I left-clicked the send icon that occupied it’s habitual place in the blue Hotmail header and began the process of internally praying for a response.
I had no right to apply for a job at ITN. I had been website writing for less than half a year, and I knew in my blood-pumper’s blood-pumper, my talents would ultimately be usurped by proper, professional journalists. My ‘occupation’ still renders me unemployed and any gesture to ‘Tom Bell The Writer’ is either a joke or an effort to appear above my station of parental parasite and perennial dog-sitter.
This job that I found floating around on social media was for an Entertainment Journalist. Details of the vacancy were sparse beyond simply stating the deadline. Sunday 2nd February was this date at which the drawbridge was drawn up and applications were laid to float in the moat of late-comers’ tears. That was a week from when I had sent in my own CV and covering letter, and so I could feel confident that no-one would even eye my particulars until the second day of the second month. For now I could relax.
It was this attitude that meant that when I did receive a return e-mail five days before the due date, I was caught very much off-guard. A casual glance into my inbox on the 29th January saw me staring bewildered at a reply, like a man who had just laid his peepers on a lady (Godiva – fiver) flapping about in a bush.
‘Please can you let me know your freelance daily rate? If you don’t currently have this, a desired rate or bracket would be fine.’
They say that swearing shows a lack of vocabulary. Well, if you could have recorded some of the language with which I celebrated my penetration of the ITN inner circle, I would’ve been the argument against limiting oneself to meagre niceties.
This, though, left me with a problem. Despite considering myself a creative prostitute, nobody has ever been even remotely interested in offering me a fee for my services. And it was for this reason that I responded to his reply with guff and bluster along the lines of ‘I don’t have an answer to that question, please be kind’.
What was I meant to do? Demand a lofty figure and hope he bartered me down? Make a martyr of myself and work for a pittance to guarantee myself the job? No, I quickly came round to thinking that in this case honesty was indeed the best policy.
After a day and a half of leaking pores and busting my head against blunt objet, Mr. Producer eventually dealt with me. He told me that money did not much matter yet and that he would like to see me at ITN studios in London.
Cue more celebratory cussing. Though I have never been proficient at break-dance, I could’ve windmilled myself the 114 miles from my home in Kegworth to their HQ in Camden.
I decided against it, taking the more socially acceptable mode of transport that the train. The day before, I prepared a paper portfolio and printed off my qualifications and bound them within plastic casing. My interviewer could’ve asked me anything and I wouldn’t be caught out.
The thing was that when I did eventually arrive at ITN Studios – a tower of transparent cubes stacked on end – my interviewer asked me very few questions. About four, and none of which were particularly probing or teasing or tricky. By virtue of being kind, he took me by surprise and I melted into a neurotic goo.
I told him nothing about myself, but instead became oddly transfixed on tone, my synapses unable to spark any other worthy thoughts. I gave short answers to straightforward questions, I failed to provoke him into writing anything in the jotter that he placed in front of him at the commencement of the interview. Beneath my name underlined, he wrote ‘tone’ (probably in the hope that I’d stop talking about it), and naught else.
Returning home I did feel disappointed, but this was the heavyweight division and could be clocked as experience.
Things aren’t always gonna go your way.