An 'Over The Rainbow' evictee, being hoisted away on a cardboard moon...

And so today was my final day…

The final chapter.

Finito.

The dead end.

The last Rolo.

I purposely arrived fashionably late so as not to exceed my now established reputation.

On getting into the reception, I made a beeline for the pile of freshly printed Chase Posts to see my article starring up at me from the front page!

my front page splash

Ahh the buzz.

It’s better than sex!

…no really it is.

I arrived into the office to find a stranger in my swivly chair.

😩

I had been replaced already and I had not yet finished my last day!

It turned out the stranger was an ‘Adam’, and a very friendly one at that. Apparently he does every Thursday at The Post while completing a NCTJ college course.

He even chatted to me about what kind of things he’d learnt and even gave me a short tutorial in shorthand, which was about as legible as hieroglyphics to me!

I suppose I could allow him the use of my swivly chair for a while…

I came bearing gifts (although I did consider eating them to myself on the sight that I had been ‘replaced’…But i’m too nice. I joke.)

I had purchased two boxes of Thorntons choccies and a card for the team to show my appreciation of their ‘taking me under their journalistic wing’ once again and giving me a super placement experience.

After the ritual ‘oh you shouldn’t have’ (while clutching onto the box for dear life), I soon settled down into an unfamiliar swivly chair, while the previous looked at me from the other end of the office.

I felt like i was committing some sort of chair adultery.

It was emotional..

I did get side-tracked for a momento, with a story a fellow work experience girl was doing about Kate Walsh slagging off the area she was born and bred (Cannock) in NOW magazine.

She was quoted as having said that she went to a ‘rough school’, and lived in an area where no one wanted or cared about furthering themselves both academically or occupationaly. Apparently there was no room for progression.

Tell that to Pritchard! (a local architect, worth about 500 billion, and who purchases a new Aston Martin every time he builds a new set of offices!)

Fred Pritchard

Better yet, tell that to the legendary Fay Bray! (the love child of an Umpa-Lumpa and Jordan, and famous X-Factor contestant last year. [by ‘famous’, you understand I mean sang once and never made it any further!])

Fay Bray

So pftttt! Take that Mrs!

I fart in your general direction.

Your mother was a hamster…

And your father smelt of elderberries!

😛 !!

Anyway…

After helping to track down what was apparently the only copy of that particular issue in the country, it was time for my food review in local bar, Bank.

I met up with my boyfriend who often takes advantage of the perks of dating a journalist, and we sat down at our specially reserved booth.

After scouring the menu, I opted for a Chicken Tikka wrap and a side portion of their award-winning chunky chips.

And believe me, they were chunky.

We’re talking Dawn French ‘chunky’, but they were most certainly a few sins!

I’m never going to Heaven.

Oh well, at least i’ll be going to Hell fat and contended.

Adam, on-the-other-hand, opted for a heaving all day brekkie.

Well, if it’s supposedly the most important meal of the day, why not eat it at lunch time aswell I say?!

Having stuffed my face with a free 2 course meal and drink, I rolled back to the office, where I proceeded to type up my findings and have a general chit-chat with Charlotte.

The time soon came around where it was apparent I should make a hasty exit before the school rush incurred a 20 minute tail-back from the island, in which time I would microwave in my car, and perspire more than Michael Jackson in a playground.

I bid my farewells, and warned them I may be back before they know it if my 3 week London placement didn’t happen.

As I walked out of the office for the final time, I pictured myself as one of the evicted on ‘Over The Rainbow’, where the loser is stripped of her sparkly slippers, before being cruelly hoisted up into the air on a cardboard moon, while she warbles ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’.

Except i had no sparkly slippers to hand back. In fact the only thing i handed in were my solitary two remaining articles…

And the only thing being ‘hoisted’ was my trousers, that I couldn’t wait to bin when I got home as they’d played havoc with my crotch. i.e. the crotch of them was round about my knees!

Damn ASDA!

what i felt like today...Minus the glamour!

