own.”
I went back to the table and searched for a sachet of coffee that wasn’t decaf.
Luckily there was one left. I poured myself a cup.
Bixby? A victim? Victim my arse! I took a big gulp. I needed to wake up! I could sleep when I was dead. Which, depending how this final stage went, might be in a very short while.
I went back to my chair and sat down, away from the other two.
It was a strange room, this. One wall was all all glass, so anyone could see in or out.
One corner was similar to any self-breakfast area at a budget priced hotel. There was a desk and work area. With desktop and phone. In case anyone needed the internet to search or to quickly call a lawyer, when they’d revealed too much.
One area, the more comfortable waiting zone, was like some hippy throwback, Love Pad. Pinks and purples. Flowers and loose, floating oil, lava lamp shapes. Bean bags and egg-chairs. Must be some kind of new Fad going around.
Some academic paper, no doubt. That some media-studies University lecturer had written. To justify an expensive week in the Bahamas for a conference.
‘How to expand the creative base of non-talent, guest-based bio-rhythms, to assist with socialising infonews.’
Some BBC attendee, who had blagged a ticket to JamaciaNewsFest, had come back suntanned and excited, by this flyer they found in the foyer. For a lecture they hadn’t sat through. And had presented it as The New Face Of Media Broadcasting Hospitality.
And some other cretin, further up the chain, had thought the idea worthy of actually trying out.
I could not say I was impressed. But it did remind me a little of the Sapphire Mermaid. Which also reminded me, I needed to call the owner of that establishment.
I’d phone Nina in a moment.
A different girl, different colour, but same orange earphones around her neck opened the door and looked in. ‘Hello’ she said.. ‘I am Battia. I am just making some wardrobe notes.’ Very strong accent. Nigeria or other west coast African state. She smiled as she looked us over. Her smile faltered a little as she looked at me. Whether her smile dropped because of the state of my own clothes and my face that must look like a trodden dog turd. Or because she thought she was looking at the ‘crusher killer,’ as The Daily Mail headline I’d seen, had said, I couldn’t know. Either way she made a lot of notes before smiling bravely again, and leaving.
There was a mini-Vid’Screen in the armrest of my chair. These were all the rage.
Seamless I-streaming, by Mini-Vid. They were small enough to fit in a pocket. But larger than a phone screen. Great product. I had one at home. That no doubt some police person, searching my flat, had nicked.
On the one I was watching, it was set to Question Time. There was a digital time running. With the letters EBH in the corner of the screen. Ealing Broadcasting House.
So this was a current edit. Being done right now in a studio. In this building.
“Question Time” was about to start filming. The audience was a real one. The Questions being asked were being given to the actors. Who were also being allocated their assigned audience seat places.
I had seen several of the Mayor’s TFL red London buses. With their Islington and Muswell Hill route numbers, as we drove into the BBC. They had been parked in another BBC car park.
I looked again at the monitor for QT. Next to the digital clock was the taping legend.
It was supposedly ‘Live from Bolton.’
From the small speaker in the monitor in my armrest, sounds picked up by a boom microphone on test, were coming through. I could clearly hear a BBC speech andelocution, coaching mentor, with wonderful received pronunciation, who was sat next to a person in the audience.
“Them’s Mitherin’ us,” the coach said.
“Them is murdering nus.”
“No..No..Not quite..Go again.. “Them’s Mitherin’ us”
“Them’s mither-ring us.”
“Nearly..nearly. But it’s Mitherin’. No ‘G’. In! In! Means bothering or something. It’s Northern. Let’s try again..
Remember…If you don’t get it totally right that “Always Worth Saying,” will be on our case again. About hand-picked audiences not being from the actual locale.
Which reminds me. You have a line here…..page two. Half way down…here it is.. “It be OBBC or BBC!! [wait for audience laughs.] “Tha’s Old Bolton Borough Council, not BBC TV! [Wait for laughs]”
“Golly? Is that it? Just that line? I don’t really understand. What’s the joke?”
“I have no idea. Just deliver it after the blue haired nurse blames ‘Fathcer.’ Now..Speech..speech..and ..So… “Mitherin’ us!” OK? Let’s try again..”
There were other monitors on the walls in this room. All the currently being produced studios were showing what was happening. Plus, on one wall, was a bank of ‘Competitor Monitors.’ A whole bank of Mini-Vids, a quarter sized regular Vid’Screen, were displaying their images.
On one of the other monitors on the wall I saw they were setting up for Newsnight.
We would be in there. If they decided they wanted the story.
This was the BBC. So they should be all over it. But they were more of a Remain mindset than even the Bixby’s. And they’d piss themselves at the implication of airing this programme. If what we’d told them on the phone was even half true, then ReJoin was finished.
They’d want clearance from the highest levels of the BBC. Probably from the government itself. Before they aired anything at all. They would want Director General approval at the very least, to even do the pre-screening interviews for the broadcast. We’d have a while longer to wait. But I should be safe enough in here for now. From any other assassins.
Lord Bixby paced the room. He had examined his clipboard of personal information, that the Production Assistant had handed us all. Name. Age. Race. Occupation.
Medical history. Solicitor. Lawyer. Phone numbers and contacts. A box of Disclaimer text.
