Updated: Jun 3, 2020
George Moyo was late. He was late for a number of reasons but none of them would hold water. His steps were hurried and he had started to sweat. His suit (the only one he owned) was slightly too big and he didn’t like wearing it. Two factors which combined with his lateness made him incredibly stressed.
George was from Zimbabwe, he had fled Robert Mugabe’s rule with his younger sister Flora when he was thirty years old and she twenty two. He had just qualified as a doctor in Zimbabwe when he innocently spoke, off-the-cuff, to a foreign journalist about corruption in his hospital, he was accused of subversion and fearing for his life he fled to the UK where he had family in Dalston.
Today was a huge day. He had prayed at 6am. He had washed and dressed and sat in his suit from 7am-8am too excited to watch the TV news or do anything else. He just sat at the kitchen table with everything prepared before him and watched the second hand on the clock stutter by. At 8am he checked himself in the mirror for the fifth or six time, straightened his tie for the fourth time and wiped his bald head for the third time. He was ready. He stepped out of the front door, closing the door behind him. He took a deep breath of fresh London air - the air was never fresh as such, but it always smelled to George of.. opportunity. This was the same air that great men (and women) had smelt when they left their London homes and had gone out to change or.. even rule the world. George was happy to be in London and to have his opportunity! Praise Jesus!
It was at this moment that a sinking realisation overcame George.. his keys and mobile phone were still on the kitchen table… inside. There was nothing to be done, going on without them was impossible. He had to wait for his sister Flora to get back from her night shift cleaning job. She was due at 8:30am. He still had time, it did eat into his contingency buffer but as long as she didn’t stay talking to Vladimir or worse go for coffee with him again, George would be ok. He paced up and down outside the door waiting. Thinking over interview questions and his answers to pass the time.
Flora thankfully turned up tired and exhausted at 8:30am on the dot, let him back in to get his stuff. He’d thanked her, given her his customary kiss on the forehead and then rushed out the door and down the staircase of their council block towards the tube. Nelson Mandela Gardens, even the name of his new address had made him feel welcome in the UK. That a country could call buildings and roads after a man from African was quite something. But to build a column for him in the middle of London was something else!
They cancelled two tube trains when he finally did get to the station. He watched the electronic board but no, those little electrodes would not change to show a train in one minute. He paced the platform repeating some clever replies to interview questions he had been trying to memorise.
George wanted to give back. He wanted to thank his new motherland for the opportunity and the respect he had been shown. When he thought of England he thought of the BBC and he thought of those scratchy, crackly radio broadcasts which he and his friends had listened to clandestinely on old battered radios in Zimbabwe. Radios that linked them to the outside world, told them what was happening outside and what Mugabe was really up to inside. He had a debt. Today he had a chance to begin repaying that debt.
He was going to the BBC for a job as a security guard. He was going to be the best security guard they had ever seen. He would become a legend, everyone would know George and his smile. Firm, fair and professional, that would be George. He would defend the BBC till his last breath in repayment of the debt he carried.
He finally found the right building, it was very impressive. He walked up to the uniformed security guard, trying to disguise that he was out of breath (he had to appear in his prime).
“Interview” was all he managed to mumble.
“Ah yes sir that’ll be straight on, through those doors and up to the second floor. Best of luck sir”
Everyone was so polite and welcoming. He wanted to be a part of this very British Broadcasting Corporation. Mamma would have been so proud, may she rest in peace.
He went up the stairs quickly as he didn’t want to arrive late. First impressions matter and George was ready. He gave the lady on the front desk his million dollar smile, she looked like she herself might be from Zimbabwe, maybe South Africa. “Interview” said George. The lady smiled back with a little twinkle, like she was giving him change from his smile and now George was really on cloud nine. He felt the universe was sending him little messages that this job would be his. He took a seat and waited.
He’d done his research and he knew that interviews today were not like the interviews of old. Cutting edge media organisations like the BBC like to mix things up. They like to put a candidate slightly off balance to see who they really are. George was ready for that. He’d been practicing for weeks, considering scenarios they might throw at him. Interview: sitting on bean bags. Interview: while walking corridors. Interview: while walking backwards. Then there were the questions; “Why are manholes round?” (UBS Swiss bank), “How would you problem solve if you were from Mars?” (Amazon) And then the more standard “What’s been your biggest success?” “What’s your biggest weakness?” He’d tried to think and prepare for everything. He wanted this job. This job was his.
Finally a young lady with one of those clip-on headsets came up with a clipboard, truthfully he’d been miles away, thinking about interview questions. He heard her say ‘George’ and gesture for him to follow which he did. ‘Good luck with the Interview’ she said as she ushered him into a room.
