This sounds very prissy but it’s usually a young girl on the phone. It often goes something like this: “I’m from the BBC (other Production Companies do exist) and we’re making a programme on red squirrels. I understand from just about everyone that you guys know lots about red squirrels and will put our cameraman straight in front of one. We have no money and just one hour. Can you help?”
My heart normally sinks and on this occasion, it sank. Until that is, I heard the two words that changed everything: Catherine Tate. My husband Pete and my son Sam are HUGE Catherine Tate fans, so although the young lady on the phone had no budget, she had a significant bargaining chip. “If I sort the squirrels,” I asked, “Could you get Catherine to do one of her ‘Old Nan’ cackles for the two men in my life?” The young lady made enquiries and assured me that a Cackle could be arranged.
That night I began to tell Pete that a TV company had telephoned and that…” I hope you told them we can’t help,” he ranted. “I hope you’ve not volunteered me for anything.” I gave him the look – the one that stops him in his tracks. “Catherine Tate is coming and she’ll do you a Nan Cackle,” I proudly announced. Pete’s eyes lit up and he was straight on the phone to Sam who was equally excited. Catherine Tate cackling in our own home – it was more than the two of them could bear.
Pete’s usual disdain for TV crews was transformed into a most unusual accommodation of their every wish. “Of course we can find you a squirrel (in return for a Nan Cackle).” It’s no problem giving up my morning to help (in return for a Nan Cackle).” It was uncanny.
Three days before the filming, Catherine Tate was substituted for legendary journalist John Simpson and although we both have the utmost respect for John, as Pete pointed out, he wasn’t about to deliver us a Cackle.
John saw his squirrels, the crew got their footage and in fairness, although Ballintean and the forest around us remained a Cackle-free zone, I did get a lovely snap of John, dishy cameraman Gordon Buchanan and yours truly. Pete couldn’t face attending with no prospect of a Cackle but as you might imagine, it didn’t stop him commenting on my new hat. Apparently it makes me look like Catherine Tate’s Old Nan!
John Simpson and our red squirrels will screen in April.