Monday, 27 July 2009

Rob Ryan

Rob Ryan is my absolute favourite artist. His paper cutouts are beautiful and romantic, and when I saw this pink card of his I couldn't resist buying it. The design is delicately cut by a laser, making it look fabulously fragile. My copy of his book 'This is For You' must be tired from my incessant flicking through it. 
His designs are romantic and about falling in love, and I have fallen in love with them.


Sunday, 26 July 2009

Day 5

Day 5:

My last day at the Evening Standard. Pushing open the glass doors of Northcliffe House for the last time I felt a squeeze of sadness in my stomach. The receptionist greeted me with a smile and a “Hello Libby”. It seems she has become used to seeing me. When I told her it was my last day she asked whether I had enjoyed myself. I replied with an enthusiastic yes, and probably something to do with Rupert Everett!

I planned to leave straight after work, so it was dragging a suitcase that I went up the escalator, into the lift and through the doors marked ‘Evening Standard’ for my last time. When I arrived I was thrilled to see a photo of me and David Cameron, and a short piece about my book in the paper. We had struggled to get much press coverage of the day so this (despite being a few months after the meeting) made me jump with excitement. Everyone usually throws their Evening Standard away in the afternoon, so I went around collecting unwanted copies. I left with armfuls - plenty to show proudly to my family.

In the morning I was given the task of skimming through a biography that they had been given to review. It is safe to say I shall not be purchasing said book. I won’t go into details, but I shall just say that I hope they publish my comments, so that I can save any innocent readers stumbling across it.

Later on I was given a short piece to write which the journalist seemed pleased with. I don’t know if they will use it but I think any writing is good experience. After writing the story I went for my lunch. Sitting in the canteen I glowed with happiness as I thought about the amazing week I have had.

I have learnt so much, and been so lucky. I had expected to be making cups of tea and photocopying, but instead I was trusted to write stories and interview an actor. Not only do I feel I have learnt a lot about journalism, but I think I have learnt a lot about myself as well. Mainly this week has been about confidence. I love writing, but was worried that perhaps when the time came I wouldn’t be able to do it. After the event with Rupert Everett I had a terrible premonition of arriving home and sitting in front of my laptop, frozen. I have never really had to write with such strict deadlines before; although I set myself deadlines for the book it was more a matter of days than half an hour. I have found I actually love the pressure. When you have to write something in half an hour or an hour, you just do it.

The deadline for the evening edition of the paper is at 2, so after lunch I was free to go. I had paid a visit to Hotel Chocolat and bought chocolates for everyone to say thank you. I also gave them a card, and a copy of my book to add to their newly tidy bookshelf. I don’t think they will ever realise how grateful I am to them. After hundreds of letters and phone calls to different papers and magazines, they were the first people to give me work experience. This was also my first time inside any paper or magazine, and has convinced me I do want to be a journalist, so it is therefore something I will remember forever.

I said good-bye and thank you to everyone and left Northcliffe House sadly, but also with a spring in my step after a fantastic week. I got a taxi to Waterloo, where a train would speed me back to my quiet town. As well as a love of journalism, I have discovered a love of London, so it was strange to be leaving. But it is not for long. I am now home for a week before I am back to London to start a month’s work experience at Cosmopolitan. Without a doubt, I am a very lucky girl.

I know I said yesterday that I think I don’t want to work on a paper and that I am not interested in the politics that are mainly written about here, but I also think this has been the perfect start for me. I have been given a real insight as well as being given the freedom and trust to actually write and get my writing in the paper. Perhaps the Londoner’s Diary isn’t the exact place I want to work, but when I think about going to school instead, I would be back there like a shot.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Day 4

Day 4:

I can’t believe tomorrow will be my last day. This week has gone so quickly, but at the same time I am tired and looking forward to my own bed. It may be smaller than the lovely Queen-size that I have been sleeping in this week, but it is home, and rest after a crazy (but amazing) week.

Today was a fairly quiet day. The constant noise of tapping keyboards around me told me that everyone was busy and had better things to do than think up tasks for me or answer my questions. I kept out of the way with a copy of Vogue.

