Dreams and solidarity …

I had my first debt collection agency letter this morning so, having been up for half an hour, I went back to bed.

My naps have taken a funny turn: mid-morning naps have me dreaming about exes, while afternoon naps have me berating celebrities. I either find myself trapped in a previous relationship, wondering how it happened, or I’m yelling at Hugh Laurie for having cream up his neck. Maybe I’m sleeping too much. I now frequently go to bed mid-morning because I’m bored. With Chaplin on his chair, looking comfy, I think I could learn something from his choosing to sleep 16-hours a day. He might benefit from watching CSI with me for the other eight, who knows?

I thought about my fellow hacks at South Yorkshire Press while dozing. Not in an arrogant, I’m in bed and you’re on a picket line way, but with a sense of slumbering solidarity. The catnapping comrade, that’s me. Journalists at the Doncaster Free Press, South Yorkshire Times, Selby Times and Epworth Bells are on indefinite strike since July 15 over job cuts, office closures, increased workloads and a lack of faith in management. I admire their determination. I think it brave. There’s a rally in Doncaster this Saturday if you fancy supporting them.

I miss that camaraderie. I miss colleagues. I miss being in a newsroom, even when it’s a quiet one with everyone sitting in silence, the phones not ringing. I don’t do lonely. As they say, if you’re lonely when you’re alone you’re in bad company. I sit at the computer (for hours on end). I IM people, I email, I talk to you and to Chaplin but I have no routines. Even my naps are at different parts of the day. It’s even impossible to meet people for a coffee when it would cost almost six pound, including bus fares.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about when we fought for recognition at my first paper. Union officials weren’t allowed on site and anything resembling talk of the union would turn the editor red in the face. And the phone slamming would risk breaking his wrist. So it was worth pursuing.

Most of us were in district offices – an editorial divide and rule, if you will – and those at head office were broken, shattered and crying at the slightest sound. A few of us decided to get the National Union of Journalists involved – at a time when unions were derecognised (a state to which we may yet return). We approached a union official to visit us.

The official was eager, of course, but I’m still not sure what was thought when our first meeting was in my living room because no one could afford to go to the pub. We were all too ashamed to admit this to the union official and so pretended we wanted somewhere quiet to discuss things seriously, without the influence of alcohol. As if any journalists would choose that option!

The confused, and unnerved, neighbours saw twelve young people, thin, in tatty suits, looking angry pile into my two-up-two-down. There was much shouting over one another as we competed in the Who Has He Bullied The Most game, a regular feature when we could go down the pub.

“He once showed me a drawer full of CVs and said he’d give my job to one of those!” said one.

“Please. Someone gets that at least once week,” groaned another.

“He once called me just as I was about to leave the office and gave me a story to chase. It could’ve waited till morning and he knew I had a date,” said one, shuddering at our recognition of his crush on her.

“I had to sit in his office for hours once – hours! – while he berated me because I wouldn’t give the name of a source to the police. I never did it either!” A rumble of support followed.

“I swear, if he spikes one of my splashes on deadline again just to amuse himself, I kill the sadistic -”

So, we were in agreement. We wanted union recognition so that we could confront the problems of bullying as a unit, a whole, a group. There were those who were nervous, of course, but there was also a genuine feeling that if we stuck together we could take on the mad editor who seemed determined to see us living in fear of our jobs and being disciplined for any imagined misdemeanour – yes, Oliver Letwin, your tactic is nothing new.

Thing is, I soon left to work on a national press agency and found this editor was nothing compared to the loony I was about to work for.

How many hours I have slept in 24: 18

What I have eaten: One caramel choux bun, two sausage butties, one fish, chips and mushy peas meal

What I have drank: Three quarters of a bottle of Rioja

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2 thoughts on “Dreams and solidarity …

  1. Hey…. if you ever happen to find yourself in ‘sunny’ Doncaster (aka Don-nee) and hear a load of noise and general hallabaloo… you are more than welcome to come and give us a hand on the picket lines. Being out on strike can be a lonely business in itself. In any case, thanks for mentioning us, and thanks a bunch for your solidarity. Every big of support we get is a great morale booster.

    NO SURRENDER! NO COMPROMISE! Doncaster NUJ.

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