Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Tie That Binds

The first time I ever got paid for writing something was in 1985. I'd forgotten about it until yesterday when I found myself in a dusty corner of Manchester University library faced with a long shelf containing bound volumes of The Times Educational Supplement from the sixties to the nineties. I remembered writing a piece for them, and some of the aftermath. I knew it had printed in August, and I knew it must have been the mid-eighties, so it was easy to find. Hint to aspiring writers of educational stuff - pitch your article in July: they are desperate to fill the August columns. My piece was a lighthearted one about the tyranny (which seems even more in evidence now) of the tie as an essential item of the male teacher's wardrobe. I never liked wearing them, and expressed my view in the article. I now wear ties for graduations and funerals, never for an ordinary day at work; but in a school, then as now, it was considered a major transgression not to wrap a piece of silk or polyester around your neck every day. So I wrote this:

We were on holiday in France when the article was printed, and in those pre-mobile days, virtually uncontactable. About a week into the holiday, we found a working phone box and fed it with ten-franc pieces to speak to my father, just to report that we were having a great time. "Have you done something?" he said. "I'm sure I heard your name on the radio - something about an article.." I thought it must be the TES article, but didn't think much more about it until we got home, to find requests from various newspapers for interviews. By then, the moment had passed, of course. This was classic silly-season stuff, but I gathered that for a couple of days the article had generated phone-ins on radio shows and some brief comments in newspapers.  Probably the best part of the whole episode was the cartoon which accompanied the piece, reproduced above. I wish I could ever have looked that insouciant and elegant...