One of the journalists gave me the task of researching books that are coming out this autumn. They like to review interesting ones, mainly by politicians. (Yesterday I was handed a cookbook written by a former politician to read through and look for possible stories. You would be surprised how much you can find in a book full of game recipes.) I trawled through publishers’ websites, and although I found a couple of interesting new releases, the main thing I found was how many books there are being published. The sheer quantity was phenomenal. I did some research on wikipedia and found that the UK publishes the most books in the world per year, and that in 2005 there were apparently 206,000 new titles published in the UK. I imagined ‘Love Pink’ floating around on this ocean of books and couldn’t help feeling a little disheartened. But I decided to look on the bright side. There were lots of books, but there were also lots of bad books. Katie Price’s latest novel ‘Sapphire’ - need I say any more? And I also got a “brilliant research” from one of the journalists which cheered me up considerably.

Later on in the day when I noticed the journalists around me sinking back into their chairs a little more, and when the sound of typing had died down, I asked if there was anything else I could do to help. I was told that actually there wasn’t that much that needed doing at the moment, apart from boring things that I probably wouldn’t want to do. Like tidying.

I practically leapt out of my seat. Before they knew what had hit them I was sorting through the mountains of old newspapers and carrying piles to a recycling bin at the other end of the office. There is a huge wheelie bin for waste paper at this end of the office, but it was already full to the brim. Thank goodness they recycle here, as I think they must get through a few forests worth of paper every year. The newspaper is given early editions of magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Tatler everly month. On top of this everyone in the office is given a copy of the Evening Standard twice a day, and each morning the editions of several other newspapers float around from desk to desk.

Perhaps I am mad, but I couldn’t believe my luck to have been given the chance to get my hands on the office. I am not a particularly tidy person, but I take pride in, and enjoy, organisation. The editor of the Londoner’s Diary is also book editor for Tatler, so gets sent boxes and boxes of books, which then end up piled on the shelves. As I sorted through the dusty mountains I nearly got knocked out by a pile teetering haphazardly on the edge. I separated all the hardbacks from the paperbacks, and was ready to start alphabetising the whole lot but didn’t have the time (or the height to reach the books on the top shelf!).

Although I am looking forward to being home and seeing my friends and family, I also think it is a shame I am leaving tomorrow. I have just mastered my journey on the underground, how to squeeze my way persistently into the overcrowded train and how it is essential to be either listening to music or reading a) the Metro or b) a good paperback. I know which are the best meals in the canteen, and my desk has started to really feel like my desk. But at the same time I feel that a week is really only a second here. I have been struck by how efficient and (sometimes frighteningly) competent everyone is. They know exactly what they are doing, what is going on and who they need to call to get that scoop. To get to that stage I think you really need to have been working here for a long time. So although I have been given incredible experiences and have learnt an invaluable amount, I have still been on the outside. Which is why leaving tomorrow will be hard, as I feel there is so much more I would like to learn.

On the other hand I think I have learnt that magazine journalism is what I want to do; I don’t think I want to work on a newspaper. Particularly at the Londoner’s Diary where the articles are so short, it is much more about what you write about and getting a scoop and an angle, rather than how you write and the depth with which you go into a story. Perhaps writing for the fashion section of the newspaper would be different, but that is another thing I have established. I am not interested in politics, I am not even particularly interested in celebs (however fantastic meeting Rupert Everett was). I am interested in fashion. I love fashion, and that is what I want to write about more than anything else.

After work my godmother took me out for a meal. I am tired tonight so was feeling homesick, but seeing her and her children was like being among family. It was also so nice to share what I have been up to. To see her get all enthusiastic and say how proud she is of me also perked me up. I think it easy to feel despondent being surrounded by such intimidatingly professional people, and realising I have so much to learn, but then I also realised tonight that I have already learnt so much, and hope that I have made the most of the experience. It has also given me confidence; I know I was extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to go to the Rupert Everett preview, but they wouldn’t have used what I had written if they thought it was dreadful.

For me my highest compliment and sense of achievement will be if on Monday morning they look at the empty desk where I sat for a week and say ‘she was nice’, and if they remember me. Unfortunately I will never know.

The editor of the Londoner’s Diary told me that my photo and an article on my book should be in the paper tomorrow, so I am going to sleep looking forward to my last day, of what has been a brilliant and eye-opening week.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Day 3

Day 3:

When I arrived in the office today I was met by my article on Rupert Everett staring up at me from the pages of the Evening Standard. There is something amazing about seeing something you have written in print, the thrill of which is one of the reasons I want to be a journalist. The editor of the Londoner’s Diary said the piece was well written, but he could have just told me I had won a holiday to a Maldivian island; I had been so nervous about what I had written that his small compliment made my day. The article may be short, and my name isn’t acknowledged (none of the pieces on the Londoner’s Diary are, but oh - I know!) but I still took home a pile of copies to show proudly to my family.

