I was taken to the desk which was to be mine. It was covered in mail, all addressed to weather forecaster Wendy ‘Weather Balloons’ Bunce. I opened a few. They were a mixture of autograph requests, marriage proposals and photos of men’s members in a state of clear agitation. I went and watched Wendy’s forecast from behind the cameras. She was applauded on to the set by the team, and cheered off after, despite her forecast containing an abhorrent mangle of words such as ‘tempritchar’ and ‘depreshun.’ Even I, breakfast TV star Barbara Sapphire, had never been whooped off a set, but then I’d never had a cortege that wobbled like a UKIP MP. She had to go, and as her new scriptwriter, I had the power to do it.
It had begun a few weeks before when, Prodj, the Producer came over to me after one of my weather forecasts with Wendy in tow.
“Ah yes. Hello Wendy,” I said, “I’ll have a flat white, no sugar.”
“Alan?” pouted Wendy to Prodj. I knew he’d reprimand her for using his first name – we all had to call him ‘Prodj’ – a stupid nickname, I know, but he’s the boss.
“That’s alright, Wendy,” he assured her without admonition. “Your days of making drinks at NTV are over.”
“Thanks, Alan,” Wendy tittered, an apt word given that her outsized bust was prising apart the loose stitches of her woollen dress, giving a scattershot view of her vast bra underneath. She looked up at him with the doe eyed look she gave every man. I managed not to retch, but could not hold back a snarl in that hussy’s direction.
Prodj grinned, eyes fixed on the girl’s front like she had the name of the Grand National winner sewn onto her chest. He turned to me and his look vanished. “Good news, Barbara. Wendy here is going to present your breakfast weather forecasts while you are away.”
“Good news?” I exclaimed in horror. “I thought Ted Grundy was going to do them? He always does when I’m on holiday.”
“Ah, dear old Ted.” Said Prodj, “Fact is, the ratings show that we lose 20% of viewers whenever he’s on. I’ve decided he’s best kept to his Sunday morning DIY slot.”
Ted and I had been Good Morning Newbury’s first presenters. We anchored the first 8 years of the breakfast show together, but now we seemed to be getting shuffled to ever more minor roles.
“Your commitment to the station is legendary,” said Prodj, “which is why you both play such big parts in the station’s output today.”
“Bit parts, you mean. The only big parts I can see are those two thrusting from that girl’s chest. I’ve gone from the star of breakfast TV, to merely the weathergirl.”
“Your weather slots are a vital part of viewer’s breakfasts. They rely on them. But I’ve decided to give them a younger face than Ted’s while you are away. Don’t look so worried – You’ll be back on in a fortnight.”
I grimaced at Wendy’s fresh and vibrant face. “But she’s just a wannabe who does our filing
and …” I couldn’t think of anything else she did. “What does she know about presenting?”
“I done Mee-dyar Studies at collidge,” Wendy piped up.
“There you go,” grinned Prodj.
I arrived at the studios earlier than usual on my first day back. Even though it was 5am, there was a crowd of paparazzi outside waiting, as they’d done for me back in the day. As I pushed past them, a limo turned up and over they ran. I guessed we had a celebrity to be interviewed this morning, but no, out came Wendy, all knockers and knickers as she climbed out with all the grace of a spiny crab and flashed them a smile as well as everything else. Prodj hurried me inside.
“Good news,” he told me. “The ratings have soared since Wendy started presenting the weather. The whole world seems to love her. Even better, I’m promoting you to chief scriptwriter for her forecasts – You’ll be able to use your experience and know-how to even greater reward off-camera. Take it as your first steps in management. Who knows – you could be prodj yourself one day.”
Off camera? My smile was false, but inside I knew the wrinkles it generated outside were real. I had been usurped by a younger model – by a harlot.
That evening, I worked hard, studying weather reports and writing scripts for Wendy to deliver the following morning containing just enough discrepancies to have all intelligent viewers and, more importantly, Prodj, clamouring for my return as the mature and reliable face of the weather. Next morning, I handed Wendy my first toxic script. Poor love, she was so vacuous she didn’t have a clue. Any shame I had evaporated like early morning mist when I saw the thin hoops on her tiny dress resembling isobars chasing two anticyclones across the Atlantic.
On-air and angel faced, she forecast ‘tempritchars’ several degrees lower than those expected given prevailing conditions, and my presumption that she would not be able to pronounce the word ‘precipitation’ let alone know what it meant, proved correct.
