Sunday, 4 October 2009

In which I work at The Guardian. But not like that.

Printed 21/08/09.

Right, so if I really plan on making this my career, this writing-things-in-the-hope people-will-read-them-as-they’re-wrapping-up-some-broken-crockery, I have to accept the reality of the situation. Which is: that I won’t always be writing good things. Or interesting things. Or things I myself would want to read as I’m wrapping up broken crockery.

Sometimes I will even be responsible for writing the things that really annoy me when other people write them. Which, to compile a quick list in no particular order, is: copious use of the word “”; putting “gate” on the end of things to make them sound newsworthy; copying and pasting people’s Twitter statuses under the guise of cutting-edge modern journalism; and most of all, when Heat, Reveal, Cellulite Weekly and similar publish gripping, earth-wobbling front page headlines like “Cheryl Cole dies!” or “Fern Britton runs away with James Corden!”, then it turns out (after a small-scale checkout dither and £1.40 expenditure) that they actually meant “Cheryl Cole dies… or rather, dyes, her hair a vaguely 14-year-old shade of purple”, and “Fern Britton runs away with James Corden… in charity half-marathon to raise awareness for the victims of unsuccessful celeb workout videos.”

But I can sympathise with this last one. Firstly because it sells magazines. If I see “Peaches’ Pregnancy Horror” on the front of something, I will be buying that it. So will you. And we are both incredibly intelligent people. It could be written on a tramp’s face and I would still be giving him 50p to tell me that Geldof was up the duff (in a dream she had last Thursday).

And secondly, because that kind of exceptional, far-fetched spin is the very kind I’m practising myself at the moment. You see, I’ve finally got a job. And here’s the front cover headline: I am working at The Guardian.
Wow! The Guardian! Job of dreams! Omgzzzz! Well, no. I’ve been bandying around this answer at parties, and found that after the beautiful words have left my mouth, I can last an average of three guilty seconds before I have to open the metaphorical magazine and reveal the rest of the story. Because, to quote an ‘unamed’ gossip writer on the subject of Brad/Jen/Ange-gate, “what we tell is the truth… but there are different versions of the truth…”

Technically, I am working at The Guardian. Theoretically, I am. Which makes people coo and look at me with new respect, like they’ve just found out I can secretly fly. But in reality, I am working at Guardian Professionals, the bit nobody knows exists. I am doing the dullest, worst paid, most tenuously connected-to-journalism job in the whole company. And what’s more, I’m doing it in an entirely different building to the shiny one where the shiny journos live. I will never, unless I hack into her documents folder on the intranet and find something juicy, have the opportunity to befriend Hadley Freeman. I’m the lowest common denominator in my dream workplace. I reckon this is how Ringo felt.

But there are compensations. 1) The free newspaper every day (you know, the one I don’t have a hope in hell of ever being in. That one). 2) The free coffee machine that, as we discovered on Friday, also does hot chocolate. 3) The email address. Which I love so much I’m almost scrawling it on lampposts. Because however badly paid, however tedious, however much of an impostor the job is, it is still much better to be me@the guardian than me@the corner shop in my pyjamas. And that is the truth. Or at least, my version of it.

* * * * * * * * * *

My youngest sibling has just returned from a trip to Romania. I am jealous of this on two counts – firstly, because I have reached the ripe old age of 21 and never been beyond Belgium. And secondly, because he has come back with a new found respect for the fullness of life, and derided Facebook as a waste of time.

Good for him, enlightenment and everything, but the philosophy sits rather at odds with my new life as an employed person. When you work in an office, Facebook is gold. Facebook is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. It’s the affirmation that though you spend your days in a relationship with the font menu and regard a trip the loos as passable excitement, there are still people out there who like you. Or at least, “like” you. And until I get the chance to go to Romania, I think Facebook is as close to a full life as I can muster.

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