What I love about presenting a phone in based radio show is that you can never predict what's ging to happen. And so it proved tonight.
In the first hour of the programme we covered the story about the Advertising Standards Authority ruling in favour of Channel 4's decision to screen adverts for the Marie Stopes pregnancy/abortion advisory clinics. First of all I talked to Nadine Dorries who took the view that these adverts should not appear on TV, and then to Simon Blake from the Brook clinic. He supported their right to be shown. And then it was on to the calls. What I hadn't bargained for was the three women who phoned in ,each with a different but equally heartbreaking story about how they had come to decide to have an abortion, and how it had affected their lives. Talking to any woman in private about their traumas would be awkward enough, but doing it on national radio was a real learning experience. I tried to let them talk with little interruption, partly because any real intervention from me would have been invidious, but also because they clearly wanted to tell LBC listeners how their own experience had impacted on their lives. One of the callers bitterly regretted her decision to have an abortion and described how she thinks about it ever day, twenty years later. Carol from Harrow was the last caller and her story almost reduced me to tears. Indeed, she was clearly finding it difficult to hold it together herself. I hated having to cut her off as we had to go to the 8 o'clock news. We phoned her back to check she was OK and she asked my producer to tell me that she had no regrets about the abortion she had. It was the right thing to do at the time, but she now has two very healthy children and she wanted me to know she was very happy. Another lump in throat time.
Later on we talked about sentencing and whether life should really mean life. Towards the end of the slot I took a call from someone who said he had been in prison on several occasions. I asked him when the last time had been and he said he had got out in 2001. He had then got a job as a youth worker which had transformed his life. Asking him about why he had been to prison several times and how he had decided to 'go straight' was in some ways a rather humbling experience. When you ask someone on a live radio phone in about very private things, you always worry that they might simply hang up or refuse to discuss the issue. OK, they have phoned in so they clearly want to say something, but talking about criminal records and very private health issues are not things that you are necessarily expecting to discuss with several hundred thousand people listening.
But, as I say, it is why you just can't beat live phone in based radio shows. Those of you have been listening will no doubt have been able to tell how much I have been enjoying myself over the last ten days. And strangely, it's often when I am discussing subjects way outside my comfort zone that I enjoy it most.
If you haven't had a chance to listen, I'll be on again each weekday evening from 7.15-10pm until 20 August. I'd love your company!