Showing posts with label Old Bailey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Old Bailey. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hankering after my old job...

Tony Blair reckons he’s better equipped to be PM now than he was during his Downing Street years. He says he’s learned “an immense amount” and would love to have another go, even though it’s unlikely to ever happen.

I was never a Blair devotee, but his words – during an interview with Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands – made me think. 

In my 20s I worked as a news reporter in Fleet Street, haring around on the stories of the moment. I could be covering a grim murder trial at the Old Bailey one week (they often gave me nightmares) and sitting in a Bedouin tent in the middle of the Saudi desert with Prince Charles and Princess Diana the next. The deadlines were eye-wateringly tight, the bosses scary and the pressure intense, but life was never boring.

A quarter of a century on, I wouldn’t stand a chance in hell of being hired as a news reporter (in a profession that’s getting younger by the minute, I’m far too old).

But the ridiculous thing is that I’d actually be a far better reporter now than I was then. I’ve lived a hell of a lot more, had children, lost people I love – and understand so much more about everything (well, except for polymers, the offside rule and the ins and outs of the West Lothian question. Deadlines don’t scare me  and nor do tough news editors. When I’m working I focus 100 per cent on what I’m doing, rather than planning nights out with my pals or worrying about my love life. My children are almost grown-ups themselves so I don’t even have to fix childcare.

So, yes, like Tony Blair, I’d love to have a go at my old job. And yes, like him, I know it’s unlikely to ever happen.

PS. The picture shows a cutting from my reporting days. My writer friend Jane Gordon-Cumming found it in a pile of papers when she was moving house. We only met two years ago so she was stunned to find she had an article of mine dating back to the 1980s!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Don't go into journalism for the glamour

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!

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