Ok, I admit it. I’m knackered. Not physically, but mentally shot to pieces. No, mentally too— due to that poxy bed of mine— but both my brain cells have been spinning about all week trying to take it all in. My regular reader will have noticed the distinct lack of entries on these pages. I’m sorry— I haven’t had a minute to scratch my arse, let alone compose my flowery, illiterate prose. It’s hard to believe just a week has gone by since I was saying my farewells to friends and colleagues, leaving the office and the employ of a huge, American news organisation to take my seat in the office of a huge, American news organisation. Variety is the spice of life, so they say.
Telegraph, Time, Times. What next? Tatler or Take a Break ? Answers on a postcard please. Pity Titbits is no longer with us. When I finally throw a seven, and I’m called to meet the great Chief Sub up on the celestial back bench he’ll no doubt ask me to account for myself, and ask me what I’ve done.
“Who have you worked for, down on earth” he’ll ask, not bothering to look up while trying to come up with a pithy headline for a page seven lead (they never look up at you).
“Conrad Black, Jim Kelly and Rupert Murdoch”, I shall bleat, sheepishly.
“That doesn’t seem very many employers for one so old?” he’ll query.
“Ah, yes, well I did freelance for Richard Desmond on the Express for six months, and a couple of moonlight weeks on The Mail”
“Really?” he shall ponder “But it says here you’re a socialist!”
“Yessir, I am, but I was trying to bring down the system from within. Robert Maxwell had snuffed it before I got a chance to work for him”
“Piss off. You are shallow, unprincipled charlatan. You’ll have to work for our Sunday tabloid—The News of the Clouds.”
As I’ve often had to explain to my father every time I take another job with a less-than-liberal organisation: we can’t all work for the Guardian. Or the Co-Op, or Greenpeace or even Amnesty International. I never bothered to become a doctor, so Medicine Sans Frontiers is out (I even failed to get into Jeux Sans Frontiers as Stuart Hall’s replacement), and my application to succeed Ban Ki Moon has yet to be answered (I put myself down as Mi Ki Bee, as they all have silly names).
So, like most of us, I’ve just followed the fun and the money. Well, that’s been the plan—often it’s been bereft of much of either. I’ve applied ice-cubes to topless girls nipples (both professionally, and for my own amusement), covered Royal funerals (ditto) sent photographers to shoot wars and world cups, elections and erections, found pictures of tsunamis and toon armies, famines and farmers, operas and soap operas, child molesters and politicians*
And that’s why we all do it: for the randomness of it all. And the best thing about doing it on a daily paper is that the night before, when someone asks you what you’re up to tomorrow, you can honestly say “I haven’t got a clue”, it’s the fun of covering the news. 4 seconds before a plane hit the twin towers on 9/11 I’d put my jacket on in preparation for a pint of lunch. No-one could have ever predicted it (outside the CIA, of course). That pint came eight hours later. And it was good. The adrenaline that flows, and the beer that flows with it is something to behold and savour after a big news day. And that’s why we do what we do in this sometimes silly, often exciting, occasionally distasteful business of, what my mate Tom calls “The Never-Ending Quest for the Truth”. Hmmm.
My new colleagues at our sister paper The News of The World have been the story themselves this week, having allegedly been naughty boys when obtaining private information on celebs through the medium of Private Eyes and phone-taps. It’s all a matter of opinion, I suppose, but why you’d go to such lengths to listen to what Elle MacPherson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Boris Johnson and Gordon Taylor have to say baffles me. Taylor is as dull as gnu shit, and if you can translate anything Boris says into a coherent sentence, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din, have a large wad of cash for your efforts. Trust me, I used to sub his stuff. Fluent Swahili.
So what has been my contribution to News International’s production this week? Well, I bought a round of coffee a couple of times, found a photo for a shopping story, had a row with the IT department (yes, honest), edited a photo shoot of a transvestite nurse (story killed), reshuffled the rota which fucked-off half the department, and got lost on the way back to my desk from the loo. Twice. Not a bad start to my career. But I’m in, I’m a coiled spring, waiting to pounce and source those snaps for the next proper story to hit the headlines. All the gardening stories, shopping features and late-breaking makeup covers act as practice and preparation for the big stuff when it comes, say Thatcher’s death or and England test win.**
So the real stuff starts next week. As soon as I get a pc that works and can remember anyone’s name, I’ll launch myself into action, and they’ll know what they’ve getting for their money. Oh bugger. Better polish-up that CV.
*delete where applicable
**perm any two from two