I’m considering contacting John Sergeant to ask to take his place on Strictly Come Dancing.
I can’t dance, but neither can he. The request would have symmetry, because 30 years and three weeks ago, John telephoned me. I had difficulty in reaching across the bed to the portable telephone at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, because I was stiff, having just given birth to a daughter a few hours before.
A month earlier, John and I had been colleagues in the BBC offices in the House of Commons. I had a job; he was on secondment from the newsroom.
In 1978, our desks faced each other. We should have been talking about the rise of Margaret Thatcher, but we talked about parenthood. I already had a son, and John would tell me about his babysitting co-operative in Ealing. It all sounded strictly unglamorous.
Ealing parents kept account with bottle tops on their babysitting duties. With the self-deprecation we loved on Saturday nights, he told me that when he turned up to babysit at one house, the parents decided to take their child with them to the party.
My first thought from my hospital bed on hearing John’s congratulations was: ‘What a good colleague.’ That vanished with his second sentence: ‘Are you coming back to work?’
I looked down at the defenceless, sleeping baby, and replied: ‘No, John, you can have my job.’
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