N is for: Nicknames. One member of staff liked to invent nicknames for people. If they were harmless, they knew about them but if they were a little more blunt, they remained blissfully unaware (although the rest of us usually got to hear of them). One poor soul who often felt under the weather was “Vera” after one of newspaper cartoonist Giles’s permanently unwell characters. Another was referred to as “Lady…” such and such (I’m not entirely sure why) and for a long time I believed she really did have that title. Someone else, who was adept at saying quite cutting remarks to you without breaking her smile, so you went away wondering if she had actually just said that, was known simply as “Teeth.” The best one of all was for someone who somehow managed never to take the blame for anything: “Mr Teflon.” I always considered myself to have had a lucky escape with “Saffy” after Julia Sawalha’s character in “Ab Fab” on TV. Apparently, I resembled her when I wore my glasses. At least, that’s what I was called to my face…
M is for: Makeovers. Usually a popular feature of the magazine, and I remember seeing pics of one particular lady who looked amazing after her makeover (it had taken years off her), but she obviously wasn’t comfortable with the new-look woman facing her in the mirror and (so I was told afterwards) had proceeded to scrub her face bare once all the photographs had been taken. Such a pity and a waste of a great opportunity and I have often wondered what exactly she had thought she was agreeing to in the first place.
L is for: Laughter. I have quite a loud, distinctive laugh (some would say cackle) and I became well known for it. People would wander down to our area to see what we were all in hysterics about. (It was usually rude and we couldn’t tell them. Often, it involved the knitted bikini – see a previous post for enlightenment.) It didn’t take much to set us off. They would say they could hear my laugh from down the corridor and round the corner and when I apologised for disturbing them, they assured me it cheered them up and to carry on laughing. Now there’s a good title for a film… Perhaps I could hire myself out to TV and Radio shows?
L is also for: Lunches. LONG lunches. Imagine! Can you remember that far back?! To the days when people sat down for a proper meal and almost the entire magazine would troop off somewhere for somebody’s birthday, pay day celebrations, a long weekend looming or just because there was an “R” in the month. One friend complained that he could never get hold of me as I always seemed to be out to lunch. A bit of an exaggeration. I expect he was just jealous. Gradually, though, the lunches were dropped as staff numbers decreased and you were lucky if you could find a few spare minutes to gobble down a scotch egg, crisps and half a packet of chocolate biscuits at your desk while reading with one eye and typing with the other. Of course, I mean a delicious, healthy salad, an apple and a half-fat yoghurt. Don’t know WHO could possibly have gorged on the scotch egg, crisps and chocolate biscuits, tsk, tsk…
L is also for: Leaving dos. In a previous company, my editor had a strippergram delivered to his desk on his leaving day. It was painful to watch and he looked as though he could have committed murder. After that, it was always lurking at the back of my mind that, when it came to my turn, they would cook up some equally horrendous scheme and it would be fair to say I lived in dread of it. Come the day I finally left, however (to join WW – do keep up), I discovered I was one of several, much to my huge relief, so we all just went down the pub instead – phew.
Leaving dos on WW were as well planned and well attended as birthdays (see a previous post). I didn’t want it to ever happen, of course (I honestly thought I would be carried out feet first and I don’t mean because I was pissed after a particularly good lunch – see above) but at least if it did, I knew I would be guaranteed a good send-off. People had a collection set up for them, lovely presents, flowers, cake and a drinks do, a long lunch (see above again) and a huge card bearing a wonderful mocked-up cover of the magazine with their own face on it and coverlines pertinent only to them. I was really looking forward to mine and wondering what they would come up with. Sadly, none was forthcoming, the reason being that so many of us were leaving at the same time, there was no one left who had the time or inclination to do them. (Neither did I get to go to my own leaving do in the end (shared with others again – there’s a pattern here), thanks to another “L” – for “Leaking roof” at home, for which I had to beetle off early to sort out.)
K is for: Knitting. Another very popular part of the magazine (see also “J”). My boss termed the phrase “The knitted handcuffs.” Meaning, once you had settled in and found your niche on the magazine, it would take something quite extraordinary to winkle you out of your comfort zone.
Years ago, there was a rather cheeky greetings card doing the rounds. It read: “What’s the difference between Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Woman’s Weekly?” Answer: “Cosmo tells you how to have an orgasm, Vogue tells you how to have one in style and Woman’s Weekly tells you how to knit one!” Our knitting editor was so taken with it, she bought a job lot to send out to everyone. I still have mine somewhere.
J is for: Jumpers. The air con in our old building was so ancient it barely came to life during the hotter months and we all used desk fans to keep ourselves awake. Come the winter, though, and the offices would turn arctic and desk fans were switched for fan heaters. We kept the facilities dept on their toes with our complaints that it always seemed much colder/hotter down one end of the office than the other. Having a ready supply of cosy hand-knitted jumpers from the deep recesses of the knitting cupboard was a perk of the job and the twice-yearly sales of said garments were always a well-attended scrum.
At the other end of the scale, there lurked in the inner recesses of the knitting cupboard a rather fetching skimpy knitted bikini, surely meant for posing in only and not for getting wet?! It provided hours of happy fun when whisked from the cupboard to startle any hapless passing male, who would then be rigorously quizzed as to what he thought of it. Thankfully for all concerned, they never insisted we model it for them…
I is for: Interviews. Sitting near the features dept, we were privy to snippets of tantalising gossip involving celebs’ behaviour. I can’t possibly name any names, but it was always riveting to hear that, contrary to their public persona, so and so was a bit of a cow, such and such had screamed down the phone at them, this person had wanted to bring her partner along with her to be included in the feature and had got the right hump when her request was gently turned down and someone else adamantly refused to be photographed for our cover (not right for her image, apparently) – so a perfectly nice pic of her was found through a picture agency and that got whacked on to the cover instead. On the other hand, it was reassuring to hear about people who turned out to be as nice off-screen as they were on. One such male TV presenter springs to mind. The features dept came back quite gooey from that particular shoot, not just because he was as lovely as hoped but also because he had sent his driver off to the nearest café while he waited for him, instead of expecting him to sit in his car for an hour or so, as others apparently did.
H is for: Help! Don’t read this if you are of a sensitive nature, or male (or both). Our problem page editor was also the Mother of our union chapel. During one busy lunch-time meeting in her office, her phone rang and it was a reader whose tampon had got stuck. In front of everyone, the editor talked the distressed reader down, inch by inch.