A LOVELY LEEK is romancing and studying journalism in London.
(^ Best first par ever)
Strange and new. Hang on every word. Go home overwhelmed.New language incessant, relentless, conk out.
Talked to my honey on first day. Happy.
Shorthand: squiggles, struggle, sob.
Morning running in frozen shock, run past the alleyway rats. Rushed brain mushed, stayed up all night doing shorthand. See last-chance bus zoom past. Strangled sob. Cold icy bitterness whips face.
Law: British legal system is criminally complicated.
London rush hour. Random stops and lurches. Thuds. Coffee arm nudged. Cherished coffee. Shiver of delight in the bitter cold. Fazing out, claustrophobic, stifled heat, oxygen in gaps between too many heads, too many bodies, dehydration. Throat sore. Water dried up.
Public Affairs: Britain is constitutionally complicated and politically riddled.
Español de Pimsleur in ears. Spanish heartening love songs stare wistful out window. Pushed closer to stuffy strangers in the tube. Dream of a sunny Spain.
Stumble out of bed, forget breakfast, severe delays, stomach pangs. McD’s breakfast half-way through commute. Half-way through day, feel sick.
Forget fashion. It’s a miracle when I have time to brush my hair as I dash out disorientated after the 4th and 5th alarm.
Shorthand: squiggles, struggle.
Want to take rush hour photos. Forget camera. Crushed, complicated, chaotic, causal, crowded, complacent… the capital somehow, precariously, just works.
London has everything I could ever want. Except, well, I haven’t got those things yet. Hm.
Find myself awake on the tube. Find myself concentrating. Pimsleur Espanol words… hablo, escucho, si, sssiiii… zzzzzzzzzzz…. Eyes close as tube rocks a lullaby.
Shorthand: squiggles, struggle.
Sudden feeling that it’s hard, tough, impossible, ridiculous… but… I’d rather be doing this than anything else. It makes a difference.
Contact Book: Cute black A5. Proud of the first people who only know me as a journalist.
Pub test; wasted words over pints. The release of quick-witted banter.
Dinner party of famous people? Conjure up the philosophical and literary inspirations of my academic enthusiasm. Comforted by their presence in my life. Desire to read some Nietzsche.
Reporting: I accost it with acronyms. PCMW (Poll, Campaign, Messageboard… and the other one? FUCK? Yes! Web chat!)
Pick up Naomi Klein’s No Logo for commute. Tired, susceptible, reading standing up. A heroin hit of mental revival. Or that might just be Russell Brand’s Wooky Book.
Walk homeward. Spring in my step. Picking up words de espanol. Si, si, Pimsleur, soy periodista muy feliz!
I am surprised. Within me I find serenity and simple smiles.
IT TOOK FOUR WEEKS TO STOP DROWNING.
I text friends I don’t have time to see. I feel so relieved and excited for the next day…
“SHIT JOURNALISTS DO THIS.”
Exam MFI (Major Fuck-up Indignity) = FAIL. Flake out of drink with friend = FAIL. Fall asleep on tube and get nudged awake by a stranger at the end of the line = FAIL. Have a spark-of-brilliance play in my head, want to write it, no time, tortured genius = FAIL. Bad luck with my fate in the hands of London Transport. Strikes scar my register. Yep.
Work placement crucial. Interviews, public events, finding stories. After a bit of confidence and practise, I get a special story in my local newspaper. It’s all worth it.
Patches of Practical Reporting: Nervously take down phone numbers I need to call for my story. Stranger on phone. Stumble, haunted by criticism as a stuttering receptionist. Impatient with myself, haunted by call centre abuse.
Introduce self as a student journalist, expect short, sharp, slam down of phone. Tentative charm increases in confidence.
They talk, we joke, they go on, I hear a story, I love it. Ready questions, inquisitive listening, sympathy, fun, and success.
Shorthand has a South African accent. Specials, rules, word groupings, learn. Fall off, get back on horse again, ride the passage to the end – 30 words a minute. 40 words a minute. 50-60 words a minute. 60-70 words a minute. I GOT ALL OF IT. Wait, was that 80? 80?
If I’m lucky I even get more than a moment on Skype.
Long, distance, relationship. Three specials in shorthand. They flow off my pen in sweeping, colourful outlines.