'Other students stole traffic cones, we stood behind Richard and Judy waving to our friends on their birthdays'
PUBLISHED: 15:03 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:03 21 September 2018
As This Morning prepares to celebrate its 30th birthday, I cast my mind back to the good old days when it was filmed in Liverpool meaning that if you just walked past the studio during transmission you could be on TV. Ah, happy days.
When I went to Liverpool University in the early 1990s, it was the epicentre of glamour: well, Brookside and This Morning were filmed there and it was The Beatles’ home town (although no one in Liverpool likes to talk about that).
This Morning celebrates 30 years on screen next month and for three of them I was living less than two miles from where it was filmed. For this, and many other reasions, I have a soft spot for the show, and not just because it was a daily excuse not to go to lectures.
When I was at university, back in the dark ages, keeping in touch with your friends and family was a bit hit-and-miss on the basis that there were no mobile phones, no email and I don’t think I knew a single student who had a phone that accepted anything other than incoming calls.
The fact that none of us could ring each other meant that the phones never, ever rang. We might as well have left our phones unplugged for all the good they did us; as it was, the phone simply sat there, silently, reproachfully allowing us 999 calls only.
There are only so many times you can call the police or the fire brigade to ask them how to get a red wine stain out of your landlord’s cream sofa – and by the third call about how long you should boil rice for, the emergency services were quite shirty (I AM JOKING. DO NOT PHONE THE EMERGENCY SERVICES ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE NOT EMERGENCIES, EVEN IF YOU REALLY LIKE PROPERLY COOKED RICE).
Our complete and utter dearth of telecommunications meant that staying in touch had to be carried out via the medium of letter writing, which is where I honed my craft in a series of increasingly inventive missives to my Mum asking for more money.
I think once I even claimed I needed to buy a textbook (there were no depths of untruth I would not plumb).
In addition to being virtually un-contactable, I was also perilously skint due to my extensive textbook buying, ahem, in Liverpool’s many public houses. This made birthday present buying almost impossible: enter This Morning.
From 1988 to 1996, This Morning was filmed at Albert Docks, in Liverpool.
For some utterly inexplicable reason, Richard and Judy conducted the entire show in front of a huge floor-to-ceiling window next to a public footpath which you could walk past freely, at any point.
This meant that whenever you fancied, you could appear on national television in front of an audience of millions: This Morning was the gift that just kept on giving.
Other students stole traffic cones, we stood behind Richard and Judy waving to our friends on their birthdays. Less scrupulous students stood behind Richard and Judy making obscene, and possibly illegal, hand gestures which suggested that Richard might well go blind in the near future.
I didn’t, I hasten to add: my Nan watched This Morning and I didn’t want to rile her, even if it would have taken at least a day or two for her approbation to reach me by letter.
Once, when I had something particularly ridiculous done to my hair - I think it involved sewing bells into dreadlocks or dyeing the whole catastrophe various shades of blue – it was easier to stand behind Richard and Judy than try and describe the atrocity on my head to far-flung friends. This Morning became a student form of bush telegraph, or a very early, physical form of FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat.
I’d long since left Liverpool by the time This Morning decamped down to London and these days I only get to see it on my days off – but I can’t help feeling that it’s lost an element of danger since the days when anyone could gurn behind the presenters.
On the plus side, my hair’s slightly less insane these days. On the minus side, I’ve generally been up for four hours by the time This Morning begins – somehow, this really doesn’t feel like progress.
* This Morning - 30 Unforgettable Years is on ITV at 7.30pm on October 2.