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The Ed speaks! Vanessa Feltz, BBC Radio London

We had a bit of a strange event this afternoon…

About 0930 GMT a message came in on our contact form asking if Kay would be available to do an interview on BBC Radio London’s morning show presented by Vanessa Feltz. After a little bit of to-and-froing it emerged that today’s Daily Mail had carried an article about British expats never having had it so good – and foreign expats in the UK never having had it so bad.

Neither of us are fans of the Daily Heil, so this was a good opportunity to refute some of the simplistic nonsense it spouts. (The UK’s a terrible place to live, according to today’s piece. You watch, tomorrow there’ll be a story about the thousands of Johnny Foreigners flooding in. Funny how many of their stories seem to be about fear or envy.)

PG Author: Dave

Dave was bitten by the expat bug at the age of 13 when he went to live in Germany. Since leaving school at the age of 30 (with a doctorate in something so obscure even he can’t remember what it’s about) he’s also lived in Bangladesh, India and Thailand, and travelled to most European countries (including several that don’t exist any more, though he denies responsibility), as well as Barbados, South Korea, St Vincent, UAE, Laos, and many more.

11 Comments

Mike K-H 18-12-2010, 20:08

1. Daft, isn’t it. I know the area in which you were brought up well enough to have a good idea what you would sound like – yet I’ve been reading everything you’ve written here for years in an English accent! Hearing the real thing makes it sound like a different person.

2. Were you using a land line telephone? If you’re planning to do more of this kind of thing, it may pay to use Skype and invest in a high fidelity headset. Vanessa, of course, is using a professional studio headset, and the poor-quality long distance telephone link makes you sound a bit like granny without her teeth in.

3. Did Vanessa give you an idea of what she was going to ask, before going on air?

I’ve only tried doing this once, interviewing a guy in Australia. Skype to Skype was no good – I don’t think he had a headset – so I used Skype to phone, and spent quite a bit of time getting both our voices at comparable levels. Vanessa’s srtudio negineers will have been able to do that on the fly, but they couldn’t compensate for the line quality.

Mike K-H 18-12-2010, 20:35

Oh – one important thing. Next time you get invited to give an interview, explain to the interviewer that there is a rival site with a nearly-identical name, and ask her to be careful to get yours right and enunciate it clearly. It sounded as if Vanessa may have said …expats.com.

Dave McMahon 19-12-2010, 03:52

@Ruggie 20:35 – Teaching grandmothers, Ruggie! Kay did, of course, take some trouble to do just that to the researcher/producer who contacted her. (She wouldn’t have been able to explain to Vanessa herself – it’s a talk show, so V was speaking to the previous interviewee right up until introducing Kay.)

And, just as with some newspaper interviews in the past, they still managed to go and get it wrong… Grr! 🙄

@Ruggie 20:08 – it was a mobile line, hence the quality. (Bizarrely, our land line is working fine for broadband but hasn’t worked for voice calls for the last couple of months.)

I did wonder about Skype. We’d have had to call them, though, unless they had it too – we don’t have a SkypeIn number. And I’m not sure Kay would have taken kindly to me making her wear a headset!

Yes, Kay did ask what questions she might be asked in her initial response to the researcher – hence the to-and-froing, because the researcher’s reply didn’t say.

This wasn’t the first time Kay’s been interviewed for radio, by the way – she was “done” a couple of times in 2003 and 2004 when we were living in Delhi. But it was a long while ago now and, unfortunately, live streaming hadn’t caught on in those days so I couldn’t do a capture. (Actually this one was a last-minute thing – I’d never done one before, so it was a bit of a hit-and-hope thing.)

Kay McMahon 19-12-2010, 11:11

I was contacted and asked if I would do an interview.

When?

Now!

What’s it about?

Faff, faff, and I’ve still not much idea, but I gave them Dave’s phone number anyway. There’s about 45 minutes left to run on their radio prog.

I had no time for preparation or anything and had to borrow Dave’s phone to do it. I don’t even know how to use the thing other than Dave told me where to speak into.

It’s a bit cheeky of you to suggest that I’m too thick to tell them to be careful about the name of the site. As Dave says, of course I did that. As usual, as long as they get the interview they don’t give a f*** about getting their facts right. The interviewee isn’t important. Getting the interview in the bag is what counts.

The Grauniad did similar to me a few years ago in an email interview. I was very clear that I’d only do the interview if they mentioned BE – and they got the link wrong. I asked them to correct it. No response. They’d got what they wanted and they moved on without care or concern about sh!tting on other people.

