The Pippa/Telegraph Split: Cause to ‘Celebrate’?

Image: The Telegraph/Clara Molden

I woke up this morning and casually flicked through the updates on my Facebook and twitter, the standard start to most people’s day. One of the first posts I saw was one by MyDaily – the Huffington Post’s style pages – and it said this: “Commiserations! Pippa’s Woken Up To Bad News.” What could this be I wondered? Has her latest moneyed, permatanned Ken doll suitor given her semi-highness the boot? Has that spiffy new bob cut been butchered in the hairdresser’s chair? Has one of those famously peachy buttocks suddenly gained a dimple of cellulite and been rendered unappealing by today’s beauty fat mafia?

Nope, it was none of these things, it was this: “Kate Middleton’s Sister Axed as Telegraph Columnist.” And I’m a touch ashamed to say my first reaction leaned significantly more to the ‘whoopee’ side of the grief scale than the ‘oh no, such a shame.’

I’ve always had a little smidge of a problem with Pippa, but there’s no easy way to say that without sounding like a jealous bitch. It’s a fact of life that any criticism aimed at an attractive young woman who’s doing well, however neutrally expressed, will be met with the comedic sounds of cats meowing or that most offensively ridiculous of statements about handbags at dawn. But then again, some of the time they do come from a catty place and I suppose I did have my claws out for Pippa in a way.

I was cross that people went on about her at Kate’s wedding, choosing to focus more on her athletically toned bum than Kate’s ethereal presence in that exquisite dress. I was amused when she released a book about home entertaining that was filled, by all accounts, with helpful things about putting crisps into bowls and dubbed by Christopher Howse at The Telegraph as “a sort of cultural tea bag for the American Market.” But I was full-blown angry when she then JOINED The Telegraph as a columnist and, to add imagined insult to my presumed injury, she was writing about travel. TRAVEL.

The mildly hilarious, genteel columns in Vanity Fair I could cope with and could largely ignore her thoughts on why she thought men who played cricket were hot and how one should watch rugby (in case we’re getting it wrong), but travel writing was a little too close to the bone for me.

Perhaps it was because travel writing is what I’ve always wanted and tried to do and her first post about a jaunt to the Alps appeared at a time when she had a book deal and wrote for national magazines and websites while I was struggling to get a decent journalism commission. Jealous, moi? YES, obviously! Because I was doing it the old fashioned way of grafting and sending out endless pitches and writing for free while she waltzed into a well-paid (let’s not pretend they didn’t fork out top dollar for her writing) job with one of the best publications in the UK on the back of her face and her name and, probably, that famous derriere. Oh and her previously disclosed “passion” for writing apparently.

Perhaps, Pippa, I should have saluted you for achieving in a year what I hadn’t been able to do in five times that but, at the time, I was buggered if I was going to.

I remember writing a scribbled, vitriolic post about her travel column, which I called: ‘A glorified what I did on my hols that was so dull it made me want to eat my eyes.’ I didn’t publish it because I sounded like a mad woman – the proverbial evil Disney witch, howling with glee at a misused comma or spewing bile at what I deemed was the ultimate in ‘no one cares’ travel writing.

It was the kind of travelogue your friend writes and you read, begrudgingly. I know this because I’ve been guilty of it myself. Take this prime paragraph, for example:

“We ordered rounds of schnitzel sandwiches and würstchen (simple sausage rolls) before attempting a Bavarian jig and a bit of shoe-slapping – apparently a traditional mating dance, in which men hoped to lure their women. We embarrassed ourselves hugely, the lederhosen-clad boys in particular. The rest of the evening was spent as enthusiastic spectators.”

Urgh. Her Alpine piece told us that going up mountains is jolly hard, wine is nice and was peppered with awkward references to remind the reader that she really, really was just like ‘one of us.’ She took cheap airlines “(my easyJet cabin bag allowance ruled out walking boots)” and ate carbs, all the while worrying that she wouldn’t be able to fit in her fetching dirndl for the pictures of her gurning against interchangeable backdrops of snowy peaks and local people.

