By Troy Cunningham
For weeks, office hours have fallen silent on Thursday mornings. Football secretary Bill George says he lets his staff of twenty-eight people get on with their important jobs of updating records and paperwork – without question, without a need to conduct a work session. During my time at the BBC, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some enormous events – live coverage of the Champions League Final, the final of Strictly Come Dancing – things that made so many programmes, that left so many tickled. I’ve been able to go on trips – one to the White House, another to New York – and talk with world leaders. But even with all that, these are the pivotal days of the week. School holidays, when children go off to school for a week, are the golden days – the longest evenings, the shortest workdays. Good times The parents at work must have those dates marked in their diaries, but Bill George of The Scottish FM Manslaughter Inquiry tells us that that’s only part of what makes them so special. It’s not only the nature of the jobs that keep people at work on those long summer mornings. The change of tone
Though our major event – the Strictly Come Dancing final – is finished and we’ve finished playing records, there’s still the question of final preparations for a Radio Scotland programme. Today, we have a talk to former SNP leadership contender Peter Chapman, who also represents the constituency of Glasgow East at Westminster. We think he’s joined by his parliamentary aide, Andrew Walker, too. The three of them can’t have their own cars for the rest of the week. Peter has to get them a taxi from the ‘Green mile’ in King’s Cross, or they will be forced to settle for cabs from an unseen company. Andrew has to bring the hand-held radio, running on batteries – it’s a joke. It’s the only device with power. When they get on to work, they have to answer their phones – for constituency or Parliamentary calls. Will the brinksmanship continue until the job is done? There’s a slight change of mood as the hour approaches. Perhaps it’s the prospect of a tipple, perhaps it’s more likely that it’s just that the reprieve of the three of them getting a post-work drink on Thursday before going home makes them feel more relaxed. However, the formal structure of their working week remains. Bill George is successful partly because he got into politics at an age when he could take leave. For Andrew Walker, the early morning shift is a privilege – and also a necessity. Come end of the day, the morning calls, the posts back at the Parliament are for policy – being in the Commons at six in the morning is absolutely key. For one of their colleagues – who has put the days of work behind him – those long mornings go back further still. His name is Sean Houlahan, and he used to leave the BBC about six every week, go home, have a fry-up with his wife and then go back to the station for the pre-tradesnoon shift. The ten-minute timetable still has a place in his family life, despite having given up his job on Friday afternoons. Sean’s managing to keep work between eating, waving goodbye to family and being home for dinner, though like other Scots, it’s just not the same. Does that always happen – or will it happen more often?
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