No viewers complained. Only Uulavi Johannsson, the Swedish weathergirl I’d worked with in the ‘80’s seemed to notice. The emails NTV received were all in appreciation of that dress, and could Wendy ‘blow the lads from the Newbury branch of Homebase a kiss tomorrow?’
That evening I upped the ante. I switched 15 degrees centigrade to 15 Fahrenheit, and wrote of the Northern Lights being visible over Basingstoke that night. In rage, I scripted her to blow a kiss to rival store B&Q, Newbury.
By 11am, a shaky recording of that kiss had gone viral on YouTube, and social media suggested no Basingstoker would be up to see the absence of the Aurora Borealis as they’d all be in bed with alarms set for 6am to catch Wendy’s morning broadcast.
Wednesday’s script backfired on me too. Despite my dictating falsehoods of ‘white stuff in the Black Country’, and, for her, a completely unachievable ‘cirrocumulus in Cirencester ‘ and ‘cirrus over Piccadilly Circus’, the fan mail kept flooding in. It seemed the public liked her naivety.
Seeing Prodj’s delight and hugs for Wendy at that morning’s post-show debrief, my thoughts blackened like approaching cumulonimbus.
‘Rats!’ I said to myself. I had been convinced that giving Wendy lines predicting ‘tidal waves in Tidmouth and a ‘plague of toads falling on Frogham’, would make her a laughingstock. Furthermore, I’d acted to compound her humiliation by instructing Wardrobe to dress her as a schoolgirl. I had in mind the dowdy ankle length car-blanket of a skirt and baggy cardigan of my convent school up-bringing. What she appeared in ensured that no male viewer was able to concentrate on a single word of the forecast. This time there were complaints – lots of them, but not the kind I had planned for. Prodj had to issue an apology on-air next day, accepting full responsibility and confirming to feminists everywhere that Wendy would never again present the weather so attired. I was given a verbal warning, he suspended me for the rest of the day, but I knew beneath his stern look, Prodj was delighted with the publicity. Within 10 minutes of his humble retreat, Wendy had given the forecast peering over glasses in a ‘Miss Whiplash’ teachers outfit, complete with cloak and mortarboard.
Suddenly Wendy Bunce was headline news, and not just on our show. Her photo was all over the newspapers, and the good name of Newbury TV besmirched. She appeared on the One Show that night, where two sets of demonstrators burst into shot during her bubble-headed claim to not knowing what the fuss was about. When the group claiming ‘girl power’ started to fight those hostile to the degradation of women’s rights, male viewers couldn’t believe their luck.
My weather scripts became more and more ridiculous. I made Wendy tell of ‘vampires moving in from the west’, ‘winds bubbling up from below’, and ‘the snow from Iceland also affecting shoppers at Aldi’. But whatever the damn girl said made no difference. Love or hate her, the ratings figures showed she was compulsive viewing.
This went on for a year. Wendy was a national star; love letters and complaints came in equal measures. Some days I got my 12 year-old niece to write her scripts. No one noticed. Then one night as a guest on the Graham Norton Show, Wendy, as I suggested, announced that her audition for weather girl had taken place on a waterbed in an apartment Prodj had borrowed from a friend. He’d told her that if she wanted the part, she’d have to be introduced to his own – on a weekly basis.
The tabloids delighted in the headline ‘Prodj the Prod’, and printed yet more pictures of a bikini’d Wendy, from shoots she had been delighted to attend.
Prodj went into hiding, simultaneously envied by every man in the land and despised by every woman – not least myself and his wife. Hounded by the press and his own reporters, a week later he felt sign compelled to resign. Later the same day, NTV weather was nominated for a BAFTA for its ‘innovative broadcasting’.
Derrick’s (as Prodj is now known) predication about me becoming Producer came true. The DG promoted me the day after Derrick’s demise, upon which I immediately instated Ted Grundy as chief newsreader on Newbury at Breakfast. I’d been in this game long enough to know that ratings are everything so kept ‘Weather Balloons’ Wendy on the weather slot, continuing to concoct her forecasts, but now dressed with elegance rather than raw sex appeal, appeasing both fans and feminists.
I left NTV the week after, and became Wendy’s manager. I now receive a healthy cut from not only her lucrative TV contract, but from her regular articles in OK Magazine, fashion shoots and appearances on Come Strictly and I’m a Luminary. These days, I won’t have a word said against Wendy – not while I continue to make them up for her.