“Eleven o’clock the program starts,” says Dad. “Set the video for five to, that’s what I’ve been telling people.”
“That’s what we’ll do,” says Janice. “Just in case.” She gives a little sigh. “I shan’t dare to go to the loo all morning, just in case I miss it!”
There’s an awed silence as I get into the car. The driver closes the door smartly, then walks around to the driver’s door. I press the button to lower my window and grin out at Mum and Dad.
“Becky, darling, what will you do afterward?” says Mum. “Come back here or go back to the flat?”
Immediately I feel my smile falter, and look down, pretending to fiddle with the window controls. I don’t want to think about afterward.
In fact, I can’t even visualize afterward. I’m going to be on the telly. . and that’s as far as it goes. The rest of my life is shut securely away in a box at the back of my head and I don’t even want to remember it’s there.
“I. . I’m not sure,” I say. “I’ll see what happens.”
“They’ll probably take you out to lunch afterward,” says Dad knowledgeably. “These showbiz types are always having lunch with each other.”
“Liquid lunches,” puts in Janice, and gives a little laugh.
“At The Ivy,” says Mum. “That’s where all the actors meet up, isn’t it?”
“The Ivy’s old hat!” retorts Dad. “They’ll take her to the Groucho Club.”
“The Groucho Club!” says Janice, clasping her hands. “Isn’t that where Kate Moss goes?”
This is getting ridiculous.
“We’d better go,” I say, and the driver nods.
“Good luck, sweetheart,” calls Dad. I close the window and lean back, and the car purrs out of the drive.
For a while, we drive in silence. I keep casually glancing out of the window to see if anyone’s looking at me in my chauffeur-driven car and wondering who I am (that new girl on EastEnders, perhaps). Although we’re whizzing along the highway so fast, I probably look like a blur.
“So,” says the driver after a while. “You’re appearing on Morning Coffee, are you?”
“Yes, I am,” I say, and immediately feel a joyful smile plaster itself over my face. God, I must stop this. I bet Jeremy Paxman doesn’t start grinning inanely every time someone asks him if he’s appearing on University Challenge.
“So what’re you on for?” says the driver, interrupting my thoughts.
I’m about to reply “To be famous and maybe get some free clothes,” when I realize what he means.
“A financial story,” I say coolly. “I wrote a piece in The Daily World, and the producers read it and wanted me on the show.”
“Been on television before?”
“No,” I admit reluctantly. “No, I haven’t.”
We pull up at some lights and the driver turns round in his seat to survey me.
“You’ll be fine,” he says. “Just don’t let the nerves get to you.”
“Nerves?” I say, and give a little laugh. “I’m not nervous! I’m just. . looking forward to it.”
“Glad to hear it,” says the driver, turning back. “You’ll be OK, then. Some people, they get onto that sofa, thinking they’re fine, relaxed, happy as a clam. . then they see that red light, and it hits them that 2.5 million people around the country are all watching them. Makes some people start to panic.”
“Oh,” I say after a slight pause. “Well. . I’m nothing like them! I’ll be fine!”
“Good,” says the driver.
“Good,” I echo, a little less certainly, and look out of the window.
I’ll be fine. Of course I will. I’ve never been nervous in my life before, and I’m certainly not going to start. .
Two point five million people.
Gosh. When you think about it — that is quite a lot, isn’t it? Two point five million people, all sitting at home, staring at the screen. Staring at my face. Waiting for what I’m going to say next.
OK, don’t think about it. The important thing is just to keep remembering how well prepared I am. I rehearsed for ages in front of the mirror last night and I know what I’m going to say practically by heart.
It all has to be very basic and simple, Zelda said — because apparently 76 percent of the Morning Coffee audience are housewives looking after toddlers, who have very short attention spans. She kept apologizing for what she called the “dumbing-down effect” and saying a financial expert like myself must feel really frustrated by it — and of course, I agreed with her.