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Correspondent’s week

This week by Daily Telegraph investment columnist Tom StevensonIt seemed like a good idea at the time – going freelance. No more dreary Sundays in the office struggling to follow up someone else’s story or sitting around just being there when your work was long done – the curse of presenteeism.

Having decided it was the Gloucester- shire country life for me and mine four years ago, it wasn’t really much of a decision anyway. I didn’t move 100 miles out of London so I could sit on a train for four hours a day. Thank goodness for broadband.

And what a joy it is to finish an article, put on my wellies and go and watch the hens scratching around or walk over the fields to pick my children up from school.

Before you start leafing through the property pages of Country Living, however, be warned, there is another side to the idyll. When the office is next to the kitchen, it can be a different kind of treadmill, and this correspondent’s week tends to start on Sunday morning and end on Saturday night. The email doesn’t distinguish between working hours and home time.

If it’s half-term as well, you can pretty much forget normality and when Mrs S said she wanted us all to drive to her sister’s in London on Monday, it was goodbye to the Sunday papers and hello to this week’s Telegraph column.

I love having a column. It’s a blank canvas – a thousand words a week to say what I want about pretty much anything I want. And you couldn’t ask for a better calling card. The bane of the freelancer’s life is explaining who you are and why the person on the other end of the phone should bother with you. It’s nice not to have to do that.

But writing about investment from the sticks provides its own challenges. The cows, horses and sheep I look out on don’t provide too many investment ideas. I need to talk to people at the sharp end, so for me at least two days a week are spent up in the smoke.

On the basis that I might as well get paid for coming up to town, I like to combine my time in the capital with shifts on a paper. Both the Mail and the Telegraph have put up with me this year. This week, it has been been two hectic days in Canary Wharf at the Telegraph, just a few floors down from where I spent several happy years at The Independent as City editor.

I can’t believe the changes in Docklands. When we first moved east from City Road in 1994, the Wharf was a desolate place. You could see the potential but it required a leap of imagination.

These days, it really is like a little slice of Manhattan in East London and rather odd as a result. Not a child or old person in sight, just hordes of youngish, mainly affluent, people rushing, rushing, rushing.

Lunch on Wednesday is a fruitful affair. An old friend in PR is lining me up with some of his clients – investment managers and strategists mainly. Hopefully, they will provide a steady stream of good column ideas. Then it’s back up the tower for a call from the chief executive of Anglo American – they are finally ceding control of the gold business founded by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer in 1917. It is an end of an era story, a reminder of why business journalism is so interesting.

Getting the family back home again means Thursday is a write-off, which i a nuisance because the deadline is looming for a 2,000-word magnum opus on financial scandals 10 years on from Barings. I have a suspicion that my week is not going to end at 5pm on Friday.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


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