I have to admit that I stumbled into journalism . . . almost. I’d been living in London trying to make it as an actor. That particular ambition never really came to much, aside from a few profit share plays on the Fringe and later, when I had another go at it, a few independent films, an outdoors Shakespeare tour and an episode of Doctors.
For anyone who’s interested, whack my name into Youtube and you can see my ‘efforts’. I’m not that fat anymore, I think I do need to point that out.
But acting was never right for me emotionally. It largely involved sitting around waiting for the phone to ring; waiting for somebody else to invite you to the party.
In the meantime, I spent most of my time working in a pub in Clapham, generally feeling pointless; like I’d somehow missed my point in life.
I endured it for a couple of years – sounds terrible. It wasn’t. I was living in London, I had a good social life, I had my own flat, I knew all the other guys who worked the pubs, or worked the doors on the clubs. I didn’t have to queue to get into the Dogstar Cafe in Brixton – our late-night establishment of choice after a 4pm to midnight shift in this thriving little boozer where I worked.
But it couldn’t go on. It was meaningless . . . and I really don’t do meaningless. I needed a purpose in life.
I didn’t know what that was, but I knew it didn’t involve living on the breadline in the capital.
So I went home . . . initially to the home of my long-suffering parents, where I contemplated doing a course that would qualify me to teach English to foreign students, and rocking off to Spain to live out my life on a beach, or making some serious money in Japan or Saudi.
Then things changed. I met the woman who would eventually become my wife, and I knew I wouldn’t be heading off around the world . . . at least not for a while.
“Why don’t you become a journalist? You’re good at writing and you can just churn it out,” was the advice that came back from my brother, from university mates.
And I thought, “Yeah, why not.”
Moving back a few years, I’d done a post-graduate course in acting at drama school. My head of acting at the college that I’d been accepted to was a guy called Andrew Neil – not the journalist. He’s actually the old bloke from the recent Alexa advert that has been on the telly.
Andrew grew up in the Goebels in Glasgow and went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).
He once told me that, when he auditioned, he just assumed that it was such an idiotic notion, trying to be an actor, that nobody would want to do it. So when he’d turned up for his audition he’d been offered a place practically immediately. No nerves, I suspect.
And I was much the same with me and journalism. I’d blagged myself an interview on the local rag . . . the Nottingham Evening Post, and got myself hired. I didn’t realise until I started, just what I’d pulled off.
A couple of months after I started, a colleague of mine was dragged in for a bollocking about his performance.
He told me that one of the assistant editors had sat him down and slammed a wad of A4 sheets onto the table as thick as the Bible.
“These are all the people who applied for your job,” he had told him.
Then it struck home.
I had a new career; a career that other people wanted.