Thursday, 25 August 2011
Journalism can be exciting, nerve-racking, mind-numbingly dull and, at times, very very annoying. But unless you’re a film critic or showbiz correspondent, it’s rarely glamorous. One minute you’re reporting a murder trial at the Old Bailey that gives you nightmares, the next you’re up to your knees in mud writing about an eccentric recluse living on a Thames houseboat.
When I worked in hard news I’d arrive in the news room at 7am knowing full well that by the end of the day I could be anywhere – Paris, New York, Scunthorpe, you name it. Actually, if I’m honest, it was Scunthorpe more often than Paris.
It’s hardly surprising that there are barely any women news reporters with young children working on national newspapers. I’d leave home at the crack of dawn and was often on the tube to Euston or Heathrow by 8am. My husband still quotes the time I left a note on the kitchen table saying “gone to Nairobi. Don’t know when I’ll be back.” A British doctor had set out to climb Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, six months earlier and had vanished into thin air. My news editor decided I was the person to find him – a tall order considering the police had totally failed in their attempts. Not surprisingly, I returned home a complete and utter failure ten days later.
Now I’m a freelance writer, journalism is still full of surprises. I recently had to write a piece about a school in the wilds of Northamptonshire. I spent the morning chatting to the head, was shown round by two delightful pupils, who proudly insisted on showing me the contents of every single cupboard, and then got invited to stay for lunch. I haven’t had a school dinner in nearly 30 years so, curious to see what they’re like post Jamie Oliver, I agreed.
As I walked in, the head directed me to the end of a long wooden table that looked like something out of Hogwarts. Grace was said and we all sat down. But as I gazed along the table I noticed lots of expectant faces staring back at me. And then I realised why. I was sitting at the head of the table – so it was my role to be the dinner lady and dish up the roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and watery cabbage. As I said before, you don’t go into journalism for the glamour…
PS: I reckon this gorgeous vintage table (above) I bought in the Pedlars sale is one of the best travelled pieces of furniture around. Originally from France, I spotted it on the Pedlars website and reckoned it would be perfect for the House With No Name. It’s crossed the Channel more times than I have this summer!