Day 62 - "Everybody Out!"

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It is day 62 of our Spanish Lockdown and we have reached Phase 1, well on Monday, here in Granada and Malaga, hooray. But there are plenty of rules to follow. This is our daily diary of life here and a glimpse back into the past when we worked for LBC Radio in London.

Find out more here: https://www.thesecretspain.com

Full uncorrected transcript:

Day 62

It is day 62 of our Spanish Lockdown and the good news is that we can go to Phase 1 of the un-lockdown process here in Andalucia, Spain, from Monday morning.

Of course there are a magnitude of rules to follow, and places and things you can’t go to or do, but it is a start, it will also help local business get back to work, it will require social distancing, that will easily be the weakest link in the plan.

Meanwhile in Madrid which is still stuck in phase zero and a bit, ..yes the Government have changed the rules yet again. The posh residents of Salamanca district are revolting. Some of them believe that this is just a power grab for the central government under the guise of public health safety. They want their freedoms back and one resident accused Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of creating a country of ‘idlers.’

Anecdotally it seems that the furlough payments here have been a bit of a mess, some have received payments, others have not. It has meant that some families have had to seek help from charities and food banks, just to get through this.

It appears that it doesn’t matter if there is a socialist government in charge or a right wing one, they are all capable of making a complete balls of it all.

Spain is a country that loves its rules and regulations, it sometimes make day-to-day life an overly complicated pain in the arse.

Back in 1984 when I first joined LBC Radio in London, I came across my first experience of restrictive practice working. Put simply, depending on the Union you belonged to you were restricted in what you could do. I was a member of the ACTT - Association of Sinner Mat a Graph, Television and Allied Technicians, other staff were members of the NUJ – The National Union of Journalists.

This meant that as a member of the ACTT I had to be instructed by the NUJ member as to which band of the record they wanted to play – I would put the transcription arm onto the record, an engineering task, but the cueing up of the track would be done by the NUJ member – an Editorial task… and so on.

Once a member of the NUJ forgot and put his own record on, the Engineer on duty did not say a word, he just switched all the microphones off, turned the studio to off air, and walked out along with his colleagues, the radio station was off the air for about an hour.

There were many, many strikes. When they occurred, the Management would come down from their offices and play music or the station would stay off the air.

In television there was a famous strike at ITV in the late 1970s that took TV shows off the air for six weeks, but despite being in the same Union it was a different dispute so LBC stayed on the air, and had the best six weeks of revenue it had ever had.

BUT there was one time of day when the restrictive practices were conveniently forgotten by the NUJ, that was overnight. There was a heavy drinking culture during the 1980s in Fleet Street, so by evening you would find many journalists completely trashed followed a little later by the printers of the newspapers.

By about 3am Fleet Street and the little Lanes behind it were awash with vomit and wee. At about 5am Westminster council came along with a sanitation truck, rather like the disinfectant trucks being used in Lockdown. They would wash away all the human detritus down the drains, by dawn the streets would be clean again.

This meant there were maybe just two or three NUJ members on duty overnight, and members of the ACTT were allowed to Produce radio shows, something I was very keen to do.

I finally got my big chance when one of the regular Engineer Producers went sick at short notice. So I came in and set the show up, picked the stories, edited the tapes, wrote the scripts and then the Presenter turned up, Mike Carson, you will probably know him as he is the voice of ‘J.M.L. homeware, those handy gadgets you never knew you needed.

“Oh God! What are you doing, you are just an Engineer, why have they given you to me?”

I explained my past with Essex Radio, but he wasn’t impressed, it wasn’t until about the third hour in he realised that I could do the job and gave me some faint praise. “You are doing alright.” He said.. thanks Mike.

The next big breakthrough was that Management created an Engineer Producer role during the Daytime, but strictly Production based, no Editorial influence. I and my colleague Ronnie got those two positions.

Then came the day when the Producer of the Show went sick. My boss said to me, well you know how to Produce, I want you to do it. I said yes and sat myself down at the desk and started to prep the show.

Within two minutes the Father of the Chapel of the NUJ came over. “What are you doing?” I told him. “If you don’t move from that desk, we will all walk out.”

Well following a stand-off between the Union and Management, the Management agreed I should be shadowed by an NUJ member, so they dragged Barbara in, who was a ditzy freelance, whose job was to sit beside me, do nothing, but just be there. That kept the NUJ very happy.

She sat down beside me, saying “You don’t mind do you?” I said not at all, then she leant forward and whispered in my ear “Actually I am not a member of the NUJ I am ACTT, like you.”

And that pretty much sums up what a ridiculous situation the unions had got the country in to. It was no wonder that Maggie Thatcher was able to crush them, as by then they had lost their grass roots support.

Day 62 and we look forward to Monday, a careful, safe step forward by the country, at last. The right decision let’s hope we can keep moving forward, fingers crossed.

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