My mission, (although I wasn’t really given a choice!) was to get in to placement for as near to nice as humanly possible when you have a adhesion to getting up on odd numbers!

I made it in just 10 minutes short of my target, which wasn’t bad for me considering I’d been at the pay and display machine on the car park, pushing tons of shrapnel in to in since 5 past.

I made a beeline for my desk.

Mike: “It’s your biggie today Nat.”

Me: “Yup.”

Mike: “Have you got all the numbers you need?”

Nat: “Errrr…(frantically flicking through my notebook) … no?”

Armed with pages of councillor numbers, and the number for Cannock Police, i embarked on my mission.

And boy was it tough.

Now you wouldn’t think that ringing people for a sentence or two would be particularly taxing…

But when those people (who you must have got hold of by 2pm) don’t appear to be on the face of the Earth, it’s a toughie!

I must have left about a dozen variations of the same drawl on the voicemail of a copper, councillor, and construction company, and awaited the ‘bite’.

I’ve never been fishing, but I imagine that I experienced something similar today.

Having speared the unsuspecting maggot with a sharp piece of metal, you thrust it into the ‘pond of P.R’, waiting for them to bite and give you what you want. Just a sentence. That’s all I need…Please?

Once the P.R pirranas began to bite they were all really helpful.

Actually I feel I must mention the sterling job a certain Jamie Somerfield did for me today, that was very much appreciated! (do keep reading my blog! It was nice to know I have a fan.)

Steam rose from Mike’s fingers as he worked tirelessly to get the paper in ship-shape before deadline, and even had chance to let me have a gander at this week’s lead…MINE!!

I was so chuffed to see my own article as the whole front page to a paper that I’ve loved reading for donkeys!

After the previous tension of the office died down, talk turned to the foreboding footie match, and Mike disappeared downstairs.

On appearing back in the office, he was clutching an ASDA carrier containing a couple of boxes of strawberries and a bottle of champers.

He kindly distributed the strawberries between staff, but held on to the champers. Heckles from fellow reporters urged him to share the latter aswell.

After a few minutes or so, he called me over.

“Nat can you just come over a sec”

I tottered over, presuming he was going to brief me on something for the following day…

“The champagne is yours.”

“MINE?!”

“Yes, the owner of that gym you did a story on last week brought it in for you just to say thank you.”

(In shock) “omg!”

Jan: “You mean to say, you’ve just given away Natalie’s strawberries?!”

funny vandalism. You've gotta laugh!

Having been weened off of the press releases at around 10ish, Mike asked if I fancied a bit of ‘hard news’.

No pun intended I promise you.

I eagerly agreed, as I was keen to get my teeth into a tough bit of news before my placement was up.

I was briefed by Mike, who’d received reports of some vandalism attacks on the town centre at night by a group of youths, and headed down to the indoor market where the supposed attacks had taken place.

Having headed down there in search of the ‘Manager’, I was disappointed at first to find that he was in Rugeley for the day. However, the local tradespeople were more than willing to talk away.

Apparently, some youths had taken an angle grinder to the metal shutters of the indoor market last week.

Now I’m not being funny, but:

1) how the hell did they get an extension lead long enough to power it in the first place without anyone noticing a few miles of cord through the town centre

2) why would you try to gain access to a market thats most expensive purchase is a ‘short back ‘n’ sides’..?

3) OH WHY. WHY. WHYYYY DELILAH?!

A potentially-juicy  story was rapidly drying-out by the minute. My story wouldn’t stand without some sauce.

Suddenly a Golem-like creature reared his head in interest at the smoke-filled conversation I was having with the chain-smoking tradeswomen.

I spotted that he sported a florescent yellow blazer with the council logo on.

I took my chance.

He didn’t take much questioning to get the full details.

Apparently incidents like this happen all of the time. Only the week before, the butchers near to the market had been raided.

But what was mot interesting of all was his experience earlier this week , when he found a drug user slumped up the stairway into the nearby multi-storey, overdosed and minutes from death.

