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BBC - No experience necessary

To say the least, I was flattered by Jaime’ s proposal.  “Why not you? You can write English can’t you? ” Jaime Bejerano was the press officer at the British Embassy and the BBC had asked him to recommend a freelance stringer for Ecuador. I had jumped at the chance.

Of course I could write English, - sort of. I could even spell short  words and, given enough time, I could put together a few of them to make a comprehensible sentence. But what if I had to broadcast?

With many years abroad, I had lost a lot of my Englishness but the Mancunian accent remained strong. This affliction was no longer a problem Jaime assured me. The BBC were now employing people with regional accents.

The BBC accepted Jaime’s recommendation. The truth being that I was the only available candidate. The only other possibilities in the country had been Sarita Kendell and her partner Timothy Ross but they were already stringing for the Financial Times and CBS respectively. I was invited - paying my own expenses - to visit their headquarters in London.

Would I have gone if I had to pay my own way, I don’t know? However,  my part time job with British Caledonian Airways, warranted  a free return flight and, having the grandeurs  title of Public Relations Officer for Ecuador, (at £160 per month) meant a 1st. Class upgrade.

There is nothing like a 1st class international flight - even a freebie – and the seemingly never ending free bubbly plus an overnight in a five star hotel for boosting one’s confidence. These three elements certainly worked for me as I entered the hallowed halls of Bush House to meet Peter Brooks, boss of BBC Latin American Services.  I was walking on water.

In 1984 employers rarely required (in my case, thank Goodness) your CV. If the person interviewing you liked what they saw and heard, you would probably get the position and this was so that day. With the alacrity of the interview, Mr. Brooks, obviously having no other applicants, needed the position filling ASAP. I got the job.

My assignments were to report on natural disasters, revolutions, changes of Government  – this occurred with frequency – and Ecuadorian issues of world importance; not so frequently. Scandal or rumours would not be required. Equipped with an impossibly cumbersome tape recorder on permanent loan and the in-house booklet on how to broadcast I became a BBC stringer. Better still - I had become a journalist.

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