I was saddened to see that Tony Elliott one of the founders of Time Out Magazine had died. Back in the day Time Out was our bible we never went out without first consulting it. Tony started it when his Aunt gave him £75 (around £1000 nowadays) as a 21st birthday present. It began as a fold out pamphlet put together on his mum’s kitchen table.
Particularly poignant for me as Tony gave me my first commission in journalism – it was a baptism by fire. I think he was testing me to see if I had what it takes to be a journalist. I was sent to cover one of Dr. Tuppy Owen’s sex parties for the disabled. Tuppy was a sex therapist and was the first person to publish a visual aid for putting on a condom in her bestselling annual The Sex Maniac’s Diary. She was the founder of Outsiders, which supports disabled people to find partners. And I was off to one of their parties.
Talk about rookie I had no idea about what I was to enter. I was young and naive. This was a party where sex workers gave disabled people the opportunity to experience sex – perhaps for the first time in their lives. I won’t go into detail but just to say everything was very explicit, there were wheelchairs, there was sex, there was hoists. I was completely unprepared, and I think somewhat naive. Tuppy is a force to be reckoned with. I interviewed her a decade later for another publication and she remained equally impressive. I imagine that Tony and fellow journalist Duncan Campbell were amused at the thought of me covering this story.
Looking back, I can’t fathom out how or why I went into journalism. I am a bit dyslexic, a diabolical speller as you have probably discovered, a great malapropist (if that is a word!!) and not a particularly good writer. For me it was the chase, the challenge of finding a good story, investigating and meeting the people that I found most exciting.I loved deadlines. It got my adrenalin pumping. It is how I met Tod too. I was in Israel writing a story about the psychological impact of the Lebanese war on diaspora soldiers and Tod was one of these soldiers.
The impact of this war on both Israeli and diaspora soldiers was huge. The soldiers had been trained to defend their country but Lebanon was more that just defence. Many soldiers told me that once they were there on the front, gun cocked, they began to wonder what on earth they were doing. This was no longer about defence they felt that they were now the aggressors. This war left its mark on thousands of soldiers, most of them in combat troops and even those who weren’t wounded were left with psychological scars still to this day unhealed. Certainly Tod who was a paratrooper suffered from PTSS. He had nightmares and would wake up screaming. It never left him right up to his death. For many reasons I think it was one of the best stories I have written. Maybe because we became romantically involved and I got the inside story. Not that I am advocating that one sleeps with one’s interviewees, but I did go on to marry him.
And last night when I had dinner in the garden with two very close friends – couples – he was missed. It was a lovely evening and a welcome escape from my house bound existence. But turning the key in the lock at 1 am I was acutely aware that I was coming home alone. No one to chit chat about the evening over a cuppa which is one of the joys of going out together. Discussing the funny bits, the bits that annoyed you, the food, the gossip. So, I made myself a night cap and shared my thoughts with the dog and cat. Ever faithful Izzi tried to look interested. She cocked her head as if she really did understand and then nuzzled up close. Mo gave me one of her ‘really Roma get a grip’ looks and curled up on my chair and went to sleep. So I sipped my tea, and told Tod all about the evening.
“Let’s be careful out there”