Roughly seven years ago, while studying for my A Levels, the school I attended was featured on BBC West Midlands as part of a series exploring unusual educational facilities in the UK. Ashby-de-la-Zouch, you see, has one of the country’s few comprehensive boarding schools.
One of half a dozen students asked to appear on the programme, I joined my fellow boarders on the lawn where we would be interviewed by the visiting BBC reporter. While everyone else delivered intelligent and detailed answers, however, I froze up and mumbled something-or-other about life at boarding school being “nice”. Everything was just so nice.
Unsurprisingly, my contributions were quickly edited out of the finished broadcast, though I did wander occasionally into the background of other shots. Not that it was that big of a blow to my self-esteem, as the segment itself was an embarrassment; the voice-over insisted on making ridiculous comparisons to Hogwarts at any and every opportunity.
I felt far more comfortable once the roles had been reversed; while trying to make my name as a film critic I was able to interview a variety of actors and directors for various websites. For STV’s MovieJuice, however, I once again found myself facing questions on the spot, asked to review John Carter and The Darkest Hour to camera, and once again I all but buckled under the pressure.
Anyway, I’m telling you this because during my first month in Syktyvkar I was accosted by a local journalist while looking around the National Museum of the Komi Republic. Minutes after pretending to warm my buttocks on a stone stove, I was approached by an inquisitive writer. Caught off guard, I agreed to be interviewed at a later date about my experiences of Russian life and thoughts on Syktyvkar’s schooling system.
I was sent a list of eight questions prior to the set date, and prepared a series of fallback answers that would hopefully ensure I never had to utter the word nice during the whole interview. Mostly, the questions focused on my decision to come to Syktyvkar and how I had enjoyed my stay, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t repeat myself when it came to the things that had impressed me most, or what I had found particularly difficult.
Arriving at the school just before one o’clock, I read over my prepared responses until I was a little more confident and comfortable with my answers. The reporter, a woman from a popular (and free) local paper called Pro Gorod, arrived shortly after the hour and began the interview with the help of the other teachers, who served as translators.
It went surprisingly well, though every time I dared to pause for breath or to recall an additional part to one of my answers, she moved on to the next question leaving me worried I had left out something important. Despite a few wild-card and follow-up queries, however, I was happy enough with my responses and relieved that it was all over. We were talking for all of half an hour.
Except it wasn’t over — not quite, anyway — as she then insisted on taking my photograph in a variety of mock-educational poses, no doubt certain of my lack of shame after the incident at the museum. One of the interpreters was roped in as well, much to her own horror, so together we pretended to write on the white board and read various textbooks for what felt like forever, but was probably only about three or four minutes.
My contribution is set to appear in the newspaper a week on Saturday, and I’m even quite looking forward to reliving my performance. Even if I heavily doubt that the picture will make it into my own scrapbook. Just never make me do anything like it ever again.