Well, maybe I did sound like a granny without her teeth in, but I probably sound like that all the time anyway. At least I stepped up to the mark and did my best, unlike people who run around desperately trying to get interviewees for a radio programme at the eleventh hour.

I don’t think I was great by any means but most people have been supportive of my efforts. And, just think how you would have felt if one minute you’d been happily minding your own business at home and the next you were suddenly thrust onto a live radio show with no idea what questions might be thrown at you.

In a three minute radio interview you don’t get any time to think before answering. I’ll take it as a victory that I didn’t appear as an inarticulate moron.

I think you’ve been a bit harsh with your response because I did my best with what was available to me at very short notice. I had to think very fast on my feet, and despite my phobia of telephones I bloody well did it because that’s what I had to do. There’s no need to kick me in the teeth for it – you can’t anyway, because I forgot to put them in today.

Kay McMahon 19-12-2010, 11:17

PS: Dave was right on the ball, though. As soon as he realised that the name of the site may have been unclear on the interview, he blogged about it immediately so that anyone Googling for it would find us.

Mike K-H 19-12-2010, 12:11

I wasn’t intending to do you down, Kay. Just trying to be devil’s advocate and describe how it might sound to Vanessa’s ignorant audience.

I wondered how much warning they gave people – and I might have guessed the answer. Very well done in the circumstances, both of you. I could hear you, and your responses came over well enough – just that it seemed unfair to give Vanessa the advantage of the hi-fi audio.

It seems to me that you will be more & more likely to get these short notice invitations, so I wonder what you can do to level the playing field a bit. Dave, if you want to test anything at any point, I’m happy to call you as the dummy ‘other party’.

Mike K-H 19-12-2010, 12:21

PS I guess you’ll have to work up a ‘cheeky & cheerul’ standard bit where you butt in and give your URL and site name yourself, a bit like someone in a conference introducing herself. e.g.

“Hello, XXX. Yes, I’m Kay, MD of British Expat dot com, an expat info site that also has a big, busy forum. Thank you for calling me.”

A bit salesman-like, but that’s why salesmen behave like that.

Mind you., Vanessa did talk over her interviewees a bit – probably because she was watching the studio clock and knew how long she had allowed for you… Not much you can do about that, unless you’re Maggie Thatcher.

Kay McMahon 19-12-2010, 12:42

LOL! Remember my brain was racing to try to give a reasonable account of myself. At one stage I did want to say “my BritishExpat.com” site, but I had no time to think so I hesitated and then erred on the side of caution, and said “erm .. my expat site) in case I got cut off for advertising.

Vanessa is a very skilled and powerful interviewer. She steers it where she wants it to go. It was all very friendly – a conversation really – otherwise I’d have been like a lamb to slaughter. You don’t get the chance to say what you want to, or steer the conversation in any way. She is to radio what I can be like in real life! I didn’t stand a chance.

All that said, I did enjoy it in a strange sort of way (never realised before that I had masochistic tendencies). I don’t think I’ll be caught like that again. I didn’t do too badly but next time I’ll do much better.

I don’t feel bad about the experience. I’ve learned and gained from it. It’s time I stopped hiding behind my computer and being a voice on the internet. There’s a real me here, funny accent or not.

I admire Vanessa, she’s really good at what she does. She thinks on her feet, and she keeps things moving. I would be first in the queue if they needed an expat again.

Even Boris (my hero, and I’m not a Tory) had a problem earlier on in the show trying to get his points across and he’s an accomplished public speaker.

I don’t feel bad about myself at all. I did my best and Vanessa was nice to me – what’s to fret about? 🙂

Dave McMahon 19-12-2010, 12:53

@Mike, 2010-12-19 12:11 – Thanks for the kind offer, Mike. 😀 I think Skype might well be the way to go if we ever get a request for an interview from a radio station that has the facility. As long as I can persuade Kay to put the headset on…

That said, when I Skype people I generally leave the speakers on and hold the headset mike up to my mouth, which doesn’t seem to cause any feedback trouble.

Kay McMahon 19-12-2010, 13:04

I’m not freaked out about headsets. Where did this come from? It’s just that they don’t seem to fit very well. They’re OK for fat-headed people, but I’m quite petite and my ears aren’t under my chin, so the headsets I’ve tried aren’t much use to me. Bah!

Online Invoices 02-01-2011, 09:18

Nicely done Kay! Thought you came across very considered in your answers, hopefully they will come back to you again in the future!

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