Mike was going to love this.

My ‘story sensor’ was going haywol. I knew I had to get as much information out of him as possible in order to make what he was saying to me  both legible and usable.

He reminded me of the sketch Peter Kay does of the ‘eyewitness of the robbery of a jewelry store’:

“It were midnight, when I saw a group of men leave the store and get into the getaway car.”

“I thought it were strange they were wearing ski masks … as it were the middle of summer. ”

Having managed to get enough information from the more than helpful Cannock folk, I made my way back to the office where I relayed the story back to a beaming Mike.

Having just let the words ‘near to death’ from my mouth he said: “I love it.”

“You need to get in touch with the Council. Police. Butchers…”

As I scurried away to grab a pen and paper he had already coined a headline…

“Steak Out”

I headed back into the throng on lunchtime shoppers and to the butchers in question, where I spent a good hour or so chatting to the man who had been broken into three times in the last 18 months.

I really empathised with the man who obviously only wanted to run a peaceful pork empire, but the trouble was getting worse.

He blamed the lack of metal shutters and pedestrianisation of the town…

I blamed shooting intruders on your property being deemed illegal, and the breakdown of compulsory National Service.

Having left with more than enough information to sketch out my article I headed back to the office.

I reeled back by findings. Again Mike seemed keen.

“I love it.”

“It may even make front page.”

It was a good job I was sitting down.

After the news had sunk in, I was determined to make the ‘exclusive’ as best as I could.

But before I headed off in search of a member of the Council that wasn’t sunning themselves on an extortionately-priced yacht, docked from the bank of their moat, Mike had already thought of an alternative headline…

“Top town butcher calls for crime to get the chop!”

(laughter)

L: Me R: Charlotte 'picnick-ing' pre-race 🙂

I am certainly NOT a morning person. In fact, I feel we should have parliamentary policies on the ridiculous hour the Sun is allowed the rise in the morning. I feel around 10 is sufficient, as due to the large window in my room, I feel like I’m awoken to an alien abduction every morning.

Either that, or Ambie’s (my dog) snotty schnozza in my face.

Both are not appreciated.

This particular Monday morning was an exceptional feat that I even managed to get out of bed.

I’d had a jam-packed weekend, consisting of Ascot on Saturday, 8:30-19:30…

Me and my friend Charlotte by the finishing post

…followed straight by a quick change into golf attire and a long drive into Birmingham…

Me and my friend Claire, whose mental idea it was to do pub golf. Good job i love her 🙂

Sunday incurred a full day on Customer Services at work dealing with the ‘great unwashed’. A whole 5 hours of complaints, courtesy calls, and congealed  cosmetics was fantastic.

Therefore, Monday morning was a bit of a shock. No sooner had I shut my eyes, I was awoken by my phone’s rather annoying impression of Big Ben. It’s particularly annoying when it signifies ‘getting up time’ …

:-/

Having got into the office around 9:15ish, I was surprised at how perky the office was on a Monday morning taking in to consideration:

1) It was Monday … morning!

2) the Country was still in mourning, following England’s dire performance on Friday

3) A whole week of work lay ahead of them. The weekend was another 4/5 days away.

4) It was Monday morning!!

Never-the-less, I cracked on with some press releases to ween me in gently after my marathon weekend.

To be honest, I’d love to account for a action-packed day, full of drama, delirium, & deadlines.

But I was too exhausted to conjure up anything near ‘delirium’, the nearest I got to drama was an episode of Corrie when I got in…and deadlines weren’t until Wednesday, so disappointment all round im afraid.

The day blended into a collage of phone calls, fidgeting, and Facebook, and 5pm was soon upon us.

Hair Bear

(Firstly may I apologise for the lack in posts. I’ve been participating in something I like to call ‘slave labour’ a.k.a working on a weekend. For this I can only apologise.)

Anyway…

Today I was very late.

