For 25 years I loved what I did. One of the many jokes in TV news is that ‘it’s better than working for a living’, and although it was always very hard work, the joke was true.
Even upon leaving ‘the family’ (there is a bond) I still loved it, so why leave the thing you love?
Among the reasons: Quit when you’re at the top. Go while you still have the time and energy to do something new. Do a different part of what you love. Make some space for others…
There were of course the things I had begun to love less: The late night/early morning calls. The silly o clock flights. People I had never met trying to kill me. Mind you, even they were part of the buzz.
I always had a romantic view about journalism what with the ‘first draft of history’, and ‘speaking truth to power’ adages, and have never lost it, nor do I want to. A healthy dose of idealism seasoned with occasional shots of realism is not a bad mix and is a useful antidote to the certainties of youth.
About 18 months ago, during a lengthy illness, I became aware that the realism was sometimes turning into cynicism, and beginning to dominate. Time to move on.
I’ve always liked a challenge, and quitting a job I loved seemed like a good one. In my twenties I had piled everything I owned into a battered old car, driven to Paris, and begun a job that didn’t exist, working from a flat I found when I got there. I called myself Paris Correspondent for …. whoever wanted me….. Happily, for me, LBC did.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, and so far, so does this latest move which is a work in progress, but then again, so is life.
I can now shoot from the lip and do so in a variety of media outlets. I am no longer constrained by the necessity of impartiality but still attempt it where possible.
My third book - ‘Prisoners of Geography’, will soon be with us which is a surprise given that after the first book ‘Shadowplay’ I used to say “You know the phrase ‘ Everyone’s got a book in them?’ Well mine’s out, and that’s it”. In my latest book I will be arguing the importance of geography and how it informs the world’s leaders. To understand Putin’s actions, for example, it is essential to consider that, to be a world power, Russia must have a navy. And if its ports freeze for six months each year then it must have access to a warm water port – hence, the annexation of Crimea was the only option for Putin.
I’ve launched a website: The What And The Why which gives me, and others, a platform to further expand on ideas like geography (as seen above) along with history, culture and international relations, and there’s even room for the odd joke. After all, it’s better than working for a living.