This week heralds the final week of lockdown two, a week that would normally be the start of the Christmas party season. But this year’s end is eerily quiet. Quiet, assuming you don’t count the dulcet tones of my WFH co-workers: a six-month-old, a three-year-old and my wonderful (but very loud) husband. So far, so 2020.
It’s been an unusually domestic and turbulent month. Covid-19 wiped out the idea of piggy-backing on my wife’s work trip to Tokyo, the family holiday in Greece and travelling to Edinburgh for the TV festival.
But it’s not been quiet, as the reverberations of the death in May of George Floyd, under the knee of an American cop, are still being felt in August.
It’s the end of an era. The country is slowly easing out of lockdown. Against the odds, we’ve delivered a show to the BBC and become surprising best mates with the Bank of England, and I’m leaving the Beano for new adventures.
Our brilliant Beano team adapted to lockdown at lightning speed, despite some becoming quite poorly with Covid-19 symptoms. We mobilised everyone to work from home early and we’ve kept all content production across TV, digital and the comic on track. Endless innovation, creativity and cheer has shone through.
Lockdown begins five weeks early for me. Not due to Covid-19 but because, on 18 February, I become a dad. Welcome, Roscoe. I plan to avoid looking at email for the first month.
Three weeks later, on 11 March, I give in. Louisa Compton, editor of Channel 4’s Dispatches, wants quick ideas on coronavirus. I send her a barmy notion about shooting a film in one day, editing it in a week, and broadcasting seven days after filming.
Saturday morning, 7:00am. Heading into the weekend shift on my motorbike. A small bonus of returning to the NHS is having permission to ride to and from work.
I scoot past a small herd of red deer grazing by the side of the road, tempted down from the hill by the empty roads and the promise of sweet verge grass. An almost perfect post-apocalyptic visual.
As a rural motorcyclist, I fear deer more than anything else, convinced my ultimate fate is to be speared by a stray antler as I whizz around a blind corner at full lean. Thinking of the NHS, I slow down a bit.
Preparations to celebrate the life of Harriet, my wife, at a memorial service in West Oxfordshire dominated the first half of March. Peritoneum cancer. Aged 58, Harriet died at Christmas.
Honest eulogies, festoons of flowers, elaborate afternoon tea, and the wonderful choir from St Bride’s, the journalists’ church, were all sharply halted with only five days to go when the chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, made clear that all gatherings, “big or small”, should not go ahead.
A mid-March morning. Outside the boardroom window there’s rain and a howling wind. Lights flicker briefly as the meeting of STV News managers gets started. We’re not socially distanced – not yet.
News of the coronavirus has been rising in everyone’s consciousness, even though the outbreak still seems far away. The situation is serious in Italy, and the news from Spain is also grim. Scots consider unrestricted access to Spanish islands their vacation birthright. Things are closing in.
It’s September. That means back to school. And not just for the kids.
With Edinburgh hangovers barely forgotten, and TV execs and politicians still reeling from Dorothy Byrne’s outlandishly honest MacTaggart Lecture, conference season gets into full swing.
Not in Bournemouth but in Cambridge, courtesy of ITV, for the RTS biennial convention. There’s no prorogation for us.
OK, in the spirit of apologetic full disclosure, this ain’t a normal week for me. It’s August. Piers and Susanna are off (deservedly – thought I’d better slip that in) on their French car factory-style summer sojourn. I’m also sneaking in a bit of R&R and extra-curricular that the normal 100-hour week doesn’t allow.
At Latitude, the hybrid Glasto crossed with church fête Suffolk festival, where, among the middle aged of the mojito-fuelled mosh pit, I bump (literally) into my ex-ITV boss Peter Fincham for our annual blokey embrace.
My week starts the way it has done most Mondays for the past three years – sitting in a university library. There’s one big difference. At this time of year, there is a veil of calm. The underlying current of stress has dissipated. It’s a big change from the tensions of exam season a month ago.
Chairs stand unoccupied and academic books are tossed aside. I am finally on my last chapter. This one is entitled “The real world of television”.