To be printed 08/07/10.
Here's a question: why does anybody become a journalist? Is it for the sheer joy of communicating vital (or not so vital) information to others? Is it because they read Evelyn Waugh's Scoop and thought it was all true? Is it because the other option was a painting themselves gold and starting a career as a living statue?
No. It's for the freebies. And if anyone claims otherwise, they are lying through their canapé. I have no pension plan, no health benefits, no in-office gym or even a particularly comfortable desk chair, but I do have daily opportunities to blag myself hoards of wonderful tat I never knew I needed.
Things I've been gifted in the last few months include: a playsuit, a handbag, a pair of shoes, a voucher for Specsavers, a selection of condiments, four bottles of wine, a case of chocolate, a silk scarf, a tip to New York that never happened and, by far the best, a diamante-encrusted USB stick. And I'm only a rookie, a journalist of the most amateurish breed it's possible to be while actually getting paid for it. If I'm raking in this kind of booty, people like Jane Moore and AA Gill must be driving around in golden chariots being fed free caviar by winged cherubs.
I'm told that eventually the novelty wears off, but what a sad day that will be. When one is too jaded and professional to treat one's career like a perpetual game of Supermarket Sweep, grabbing everything you can before Dale Winton arrives and demotes you to the post room. Until that day comes, if anyone needs me, I'll be the girl sitting under the buffet table with pastry crumbs down her front, rifling through goodie bags to check they're all 'equal'.
Of course, ninety percent of all the free stuff is either ugly, the wrong size or something you have no use for, like contact lens fluid or a car air freshener. But that isn't the point. The point is that YOU DIDN'T PAY FOR IT. And as Janet and Luther told us all those years ago, the best things in life are free.
There are a couple of downsides though. Firstly, there's the judgement of other, older, more freebie-weary hacks. Nothing spoils the fun of looting more than somebody from somewhere proper, eyeing you up and down with a look that says, "oh lore, actually taking the freebies are we? How vulgar." It makes you feel like the guest at the royal banquet who accidentally drinks the finger bowl.
Then there's the fact that, enormous though your joy is, you aren't really allowed to go on about it. Because unless you're sharing your stash with them, and often even if you are, people find it really irritating when you talk about all your free stuff. I mean, you've just read 400 words about it and I'll bet you're already dreaming about ramming a biro into my gullet, aren't you? A biro you paid for.