Biro and Candy Floss



"Roger Joins News Team" was the headline for a small article in the last Cumberland News of 1977. My career as the most specialised free-lance journalist in the country was launched. The Editor did interview me, but as I had been personally invited to write a weekly article by the then Chief Executive, Sir John Burgess, I was fairly confident of landing the job. The editor asked me about my experience in journalism, which was nil. When pressed to suggest anything that might show I could do the job, I said that I did have an English degree, and I still remember the expression of consternation and disgust as his eyes raised to the ceiling.

My predecessor, Bob Horsley who wrote under the pen name of "Clicker" was a real journalist, and had set the standards that I struggled to maintain. For 29 years he had filed a weekly article and had also built up a comprehensive record of the sport. His widow invited me to her house and handed over the contents of a floor-to-ceiling cupboard: notes, records, books, photographs, pictures, and the notes for his planned book. All these are now easily available to view at the County Archives in Old Harraby, Carlisle.

What Bob Horsley had done over the years was establish the Cumberland News as the place you went each week if you were interested in wrestling, for his article was comprehensive and authoritative. In the 1950s, my father ordered the News each week even though we lived a hundred miles from Carlisle in Northumberland. To some extent that still happens: this week I took my monthly personal call from Maurice Rutherford, a wrestling aficionado, who lives in Weardale and has the paper delivered each week for my 500 words.

So, what has changed in 35 years? No longer do I hand over biro-written sheet with all my crossings-out and amendments to the receptionist, or phone in to a copy-typist who giggles over the "leg-up buttocks" and "twists-off-the-breast". Instead, I can stay at home and rely on email, except of course when the area's phone lines are dug up by accident, and a swift car and a pen-drive take the copy to the Sports Editor. I still continue to be a last-minuter, but have only missed one deadline in 35 years when I did the classic error of failing to attach my article to the email, before rushing out of the house to go farming. The Sports Editor was provided with a photograph and ten words of copy that week, and when I bought the paper I wondered why I had been so seriously curtailed.

Although my articles now are nearly always illustrated in colour by relevant action shots, the content has remained much the same over the years. For 65 years the Cumberland News has given Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling a place to focus each week regardless of where the action is. Other regional papers usually cover the events in their areas, but this paper has a wider perspective.

People ask me if there are weeks when there is absolutely nothing to write about. I tell them about my candyfloss moments when I take a few grains of sugar and whip them up into an illusion of substance. That English degree came in useful after all, and maybe this week is your portion of candyfloss.

Written by © RogerRobson.

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