Life can take you in peculiar directions, can’t it?
I mean, I did a degree in writing and media studies, and ended up processing DVD orders at some distribution centre near Enfield. I guess it’s a media…
I then spent eight years working in the City. I worked with data. I’m not even going to try and explain what the data was used for, or what I did in the process. Suffice to say the only thing I was writing was my signature. On checklists. At the end of each and every day.
Not all my work has been like that since. For the last three years or so I’ve been loving life in Marketing, but that ended last week when I was made redundant. Probably the best thing that’s happened to my career? 100% yes.
I’ve set up my own copywriting business. It’s called Into Words. The idea is I’ll work with companies who need content. Whether that’s a website rewrite, a campaign email, an article or a blog. You name it.
The beauty of going solo is I can be the master of my own destiny. I can pick and choose – within reason, there’s kids mouths to feed too of course – what projects I work on.
Take this one: I’m writing a book with ex-Hampshire wicketkeeper Michael Bates. I’ve known Batesy for five years now and I’ve always found his story fascinating. An exceptional talent behind the stumps, he’s stopped playing the game now having been released by his club, Hampshire.
The book’s about his career, his successes, his progress through England age group cricket, leaving Hampshire and life after cricket.
Now, Batesy is a well connected fella. He played under 19s cricket for England with Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow to mention a few.
On Thursday, we hit the road to Bristol to meet some more of his ex-England colleagues, namely the new England captain Joe Root, and Sam Billings. England are playing Ireland in Bristol on Friday so we caught up with the guys on Thursday after their pre-match training session.
Batesy also wanted to catch up with Bruce French while we were there. Frenchy was his wicket keeping coach at England under 15s level and now coaches the senior keepers – including Billings, Batesy’s old teammate. Small world.
As the lads trained I hit the press box and did some work on the book. The content is coming along nice and steady and we’ve got some really interesting contributors (all will be revealed soon!) The book is autobiographical in places, but we also want to speak to people Batesy’s known through his career to get their view on him, and how the role of wicket keeping has evolved over the years – possibly to the detriment of Batesy’s own career progression. Or perhaps he just wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip?Anyone who’s done press with professional sports folk will know it’s a waiting game. ‘Training will be done by 12,” the ECB press manager told me early doors. But by the time players have spoken to the written press, the broadcasters, the radio, then got changed, had a bite, and finally had their mug shots taken (the pics you see on TV when they’re going out to bat), well, it’s a lot later.
Anyway, finally Billings came along. We’re outside and it’s windy and the last thing you want on a dictaphone is hissy background noise, so we find a corner inside the ground. There are no seats so Billings wonders off to nab a couple. Absolute gent, this guy.
We start talking about how he met Batesy, and how he got into the England set up at that age. He tells me he was a late developer and was tiny until 17 or so. The guy is lighting up the India Premier League (IPL) now. Incredible.
Then, Joe Root wonders in. He knows we want to speak to him, and he too has just had his mug shot taken. We’re in this little corridor near the stairs to the England team’s dressing room. Wild. Graeme Thorpe and Mark Ramprakash walk past. England’s batting coaches. Absolute heroes from my childhood.
Back to Rooty. He’s waiting over my shoulder to speak to me. Batesy’s there too, but you know. The England captain. Rooty. Waiting. To speak to me. Amazing. ‘Come and join us, Joe,’ I declare. I go to stand up as there are no more seats. ‘I can’t let England’s captain stand.’
‘Ah don’t worry mate, it’s alright,’ says Rooty. Again, absolute legend. He pulls over this big green bag full of something soft – think it might be loo rolls. Who knows?
And there we sit, three old friends and me. Four blokes with one thing in common – an unswerving love for cricket.
What did we talked about? Well you’ll have to wait for the book now, won’t you? Seriously though the conversation ended with Joe Root saying he was frustrated that Batesy isn’t playing first class cricket anymore. Here here to that. And I must say it was quite a poignant moment, seeing Root – who just happened to be the England captain – talking in such glowing terms about his old mate. Top stuff.
Freelance days won’t always be like this, and clearly there’s a lot of copy to pound out before this book is nailed down. But wow, what an experience.
I strongly believe that hard work pays off. I tell that to my kids every single day. I’ve worked crazy hours to get here. Here? I’m nowhere in reality. Just a guy wanting to write for a living.
But days like this? They make it all worthwhile. All I’ve ever wanted from my career was to do something that I enjoy and I’m good at.
Feels like, finally, I’m on Root to something special.