I was brought up in a god fearing, Sunday Express reading, London suburb home. At the age of 18 I escaped to the flesh pots of Portsmouth to study and fell head over heels with an alluring Daily Mail. It was a heady affair but all too soon I was seduced by The Times, with a cut price deal for students, and I proceeded to flirt madly with the aristocratic lady of Fleet Street.
As I write this on Valentine Day 2012, my first for nearly 20 years as a single man(well, almost, the decree absolute will be dropping on my mat any day soon), my thoughts drift towards my one rock solid love affair with my one true soul mate, The Guardian. We met, funnily enough, in Spain. I was homesick for news of home as I spent a year in romantic Moorish Granada. A student of life and not much else, I imbibed the local culture, in the main, through my bloodstream. The international edition of The Guardian proved to be no holiday romance and the paper and I are still together.
Last Thursday was, however, a landmark in the relationship. For the first time I met a real life ex Guardian journalist, Emily Barr. Emily, now a best- selling fiction writer, came to speak about her professional life to a group of MA Professional Writing students at University College Falmouth. I am one of those students, having a second chance in life, training to be a writer.
I first became aware of Emily, as The Other Half, the writer of a 90s Guardian Sports Column about the travails of living with a football obsessed partner. I felt like I was that man (the other big love affair of my life being Tottenham Hotspur). Sadly, Emily confessed last week, that the column was entirely made up, that she knew little of football and male colleagues had helped her out with the offside law.It was her first entry into the world of fiction and the inspiration for her future career as a fiction writer.
I recently read a book that further cemented my affinity with The Guardian. John Crace, the author of the Digested Read G2 column in the Guardian, recently releasedVertigo. This is an account of his family life as seen through the prism of an enduring, mainly unrequited, love affair with his mistress, Tottenham Hotspur. John and I share many similarities (talented and successful writer and journalist not being one.) Apart from football and Spurs, we are of a similar age, we have both suffered from depression at times and both have spouses and a daughter who refuse to embrace the one passionate and constant element of our fragile lives. This latter point possibly explaining, in my case, the waiting for that solicitor’s letter to drop through the letter box
Perhaps it was John who Emily consulted about the offside law, the reality of life as a football fan and its impact on the other half?
PS For those who also share a passion for the Guardian see The Guardian Open Weekend on 24/25 March 2012 for an opportunity for a weekend away with Polly, Charlie, Simon, Marina and Alan and others. Unfortunately I am otherwise engaged with a visit to the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, at which John Crace is appearing (at the same time as I have to be at another reading….)
Emily, meanwhile, is appearing at Chiplitfest 20-22 April, despite the name, an apparently very respectable literary festival in Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds. She is bringing her characters to life at a workshop on Saturday 21 April. Catch her if you can.