Friday, 17 September 2010

Read no further unless you have a strong stomach

Read no further unless you have a strong stomach. Today’s post regards my first overnight assignment as a young journalist when my body rebelled against the quantities of free booze I had greedily supped.
I was about 24 and had scraped a third in Sociology at a London Poly and was desperate for a job. I chased employment in personnel management and publishing however my preference was for journalism.
My politics was left of centre but I leapt at the offer of work on an industrial magazine attached to the CBI (a bosses’ confederation).
I got off to a good start. About the second week I was told to cover the conversion of a major steelworks in the north (I can’t remember where) from coal or ‘town’ gas to North Sea gas. Hardly Pulitzer Prize but suitable for a cub reporter.
The early start required that hacks journey up the night before. Details are hazy as I will explain later (there’s still time to check out of this) - I was probably drinking on the train and again at the evening meal.
Formalities over the journalists and our hosts retired to the hotel bar for a nightcap. The older members (anyone over 30) drifted away until there were three or four of us youngsters remaining.
We had not long before been students and the opportunity to take advantage of a free bar was a dream come true. I was on Scotch and ginger ale – my idea of a sophisticated drink.
We reasoned that the bar would close at 10 – and drank accordingly. But 11 and midnight passed. Near comatose I staggered away eventually in the early hours and was lucky to make it to my bedroom.
(Last chance) There is a way to accommodate the runs and vomiting together if you get the right rhythm. You sit on the toilet seat and dump your stuff, stand up, turn round, and throw up. Sit down and repeat the procedure.
This is difficult if the bathroom is spinning ever faster. On no account should you, as I did, stand up, dump your stuff, then sit down and vomit – in your only suit.
I woke on the bathroom floor at around 8am and spent the next hour trying as best I could to clean up my suit.
It was as well the coach left for the steelworks at around 9am; any later and I might have been tempted to ring the office, tender my resignation, and abandon journalism.
It was hell at the foundry – the noise and heat was unnerving even if you weren’t suffering from alcoholic poisoning.
But when you’re young the body has an amazing ability to repair itself. Come lunchtime I was back on the pork pies and booze – my whiffy suit gave me a clear berth at the buffet table.
Forty years later the National Union of Journalists made me a life member.

1 comment:

What do you think? GC