3.30AM. The alarm goes off, but it doesn't wake me. That's because I'm already staring at it. In fact, I've been staring at it on-and-off since about 2 o'clock, when I jolted awake after a horrible dream in which I had slept in until 7.30am, raced in to work to find Radio 4 on a loop of Sailing By and got told off by Sarah Montague, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and my old primary school teacher Miss Carruth. Still, it could have been worse, I could have been naked.
I drag myself out of bed, awash with relief and exhaustion, through the shower and into whatever clothes come to hand. Then I make a large flask of tea. This is a Very Important Task, as it will get me through the initial period from 5.20am - when I oversee the shipping forecast, News Briefing, Prayer for the Day and Farming Today - until 6 o'clock and the start of the Today programme.
I arrive at work at around 4.30am, read through News Briefing, tweak my scripts and do some timings. It's around now I notice I'm wearing jogging bottoms, a sequinned blouse, odd socks, and my hair is standing on end like a fright wig. Thank goodness it's radio.
Everything up to and including the six o'clock bulletin comes from a separate studio, so it's 6.25am before I join the melee in the main Today studio. I'm constantly amazed at how fresh the presenters look. (I wonder if Mishal uses those muesli-yoghurt pots on the tea trolley that no one ever eats as a facial scrub?) The trailer which runs before the news provides time to say hello and machete my way through the mountain of newspapers that invariably engulfs my keyboard.
Once inside the Today studio, it's vital to stay focussed, for the distractions are legion. While you are reading there might be a sports presenter, Cabinet minister, religious figure, celebrity or other esteemed personage arriving or departing; someone could be making frantic signals for water, getting tangled in their headphones, rustling paper, tweeting, wheezing, fumbling, rumbling or just having a jolly good stare. Well, it's not often you see someone in a sequinned blouse at that time of the morning.
By the end of the shift, I have consumed my own body weight in carbohydrate but I'm still standing. Yes, the early starts are tough; but the payoff is having a ringside seat at one of the country's most influential news programmes. They've recently introduced web cams. Note to self: do something about fright wig.
*This post is an updated version of one I wrote a while ago for the Radio 4 website.