I think what got me all het up, apart from the good old fashioned jealousy, was the fact that I love Telegraph Travel and think it’s one of the best out there. It’s teeming with quality writers and columnists who aren’t just ‘names’ and column inches, they’re writers who delve headfirst into unexplored fronts; who find new ways of looking at traditional destinations or cover groundbreaking events. They produce written portraits of landscapes that move and inspire you and, while fluff occasionally creeps in – where doesn’t it – I think even they knew the backlash poor Pippa would face for her weekly column. It’s always been very telling that the comments section on her pieces were always disabled, a luxury that’s rarely afforded to most journalists who are often bombarded with unpleasant comments ridiculing their work.

Pippa soon moved on to other areas like Telegraph Lifestyle (cycling underwater to maintain that perfect posterior) and Telegraph Food (tasting pancakes for Shrove Tuesday) and my rage dimmed…although I’m ashamed to admit that I was occasionally tickled to see some of the twitter responses when the Telegraph twitter feed gallantly tried to promote her articles:

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Perhaps the most annoying thing of all is she’s probably a truly lovely woman and an intelligent one to boot and, to be honest, if someone offered me all these wonderful opportunities – like sailing with Ben Ainslie – I wouldn’t have turned them down and who can say if I would have written them up any better than she did. There’s no denying her media savvy in pulling in all those deals with zero writing or publishing experience, but I can’t deny that her success still rankles, hence my initial reaction to her Telegraph departure.

Although, as I’m contemplating it now, what right do I have to poke fun at her? Is she the next Kate Adie or Doris Lessing? Probably not, but then again neither am I and at the very least she’s got more column inches in a national to her name than I have. So despite the sacking I suppose she really is having the last laugh…especially seeing as there won’t be any more columns for me to giggle at anymore.

Pippa, I may not have saluted you before but, in typical British fashion, now you’re down I’ll raise my mug of tea to you and eagerly await your next literary foray…although a guide to Alpine Entertaining that focuses on how to look ladylike in a dirndl or how to moderate ones pretzel intake is guaranteed to reduce me to my former, hulk-like rage. Just saying.

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Happy Valentine’s Day: Tinder Photo Fails

Valentine’s Day. Bah Humbug. No, not really, I don’t actually mind Valentine’s Day. Not being able to get into a bar as they’ve all been converted in ‘bijoux’ dining venues with tables so close together that you’re practically whispering sweet nothings into a total stranger’s ear and the forced gift giving and once-a-year flower requirements I’m not so keen on, but the overall sentiment of the day is lovely.

It’s also a time of year (along with New Year’s Day) that singles flood dating sites, full of firm convictions that they absolutely, adamantly WILL NOT be alone at this time next year.

2014-01-12 00.46.38I’ve been on a few dating sites in the last couple of years and have found the whole experience vaguely depressing. There’s the hopeful email from the man old enough to be your father, the barely literate ones full of winking emoticons and ‘mega lolz’. There’s the lovely chap who in person turns out to be a bit full on and calls you three times the following day asking if you want to meet his mum. There are also the downright offensive propositions, usually sent by people who think a photo taken in a toilet of a washboard stomach is an appropriate substitute for their face or that a pic of their car is better at describing them than a head shot could ever be…to be fair those men are probably right on the money.

My strangest email was from a guy who opened with this: “I read a survey that says 95% of women sing in the shower. The other 5% masturbate, which one are you.” Oh stop it you Casanova you.

At the start of the year I started using Tinder. Tinder is fun, it’s like a game, albeit a game that sends you a bit mad and will often leave you drunk with power, swiping the screen and sending hapless suitors mercilessly towards the ‘Nope’ side while giggling maniacally.

