Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

I am now almost 48 hours without eating, having fallen victim to the winter vomiting bug, and having suffered the joys of the Virgin festive train service going back home (6 hours both way). Yet I seem more chirpy than I was this time last year...or at least it appears so from my Goodbye 2006 post.
There are all the things that didn't happen this year, chalked up to add to the usual collection - and the sadness in particular at one of those. But in general - and for someone born into a dynasty of Welsh Presbyterians this is an unusual statement to make - I feel more optimistic than usual when looking back.
This time last year I had only just started at Nuffield -hardly tasted the delights of high table. I had only just started learning Spanish and I was at a much earlier stage with my novel.
Now from Jan 2008 I'm about to become a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The book has been largely rewritten in a way that's better, I hope. And I managed to order a beer in Almedinilla without a local laughing. Well not to my face anyway.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas

and may new year bring you everything you hope for.........

Friday, December 21, 2007

I used to be a research fellow don't you know.....

However my latest piece for the Telegraph concentrates (ahem) on my more domestic side. Or rather my lack of domestic side....

The advantage of online rather than hard copy is that you only get to see one of the pictures of me and not the ones pulling faces they put in the paper, which has led to smothered laughter from my co-workers, who really should know better than to mock as they star in previous pieces here and here

Oh the joy of the feature writing world......

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

News occurs in pre-Christmas week shocker

Nick Clegg has been elected leader of the Lib Dems. I am really trying to work up enthusiasm but the contest has largely passed me* by. Clegg and Huhne have suffered by Vince Cable's virtuoso performance as acting leader - although as has been pointed out he has had a much easier ride than he would have, were his leadership term not finite. Still he has had the best line of the year - Stalin to Mr John Lloyd formerly of Spitting Image points out, a line Gordon Brown may come to regret.

Still I will try and care more; my emotion today has largely been directed towards the radio, viz the "feminist" debate on Today, a depressing piece of broadcasting. What I do find curious is that 20something women are so reluctant to declare themselves feminists although quite happy to talk about how liberated they are. In a previous incarnation, there was a couple of occasions when I had to commission pieces about whither feminism. What amazed me was that so few young women were willing to identify themselves as feminist; one young woman said airily that she had left feminism behind at college (rather, I felt, like Morrissey posters, dodgy ashtray and a grubby beanbag chair). 
Of course when you are just out of college, it can feel like nothing is holding you back. I felt no different when I was 22/3 . I am just surprised that less than a decade separated me and the feature writers I was trying to commission.....and yet I would never have been so indignant at the thought of being labelled a feminist. Was that me or has there been a big change? Maybe the Spices and Girl Power have made more of a difference than I thought.

*and I suspect most of the British public.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Looks like a climate change deal has been agreed.

Earlier  I listened on Today to Yvo de Boer breaking down in tears during the process after two weeks of wrangling and having to be led off the podium.
Blimey anyone who's had a bad few Christmas days at work knows how he feels.......
From parliament to park bench

In between the Diana-Dodi letters dominating the papers, I was just listening to the Today programme and the interview with Ed Mitchell, the former ITN news editor now reduced to living rough in Brighton. The story was discovered by a journalist on the Brighton Argus who was volunteering with a homeless charity (see we are not all bad). Since then all the papers have taken up the story. The pictures of Mitchell then and now stop you short, but what was strange was hearing the umistakeable broadcast tones of a newsreader being interviewed on Today - speaking in carefully timed and modulated sentences.
There are two trends to the story: the credit card spiral that Mitchell found himself in and the alcoholism that according to the papers which seems to have dogged him from his early days as a reporter. There is of course endless debates about whether journalistic lifestyles can exacerbate problems like drinking or whether it is something about the nature of those who go into journalism that means that you tend to find a large number of people susceptible to drinking. My personal belief is that it is a mixture of both.
Whatever, the story at least reveals what most of us turn our eyes to: the idea of the homeless as individuals. My friend N used to volunteer for Crisis every Christmas, I admired him hugely. Listening to Ed Mitchell saying cheerily that he wouldn't starve this Christmas but unable to really answer what his children thought, I felt ashamed for not doing the same.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One of those days

I have either left my mobile at home or it's been nicked.
I am appalled at the sense of bereftness I feel in (for the first time in years; in fact I really can't remember when this has happened before) being without a mobile phone.

