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Today I leave the Mighty Halesowen News - I remember my first day like it was yesterday
Posted on the 5th May 2017 in the category sport



Today, after eight fun-filled award-winning years, I leave the Halesowen News. 

This job saved my life, god knows what would have happened if I'd not been given a second chance in journalism all those years ago. 

Thankfully a great man called Paul Walker gave me that chance. Here is what I wrote about being allowed back in the game. 

 

The day I got back into journalism – October 2009 - from Obama and Me: The Incredible True Story of a YouTube Sensation

 

I opened my eyes at 6.30am, ten minutes before the alarm went off. My first thought was ‘How can I afford to get to work’? Nicole, who had returned from her weekend soujorn to fuck knows where, was wrapped up in duvets so I couldn’t touch her. She hadn’t brought any wages back from work and had left me starving all weekend, despite my fronting over £1,500 for the house we lived in. The house was perfect - and art studio for her, a writing room for me and a garden for the dog.

She hadn’t even bothered unpacking her stuff. I knew she was using our dream home as a stepping stone, because she’d been about to get evicted from her own flat. She knew I couldn't afford the place on my own, and I didn’t technically need an art studio or a garden because I couldn’t draw and I knew she’d take the dog with her if she left, but I moved in thinking I’d spend the happiest days of my life under that roof. She’d moved in counting down the days until she could move out.

All my friends had told me not to put my money into the house, on the not unreasonable grounds that they knew she was having an affair. I did too, but I wanted to look in the mirror when she left and see a man who had done everything in his power to hold onto the woman he loved. 

The only money in the house was £2 in coppers, and the only food two slices of bread and marmalade. I laughed at the note I’d left her: ‘Hey babes, no money for a Daysaver! So borrowed money out of change bag. Didn’t want to wake you as you were dead to the world! Ring you later about cheque! Love you!’.

I didn't have enough bus fare to get to work so thought I’d try to jump on the bus with my out of date travel card. The baby worked and I got to work five minutes late and started to write.  A few weeks before Gurdip had told me that there were three days of freelancing work available at the Halesowen News. I’d got the gig and chased stories liked my life depended on it. I loved it, loved having power again. I loved being back where I belonged.

I’d only lasted two days as a door to door salesman. It turned out I’d been sent around an estate that already had Scottish Electric, as the woman in the last house I’d knocked had explained to me. I poured my heart out to her, about everything. She made me a cup of tea and when she realised it was commission only told me to give up the job, claim benefits and write a book.  

The boss at the Halesowen News liked my style though. He’d been getting more complaints than he’d had for years prior to my arrival, and he kept inviting me back at £85 a day - which, after months of being on the breadline, was like winning the lottery.

At 10am on this particular October day I threatened the Press Officer at West Midlands Police. At 10.10am I demanded that his Dudley Council counterpart get me information about teenage pregnancies, and at 10.30am I phoned George Wimpy’s press office and read out inflammatory quotes to scare them into giving me a quote about floods in Halesowen. At 10.50am I scrounged a roll-up off the journo opposite, smoked it and then spotted a half smoked fag in the ash tray, which I finished off too.

At 11am I excused myself to go and get some money from a cheque that should have cleared. I filled the form in and went to the cashier. She took ages and I was nervous. “I cannot authorise this payment, please go to the reception”, she said.

My stomach turned as my financial future flashed in front of my eyes. The receptionist disappeared into the back. I was worried he was going to perform a citizen’s arrest based on the arrears in the current account, but he came back out and said “There’s been a fire in one of our business centres, so your cheque will take a day longer”.

At 12.30pm I flirted with an ex-Sandwell councillor who was 65 but sill loved a bit of it. I then conducted a little debate with myself. I had £4.50 with £2 in coppers, and was wondering whether to buy a packet of snouts or save up for a pint. In the event, I bought the fags and a pack of Somerfield cut price ginger nuts, attractively price at 39p. They were my lunch. I plugged my earphones in and listened to Tom Jones ‘I'm Never Going To Fall in Love Again’ on repeat, following it up with Michael Buble's ‘Cry Me A River’ and Gordon Lightfoot's ‘If You Could Read My Mind’.

At 2.30pm and after more threats to George Wimpy I spotted the boss, Paul Walker, nip out for the fag. I had my own so I followed him. He’d told me he’d make a decision on whether I got a full time job by today. We made small talk. He’s from Zimbabwe and after discussing his 20s in Africa we walked back in to the newsroom, at which point he said “You’ll get a letter the next few days with the official offer”. My spine tingled and my heart missed a beat. “Do you mean I’ve got the job?” I said. He looked at me and said: “Of course”. Relief hit me and I grabbed his hand and shook it too hard. I got back to the desk and the four journalists around me all clapped and gave me the thumbs up.

I knew that Paul believing in me and letting me get back into journalism was massive. I’d thought that getting another job after all the YouTube stuff was going to be nearly impossible, but thanks to him seeing my work day to day he knew I was good enough. I had had an outrageous publicity stunt planned to show the world what Nicole and her new squeeze had done to me, but now I had my dream job there was no way I was going to risk losing it.  

Facebook statusSteve Zacharanda “The reports of my demise in journalism were greatly exaggerated (had to ask new colleagues how to spell that) – I am a hack again.



 

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