The email popped into my inbox in the middle of a snowstorm.
TOP SECRET: HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL it said.
Normally when I get that kind of email it's someone inviting me to participate in some surefire scam scheme to make loads of money - as long as I can provide the anonymous sender with tens of thousands of pounds in a sealed brown envelope. This one wasn't like that.
"Could you come on Blue Peter and talk about the books on our brand new feature of Best Books of the Last Ten Years?" it said. Well, you don't get an invitation like that every day. So I said yes to the very nice lady. Then I started to panic. I'm not a natural TV performer. I tend to either babble or go totally blank when asked questions I'm not prepared for. I turn bright red when hot (TV lights are hot). Nyyarrrrghhh! What had I done? But of course I couldn't back out - things were in train, film crew had been booked, the director wanted to know which books on the (at that time embargoed) list I'd read, and (thrown in quite casually) whether I could read the whole list in a week. That sort of thing.
Being me (if I do a job, I do it properly), I made copious notes, read things twice, underlined quotes. If I was well prepared, I couldn't go far wrong, I thought. It was a LOT of work. On the morning itself, I scurried around (dusting the aspidistra for the fifty-fourth time), laid the table (well, they'd want feeding, wouldn't they?), panicked about what to wear (discarded outfits everywhere), poked a mascara wand into my eye (makeup not my forte). I also spent some considerable time talking out loud to the dogs about books in the interests of not being terrified of the sound of my own voice (they were puzzled, but quite interested). Then there was a crunch of tyres. My Fate was upon me
I sat in the Talking Head Chair, shaking slightly, mind entirely blank. I had to sit on my hands (hands waving = not good TV). One camera was in front of me (I had to remember not to look at it), the other to the side for close up shots (oh God! My wrinkles would show!). Suffice to say, I babbled a bit. I froze often. They were extremely lovely and patient with me. It all took a long time (about 1 1/2 hours of actual filming). Then they packed up and left (after a bit of soothing soup).
If you like, you can watch the clip here till tomorrow - Thursday 23rd Feb (UK readers only, I'm afraid). I'm on at 20m 15s. But, honestly, blink and you miss me!