Jeremy Vine, with his distinctive and familiar authoritative voice, commanded the Kenton stage on Thursday night, as part of the Henley Literary Festival. At home with speaking both on and off-air, Jeremy regaled the audience with stories from his broadcasting career. They were funny, surprising and sometimes cheeky, but always very entertaining… And they kept on coming!
There was the story of one caller, Steve Hendry from Thetford, who called his Radio 2 show when they were discussing whether you should allow your children to win at kids’ games. He played the recording of the viewer who had beaten his seven-year-old daughter at Connect4 since she was three years old. However, on one occasion when she was in hospital she had beaten him “fair and square”. He said he would never forget it. The look on her face said it all. Vine asked Mr Hendry if his daughter had made it through; the answer that came back was no, sadly she died four days later… As you were digesting this unexpected ending to this personal story, along came another one with another twist.
All the stories related to the public teaching him, the journalist, about life and not the other way around. He describes this as the “joy of the unexpected”. It’s about “I-power”. We live in an age when it is all about me. He referred to nineteen-year-olds on his Eggheads BBC TV programme who pass on historical questions because “That was before my time”.
His book, “What I Learnt”, is a catalogue of stories about the people he has met over the years. On the back of a napkin, he worked out he had taken nearly 25,000 calls throughout his career. He was always the one asking the questions. As joy of the unexpected would have it, the 25,000th was Harry Jones, a former coalminer and construction worker calling from Glamorgan, who asked: “How can you justify the amount of money you are earning?”
At the time, this was obviously a tricky conversation to handle but it does illustrate Jeremy’s point that the boot is on the other foot.
Jeremy Vine has a humourous take on life. He’s a raconteur. He had the audience laughing as he recounted tales of Joe Public taking control of the airwaves. He was saying as a journalist he is no longer the expert. He said, “If you want to know about parenting, ask a mother of five.” Using an analogy of an astronaut versus an astronomer throughout his talk, experience wins over expertise every time.