Leaving university in 1982 and hunting for a job as a journalist was difficult: training schemes were being closed; this was long before the invention of the Media Studies course. I was resigned to doing another year as a postgraduate student and then a letter arrived from a publishing company called Benn Publications. Against the grain, it was starting a Graduate Trainee Journalist Programme. After two interviews I got the job. But it wasn’t in Fleet Street, at that time still the centre of London’s newspaper business, long before Eddie Shah’s all-colour newspaper Today and the transferral of printing presses to Docklands. The job was in Tonbridge, Kent. But I had a job, many of my contemporaries didn’t, so I stifled my disappointment and packed my bags. I found a house-share in a pretty Kent village and learned the hands-on way to be a journalist. Bottom up.
What can I say about my hair… it was the Eighties. It was my one and only perm. This [below] is a cutting from UK Press Gazette, the weekly magazine for journalists. Where are they all now? From left to right: Val Williams [training editor], Debbie Tripley, Jim Muttram, Trevor Goodman, Bill Cullum, John Kalish, Rosina Forlenza. It was 1982: big black telephones, electric typewriters, fax, telex, shorthand notepads, no computers, no mobiles, no internet. We really did ‘spike’ our copy on a metal spike. Our training took two years, working on monthly and weekly magazines, writing news and features, technical and non-technical copy. After two years, with qualification from the National Council for the Training of Journalists I joined the weekly furniture business magazine Cabinet Maker. An old name for an old magazine, its heritage dating back to 1880 when it was founded as a monthly magazine [above] by J William Benn. My hair changed again [above]. I didn’t realize it then, but I was destined to spend my years as a journalist writing about the furnishing and interior design business, from sofas to curtains, beds and tables to decorative accessories. I travelled the world writing about new furniture design, searching for the best new sofas from Tokyo to New York, Milan to Santiago, Chile. Interviewing retailers, designers, businessmen, visiting furniture factories, timber companies, furniture and fabric designers. I travelled the world.
It’s a long way from furniture – Terence Conran, Heals, Habitat, Ikea, DFS, Vi-Spring beds, Parker Knoll recliners and elm Ercol dining tables – to fiction.