Having lived in London for almost two years, I arrived back in Edinburgh
with mixed emotions – thrilled to be back in Scotland and absolutely
ecstatic to be no longer living in England.
It is the dream of every Scottish, middle-class, privately educated
aspiring journalist to one day work for The Scotsman or at least it is the
dream of parents of such children. My mother, who has recently moved to
Edinburgh from the family seat in Wick, has found that dinner invitations
from New Townites have been flowing thick and fast since she announced to
approximately half of the English-speaking world that her son is the
financial correspondent at The Scotsman.
With several billion people anxiously waiting for the paper to hit the
streets on Tuesday morning to read my inaugural ramblings, I am
understandably a little nervous when I arrive on Mon day morning.
I am not worried about my ability to hack it at a national newspaper, I am
worried that my new office is next to the building site which is to become
Scotland's parliament and there is not a sandwich shop around for miles.
I decide to play safe and take a piece with me. But my wife, who is a New
Zealan der and unfamiliar with the Scottish colloquialism for sandwich,
thinks it is anything but safe for me to take a gun to work.
I put her straight on what a piece is and while I'm at it I explain to her
that when people ask her if she would like a juice, this incorporates the
full spectrum of beverages ranging from tea to coke.
She is a little bit angry that I did not make it clear that English is the
second language North of the border.
My first day goes quite well. Everyone is very nice. They show me where
the toilets are and how to use my computer. Just when I am beginning to
feel like a part of the furniture, my boss reveals that he has resigned and
will quit the paper at the end of the week.
I think it a little premature as he has not even read anything I have
written but he assures me his decision to leave has nothing to do with my
arrival. At 5.30pm, I get my second shock of the day when people don't just
down tools and head off. Having to work beyond 5.30 is putting my entire
system under intense pressure and I very nearly spontaneously combust when
I'm told that it is the norm for Scotsman journalists to pay for lunch when
they are out with contacts.
This goes against everything I have ever believed in and truly valued. I
assume this is just a standard trick they play on the new boy. Watch him
pay for lunch and then all have a jolly good laugh. I feel guilty.
If I'm paying for lunch, then it means I'm doing the one and only valued
function of a PR and I don't want job losses on my conscience. I can barely
contain my concern when the clock strikes 7pm and there is still no
definitive sign that people are about to leave. I exit the building shortly
after 8pm, drained but relieved that my first day, give or take the odd
resignation, went pretty well.
On Tuesday, I don't pack a piece as I discovered yesterday there is a
canteen downstairs. By 2.30, I'm in need of sustenance as we have had to
clear five business pages before the Budget kicks off at 3.30. For some
reason, they think I understand pensions and taxation and, despite my
protestations to the contrary, I draw the short straw and have to write two
stories about capital gains tax.
I crawl out the building at 9pm and my heart sinks further that Wednesdays
no longer masquerade as days off the way they did at MM. I battle through
to the end of the week, relatively unnoticed as everyone is more concerned
about who is going to be appointed business editor.
I take my wife out for dinner on Friday night, where she reliably informs
me that “the weather has been a bit dreecht” and “that she saw a wee bairn
today that just wouldn't stop greeting”.
It doesn't sound quite right said in an Antipodean accent but I appreciate
that the last seven days have been a massive learning curve for both of us.