I think if I hadn’t become a clergyman or an architect, I would have been an investigated journalist. Mind you the first thing I wanted to be was a London bus driver. I loved the big red RT buses with the half cab at the front and often dreamed of sitting behind the wheel of one of those majestic kings of the road – which I did of course when I was 35 years old and on staff at Millmead Baptist Church in Guildford, Surrey. But that’s another story!
A big fan of Jonathan Pilger
In my 20’s and 30’s, I became a big fan of Jonathan Pilger, the investigative journalist who exposed some major international scandals through his brilliant and forensic investigative research. No stone was left uncovered, even at great personal risk to his own well-being and survival. He wasn’t afraid to expose injustice at the top level of government.
After my stint as presenter of the Breakfast Show on County Sound Radio, the CEO suggested that I should explore investigative journalism as a career.
I never pursued that idea, although one of the first jobs I got after leaving school at 15 was as a Junior Reporter for the Sheerness Times Guardian. Now you may be thinking, why did he leave school at 15? Good question. The answer is simple. I didn’t feel I had the academic ability to go to University and my parents needed me to contribute financially into the running of the house. Many of my contemporaries were the same. Their parents had a high work ethic and expected their children to work and pay their way in the family home.
Looking back now, I can see that this was right for me. I remember reflecting after I completed my four year theological training at Spurgeon’s College in London, that some of my contemporaries went into training for Christian ministry straight from university and I wondered if they had any real experience of life.
Anyway, back to the naked beer!
It was an initiation ceremony which took place on the roof of the sheerness Times Guardian newspaper offices. We employees were stripped naked, and made to drink a beer or two! Not a pleasant sight or experience for a shy young man! That fairly traumatising event, plus a crash course in Pitman’s Shorthand did not make for a great first experience as a journalist! On the plus side, I did get to cover a beauty contest and other interesting events in the colourful life of Sheerness!
I have experienced more palatable initiation ceremonies, although just as stressful! When I started my theological training at Spurgeons, I had to stand on the long table with all the first years in the senior common room and shout the college “War Cry” in New Testament Greek! But more of that on another episode!