Perhaps last night was a test, because today I was given more stories to write. They were only small, and will probably come to nothing, but at least I was being asked. I tried to find stories myself to write about, but found it difficult without having the knowledge of living in London or the resource of contacts to talk to. I asked one of the journalists where they get the leads for their stories from, and was interested to learn that they come from a wide range of sources, perhaps most importantly from contacts amassed after years in the field, but also from industry websites and press releases. Sometimes other newspapers and magazines look to the Evening Standard for stories, but as they are considered leaders in the industry it rarely happens the other way around.

One of my jobs today was to sort through a pile of invitations and write events into the diary. Journalists at the Londoner’s Diary are invited to a huge number of different occasions, from private viewings at galleries, to award ceremonies and fundraisers. The sheer quantity of invitations showed me how busy these journalists are. As I was organising them, I found the invitations themselves interesting. Some appeared to have cost a fortune to produce, from writing etched onto a small square that looked like a thick card or leather, to loopy writing embossed on card that felt like silk. Others however, disappointed and surprised me. How can you expect someone to be enthused enough to attend your event when you can only be bothered to print some dull looking text onto a scrappy piece of A4 paper? Most in the pile of invitations were for events that had long since passed, and as I sorted through them the Monica inside of me cringed. I am sure the journalists here have much more important things to do than tidy, but the irritatingly organised side of me yearns to get my hands on this office.

After eating my lunch in the canteen, I returned to empty desks. One of the perks, it appears, of being a journalist is long lunches. No one had really informed me of this, so when they return I am asked “Have you been here all this time?”. Perhaps I could have spent the time shopping on Kensington High Street, but in fact I preferred where I was. Shopping, I would have felt guilty and have been constantly looking at my watch wondering when I should be back. Besides, I was happier sitting at my desk and watching what was going on in the office, trying to glean as much as possible about this journalism business.

At one point in the afternoon as I looked up from my desk, I saw the woman whose job I would kill for. Alexandra Shullman, editor of Vogue, was being shown around the office by the editor of the Evening Standard. She came down to our end of the office and talked to the other journalists, but left before I had time (or the guts) to jump up from my seat and ask for work experience at Vogue. When she had left I told the journalists how much I wanted to be a fashion journalist, and they suggested emailing her and asking about a work experience placement. Of course, I had already tried Vogue, but another email is surely worth a shot.

Later on the editor of the Londoner’s Diary got talking to me about ‘Love Pink’. I didn’t know at what stage in the conversation it would be appropriate to pull out the copy I just ‘happened’ to have in my bag (my Mum persuaded me to have one on me, just in case). I told him about my meeting with David Cameron, and he said it could make a good story and could I write something up about it? An article might be included in the Evening Standard tomorrow; watch this space.

I left the office today feeling incredibly happy. I smiled sillily at people in the street (a very unLondon thing to do, I have found). On my way back I stopped at Waterstone’s where I sat in happiness and a leather chair to flick through some poetry books (two of which I ended up buying, Persian Poems and Indian Love Poems both beautiful pocket sized hardbacks I couldn’t resist).

Now I am back at Wandsworth Common, completely content and looking forward to my next day.

Of all the things I have learnt on my work experience so far, the most important thing I learnt today; to be confident and have faith. Last night I was so anxious about my Rupert Everett piece and was convinced the journalists at the Evening Standard weren’t going to like my writing. But no one is going to want to employ me as a journalist if I don’t even believe myself that I can write. And I hope that my enjoyment of my work experience so far is evidence that, despite the slog and difficulties along the way, hard work does pay off.

(Oh, and one other thing I learnt today: to save my work as I write it - I wrote this entire blog on my computer and had just finished when it crashed and I lost the whole thing. So this is the second version. A somewhat harsh, but important lesson, I think).


