My Life 3.7

John Humphrys and Me



‘So Mr, Griffiths, you appear to be agreeing with the view that your company has neglected the needs of its customers and is ripping off people without their knowledge.’

 The small, dapper man grinned and leaned forward, his eyebrow rising slightly. He smiled. There was a light in his eye that disturbed me. From the corner of my view, I could see the camera zooming in on me for a close-up.

He was John Humphrys, the John Humphrys.

 I was flummoxed. He’d backed me into a corner. He’d spent the morning explaining how he would do it, and how I could avoid it; what the ground rules were; how I became ‘fair game’ if I strayed from the conventions. But here, in the real situation, it was not that easy.

 I gathered my wits. The BBC bloke with the camera was showing up my ears again. My, they were big! I could see them in the monitor.  I tried to gaze at John’s forehead and not meet his eye, as he’d told us Mrs Thatcher did. But … I had to look, and he had me hooked again.

 A small smile of triumph flickered on his face.


I’m a stubborn bloke. I’m soft as a doo-dah at first, but get my back up and it’s often history for the aggressor, one way or another.

 OK, OK. I waited, let my heart stop pounding. My colleagues gazed at us. Silence. John’s eyes flickered. I could see he was wondering. Surely I was supposed to blurt out something soon….

 He waited. I waited. It seemed like hours, but it must have been seconds at the most.

 I remembered… Mrs. Thatcher…. She always answered with what she wanted to say – never mind the question…. Yes! I girded my loins.

 ‘Well, John’ I started confidently, with no idea how I was going to continue, ‘I can only speak for my own division. We’re number one at the moment in an open, competitive market, by our own hard work, distributing through independent dealers. I think we’ve proved all we have to and have no apologies to make. We offer the best deal the customer can get in terms of price and value, and that’s what we will continue to do.’

 Bullshit of course (but largely true). But it was the answer.


 ‘You seemed to wake up half-way through,’ he said afterwards.

‘Thank you.’

 ‘It was OK, just practice some more…’



It was a training course to get us ready to appear in front of the cameras. (No I never was on the TV much as it turned out …except… but that’s another story).

It was interesting. He’d told us all about the Margaret Thatcher eye avoidance, non-question answering – and it had worked! He then taught us techniques for dealing with difficult questions. He said that an interviewer would never try to drop people in it deliberately, but if they did it themselves by saying the wrong thing, etc, then whey-hey – fair game!



 I was restrained with John. Did I ask him why, long ago in Cardiff, he had snogged the red-haired girl who was to become my wife? Did I ask him why he ran away when her brother, who was at school with him, appeared and shouted at him?

 No. I am made of understanding stuff. There are some questions John Humphrys himself might find pretty difficult to answer. I wouldn’t do that to him…………



But that Peter Purvis. What a monkey!

We were filming an interview on a train at Paddington. All was jolly, fairly non-controversial, then I noticed he kept shifting round. He moved, I moved, he looked to one side, I moved there. Funny chap, I thought, a wee bit large, if you know what I mean – and with make-up!

 When I saw the film, I realised there was a green-coloured wall in the carriage. He was using floodlights which reflected off the wall. He knew it would show up. Therefore in the film (which my company paid for) he was lovely and pink, and I turned out green and spotty… turd!



So, I had an infection. I was at home covered in spots. The phone rang at the appointed time and I creaked out of bed and crept down to the corner at the bottom of the stairs where the phone was and sat, huddled in a blanket, shivering.

 The vibrant tones of a nice Texan lady told me I was connected to the Mayor of Dallas, Stark Taylor, and our conversation was scheduled to be broadcast through the local radio station in Dallas. I fumbled with the briefs on the key points – one from my own company, and one from the company we were dealing with in Dallas.

 ‘Yes, I love visiting Dallas (I bloody did!). I think that the company we are dealing with are an example of the enterprise that you’ve helped encourage’ (I can crawl).

 We had the usual conversation. How many of the people of Dallas listened to their Mayor and some unknown executive from some Limey company exchanging pleasantries, I don’t know. But the company we were dealing with (the same ones who signed up to the Hotel New Otani ‘Revolving restaurant accord’, as we catchily called it, in Tokyo) were pleased.  After paying my respects to the fine Mr Taylor (never asked why he was called ‘Stark’), I slunk back to bed.


Now, I was on TV once or twice. The most notable time was when I was going out with a girl who worked on a programme where they flew round in a helicopter filming. Fun stuff. I could be in it, she said. I could have a free ride around after, picnic, meet a BBC big-wig whose home village it was being filmed at. Drink champagne…

 ‘OK’ I said – what do I do?

 ‘Well, we need a groom.’ She said.

 ‘Don’t fancy that.’ Never been one for horses – and surely too tall?

 ‘OK – a photographer at the wedding.’

 Photographer? ‘Sure thing!’ I agreed.

 Anyway, later, for some reason, I couldn’t be the photographer.

 ‘Tom’s a famous photographer… and besides, he’s too old to be the groom.’


 I was the ‘bridegroom’ of course! And guess who………

 Bloody hell!


Years later it was repeated. At work we dragged a TV out, and everyone watched. There was a wedding, and a young couple ran happily across a field.

 ‘That’s you – that’s bloody you!’ They yelled. ‘No one else walks like that!’

 Thanks! Bent welsh legs rule, OK?


We did get the helicopter ride – fun. We landed in a field to refuel. We had a picnic in a field with the producer, very nice.

 The pilot, in contemplative mood, said, apropos of nothing, ‘only one problem with an Allouette’ (the helicopter). I eyed it up and said. ‘Yes – that universal joint on the tail rotor drive.’

 He looked startled. ‘How did you know?’ He said, ‘are you in the business?’

 Er, no’ I said ‘It’s obvious.’

 It was. I have a terrible knack of spotting faults in things………


Well anyway, the helicopter girl moved in with me, with all her worldly goods. There WAS some reason, I’m sure… her flat in Brixton was condemned… she had ‘South of the River’ phobia (I was in Ealing) … sorry I forgot exactly what…

But, suffice to say, I went on hols without her and met the red-haired girl, and that was it. Won’t tell you what the other one said, but she moved out pretty quick.

Have you ever had friends who say ‘you shouldn’t have split up with ‘X’ she/he’s really nice!’ How ludicrous is that? Of course she was ‘nice’ – but that’s not the point. I was often tempted to say – ‘well YOU go out with her then.’


The only other ‘brush with the media’ was another BBC girl, a reporter who sometimes read the weather on ‘Today’ – was John Humphrys there then? Did he make a move on her? (she was sweet and he was young). I don’t know. Me and John – we’re like……

 Generally, me and the media haven’t mixed that much. But overall, I guess it’s one or two-all. Evens.


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