Fixing her eyes on mine with a look that said ‘I am your mother, I OWN you’ she said in a low voice ‘Remember my darling, we are very PRIVATE PEOPLE’
With this firmly in my mind Abi and I set off to meet the reporter at a café in Borough Market. Abi gave me one clear instruction of her own before we went in: ‘Don’t say anything negative about anyone’ The interview went like this:
Reporter Lady [RL]: ‘Have you heard of a porridge company called Stoats?’
FE (who has never heard of them): ‘We love them, they are amazing’
RL: ‘Their porridge is made with squirrel milk and salt’
FE: ‘We love their porridge’
RL: ‘Is it true that you sent some Grasshopper porridge to Prince Charles?’
FE: ‘Yes. We love Prince Charles’
You get the gist.
My second proper interview happened last week and it didn’t go quite as smoothly. The reporter was from a business magazine and I knew as soon as I saw him and he thrust his microphone towards my head that the ‘we love them’ approach wasn’t going to cut it. I tried to remember everything I knew about journalists but couldn’t come up with much. Our friend Barbara is a journalist. On her first day at work on a tabloid newspaper the Editor dropped a photo of the Tamworth 2 on her desk and said ‘Find those pigs by Monday or clear your desk’ after that they sent her to Russia to interview a serial killer. This guy was nothing like our darling Barbara though and I visibly squirmed as he positioned the microphone by my face and shuffled a bit nearer with his notebook poised. The winter sun shone in through the window like an anglepoise lamp in my face and the interrogation began.
Direct questions about exact sums of money spent/earned/invested were assertively requested along with bank statements, national insurance numbers and some DNA (just rub this cottonbud on the inside of your cheek).
I HATED it.
By the end of the hour I felt like I had been burgled and grabbed my things and made my escape. Afterwards I ran it by my friend Emma who is experienced in business hoping for reassurance.
FE: ‘How much financial information is it ok to reveal in a interview with the press?’
Emma: ‘It depends’ [PAUSE] ‘but basically, none’.
Every time I tried to settle down with a cup of soup or an episode of The Wire I kept getting distracted by the thought that everything I had mentioned in the interview was going to be published and since I didn’t really remember what I had said that was disconcerting. For two days RM persisted in advanced micro-extraction of information using email and text messages. Emails to confirm the surnames of people I mentioned in passing once, their current place of work, their salary, EVERYTHING. Usually a Grassy blog has a happy ending where I wrap it up with a wink and a smile but to my horror this one isn’t over yet as we haven’t seen the article! We are still in the dark!
‘How shallow’ I used to think when I read interviews with Gwyneth Paltrow saying how grateful and blessed she is. Surely you should just be open? Apparently not, apparently the only defence against the burgled feeling is a blanket ‘We love them’ approach which we will now be permanently adopting.
Everything I know about journalists: ‘I love them’
To be continued...