Like very, very late…

My father (God bless him…because no-one else will!) forgot to mention that he’d ‘borrowed’ my car. And when I got downstairs and set about finding my keys, they weren’t there. It was soon after this I realised that neither was my car!

Having survived a near-death experience at the worry that someone had walked into our kitchen and picked up the keys, I rang my dad, who informed me he had borrowed it and was on his way back.

(i hope he wasn’t disposing of a body because I’m not taking the wrap!)

When he eventually pulled onto the drive it was already 9:30am and I was officially late.

We quickly raced to swap places. I dived into the driver’s seat and for a moment I was taken back to my childhood…

It was like the last round of ‘Fun House, where the juvenile contestants, donned in red or yellow shell suits would do laps of the FunHouse racing circuit in a ‘relay’ fashion.

I loved that show…

I imagined Pat Sharp announcing the start of the race from my driveway, while the heavily-dreadlocked blonde twins Melanie and Martina waved me on from the sidelines.

Except there was no Pat Sharp…

And no dreadlocked twins…

And I didn’t have a red or yellow go-kart that had a top speed of about 10 miles an hour. I had a Peugeot 206 2l engine.

Still, I was late.

I was very late.

Luckily Mike didn’t seem to notice as I sat down and logged on. I already had a few tasks at hand and so he didn’t need to worry about giving me too much to do.

The phone went and I half-heard the mumble of a “oh hi..”…”where are you?”…”downstairs, ok I’ll come and let you in.”…”Nat, come with me.”

I was lead downstairs to the carpark where what I can only describe as a trashcan on wheels awaited my arrival. But this wasn’t just any trashcan on wheels….it was a patriotic one.

There wasn’t a spare inch of Roy’s ’98 Skoda Felicia that wasn’t donned in England badges, buttons, or butting, and boasted more flags than a golf course!

Mike lead him, and his crazy car around to the staff carpark, where I was thrust a camera, his name, and told to get ‘the story’. I was left with a man dressed as a cross between Hair Bear, a George flag, and Superman.

My first question had been already asked by Mike: “You’re self-employed aren’t you Roy?”

Roy/Hair Bear/Superman: “yup.”

That explains it all…

After an interview into the why, what, when, how, & who… I began the ‘photoshoot’.

Roy (who asked for his Surname, and address not to be disclosed) was more than willing to clamber onto his clapped-out motor for a ‘Superman-style’ pose, that he excitedly asked could be emailed to him to use on his Facebook.

By the end of the hour I had a few pages of notes and about 20 photos of the patriotic personage.

I hastily made my exit to the safety of the office, to type up my findings.

The remainder of the morning passed quickly and calmly.

I even managed to fit in a whizz round Boots with Charlotte on my lunch break before heading back to the office.

After devouring my very yummy jacket potato, I made my way to my next story. I was to interview a young lady who had recently opened the only ‘green’ salon in Staffordshire. She was more than willing to give me the information I needed, reeling off the equivalent of her life story, minus her early years, and when I eventually escaped, I had covered more pages in my note-book than on a large feature I’d done earlier in the week!

She was a lovely girl none-the-less, and she even had her own claim to fame in the form of her friend who she used to do ‘wedding catwalks’ with, who now does the make-up for the models on Gok’s Fashion Fix. OOOO!

On arriving back to the office an hour or two later than initially expected, I found that Mike had already escaped to prepare for the England match. So, having seen no reason to hang about, I left about 5:30pm and made may way to a further 4 hours at Sainsbury’s!

O the joy!

:-/

one day...

My day started stuck behind the longest funeral procession I’ve ever seen the back-end of.

As I sat illegally blocking an island in town to let it pass by (I would say out of respect, but really I had no choice.), I must have counted a hearse and about 6 funeral cars in-toe.

The deceased must have either been very popular to need that many cars for attendants, or simply very lonely in light of the fact every single one of them was empty (apart from the hearse of course. They must have been really unpopular if they couldn’t even bear going to their own funeral!…)

After about what seemed a lifetime (for both of us I imagine), I managed to maneuver onto an exit road and nip past the ‘ghost procession’ on route if not a few minutes late.