He had reacted to the paperwork much as I. He had written, “I’m Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby!” in large letters across the first page. And then dropped the clipboard onto a chair.
Vanessa had decided to move from the hippy area. She had scooped up her coffee and settled in at ‘office zone’ to better complete her questionnaire. She was sat with one leg across the other. Head and shoulders bent to the desk as she studiously filled her clipboard out. Even going so far, at one point, as to fish through her purse for her phone. To search out some contact to write down.
Facebook must love her. The amount of personal information she was willingly handing over for free.
I suspected she had been Head Girl. That’s why she was keen to follow the rules.
Jolly hockey sticks and the Bake-Off tombola. The Strictly Ball. Three cheers for Bronte House!
She had certainly been a Hall Monitor, at the very least. I had seen her schooling in the file I read on her. Just after I agreed to find Lord Bixby for her. But couldn’t remember it now. Probably Lady Elanor Holles or Surbiton High School for young ladies. She had deliberately taken a seat at the work area, no doubt, to ensure her handwriting was neat, legible and stayed within the box.
But I could just as easily imagine her smoking in the toilets. Mr Malone. Sat on the sink with her girlfriends. Mister Malone, hello? Her tie in a bad knot and her blouse half unbuttoned. Playing poker and drinking from a pilfered gin miniatures.
Someone was shaking me. I realised I had dozed off again. I was going to need more coffee than the one cup I’d just drunk.
“Mister Malone? I was just asking you if you have finished with your clipboard?”
Earphones lady had come back. No, wait. It wasn’t her. A different BBC woman. Charcoal trouser suit. Hair pulled back, a bit too severely for my taste. Made her look older. Which might have been her intention.
The BBC really had taken their quota for women on board. Eternally shamed at how they, THEY! The most liberal of liberal institutions! Had ignored the plight of poor female presenters, on a derisory, £15,000 an hour. And focused on enriching the men to £20,000 an hour.
The BBC had almost immolated itself in despair at what it had done. Behaving as wickedly and as selfishly as any merchant bank or global conglomerate.
Well, things had certainly changed now. The only man I had seen since coming up in the lift was Sandra, And even he was identifying, if unconvincingly, as a woman.
“Oohh..Right..Sure..I said.” I thought I hadn’t been asleep more than a few seconds. Her waking me had been good. Gave me a start. Gave me some adrenalin.
I stood up and went to collect the clipboard from where I had left it, by the drinks.
Still as blank as when the other lady had given it to me.
The young woman now had her the clipboards. She sat down in one of the red swivel chairs to check them through. She put on her reading glasses and nodded with satisfaction at Vanessa’s neat answers. Then looked disappointed at Bixby’s. And disapprovingly at my non-effort. She flicked over the empty pages of mine.
“You appear to have missed off one or two of the questions, Mr Malone.” She told me. With only a slightly scolding tone. “Would you like me to show you which ones require completion?”
“No Thanks,” I told her. “I’m good.”
She faltered just a little. She was probably used to dealing with celebrities. They could get very uptight.
I heard that one time, Eddie Izzard had smashed all the lights in his changing room because his dress wasn’t properly ironed. But that might not be true. Maybe it was a broken heel.
“I should point out on page two…” she continued with a friendly smile, “there is a section concerning legal representation. It’s easy to miss as it’s on the reverse page. It asks if you wish to have your own legal representative present? Or use one of the BBC’s own advisers, for any legal matters that might arise during our preliminary questions. Which will be taking place shortly.”
I realised now. She wasn’t production. She would be that appointed lawyer.
Sort of like a legal aid. That’s why she was dressed differently to the others.
Business Suit. Glasses. Hair pulled back into a bun. Little make-up. Sensible shoes.
She wanted to appear older than she was. A wise counsellor. Not a junior on college release.
“Yeah, I saw that. I’m going to represent myself if any legal issues arise.” She took that well.
“I see,” she said. “I am informed that you are here at the BBC, concerning the body in the building. In which you were the prime suspect? Wanted by police, nationwide.”
“That’s me. How do I look for TV? Not too guilty I hope? I was planning to use my playful, boyish charm, and youthful features to get off of any charges.”
She smiled. But not a happy one. Decided to give up. she’d have known they only sent her to see me so they could say they offered. If the BBC had wanted any involvement they would have sent a far older, more experienced, legal beagle to see me. One with a spider broach.
“Precording will begin quite shortly, Mr Malone. Someone will call for you. I gather it’s going to be in studio six.” She turned away. Then turned back for one last try to get me to be reasonable.
“Mister Malone. I don’t know if you are aware. But anything you say on air, is a matter of record. Your account will be examined in great detail. And could assist any prosecution that arises from any wrongdoing that may have taken place. I thought you ought to know.”
“Well thank you. And I did. I’ve been here before. For a previous incident involving legal issues.”
“Well, that’s good. So then you should already aware of what proper counsel means for you?”
“Thanks. I am. And, as with last time, It will mean Jack to me when the real heavyweight authorities begin wading in.”
She hid her annoyance. She was just doing her job. As she walked away to talk to Lord Bixby about his own incomplete paperwork, I heard her say, “It’s Your Funeral.”
She was right.
Any minute now.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file