I discovered something about myself last night that I maybe should have realised about one thousand years ago... I’m a night time person.
Granted, like I said, I should have realised a while ago, what with the not having a proper job for the last twenty years, constantly working nights and not knowing how to work an alarm clock, all this really should have tipped me off.
But it wasn’t until last night that it finally hit home.
I was booked to do an interview on the excellent John Barnes’s BBC Radio Lancashire show, which runs from 10pm until 1am of a week night. It’s a mix of chat, listeners calling in and music, I was there plugging my book and hopefully entertaining his audience for an hour or so.
I set off from Liverpool at about 8.45 for the forty mile drive up the M6 to Blackburn where the studio is based. A beautiful summers day was changing into a beautiful summers night and as I headed off toward Lancashire the sunset dribbled down the sky like a blob of orange paint on a deep blue background inching its way to the horizon before it fell off the canvas and out of sight.
Off to my right the odd star was showing its face and the motorway was clear except for night time truckers or tardy sales reps. It was one of those rare occurrences you get nowadays when you can sit back and just enjoy the drive. By the time I got to Blackburn the sun had gone to start a day shift the other side of the world and when I parked in the BBC car park the place was lit by street lamps and was empty except for a solitary curious cat and me.
Security cat let me pass and once inside the building I waited in the empty newsroom before heading to the studio, computer monitors and scraps of paper littered the room, it looked like a film set waiting for actors and I guessed it wasn’t so calm during the day.
They are strange places radio stations, more so than TV stations. Nowadays on the telly we are used to seeing people behind the presenters, phones pressed to their ear, banging away on keyboards with sweaty brows and deadlines. But a radio station is like a swan in the water, we just hear the calm voice while unseen, unheard, there is a frantic paddling team of people keeping the whole thing afloat and moving forward of a day. But of a night, when the reporters have gone home, the managers have put away their calculators and the cleaners have tidied up all the paper coffee cups, something magical happens and they slow down and become your friend.
While I sat in the studio and listened to John chat to his first caller, Leah from Swinton, about Coronation Street I felt real warmth that you wouldn’t get with daytime radio, an intimacy between Leah, John and the thousands of people listening around the North West. He was in their bedrooms, their sitting rooms, sharing a cup of tea with them and tucking them into bed. I felt a real privilege being invited to share that warmth and I hope I didn’t let them down.
I stopped for fuel on my way home from the station, as I paid the guy at the window I heard John on the radio inside the store, keeping someone else company for the night, along with the taxi drivers, the truckers and the other late night lost souls.
As I headed back onto the M6, just me, the stars, the odd lorry lit by a lazy moon and John on the wireless, I wound down my window, rested my elbow on the frame and thought,
“I love the night time, and I love night time radio even more.”
You can listen for the next seven days to the show here.