I’VE had three ‘Saturday jobs’ on newspapers. The first was on the Daily/Sunday Mirror in Manchester as a copy boy. I puttered there on a Honda 50 and worked in Thompson House; a building later rechristened as a jar of coffee by the corrupt press baron Robert Maxwell.
Can you still buy Maxwell House coffee? Google confirms this is possible, although not for a coffee snob. Anyway, Maxwell took over the Mirror and wanted his name on the building, perhaps unaware of the coffee.
That job involved clipping page proofs to wires and putting messages in vacuum tubes. The folded message would be sucked away to another part of the editorial operation. The building, by the way, was later used as the police headquarters in Prime Suspect, with a striding Helen Mirren replacing all those old-school journalists. Memory tells me that one of them wore a green eye-shade.
Two things about that Saturday job: you had to leave at 18 for tax reasons or something; and you had to know someone on the inside. My brother took the job after me, and I think he took the Honda 50 too.
I left at 18, infected with the newspaper bug. Ten years later, I had a grander Saturday job on The Observer. Again, you needed to know someone. I’d interviewed the poet Blake Morrison, the paper’s literary editor. He lived in a rented apartment inside the walls of Greenwich Park, a cool sort of residence, but I don’t think he lives there now.
Morrison put in a word, and I rolled up on that first Saturday without a clue as to what I’d be doing. At the time, I wrote artsy features on a weekly paper and did a spot of subbing as part of that role. They gave me a news subbing job and I stayed for three years until York called.
Now I have another Saturday job, working on the Sunday Independent. This newspaper is produced in Dublin and then sent to the Press Association to be checked and further edited.
My latest Saturday job comes with a Friday attached too, and two days a week have taught me a bit about Ireland and Irish politics. Lately all the familiar names from Ireland have been popping into the headlines over here.
The Irish are much exercised over Brexit and have been worrying away since that disastrous vote. The Sunday Independent contains comment about many things, but much of it concerns Brexit. How odd it is to read through that copy as a Brexit-phobic Englishman sitting in Howden. Many Irish commentators sound sensible to my ears, often suggesting that Britain has flounced out of Europe on a perverse whim, and now wants to rewrite the rules to suit itself.
The Irish are nervous about Brexit, as we are now realising. The shaky political edifice on which Theresa May is balanced is propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Arguments over what sort of border should exist between the province and the rest of Ireland have just scuppered the latest attempts to come to a Brexit deal.
Mrs Maybe was in talks with Jean Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, when she was forced to take a call from Arlene Foster of the DUP.
What a humiliation. The prime minister hauled outside to endure an ear-bashing from a woman whose abrasive manner could sandpaper a table. Well, Mrs Maybe got herself into this mess after botching that unnecessary election and then bunging a billion to Northern Ireland in a pact with hard-line Conservative devils who make some of her own lot look like pixies.
Everything stalls again, as Britain does a weary waltz towards the cliff outside the Brexit Ballroom.
Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach as they say over there, was whisked away to deal with all this while still wearing his running clothes. How very Leo. They love Leo in Ireland, or they did for five minutes, and now they love to grumble about him.
As for Leo and Arlene, no love is lost there. They seem intent on shouting at each other over the world’s most contentious garden fence.
Today is Tuesday and I don’t have to go Ireland, even if Ireland has come to me.