When I first got to London in late 2003 I was in charge of the Evangelical Alliance’s cuttings and I read all four tabloids and all four broadsheets each day. It was a crash course in different styles of journalism and I wrote home bemused at the incredible disparity between the eight publications:
On any given day the one story can be presented in a number of formats; the same article in the broadsheets and tabloids coming in the combination of a full page spread every three pages in the broadsheets and five lines in each tabloid, or a 500 word snack in each broadsheet and three page lift out with suitably lurid headline in the tabloids. And, to my disbelief, the relative size in the respective publication HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE OVERALL IMPORTANCE OF THE STORY! Especially as August is the Parliament-less silly season, the broadsheets were almost as bad as the tabloids. Oh, except for when we are talking about the Beckhams. The Beckhams, yes, the bane of my existence right now: Victoria’s hair extensions (oops, I mean Posh’s Fabulous Tresses), David’s goal (or, Our David Shows Those Damn Spaniards How It’s Done), Romeo’s fall (ACCIDENT HORROR!), Brooklyn’s new shoes …
I actually lived for seven months in Leytonstone, birthplace of Beckham, and Alfred Hitchcock, but I never warmed to Posh and Becks. Not the way I warmed to sportsmen like Tim Henman and Jonny Wilkinson. Almost the first week I started at the Evangelical Alliance, when flicking through one of the weekend glossies, I read an article about a promising young rugby fly half named Jonny. I took quite a shine to both the good looks and the sweet story of the rather hunky blonde, and another secretary and I traded black market pictures of him to decorate our desktops. Back in August 2003, months before England won the World Cup over Australia, there weren’t many pictures of Jonny around, him being a shy soul and Rugby being an almost forgotten sport in Britain next to football.
My little spot of hero-worship stood me in good stead as the only Australian in an English workplace on the Monday after the Australian defeat. I got in early so I could avoid most of the workmates and the first thing I did was get the latest picture of Jonny up on my desktop and pin up a huge poster of him holding the Web Ellis Cup up on my desk. Then, as each workmate arrived and headed towards my desk with a smile, I got to see it slip a little as they saw the little shrine to their hero. When they asked me oh-so-casually how my weekend was, all I said was ‘yeah, good thanks, went to the pub on Saturday. Some rugby game was on - that Jonny Wilkinson is a bit of top totty isn’t he?’
From the World Cup onwards I got many more glimpses of Jonny, from his huge posters for Hackett to a housemate who went to school with him and used to give me the thumbs up as he answered his mobile ‘Hello Jonny, how are you?’ but never actually got me NEAR the man himself. If only today I had woken up to see Jonny on the cover of the weekend magazine. One can dream.