The long goodbye

24 years ago, almost to the day, I wandered wide-eyed into BBC Television Centre for the first time to take up a job with BBC Television News. In a few hours, I’ll walk out of the now surplus-to-requirements home of British television for the last time. The building holds so many memories – many good, some fantastic. I first got to know my wife here and some of my most-important friendships were nurtured in the newsrooms and offices across the sprawling site. I left my full-time job here in 2004 but have been tempted back to work on the news channels as they move to central London. Today, I feel like I’m saying a final goodbye to an old friend.

What has this to do with my Mum, I’m sure I can hear you ask? Well, it’s all about goodbyes. As my mind has flitted backwards and forwards during my latest and last stint here, I remember the immense pride Mum and Dad had when I began to work here. This building was, after all, the home of Morecambe and Wise, the Forsyte Saga and countless other programmes which were part of the fabric of our family life. For their son to be working in the same building, albeit some years after Eric Morecambe had played all those wrong notes, gave them great satisfaction.

I’ve told Mum that I’ve been working here again but it means nothing to her. I miss not being able to share my new working life with her. As I’ve said before, no-one has ever given me more encouragement or confidence to take the chances offered to me. In fact, if it wasn’t for her, I might never have worked for the BBC. I was sitting in her car one warm day during a mid-seventies Wimbledon when I announced that I wanted to be a sports reporter. A year or two later, Mum took it upon herself to contact the local hospital radio and my first tentative steps on the road to a fulfilling career were taken. When we moved to a different area, Mum presented me with a name and a telephone number for  the local hospital radio to make sure those steps became a little-less hesitant. Before I could drive, she or Dad would take me to and collect me from the hospital every Monday evening. I couldn’t have asked for more support. I like to think that their unqualified encouragement was repaid when I started work here at Television Centre and the first time my voice was heard on BBC1. I owe so much to them and, in particular, to Mum. I loved worked here, for the most part, but I loved the journeys home even more. 

Today is just another step away from my past. We lost Dad just over four years ago and we’ve been losing Mum every day since. It’s silly, really, because Television Centre is only a building and I’m only one of the many, many thousands of people who’ve worked here. It holds no more significance for me than for anyone else. And yet, until I started to work here again, I didn’t realise how much it meant to me.  

Buildings – even ones which house great memories – can only mean so much though. Tonight, I’ll drive away from Television Centre and head back to the Midlands, as I’ve done so many times before. This time, at the end of the journey, I won’t have to fend off the offer of something to eat from Mum while accepting the whiskey thrust into my hand by Dad (I might pour one for myself of course). But both of them will be in my thoughts as I’, driving back. Because, without them, I would probably have never worked here in the first place. 

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