The Famous Forgotten
1955. 6pm. Alone in the BBC office for Music Presentation, waiting for a lift home, this rookie answered the phone to a deep brown velvet voice.
“Good Evening. This is Alvar Lidell – ”
“Could you spell that please?”
“(chuckle) How old are you?”
“Er … 17, why?”
“BBC Home Service. Here is the News, and this is Alvar Lidell reading it – ring any bells?”
“Oh. (hesitant). How can I help?”
The upshot was that the caller had not received the programme notes we should have sent him for a concert at 9pm that evening. I gasped: unforgivable sin. Except that the concert was not billed and must have been a last-minute addition.
I scurried to find the list of works to be played, raided the shelves where notes on every conceivable classical work were filed, and codged together what I hoped was a suitably prosy-radio-announcer-style set of introductions for the programme – 6 copies, before the days of electric typewriters and photocopiers.
“Mr. Lidell, this is Music Presentation again. Where do you want the script?
“Could you bring it to my house by 7.30pm?” (no FAX then, too late for a courrier).
“Where is it, please?”
It was in a West London suburb, on my way home. Phew!
So that’s how I came to meet, briefly, the charming man who was the BBC’s chief announcer throughout World War II. He it was who announced the abdication of King Edward VIII, and on Sunday, 3 September 1939 read the ultimatum to Germany from 10 Downing Street, then, at 11 am introduced Neville Chamberlain to tell the nation that we were at war.
Tony Maud at dVerse Meeting the Bar gave us a selection of old prompts to write to, and I foolishly chose the one to write a 55 word story. This tale of my early working life immediately came into my head and I set out to write it. Darn it, 55 words were far too few to do it justice, but I carried on regardless. Sorry Tony!