Sean Smith

04.12.03

Deadline day at the Islington Tribune and our sibling the West End Extra. After the Camden New Journal – the big, burly bully of an older brother – staggered to bed in the early hours, there is little sign of life in the Camden Road offices.

We’re in our fifth week as a bona fide newspaper and the response has been fantastic from the readers, cagey from the authorities and downright nonexistent from the opposition.

Editor Eric Gordon, for all his bluff and blunder, was right to follow his instincts down the Camden Road and across the borough border into Islington. It is rich pickings for a newspaper prepared to pander to the chattering classes and crucify the careless.

It’s as if the borough’s finally woken up after a driftless sleep.

It’s 11am and everything seems to be going to plan – Islington Council is cutting healthcare to pay for trees, pop stars are saying no to guns and sex shops and murderers are in the news.

When you begin a paper the copy flow is always a problem, but a fourweek campaign of cajoling almost everyone in the borough to let us know about “stuff” seems to be paying off, although last week’s exclusive story about police running covert operations to spy on troublesome kids has gone down like a lead balloon. I swear a traffic warden’s been following me for the last three days.

By 5pm all is calm, everything is written – all that is left is the approval from the walking hurricane.

Minutes later it arrives. Eric storms in, rips copy to shreds and deposits it all over the show. By 7.30pm a sense of calm ensues as the eye of the storm passes steadily over the front pages.

Then a final whirlwind at the printers before we slip away into the night.

05.12.03

From the ridiculous to the sublime this morning. At the crack of dawn it’s away to the launch of truancy patrols – a chance for a dramatic picture – and the hunt for the elusive borough commander, who isn’t returning my calls. For the umpteenth time in the last five weeks I find myself alone at a press conference. Where are the Islington Gazette, the Highbury & Islington Express and the Islington Herald? They come out each week, that’s for sure, but I’m yet to see proof of life.

On the march through Angel in search of little critters and, sure enough, there they are sitting on a bench just inside the N1 shopping centre. Although I do wish they would stop posing for photos – a little contrition wouldn’t go amiss. Still no sign of the borough commander.

Midday and I’m already half an hour late for my appointment – at Classic Car Club in a lock up off the City Road.

Sixty of the smartest cars on the planet stuck in a garage straight out of The Italian Job – and you could drive one away every fifth weekend for £3,000 a year. What a bargain.

Consider returning to N1 for retribution when I discover that those remorseless bunking kids have cost me a drive in a 1971 Jensen Interceptor.

07.12.03

A shift at The Independent and a chance to sit at a desk and stare at a screen in peace. Occasionally I sub on The Guardian’s sports section as well – they both have their ways. Sports journalists, in particular, are a law unto themselves.

While I was football editor at Sportal.com, a certain Daily Star chief football writer wrote for us briefly.

Well, I say wrote – it looked like English but it certainly didn’t read like it. At half-time on Sunday I swap from the sports desk on the first floor and rise to the second floor to help out on the tabloid. It’s a slick operation – a miracle of creation that should be witnessed by every sloppy journalist who files half-baked copy.

08.12.03

Soccernet – and my role as betting editor comes sharply into focus.

Four years on the sport side of the business and five years as a bookie pay-off as the old jargon always comes in handy. I do three columns a week advising everyone in the world, except the Americans (against the law there, don’t you know), how they should bet on English and European football. We do alright. Last season I had fan mail from Taiwan. I think it was from a bookie.

Back in the Camden office the wheels are whirring steadily. A woman has rung about a problem she had with her sewage. She’s been without a toilet for five weeks, five different plumbers turned up and couldn’t solve her problem. One left a ratinfested drain open, another left his rod inside the drain. Her seven-yearold kept picking up the plumbers’ filthy cleaning rods and sticking them in his mouth.

It must be lunchtime. Off to Good Fare’s for pasta and apple crumble.

09.12.03

Gay sex shops; Viking church builders; superbugs; Evangelical Eritrean protesters photographed from upstairs windows by sinister looking agency staff; grey-hooded gangs on push bikes; serial pissing and shitting in phone boxes; mince pies in old people’s homes; a Turner Prize winner posing without a dress, for a change; leaning towers gaining planning permission; prancing kids in nativity plays, udders and sheep and not a single shepherd in sight; crime, crime, and more crime. Another quiet day in little old inner-city Islington.

I’m starting to like the place.

10.12.03

I finally locate the borough commander and he is a gentleman. Three stories slip my way and a general understanding. Another bridge built.

Copy comes thick and fast, the room is sweltering with activity, a whirl, as around me the Camden New Journal shifts into a manic overdrive.

It’s their deadline today. A whirlwind is approaching.

I duck out of the office and on to the tube to Highbury to cover the Arsenal v Lokomotiv Moscow match. It’s the coldest night of the winter and I’m wearing a denim jacket. I’m surrounded by cosy looking Russians with furry hats and vodka smiles. Both teams make it through to the next round, which is nice. I’m off to Paris next week – which hasn’t gone down well, so I’m not sure I’ll have a job to come back to.

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