Ever tried to keep a Channel 4 20-part double commission afloat without offending everyone or killing multiple businesswoman and mum of four Sarah Beeny?
Well, it's proving more and more difficult by the day. Right now we are filming, editing and transmitting Double Your House for Half the Money at the same time so whilst episode two will be on air tonight, we are still in the edit on shows four onwards and haven't yet filmed any of the reveals for later in the series. Let's see how long we can stay on air without breaking transmission.
A few days ago: Cue 6:30 in the morning and 'The Beeny' as I call her majesty isn't late for her train. Don't get me wrong, it's always a close shave - and today is no exception - but there is something different about her and I can't put my finger on it. From afar Beeny looks her usual self, miniature toys virtually nestling in her ruffled hair and transcending an expression of defiance and controlled stress, commonly associated with working mums up and down the country.
Everything looks normal. Her still rather petite frame clears the corner of the entrance at Marylebone station but - insurance underwriters behold - she waves at me with one of her four cherubs - Laurie - in tow. Aargh! It's going to be a long day!
Kiss, kiss: The Beeny smells good this morning. Before meeting her in the flesh I expected her to ooze of baby milk and sweet vomit but I was mistaken. Despite her constant proximity to toddlers she somehow manages to create an olfactory barrier between herself and her offspring.
I love Laurie. He's the son I never had and probably never will. But there's no way around it. Today he will be in my way. On reveal days, when we film exhausted home owners showing us their finished extensions, I need space. Everything has to be clockwork. We haven't got time for mistakes and between frantic calls to husband and business partner Graham Swift about Rise Hall, their wedding venue near Hull and the managers of their property business Tepilo, Sarah also needs to sign off a new PR campaign for her dating website My Single Friend.com before getting off the train. Note to self: Need to pitch new TV idea to the Beeny. Double Your Friends with Half The Dates, or something. It will be a smash hit.
Don't look! Laurie just managed to spill the entire content of his juice bottle over the seat. I want to shout but just smile at the three year old. Laurie beams back and butter wouldn't melt in his mouth but neither does the juice as it neatly forms a substantial puddle around the carriage. Having wiped off the mess it's time for Sarah to get off the train and catch up with a young couple she's been helping over the last six months.
Unlike me, the Beeny loves people. As a programme maker I find them problematic. They have emotions and make mistakes. Their build programmes get delayed and cost me precious time and money. The Beeny is different. She chats and builds a rapport, having a genuine interest and empathy I can clearly see when I watch her in the edit suite. Unlike so many other experts, she really seems to care. The hellos and kisses are genuine and everyone is relieved the couple finished the extension project, but something's missing.
Where is Laurie?
Last time I looked, the camera crane was towering over the front of the neatly extended cottage whilst our production runners were desperately trying to mop up the last remnants of building rubble that could otherwise ruin the shot.
Laurie is nowhere to be seen.
The extended cottage looks lovely and growing green with envy I run to the back of the garden where the toddler has surely launched himself from the new retaining walls to his certain death.
No, the garden is empty. Laurie must be inside.
The country style kitchen looks glorious and the artificial stone worktops resemble veined Carrara marble but unlike the latter, are heat resistant and won't stain, the owners proudly tell me. I smile, take a quick pic for later reference, cast my eye over the butcher's knife block - no baby blood stains in sight - before rushing to the cosy lounge. Flanked by one of the production assistants sits a Beeny baby, happily sucking on a bottle of water.
I have another three hours to finish the shoot before sending Beeny back on a train to London but it transpires Laurie won't be in my way after all.
What's the tripod doing in that shot? Where is the tea I ordered an hour ago? Can you please be quiet on set! You just can't get the staff anymore.
Why can't they all be a bit more like Laurie?
Double Your House for Half the Money is on Tuesdays at 8pm on Channel 4.
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