Anila Baig on Perry Austin-Clarke

I saw my first editor, Perry Austin- Clarke of the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford, as a bit of a father figure.

Well, they both have beards, a fuller figure and look slightly disapproving.

joined the Telegraph & Argus in an unconventional manner. My boy
had been born a few months before and while he was crawling around
getting his fingers trapped in cupboards I would read the paper and
enjoy the musings of columnists like Jim Greenhalf and Helen Mead.

thought it was highly significant that there was no specialist column
on Friday, the holiest of days for Muslims, so wrote in suggesting I
fill that vacancy. I’d had my first article published in the T&A
when I was 16 and sent in other bits and pieces, and I’d had this vague
sort of ambition to be a journalist when I was younger but it had been
all but beaten out of me.

I didn’t hear back for ages but then
received a letter from Perry saying he thought it was a good idea, and
could I send some examples of my writing.

I fired off four columns on my favourite subject (me) and waited. And waited.

I summoned up the courage to ring, the editor’s secretary said: “Oh
yes, they were very good. They are going in from Friday.”

photographer came round to take a new byline picture, which was a
relief because the one I took at 16, complete with Deidre Barlow-style
glasses and mono-eyebrow, was shocking. And I became the Friday

I didn’t really have much to do with Perry until I
joined the paper full-time as a trainee. I’d done a teacher training
course in the meantime, but didn’t fancy shouting at a load of kids all

So I became a reporter where people shouted at me instead.

best advice was to read the paper thoroughly and know it inside out.
The plan was to turn me into a news reporter and it wasn’t long before
the column was axed.

After four years I was ready for a fresh
challenge – and the hours were better so I applied for a job on the
Yorkshire Post. I couldn’t believe it when I was offered the job.

was really sweet to me the day I left. I told him how I owed everything
to him and he said he felt vindicated and was pleased for me, adding
that if it didn’t work out at the YP I could have my old job back: “As
long as we have a vacancy, of course.”

But I loved the YP. I got
a chance to do features and the first week my column ran I had a page
one picture blurb. I bumped into Perry in Marks & Spencer.

“Back where you started?” he said. But I’m sure, even in his disapproving look, there was a twinkle in his eye. Or maybe it was just the lighting. 

Anila Baig is a feature writer at The Sun

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