Tinder is simple. It loads Facebook pictures for you and sets a search area and age range and leaves you to swipe away happily. Tinder is also popular, with thousands of people on it and countless articles written about it, like this gentlemen’s guide in The Independent, or this man’s perspective in The Telegraph. But as soon as you start using Tinder is becomes patently obvious that not everyone has read the gentlemen’s guide.

It’s a rare session that you manage to use Tinder without having at least one shot of a random man’s penis. He’s clearly proud of it, good for him, I’m sure it’s a very nice, fully functioning piece of genitalia. But as a profile picture? A profile picture that has clearly come from their Facebook account? Perhaps they think they are being risqué and provocative. Perhaps it’s a comment on the aesthetic emphasis of our society and they are taking us back to the primal, animal instinct of mating. Perhaps it’s a work of avant-garde theatre, inviting the watcher to view their most private moments through a voyeuristic window. Or perhaps they’re just hoping to get laid.

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Is that a gun in your sad baggy boxers or are you just pleased to see me/a bit desperate and crap at taking pictures?

It’s not just the cock shots either, Tinder is awash with bizarre, unsettling and frankly what the fuck images. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here’s a collection of my favourite screenshots, all of which are potential dates that have popped up on my or my friend Kathrin’s mobile. Enjoy and please feel free to share your own monstrosities, or check out this web page, which does it for you on Tindercreeps.com.

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This is creepy. So if I don’t smile you’ll stand behind and force me to with some sort of cartoon Chelsea smile?

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How could any woman refuse those come to bed eyes?

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A real woodsman. Although three things bother me. Did he use his penis as fish bait, who took this picture and how much DO penguins weigh?

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I can’t help but feel sorry for the driver of the car in this image who is about to get an (admittedly cold-shrivelled) eyeful.

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Are you seriously using a picture of your wedding day to your beautiful bride on Tinder? What a catch.

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There’s nothing sexier than some kinky self-asphyxiation eh?

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What every girl looks for: a man who main skill is shooting.

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He’s that guy who takes his top off in a club. NO.

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He’s too sexy for his shirt, too sexy for his body…He isn’t.

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He wants you, and he’s going to…punch you in the face?

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Is that your newborn baby? Are you looking for a new baby mama?

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What…How…There are no words for this.

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Nothing says pick me to the ladies more than the puppet from Saw or an evil clown.

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Is there anything more attractive than an adult nappy?

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The person who took this photo would have spent their time by better calling mountain rescue.

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STOP

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TAKING

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BATHROOM SELFIES

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Yes I know you’re in Kanchanaburi stroking a de-clawed, possibly sedated ‘rescued’ big cat. No I am not impressed.

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This is, actually, to be fair this is quite funny. To the yes pile you go McCracken.

If you feel your Tinder needs some cosmetic help, The Huffington Post wrote a 10-step guide on pimping your profile, which you can read here.

*Names have been removed for modesty’s sake..although these pictures are available on Tinder and Facebook.

Crossing the Career No Man’s Land in 2014

There was an article on the BBC yesterday saying that there will be a 9% rise in graduate recruitment with  100 big employers suggesting that they are ‘planning to increase the number of new graduates they take on this year…many of the jobs will go to people who have already worked for the organisations, either on work experience or placement.’

That’s wonderful news for recent graduates or people about to start university, as God knows that in the face of increased tuition fees and seemingly insurmountable levels of student debt, any career help will be welcome.

But there’s still the group of twenty-something job seekers who got a raw deal graduating into the beginning of the recession, who have spent the last five years scraping by and are now nearing 30 with no pensions or savings and, dependent on their industry, limited career progression.

Let’s face it, there are few firms who’ll hire a 28-year-old to their grad scheme, I got enough funny looks interning last year aged 27 from permanent staffers who were at least four years younger than me. I’m also rapidly approaching the vaguely awkward age that makes some employers nervous. To them, 30 means babies and babies mean maternity leave and maternity leave costs them money. I once worked for a reputable sales firm who were advertising for an accounts administration role and rejected any females of ‘marriage and baby age’ outright. Yes, it’s illegal and highly unethical but it still happens and it’s still rather hard to prove in an employment tribunal.

