Saturday, 9 April 2011

A week in the life

It has been a brilliant week, and I'm not just talking about the weather.

Sunshine has a wonderful way of brightening the streets with smiles. The first tickle of a sunbeam and everyone seems to shed a winter coat of stress and gloom to reveal the fresh-faced contentment lurking beneath. When I am doing something I love I feel like sunshine. This has been one sunny week.

I think they may have to escort me off the premises come next Friday; I certainly won't be leaving the Guardian HQ willingly. Maybe it's something about the people: everyone I have met has been incredibly down to earth and friendly. Walking through the building there is always someone ahead of you to hold the door open with a smile. "Oh what a lovely spring skirt," someone said to me in the lift one afternoon. "Fab red jacket," said another with a huge beam.

Or perhaps it is the office itself. The building hugs the bank of Regent's Canal so at lunchtime I sit in the buzzing cafeteria looking out over colourful houseboats and the odd kyaker drifting up the canal. Throughout the building are dotted clusters of sofas and chairs where informal meetings take place. Everything is beautifully organised; colourful signs tell you which way to head for different sections and announce the uses of different rooms. It was only on closer inspection that I noticed that all of these signs are made from cardboard.

But maybe it is simply the fact that I'm getting a glimpse at a job I would kill for.

Watching the fashion editors in action is impressive to say the least and, more so than anything I have done before, shows me what I want to do in the future. They sit and they write. A few phone interviews and some frantic typing later and their writing can be up on the website or sent off to print. The pace of the daily newspaper is something that I love and feel so fortunate to have experienced.

Although everyone here is down to earth and friendly, I have had nervous moments when it has suddenly hit me: this is the Guardian. This is big and I am small. One such moment arrives every morning as I sit down at my desk. Because the desk I am sitting at is not my desk at all, it is Jess Cartner-Morley's desk. The fashion editor of the Guardian, she is one of my favourite fashion writers: the admiration stretches so far that I mentioned her in my LCF interview. Perhaps it is silly, people are all just people after all, but it has still felt very surreal and poignant to be sat in the chair of someone I look up to so much. At the moment I am borrowing the chair and feel like a child playing dress up in her mother's heels, taking nervous wobbly steps. But one day I hope to be able to walk tall myself. Jess Cartner-Morley has been away this week, but watch this space for when I actually meet her.

It has been inspiring to watch everyone in the team work. And it is very much a team. If someone gets writer's block they ask for help and when a piece is finished they will show each other and get feedback before going to print. It makes me realise all the more that although it can attract a certain genre of ambition (that can often manifest itself as bitchiness) this is not an industry for people who don't like working with people.

As well as getting to know the fashion team I have also met some other interns working at different sections of the paper. One lunchtime three of us sat in the sunshine by the canal and chatted. My heart sank somewhat, however, as they reeled off the different papers they have interned at. Then I realised they were all 25 and 7 years my senior, and my heart bobbed up again a little bit.

After lunch it was back to the office to research the exes of Kate Middelton and Prince William. It has become a joke at the fashion desk that the royal family should take a restraining order out against me. This week one of my tasks has been to research the royal wedding; one of the fashion editors jokingly dubbed me their royal correspondent. What she really meant was that I now know an unhealthy amount about all things royal.

This time last week I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Five pages of a newspaper dedicated to what brand of loo roll the soon-to-be-weds would be using at their wedding? Really? (Ok perhaps I exaggerate... But still.) My problem was that I just didn't see how a royal wedding had anything to do with anyone who didn't holiday in Balmoral or who didn't have friends with names like Tatty or Hetty or Titty or Totty. That was until I discovered the joys of the street party. One of my jobs this week was to look through archive pictures from the royal wedding in 1981. It was like an epiphany of bunting, pimm's and picnics. So THAT's what all the fuss is about. All it took, it seems, was the prospect of dressing up in a Union Jack and spending a day partying in the sunshine to turn me into a royalist. My family were more than a little shocked when I came home for the weekend and discussed at great lengths over the dinner table the different modes of transport the royals would be using at the wedding. I could almost hear my Irish, Republican step-dad sharpening his guillotine.

Another one of my jobs was to look through pictures of ladies day at Aintree as research for a piece. The Daily Mail recently published an unjustifiably cruel comment on the same event. Yes the outfits were loud, (or, as I said to one of the fashion editors who laughed at my tact, "aren't they vibrant!") yes some women decided wearing 5 inch heels, spray tan, feather boa, ball gown, plus an explosion of butterflies in their hair and their weight in sparkle around their necks was the way forward, but for me the Daily Mail missed the point. Perhaps it isn't very 'fashiony' to admit this, and I brace myself to be struck down by the Goddess of Chic in the sky, but looking through the Aintree photographs I spent the whole day with a smile on my face. Liverpool ladies: I think you looked fabulous. Here are women who know how to have fun with their clothes, who dress up for themselves and no one else. I want to wear an obscenely large hat, so I'm going to wear an obscenely large hat. Pink and red floral print? Go on then.

Maybe the Aintree style isn't my personal cup of traditional English beverage, but when you become too absorbed in being oh so cool criticism can sometimes flow a little too easily. Because the truth is underneath all that cool we're all thinking one thing: they look like they're having more fun than me. The truth hurts.



  1. Your posts are always uplifting and a good read- an inspiration to us all! :)

  2. This sounds like so much fun, man I need to get some work experience! Beautiful write up Libs :)