Tag Archives: John Toal

Retiring with Attitude at the BBC

To promote our recently published book Retiring with Attitude we are visiting some interesting places. In July it was the platform at the Ways With Words Festival in Dartington, Devon. Last week we sat in a studio of the BBC Western House, Great Portland Street, London and spoke to John Toal in Belfast. I have to admit that I hadn’t dressed for the occasion, having been on a train from Devon to London when the call came to summon me.

The authors on radio

I last did a radio interview for Anderson Country on Radio 4. Not many people remember that programme. It was broadcast last century! Eileen was interviewed more recently for Woman’s Hour about our Retiring Women’s Group and an earlier book, Retiring Lives. We were scheduled to record an interview for Radio Ulster’s Saturday morning magazine programme. We are green enough to be excited by the glamour of our experience!

Waiting for the studio

124 BBC passIt was a very relaxed, very professional, very low tech and very enjoyable experience. We waited in the foyer, watching the comings and goings of lots of busy people wearing identity cards on lanyards or pinned to their chests. We had identity tags too! People went through the security barrier and others came out. One pair in green sweatshirts carried three cat baskets. What were cats doing on the radio? They weren’t cats but something even more unlikely, which I’ll reveal at the end of the post! Anything seemed possible.

124 micThe time came to cross the barrier ourselves and wait again outside a suite of small studios. We were very conscious that it was everyday life for the people working in the building. For us peering into the little studios and noticing the red lights above the doors it was like being on a film set.

In the studio

124 empty studioWe were placed in a very small studio, shown headphones and mics like huge lollipops. There was no natural light and apart from the information that a voice would join us in a few minutes from Belfast we did not know what to expect. So I began to interview Eileen, hearing my voice and hers through the headphones. ‘What made you decide to write this book?’

And suddenly the mellifluous voice of John Toal joined in. He’s gorgeous on radio! I always admire professionalism. This guy knew us only from the book, and yet he put us at ease and got us talking and laughing and saying what we wanted to say about the book within a minute. He was warm, human, confident, reassuring and funny. He picked up important points from the book and asked us good questions. He is another in the long line of people who have helped us achieve what we wanted to achieve for the book, in this case a presentation of some of its arguments and message.

What we said

Eileen on air

Eileen on air

We had rehearsed a few of the themes we wanted to emphasise, drawing on our experience at Ways with Words. Our double act helped us by providing space when the other was speaking, and to present alternative points. And our interviewer helped as I’ve said. These were our points:

  • Retirement is changing, and nowadays it is much more in your control for decisions about timing and pace.
  • You need to prepare for other people’s expectations about your retirement, what we call the could-you-just syndrome.
  • Planning to replace some of the structures of work can help with the transition.
  • Support for you in your transition is invaluable, especially talking with others.

What we learned

It was a strange experience. We never met or spoke to Amy, our contact person. Was she in London or Belfast? We never knew. Talking about our ideas when we are already pushing forward with our next book was strange. But it was also rather wonderful, thinking that good people of Northern Ireland may be encouraged to think about their retirement in good ways as a result of our brief conversation.

Me on air

Me on air

And what was in the cat baskets? Well, there were three chickens, one of them a cockerel, and the green uniform was Hackney City Farm’s. And something else we never found out was what they were recording. Early morning wake-up?

A link

For a short while you can follow this link to hear the interview. It was the first item on the show.


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Filed under Books, Publishing our book, Writing