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Smile cracks on telly

How come Richard and Judy make it look so easy? All that casual ad-libbing? Believe me, presenting live TV is a nerve-racking experience.

Okay we're not talking CNN, just my school television station here in Georgia, USA, but it's still scary stuff.

Today it's my turn to host the morning broadcast to an audience of, oh, at least 800. In classrooms throughout the school, teachers and students will witness my big TV debut. Claudia (producer, director, camerawoman and school librarian) peers at me through the camera, "Just relax, you'll be fine!" Yeah right. The last time I felt this nervous was never. I've already started to break out in a cold sweat. No rehearsals, no make-up, no autocue - I bet Richard and Judy wouldn't put up with this.

Fortunately my co-anchor today is a fifth grader called Sandra, who looks like she knows what she's doing. "Okay, you're on!" Claudia points at me.

"Oh, good morning, everybody," I stammer, "Welcome to MOE TV with Mrs McCarney and Sandra."

After a silence that seems to last forever, I hear a little voice beside me. "And how are you today, Mrs McCarney?" Sandra is obviously an old hand at this ad-libbing lark. Once we've discussed each other's health, there's another long silence. I stare at the camera and smile. "Do we have some announcements this morning, Mrs McCarney?" Sandra subtly prompts me.

"Oh, yes, of course," I keep smiling as I inform the school that tonight's concert will begin at 7pm and remind students to return their library books (I'm guessing Claudia had a hand in the script too). "And now we have an exciting report about lost property!" I announce with rather too much enthusiasm. Did I really say "exciting"? Since when was lost property exciting? As Claudia switches over to a pre-recorded video link, I rummage frantically through a pile of papers. All too soon I'm back on camera and this smile is starting to hurt.

"And now here's Ms W with some words of wisdom," I announce confidently.

But Claudia is shaking her head and mouthing, "She's not here - you do it."

Oh the unpredictability of live TV. Another script is swiftly thrust towards me, I put on my best "sincere" look and read a paragraph about how good friends are worth their weight in gold or something.

"Well done, you were great!" Claudia tries to make me feel better once it's all over. Perhaps I'll just stick to the day job.

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