have begun to think of Wednesday nights as my Margaret Thatcher nights
as I rarely get more than four hours sleep.
I am staying at a friend’s house, a five-minute walk from our
offices in Brick Lane. I walk to the office past the bagel shop and get
tea and breakfast for the news editor, Fin, and production editor, Suj,
who are on the early shift with me finishing off the last pages of
We compile page two, a stop-press page from that morning’s newspapers, and send all the pages off to our printers by noon.
I’m a little nervous about the front cover, with a story that Madonna has endorsed a film supported by the Ramtha cult.
go home for lunch to see my three-year-old daughter while the papers
are being printed and distributed and then around five o’clock pop over
to Paddington, my nearest distribution point, to see a copy and hand a
few out with one of our cheerful vendors, an Australian called Matt.
A few more domestic duties and I am in bed by 9pm.
Friday. Normally I would be in the office as usual, but this weekend
is my sister’s wedding and my mother is fretting, so I decide to work
A good policy in the end. We do a debrief of the last week’s paper
by email which takes 10 minutes instead of the usual hour, and Fin and
I discuss plans for the next week’s edition.
We are pushing up to
28 pages for this week, which finally gives us scope for a serious,
long international article. I have been pushing for someone to look at
the AIDS problem in India. Fin has found me a good journalist to cover
The morning’s efficiency means I suddenly have time to go
shopping for a couple of hours, while fielding calls about an expansion
to the music section of our paper.
Sister’s wedding goes off without too many hitches. I leave the
reception and jump in my battered old Volkswagen Polo to charge up to
Herefordshire. Off to the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, an annual trip
that is as much about the networking and social life as the talks. I
finally arrive at a party just outside the town, which is still in full
swing at 2am. Much talk of The London Line and various projects
eventually gives way to some proper partying.
Sunday 6pm. My allotted time to check and edit the arts pages of the
paper, which I do. A state of despair descends over an article on
Coldplay and Oasis. I get on the phone to one of my top freelances, who
brings off a great article about lo-fi folk god Smog in an amazingly
short space of time.
Amy de Wit, our arts editor, has written a piece on how Tracey
Emin’s over-openness is an invitation to call her by her first name.
“You don’t say Pablo, or Andy, like they’re your mates. Tracey invites
familiarity. And, naturally, she gets contempt.” I am tickled.
Then off to a few more parties in Hay.
1pm. The plan to be back in the office by lunchtime has fallen apart as I wake up to a beautiful Herefordshire afternoon.
This is probably the first lie-in I have had for three months (no
daughter around as an alarm call). I call the office guiltily. They
seem rather too content without me there. I give up on making it back
in time, deal with a few queries about page lay-outs, and eventually
set off back to London.
9am. Arrive back to find the advertising team is moving out of our
offices into plusher quarters. There had been 16 of us sitting
elbow-to-elbow. Now the remaining 10 of us jostle for the best new
desks. Tuesday is, as usual, a frantic day as we have to put 16 pages
to bed with a production staff of two, and writers subbing like crazy.
The day is interrupted by lunch with our designer, Paul Pod, at the St
John restaurant in Spitalfields, for duck hearts on toast and a
News, meanwhile, is looking shaky and behind schedule.
previous week we had managed to get news wrapped up by 7pm on Wednesday
(very early for us), incentivised by the Champions League final being
shown at 8pm. Sadly, no such carrot this week for my football-crazy
news editor Fin.
10am. You can always pull something out of the bag at the last
minute, and it is usually far better than all the best laid plans. Our
interview with The League of Gentlemen, written by our film critic Tom
Phillips, comes out so strong we decide to give it page three. A couple
of good international articles land in the inbox and suddenly
everything is back on course.
Wednesday afternoons involve a raft of calls between myself and the
paper’s cartoonist Beau Bo D’or, who is regularly assigned the front
page. I ask him to do a front page on The League of Gentlemen, he tells
me he has never watched them and the office grab the phone and repeat
all the stock lines – “This is a local shop for local people” etc –
down the phone to him. We eventually plump for the characters Edward
and Tubbs in front of a phallic-looking BT tower with the caption:
“This is a local paper for local people”.
As midnight approaches,
we are all a bit weary and stop for a beer. I should be out by 1am,
though I find it hard to sleep because of all the adrenaline. I feel
exhausted, but like a child who can’t sleep for the excitement of it