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Day 2

Day 2:

Today I met and interviewed Rupert Everett.
In the afternoon I caught the bus to Piccadilly and the home of the BAFTAs, where Rupert Everett’s new documentary ‘The Scandalous Adventures of Lord Byron was being previewed. I had been sent to write about it. At first I thought I had got off at the wrong bus stop, but the famous golden mask above a doorway across the road told me I had come to the right place. It was with a little trepidation that I stepped inside and headed to the reception, although introducing myself as ‘Libby Page from the Evening Standard’ did give me a guilty thrill. I went up some stairs and into the Princess Anne Theatre, where I was met by Rupert Everett’s PR people, and journalists from several newspapers and magazines. A crowd of photographers and cameras huddled at the front of the room waiting for Rupert Everett to arrive.

Although nervous to be on my own in a room full of high-flying journalists and not really sure of what was going on, I tried to talk to people. So, how long have you been working at the Evening Standard then Libby? Um, 2 days. I was happily surprised how supportive everyone was when I said I was on work experience; no one shouted ‘get out you phoney, only real journalists allowed here’ as the nervous me half-expected.

The room went quiet when Rupert Everett arrived. But only for an instant, before the wall of cameras started clicking and flashing. Turn this way Mr. Everett. One look over your shoulder please Mr. Everett. The camera flashes illuminated his face, stronger and rougher than I had expected, but still possessing that famous surly expression.

He then sat and and talked to journalist after journalist who formed a line to interview him. I had not been expecting to get a chance to talk to him, and I had no questions prepared, but when one of the PR girls organising the queue signalled to me, I wasn’t about to say no. Instead I shook his hand and sat down next to him. It was strange to be sat next to someone you are so used to seeing on a tv screen. Watching films you form a preconceived idea of someone; he was surprising and typical Everett all at the same time. More muscular than I had thought, and taller, he certainly doesn’t look his 50 years. His voice sounds like chocolate and I couldn’t help but feel in awe at the grave passion with which he spoke about Byron and the documentary.

I asked him what in particular fascinated him about Lord Byron. He cited his shadowy, brooding and mysterious character as one of the elements. “Studying Lord Byron is like chasing a ghost, which makes it constantly fascinating”.

Everett follows Byron’s journey through the Mediterranean, from Lisbon to Albania. He presents his journey with wit and an arrogance that I find at times endearing, at others alienating. It is a romp of a documentary, and for this I think perhaps Everett is perfectly suited.

Hearing Everett speak and watching the documentary, it is easy to draw comparisons between the presenter and his subject. After the documentary there was a question and answer session, in which he admitted to being “vaguely bipolar” like Byron. “If you have to be like someone he’s a great person to be like, but Byron was a much more serious person than I am.” I would disagree. Despite his rambunctious wit and peals of theatrical laughter, I found Rupert Everett to also have a grave air of seriousness about him. He was in total control of the room from the second he came in, and perhaps it was down to a theatrical arrogance, but I would say it was more intelligent than that.

Overall the evening was a real experience. My first interview; I could have asked better questions and written a better article, but then everyone has to learn somewhere. And if nothing else, I had a lovely time sipping white wine and chatting to journalists in the BAFTA bar before the preview!


Work Experience, Day 1

This week I am lucky enough to be in London doing work experience at the Evening Standard. I got the placement all because of 'Love Pink'; the editor replied to my 'pink' questions and when the book was finished I sent him a copy and inquired about work experience. He passed my name on to the editor of the 'Londoner's Diary' section of the paper, and here I am!

Over the next week I will write a diary of my experience.

Day 1:

On my first day of work experience at the Evening Standard I arrive over an hour early. In a nervous attempt to make a good impression I may have substantially overestimated the number of delays I might have encountered. My train was not cancelled, the tube did not berak down, yes I had arrived at the right underground station, and no I did not struggle with my map and end up completely lost.

Arriving in front of the huge glass fronted Northcliffe House, home to the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday to name a few, I feel incredibly small. I tug at the denim pencil skirt I finally decided on wearing after a sudden panic this morning. I tried to be incredibly organised, writing a detailed list of my outfits for the week, but a discarded dress lies in a crumpled pile on my bed, evidence of my nerve induced indecision.

I wait until 9:15 (I am supposed to arrive at 9:30 but deam this acceptably eager - perhaps 8:00 would have been a little much) before pushing the revolving door marked 'Visitors'. In the reception I am greeted by newspapers and magazines meticulously fanned out on a table, and a friendly receptionist. I am handed a pass which says 'Libby Page, work experience' and which dispells my previous fears. What if I turned up on the wrong day? What if I was told there must be some mistake? Libby Page? Libby Page who? Work experience? I'm afraid you must be mistaken.

