I was taking part in the Hailsham Festival in 2013 when something extraordinary happened to me.
Hailsham is a small town in East Sussex (UK) which has a vibrant art and festival scene and I was doing a talk in conjunction with the local library about Japanese culture.
Before the festival started, all the participants met to have publicity photos taken and get to know one another. Among many people I met that day, a man called Peter Willson came briefly into my life: as we shook hands I had no idea that he would be the person who would give me the opportunity to fulfil a life-long dream.
Most British people reading this will be familiar with a radio programme called, Desert Island Discs. It’s been going for over sixty years on BBC Radio 4. For those of you who don’t know it, the presenter interviews a famous person from entertainment, the sciences, arts, politics etc and we find out about their lives and personalities from the interview but also from the eight pieces of music they choose to take with them if they were forced to live alone on a desert island.
It’s always been a dream of mine (along with millions of others) to be on this programme. Of course I never had any hope of being invited (along with those other millions of others) but suddenly, here was Peter offering me the chance to do a radio programme similar to Desert Island Discs. He would interview me and I would choose six pieces of music that meant a great deal to me. It would be broadcast in the local area of Hailsham throughout the Festival. Of course, I jumped at the chance along with many other participants and from the look on their faces they were as thrilled as I was.
When the big day came, I was nervous as I sat in Peter’s sitting room overlooking his beautiful garden and he set up his equipment. This took some time and as the minutes ticked by so my nerves increased. Every tick of his clock added to my apprehension. This was not as easy as it sounded on the BBC !
Finally, everything was ready and I was sat on his comfy sofa trying to relax when unexpectedly he placed the microphone about an inch from my mouth. I knew there would be a microphone of course, but so close – and so big! It’s size and closeness was intimidating and I knew instinctively, unforgiving.
We were off. Peter’s dulcet tones introduced the programme and it was over to me. I was aware that my voice was several notches higher than usual, but there was nothing I could do about it. Also, my brain stopped working and I developed the habit of saying the same words over and over, “extraordinary” comes to mind, or using words I don’t normally use, like “crikey”, which is a word I knew from my childhood and even then, it was old fashioned. It’s an interesting point, when under stress do we revert to childhood memories? For although I knew I sounded like a throwback in time I couldn’t stop myself from saying it.
Of course, if I did the programme again, it would be much better !!
But I only got the one chance and this was it.
I suppose, all in all, it could have been worse. The most unforgivable mistake I made was in the introduction of my last piece of music, C’est Manifique. For some inexplicable reason I said the name of the wrong performer. So with many apologies to Maya Miki san, (who was the real singer), and for the repetition of adjectives and obsolete terminology, I offer you my dream . . .
Please click here to listen to the 40 minute programme.