The last time I worked in an office Prince Charles was still married to Princess Diana (just), mobile phones were the size of bricks and cappuccinos were unheard of outside Italy. In those days journalists started their careers in the provinces, honing their skills on local papers, learning 100wpm shorthand and bashing out stories on tinny typewriters. After a couple of years loads of us hotfooted it to London, clutching our prized NCTJ proficiency certificates, and started ringing around for shifts in the news rooms of national newspapers.
But things have moved on and for the last 20 years I’ve worked as a freelance journalist, based at home and working for a host of different newspapers and magazines. Actually I’m still a freelance but this year I’ve spent a bit of time working in London offices again.
It’s been quite an eye-opener. I’d forgotten how much I missed office life – the banter, the camaraderie, the gossip – but I’m stunned at how things have changed. There’s less banter and definitely more focus. Twenty-five years ago we thought nothing of writing a batch of stories in the morning, then retiring to a Fleet Street bar for a few drinks at lunchtime. These days everyone is glued to their screens all day. If you make it out of the office it’s only to nip to grab a speedy sandwich from Pret.
I loved every minute of it though, especially catching the bus to work with other commuters every morning. I stayed near Queen’s Park, enjoying a brisk fifteen-minute walk before hopping on the bus into Central London. En route I marvelled at the number of chic coffee shops that have opened since my London days, most of them boasting bare brick walls, industrial lighting and shabby chic tables . Why can’t one of them move to my corner of Dorset (where I’m hard-pressed to get a decent skinny flat white at the best of times)?
“But surely you wouldn’t want to work in London full-time?” my friends and family asked me after my latest London stint.
The answer is simple. Yes, I most definitely would.