(I should add that this culminates a morning in which so far a) the bread failed in the breadmaker b) D ate the last bit of edible bread without telling me, the sod c) I nearly got into a fight with some a*** on the tube d) I forgot my work pass and e) my hair has gone terribly terribly wrong. All before 9.30am)

I excuse my sense of panic being a freelance; the mobile is the way any editor/PR/anyone with a story will get in touch with me. There is something terrifying about being unobtainable and not being able to tell anyone that this is the case. I feel like a non-person (yes I am hamming this up slightly but there is a strange sense of loss which - given I only ever got a mobile in 1999 - means I somehow managed for XXXX years without one. Now however it feels like some kind of disability.....)

I KNOW I should be embracing the chance of freedom, that for one day I could play hookey I cannot be tracked down. But I feel panicky. There must be some kind of psychiatric description of this....Or of me as the epitome of sadness

Monday, December 10, 2007

Aid workers vs journalists

Preparing to chair a panel for the Red Cross on Weds on aid workers and journalists I came across this blog post which refers back to my Guardian piece of a month ago....interesting

Canoe Post Two

The canoe story just keeps on giving. This afternoon the police have released a photo that they believe may show John Darwin when he was missing - and this is it....

I spotted it on News 24 and immediately saw in my mind's eye Charles Darwin

Or even Charles Dickens

Are they all related? I think we should be told....
Self harm

One in 15 young people now injure themselves on a regular basis. But as Petra Boynton raises the question - is this the latest manifstation of distress that young people particular girls have always shown - are we seeing the modern equivalent of Victorian 'hysteria'? This may be so but experts are genuinely worried about the scale that is now revealing itself. Here's a piece I wrote for the Telegraph about it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Something for the weekend....
I had hoped to be posting on what I might do next...but no official confirmation in the meantime I'm recording two things that have added to the gaiety of nations.
First the pseudocide of canoe man (love the new word). I was at a party last night when someone said 'I really can't understand why everyone is so excited about this story'. But for a journalist it has everything - and in vulgar parlance has 'legs'. A man turning up from the dead after five years excites; who has not dreamed of doing the same (in fact my whole novel is about that). Then...a wife who has mysteriously left the country and gives an emotional interview about her surprise at his return....Followed the next day by the appearance of a photograph which proves she can't be THAT surprised. (The woman who googled it  - and every journalist thinks why didn't I think of doing that? - before going to the Mirror lived in a part of the country where the Sun is not welcome.....ah how those old wounds fail to heal). And the fact that they were apparently brought down by an overheard phoencall at a doctor's surgery  failing to say no to posing for an estate agent's would think if you had perpetuated an alleged fraud then you would think twice...Extraordinary stuff. Not least the fact he lived in a bedsit next door for three years. This is the Mail's latest update
One friend summed it up by saying: "It's the story with something for everyone. The bloke walking in to the police station - men are all sighing inwardly at the thought he got away with doing a runner. The women....she's got all the money in her name. Then for some reason they allegedly fall out - and it ends..."
This is a very British affair - with bedsits and doctor's receptionists, canoes and estate agents. In the US surely there would have been a glamorous broad or two, a breakneck run for the coast, a final cryptic note saying farewell. Instead we have angry boat owners allegedly complaining about non-payment of bills.
Read Andrew Pierce in the Telegraph's account. It made me laugh out loud
Meanwhile this song is my current earworm. I love it though. It makes me laugh every time I hear the rhyme for 'thirty' and 'dirty'

Monday, December 03, 2007

Of human bonds.....

This is the piece I wrote for the health section of the Telegraph today about the problems some women have forming attachments with their children - linked to a Channel 4 documentary on tonight.....