WOW! These BBC guys really know how to make an impression. He was impressed! He might even have stopped breathing for a second, winded by the reality of what he saw. In all his planning he hadn't expected this. But when you stopped to think about it, it was obvious. Of course! How perfect! But how had the word not got out? His research should have prepared him for this. He smiled. Flora would never believe this.
The BBC had an interview room which was exactly modelled on their News studio! It was brilliant. An interview is all about getting to know the candidate. Getting under their skin. By making you think you’re in the Newsroom you’ll feel pressure to answer truthfully. Brilliant. Bravo. Genius. He knew the BBC were good but this was something else. He was shown to a seat and sat down. Then.. then they came and mic’d him up just like you see them on the news. It’s the little details that matter. They gave him a little glass of water which was a good idea because his mouth often got dry in interviews.
Then.. I don’t know how to say this, then Kirsty White came out, one of the BBC’s best Newsreaders and took a seat across the desk from George and gave him a little wave ..and a wink. He in stunned silence gave her a little, slightly effeminate wave in his confusion. Trying to not appear flustered was taking every ounce of George’s self control. These guys were incredible. Getting a new reader to conduct the interview!! Brilliant. George shook his head slightly in wonder and then caught himself and tried to look like this was all perfectly normal and to be expected.
Another person with a headset said “In Five, four, three, two, one, we’re live”
Kirsty put on her ‘News face’ which was amazing to watch in itself and looked directly into one of the cameras. The detail was just staggering, it was the detail that created the illusion. Talk about being off balance in an interview. He heard Kirsty say. “Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re joined this evening by Dr George Moyo”. George was amazed they had done so much research on him, few people knew he had been a Doctor back home, yet here he was being addressed by his rightful title.
“Good evening Kirsty and thanks for having me” George wanted to come back strong. He’d been preparing to do the interview walking backwards so this was pretty straightforward stuff so far.
“Dr Moyo, what can you tell us about the war in Niger?”
This was going to push George to the limit. He’d prepared for tough interview questions but not for current affairs in Africa in any great detail. It was however so nice to hear someone referring to him with his correct title, it had been a while. He also liked talking about his birth Continent and did broadly follow events.
“Well Kirsty that’s a tough one” He wanted to play along, keep in character as it were. Kirsty was really doing well. “There are two side in any conflict and one must win and one must lose, that’s the nature of war”. Ha! Take that Kirsty White. In his mind he was dancing his tribal dance of victory, impressed with his nimble riposte.
“Come now Doctor I really must get you off the fence here, you’ve got the ear of the president, what are you hearing?’ Ear of the president, what am I hearing? Is this some sort of joke? Thought George.
“Well Kirsty the President is concerned. He’s concerned that the wrong people are moving forward and the right people are too timid. Remember as the President often says ..” George was warming up, “All it takes for Evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. Hah haaaa! Take that Kirsty White. George was getting into his ‘flow’.
“Do you feel there a role for UN forces in the region or should an African Union force get involved?”
“That’s a tough question Kirsty and I’m glad you asked me..” George had been practicing that line for a week although he added Kirsty as icing on the cake. He’d learned this technique gains a few seconds to develop an answer. “At first glance an African Union force would make the most sense, Africa dealing with Africa’s problems. But as we know the whole continent is riven with corruption and infighting so I could see a case for the UN to step in. It will ultimately be up the President to make that call with his top advisors.”
“But you are one of his top advisors Doctor?”
“Yes, but I’m here in London.”
“The President is here in London as well, staying at the Dorchester Hotel”
Kirsty holds her hand to her ear and then says.
“George Moyo, Thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll now head back to Dan in Colchester.”
These guys are so slick. Wow they really asked some tough questions. He hoped he’d done enough to impress them. He thought he had. He stood up and leaned over to Kirsty and said “Thanks so much, those were really tough questions, you had me worried. Anyway, I hope I did ok. Do you know when they’ll let me know?”
“Oh I’m sure someone will be over shortly” Said Kirsty as she got up and was ushered away.
George was whisked out of his chair and back out of the bright studio light into the waiting area.
There he noticed only one other person waiting. An African man like himself. The young lady with the clip-on headset was deep in conversation with him and looking worried.
“I’m terribly sorry Doctor I have no idea how this happened.” She was saying.
George waited patiently, he really wanted to know how the interview had gone, had he done enough?
Based on actual events
Respect to Guy Goma https://youtu.be/e6Y2uQn_wvc
Or this one https://youtu.be/IOkck0Gd0Xo
Or where recently Radio 4’s Today program got the wrong Robert Shapiro https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7896189/Host-Evan-Davis-left-mortified-live-Radio-4s-PM-guest-blunder.html
Moyo is apparently the most common surname In Zimbabwe.