When I first heard about the recession I was travelling around Asia. I remember sitting in an internet café in Agra and scrolling through all of the English news headlines, blithely reading headlines and articles that were screaming of the doom and gloom to come. At the time I just shrugged it off, so confident in our economy that I was convinced that what ever had gone wrong would fix itself by the time I got back home in a few months time. Obviously I was wrong.

By the time I had landed back on home soil the jobs market, and in particular the media industry, had stagnated. Businesses were freezing employment, letting go of freelance staff and waiting to weather the financial storm. Thus began the next five years of my career as I bounced from one internship and temporary job to another, working for an NCTJ qualification in my spare time and hoping that the next unpaid media job I applied for would lead to a permanent job.

That’s not to say that I don’t regret a single one of my placements, I know that being an intern is almost a prerequisite for the modern graduate and that they give you invaluable industry knowledge and contacts that you can draw on (abuse) later down the line.

I’ve had some fantastic experiences, amongst them meeting the excellent travel writer Chris Moss and working with the intimidatingly clever Nina Caplan; I briefly had a books column in Time Out London (back when you had to pay for it); I’ve covered Vintage at Goodwood with Laura Trant; interviewed Ricky Gervais and David Tennant on the red carpet; written and reviewed for the wonderful but sadly now deceased Wexas Traveller magazine; watched Fred Dinenage record ITV news and tried out the trapeze for a circus feature in my local newspaper.

The trouble is that I’m stuck with an impressive CV but haven’t had a job for longer than six months. It means that I’m overqualified for paid intern roles and under qualified for editor roles. I am in media no man’s land.

Last year I was offered a six-month paid internship at minimum (not London living) wage for an international newspaper that came with the hint of a post at the end of the stint. Six months later it was the same story: no roles, no funding, no contract renewals so I became a freelancer *cough*unemployed*cough* and stony broke. I’m not talking ‘oh I really can’t afford another cocktail’ broke, I mean the miserable, ‘I need to sell some things on eBay to buy Christmas presents’ broke.

I enjoy freelancing, it just the unanswered pitches and emails, the delayed invoice payments and the publications using quality, free blog content instead of paying for a freelance writer that makes it near impossible to squeeze a living out of it.

I struggled so much at the end of last year that I found myself battling against the deeply ingrained middle-class stigma of benefits and signing on at the start of 2014. I spent an hour at what my mother charmingly still refers to as ‘The Labour Exchange’ today trying to explain to my jobs advisor, the irrepressibly cheery Mr Albright, why I couldn’t find a job.

I tried to describe how journalism is about contacts and being in the right place at the right time and how most of the big newspapers and magazine companies (The Telegraph, Hearst, Condé Nast) fill any vacant roles with one of their own trainee scheme graduates or existing staff or freelancers. So not only am I competing against new graduates, I’m fighting for roles alongside freelance journalists with 20 years of experience behind them. One of my dream publications, Condé Nast Traveller advertised a fantastic job at the end of 2013, it went to an editor from Condé Nast Brides. The vacant job at Brides went to someone from the Condé Nast promotions team.

I’m not in any way suggesting that they should have gone to external candidates, it’s reassuring to see that once you’re in that companies promote loyalty and push for promotions, it’s just an absolute bugger when you’re on the outside looking in.

Mr Albright had some good news for me. After my interview he looked at me sympathetically…if a bit like he thought I was faintly delusional, and said that the government was piling money into recruitment this year and the jobs market was picking up. He told me I was doing all the right things and to try not to worry quite as much as he thinks all I need is a small break-through. He smiled at me and said he hoped he wouldn’t be seeing me for too long although I could always come and chat if I wanted his advice.

Frankly, after three months of rejection emails, banging my head against a wall of silence from editors and  false starts, it was all I could do to stop myself from launching myself across the desk and hugging him.

You can read the original BBC News article here.