Having made it on to the car park, I hastily made a beeline for the pay and display, blocked by a rather obese woman.

She looked up: “you go first love I’m just…”

*thought* …negotiating with myself as to whether to get a ticket, or dump the car in a side street and use the ÂŁ3.20 towards a chippy on the way home?

She was moving away from the machine after I’d secured my pricey fee to the car window and set off for the office.

Whether she’d decided on the ticket or not I’m not 100%, but the spring in her step said to me she’d realised that if she got a shift on, she’d make it to Maccies in time for breakfast.

I entered the reception and picked up a free copy of the paper (perks of the job don’t’cha know?), which i was eager to flick through as soon as I got the chance…

I headed into the office and took my chance while Mike was busy getting his fix of caffeine.

Ahh, the feeling of seeing your name in print. It’s almost as good as seeing your name in lights, except less … ‘lit-up.’

I was pleased to see that all but one of the articles I’d written so far had made it to print, and could just imagine my nan already in ASDA, purchasing a bumper pack of pritt stick for the mammoth cutting and sticking exercise, that would no doubt find its way round the cul-de-sac before 5.

Having escaped notice of delayed arrival, Mike set about briefing me on the first interview of the day. I was to go down the road to a local bar that is a regular fixture of my nights out about town, to interview the bar Manager on a ‘pudding competition’ he was running.

Mike: “something along the lines of: The Sweet Taste Of Success, The Icing On The Cake…’FLANTASTIC!’

You’ve gotta love a good headline.

On the way down there I made a quick call to my nan..

Grandad answered.

Me: “hi is nan there?”

Grandad: “I think so, I lost her under the carcass of The Post a few minutes ago. Shall I get her to call you back when she resurfaces?”

Me: “please.”

I was greeted at ‘BANK bar & lounge’, by a very chipper Manager, who wasted no time in saying: “shall we go upstairs?”

*thought*: Well, I assumed we might at least go out for a drive-thru first, but if we must…

He also demanded two cappuccinos from the young girl behind the bar before we headed into the kitchens upstairs.

After being there over 40 mins, I’d got pages on his most recent culinary escapade, foreboding marathon 8, bagged myself a free lunch in exchange for a food review, and enjoyed a lovely free beverage.

I always think things taste better when they’re free, don’t you?

I headed back to the office, and my bum hardly touched the seat before I was back out again with a fellow young reporter on the case of piecing together a ‘world cup wag’ outfit.

We ended up in a classy designer boutique not far from the office, where the very generous shop owner not only let Charlotte dress up but also let me take photographs. I felt like David Bailey, only not a man….and with more hair.

We were even offered some Schloer from champagne flutes.

I don’t mind if I do!

Arriving back to the office after a mammoth ‘shopping sprint’, and with a tummy full of wine-flavoured fizzy pop i set about the arduous task of making sense of the morse code that was scrawled across 10 pages of my notebook.

At 5:30 I finally left the office, but felt like I’d done a hard day’s graft.

I’ll certainly sleep well tonight!

can i just say none of the firemen in Cannock look like this!

And so I’ve made it (in mathematical terms) 2/9s of the way through my placement and today was ‘deadline day’…

SHOCK!

HORROR!

I can just hear the faint palpitations of journalists’ across the world at the mention of ‘the D word‘, and in typical deadline day fashion, there was more drama than in an episode of Corrie!

On arrival, I was acutely aware of a member of the public screeching down the earpiece of Mike’s phone about some life-or-death-advert for his ‘multi-million pound pigeon sausage business’.

(I joke. I don’t in fact know why the man was in uproar. However, if he did in fact have a pigeon sausage business I’m sure he’d be on the front of the paper, never mind having to advertise, and he’d be hailed the local hero as pigeons are about as popular as the tax man around here.)

