Tuesday, August 30, 2011
1995: It's never easy
One day, standing in the kitchen, I was suddenly hit by a realistion that I should be a journalist. I now knew what I should do with my life. But had I ever written anything of note? Not really. And did I have any experience or any means of getting into my chosen profession? Hardly. So what should I do?
For six years I had felt stifled, bored, unchallanged and creatively barren. Not that I was this fabulous artist dying to break free from the restraints of legal publishing, but at least it could have been a bit more exciting and it really just wasn't me.
I applied for many magazine and media jobs, none of whom replied, though the BBC were always very good at at least sending you an application form. One day, however, an agency called me in. They told me that it was all very well me wanting to work for Q magazine but at my age, and with my lack of journalistic experience, the only way out of my current predicament was to retrain. I had no money and couldn't possibly support myself were I to do this, and at this point I could see my life ebbing away, stuck in a job I loathed forever.
Shortly after this however, we were told that my department was being up to Yorkshire and I wasn't going with it, so I was going to be plonked in the editorial pool. End of story. There, I would fester and grow bitter. And older. I couldn't countenance it.
So seeing as they probably wanted rid of me as much as I wanted rid of them, we came to an agreement: I asked for six months pay and I got it, without a quibble. I told them my plans and they kindly did all they could to get me onto a course I'd seen. And after an interview in which we had a general knowledge test, had to construct a news story and talk about why we wanted to be on the course, I was in. Just weeks later the time had come. I was starting a new life.
I had a friend who was a journalist. He'd been a bit of an inspiration. He'd worked for Channel 4 news and Radio 4, and I wanted a piece of that. Sadly, just two weeks before I was to start my course he was shot dead by a sniper in Croatia. On their way back to their hotel (on their last day before coming home) they'd seen smoke rising from a distant village and took a detour to investigate. And then it happened. He was 29.
I saw it on the front page of all the papers when I got into work. It made me more determined than ever.
Sixteen years ago this coming weekend, I left work, had a leaving do and was due to start on Monday. Mrs P was away on a work trip so I had a weekend of panic shopping and fretting about the people, the course, the journey - after having not done anything new work-wise for six years this was a big change for me.
I needn't have worried. From the first day I knew it was the right thing to do. As the term went on it just got better and better, but that's another story. Everyone should have an epiphany.
This bittersweet song was everywhere at this moment in 1995. I never know whether to be happy or sad when I hear it.