I HAD an idyllic childhood, which may come as something as a surprise to those of you who have had first hand experience of my rock ‘n roll train crash that was my life over the past decade or so (otherwise known as to friends, family and various groups whose names all tend to end in anonymous as my ‘Jim Morrison’ phase)
I grew up in the wonderful North Staffordshire countryside, with loving parents, a large house and expensive education. (I did very little academically, but I do have good manners). I was even Head Boy at Prep school for goodness sake. I wanted for nothing.
But the one thing that I never had was a paper round as, living a good five miles from the nearest newsagents, there was no way my 11-year-old self would be able to make it there and back on my Grifter before school. So I missed out on ticking one of the boxes marked essential childhood experiences.
My chance to finally knock another one off the bucket list came earlier this month. Our regular distributor was taking a break in the UK, so I volunteered to help out. One of the trade secrets of being a freelance journalist is your day to day life is very much like being on active service – long periods of boredom followed by explosive bursts of violence and terror. It’s like that on deadline day at the Olive Press, I can assure you. I’ve seen colleagues with what they used to term in Vietnam the ‘thousand yard stare’ – the look combat troops used to get from seeing too much, too young…
As a freelance with a trusty Freelander, I duly loaded several thousand copies of the Olive Press into the back of my 4×4 and set off for a day of delivering. All was going well until the very last drop of the day in central Marbella. Rather than find a space I decided to double park and run in with the bundle of newspapers.
Which was when disaster struck. I leapt back into the Land Rover, tired and sweaty but looking forward to a hot shower and a sticky bun when I got back to my place on the lake, turned the key in the ignition, and nothing happened. I checked under the bonnet, but not seeing a giant ON/OFF switch (that’s about as far as my mechanical knowledge goes) I was stuck. A quick call to my mechanic established that he was in the UK, so I did what any cool, calm, 40something, would do.
I went into complete and utter meltdown.
I ranted. I raved, and just short of attacking the 4×4 with a branch a la Basil Fawlty, I completely lost it.
Meanwhile traffic was building up behind me and showing all the restraint that you would expect from a street full of Spanish motorists. Just before I had a complete nervous breakdown (which normally only happens on deadline day) my mobile rang. It was my mechanic. “Try changing the battery in the immobiliser on your keyring” he advised.
I sprinted to the nearest Opencor, brought a battery for less than a fiver, changed it and the beast fired up first time! With whoops of joy I set off back to the lake, swearing that next time I go delivering newspapers it will be with 2 litre bottle of water, packed lunch, and spare batteries!
Also this month, I have been standing in for the lovely Hannah Murray on the Breakfast Show. I love presenting the Breakfast Show, mainly for the fact that as I’m live on air at 8am, it normally takes me half the show for the coffee to kick in and me to properly wake up. You’ve heard the oft used comment ‘I could do this in my sleep?’ On the Breakfast Show that is literally true for the first hour. My only concern however was that I would be able to get up at 6am to drive down from the lake, as my steam powered alarm clock is suspect at the best of times.
But I reckoned without the aid of two of my cats aka ‘The Boys’, Vader and Genghis. After my first 6am wake up they deduced that this must be the new feeding time and since then at 5.55am every morning I am greeted by yowls, howls and the banging on the bedroom door of the terrible two. In fact, I’ve dispensed with the alarm clock completely!