My friend’s dad shoots the ones that land on his TV arial on the roof of their house and subsequently poop all over his car, with the aid of a laser gun (and with pin-point precision may I add!) Much like how Lee Evans tells his ‘fire alarm’ routine, I half-expect to walk in one day to him bent over his latest kill, and with a nervous twitch in his right eye declare: “I KILLED IT! I KILLED IT!”

Anyway, I digress…

With years of experience behind him, Mike managed to worm his way out of a threatened lawsuit in a way only a married man could.

But after the heated phone call, the stress in the office could be cut only with a fine cheese wire, and so I thought it best not to pester Mike for a story while I waited for some woman to phone regarding a ‘walking bus record attempt’…and so instead I scoured the internet for weird and wonderful Guinness World Record attempts, until nearly an hour had passed by and Mike suddenly realised I was there and subsequently thrust a handful of press releases and warbled a few potential ‘leads’ at me, while I scribbled them down so fast sparks flew from my trusty papermate <3<3<3.

One of the most promising leads was about the Government’s proposed plans to cut the current drink-driving limit by half in the coming year. Mike wanted me to contact local alcohol-type businesses and members of the public to spice the piece up a bit.

I immediately thought of the ‘alcohol and drugs misuse community group’ that is ran from a building just down the road from our offices, and so I decided to give them a ring.

I wish i hadn’t.

‘Arsey’ Woman (you’ll understand why in a minute): “hello ‘bla bla bla centre'”

Me: “Hi I’m Natalie from the Chase Post”

‘Arsey’ Woman: “mm”

Me: “We’re covering the recent announcement that the Government plans to cut the drink-driving limit by half and I was wondering if I could get a quote from someone there or from yourself on the matter, just a sentence or so.”

‘Arsey’ Woman: “I don’t understand what your on about.”

(I repeated myself, with added details so as she couldn’t be ‘confused’ again)

‘Arsey Woman: “well how am I suppose to know anything about that?!”

*thought*: because you work at the f****n alcohol misuse prevention team!!!

Now I don’t normally let arsey members of the public annoy me, as I work on the Customer Service Desk at my local supermarket, and customers with complaints about being over-charged by a penny and complaining about cookies when there aren’t any left in the packet to analyse is my fortĂ© … but she was just something else!

Having bled enough usable words out of her to string a sentence together, I cracked on with the rest of my work, and I could sense the tension of the foreboding deadline at 1430 was upon us.

Suddenly the inevitable happened …

RING RING RING RING RING RING RING!!….

Mike: it isn’t?!….

Juss: it is.

Yep, it was the fire bell.

Gutted.

Silently, I looked about the office of people, who continued their work, apparently unaware of the alarm, and so I continued to do the same.

Mike: “I’m not going. This is ridiculous”

There was a general mumble in agreement from the other staff, but the boss was approaching…

“come on, the sooner we’re out, the sooner we can come back in.”

Mike: “I’m not going”

Adamant to soldier on, he took some convincing. Semmingly keen to ‘sink with his ship’, just like like the white-bearded chap in Titanic. My mind started to wonder and i imagined him, chaining himself to his monitor, while screaming “save yourselves!” as 6 foot flames licked at the only exit.

Anyway…

After a further 5 minutes or so, and with the threat from the boss that if she died because he refused to leave, and consequently render her children orphans, she would come back to haunt him, and the last few dribbled out of the office.

According to Charlotte, it has a knack of going off on a Wednesday when they’re at their most busiest, although she had a theory someone had a secret vendetta against The Post and set it off every Wednesday, although it did incur a lovely half hour in the glorious sunshine, and an equally-nice ‘ogle’ at the firefighters who turned up to tackle the imaginary fire.

Once we were released back into the office the tension subdued somewhat, and as far as I’m aware, the whole paper got to print ok and so everyone relaxed.

I was even allowed to get off just after three, which was a nice gesture, considering I had to start my part-time job at 5:30, and so I grabbed a cheeky Maccies on route home, scoffed my face, and had a nap beforehand.