Jobs I have done: Journalism

I married Adrian a year after I left Exeter University. We had lived together while I was at university and then we bought a house and lived in Witney.

I had written to various interesting-sounding jobs and was accepted as a journalist by the West Oxfordshire Standard. I and my colleague, Denise, worked in an office in Witney; we wrote pieces for the editor, who was in Cirencester, and took our copy to him weekly. We were given a fairly free hand and I wasn’t really taught what to do. Denise gave me my first bit of work, to write about a group of people meeting to discuss their hobbies. Time passed and one day Denise told me she had seen, on a talent-spotting television programme, Pam Ayres who was just starting her career; so Denise suggested that I contact Pam Ayres who lived in Ducklington, two miles from Witney. Pam came to our office and I interviewed her; she was very nervous as she had never been interviewed before and, in fact, I told her that I had never interviewed anyone before….

As we could write what we wanted I came up with the idea of having a weekly talkabout slot and we took it in turns each week to write it. One week I brought the paper home and Adrian read it and said “There are lots of elderflowers around this year”. I had written this and so I laughed and said that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers!

Douglas Hurd was MP for Witney and I had rung him up to ask if I could interview him; he agreed and came to our office. Denise told me he had just split up with his wife and they had four children. When I interviewed him I did not refer to this and I expect it made him very relieved. One year it was International Women’s Year and I had contacted the Duchess of Marlborough, who lived in Blenheim Palace, to see if I could interview her. She said I could and so I made my way to Blenheim Palace, which I had never visited before, to do the interview. I remember feeling some trepidation in meeting this person.

The West Oxfordshire Standard was a small weekly newspaper in the vast world of the press. I came to realise this when I went to a press conference about a suicide or murder that was causing widespread interest and found myself in the company of journalists from many national newspapers.

After a couple of years in journalism I became pregnant and I gave up work as I didn’t want to combine the two activities.

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