"Take the escalator and then the glass lift to floor 2 for the Evening Standard," I am informed. The escalator climbs into the center of the building, where I emerge onto a bright, open floor. Looking up I can see glass fronted offices climbing up to the huge glass roof above. Water slides down an impressive fountain, people in suits sit at leather sofas, and everywhere there are people moving and talking with a calm sense of purpose.

After taking the glass lift as instructed (I feel a slight Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment) I arrive on the second floor, to a pond filled with goldfish the size of my arm. Edging past said fish (they swim frighteningly close to the surface of the water and I am scared they will jump out at me) I open a glass door and am met by Olivia, the young woman who booked me in for the work experience. She leads me through the news room and I try to take in as much as possible. The large open plan room is filled with desks and computers. As I pass I look over people's shoulders at the foetal stages of today's Evening Standard. Newspapers, magazines and books are piled in every available space on desks. Despite this apparent disorder I am also struck by how in control and ordered everyone seems. Olivia informs me that the first deadline is at lunchtime, so people will be frantic around then. But in fact when the time approaches there are no raised voices and no one dashing around the office like I had, perhaps naively, imagined. Sitting at a desk here feels like being part of a machine. Perhaps there are tensions and dramas, but it is still a machine that churns out papers every day, without fail.

I am working on the Londoner's Diary section of the newspaper, and join a small team of people at the far end of the office. Everyone is really friendly, but obviously busy. I try not to feel in the way but to take in as much as possible. I am shown the resource library, a room full of past newspapers and magazines. At two points in the day everyone is delivered a photocopy of the Londoner's Diary and a copy of the newspaper. I want to get a real feel for the newspaper and the writing style, so by the end of the day I nearly know the articles in the paper and on the website off by heart.

At lunch I eat in the canteen on the first floor, and as I sit with my meal and book I wonder if I look out of place here, or whether I could fit in to this cool, bright, breasy place.

In the afternoon I am asked whether I wouldn't mind going to an event tomorrow night. Mind?! Something about Ruper Everett... I leave feeling excited about the next day.

After work I do some shopping - Northcliffe House is conveniently situated on Kensington High Street - before returning back to Wandsworth Common, where I am staying with friends of my godmother's. I manage to get on the wrong line on the underground, but get off at the next stop and get back on track, eventually arriving back safe and sound. Despite having been sat down all day I am exhausted - I suspect nerves are to blame. As I sink into my bed I am struck by a girl alone in the Big City moment of homesickness, but it soon passes and I fall asleep looking forward to my next day.

These are a few of my favourite things... (pink on the high street)

Light pink ruffled dress, Reiss, £135.50
Grey, purple and pink block dress, ASOS, £12
Pink shift dress with flower sequins, ASOS, £33
Salmon pink summer dress, Lipsy, £25
Pink tweed cropped riding jacket, Sara Berman at Urban Outiftters, £149.99
Pink polka dot heels, Irregular Choice, £64.99
A touch of pink, Dorothy Perkins, £45
Light pink bow shift dress, Monsoon, £135
Baby pink court shoes, Dorothy Perkins, £28
Pink brogues, Topshop, £60
Hot pink ruffled mac, Miss Selfridge, £60
Neon heart sunglasses, Topshop, £15
Coral jersey boyfriend blazer, Topshop, £50

I think there is a shade of pink to suit everyone, and with a huge range of pinks on the high street there is plenty of choice. These are some of my favourite pink things on the high street at the moment; I am particularly pining after the fabulous pink and red polka dotty heels. I think if Dorothy had the choice she would abandon her red glittery numbers and go for these instead. But she would have to be quick; Minnie Mouse and me would both be fighting her to to get our hands on a pair.


Thursday, 9 July 2009

Good Enough to Eat

I have heard of rose flavoured chocolate and sugar frosted violets, but these floral fancies at 
 Jane Packer’s stand at the Hampton Court flower show really are the icing on the cake. I almost expect to see a sleepy dormouse climbing out of the flowery teapot and the Madhatter tucking in to a slice of fat roses.

It is strange, but my mouth knows what a pink rose would taste like, and the exact sweetness of a hydrangea.

Pink union jacks, floral teapot, petal cakes; this is a tea party I dream of being invited to.