Tuesday, September 25, 2012

OUT, OUT BRIEF CANDLE or THE DOOMED CAREER OF JANE ADAMS


My flickering career as Jane Adams, cub reporter, started well enough. The editor of one of Rangoon's two daily newspapers asked me to write a Sunday column. His thinking seemed to be that I was young, probably literate, and socially out-and-about.  He wanted a column about parties and dances and visiting dignitaries and anything that might be going on that his reporters weren't in a position to hear about.

Painting: White Water
Great idea.  I could babble on about this and that, have a little fun. Had I known about Rupert Murdoch I would have elbowed him out of the way.

I can't remember whose idea it was to appear under a nom de plume.  Perhaps it was my father's – nervous as he probably was at the thought of what I might write. Indeed, looking back, I'm surprised that he went along with the idea at all. However, I invented "Jane Adams", set up the old portable typewriter on a desk on the veranda, and hammered out my first piece. 

On Sunday it appeared, headed "Rangoon Diary". It wasn't bad for a beginner. There were descriptions of a glittering evening at the Strand Hotel and a grand reception attended by everyone who was anyone and many who weren't.  I went to town on clothes and atmosphere, and tried to give an impression of sophistication. And there was a jolly anecdote about my friend Leo falling out of a dinghy after a long curry and lager lunch.  

There was quite a to-do about the column in the next few days. It was a change from world news, shipping arrivals and departures, and the activities of insurgents up-country. And – buzz, buzz – who was Jane Adams?  Leo was puzzled: who had seen him in the lake? In fact plenty of people – and many more heard the story afterwards, so I was safely anonymous. Jane Adams was busy gathering material for her next column, keeping her eyes open and her mouth shut.

Column two: Jane Adams had been to the theatre for a performance of an Agatha Christie play and also reported on a visit by a British Navy ship and a dance hosted by the Caledonian Society. Crucially, she mentioned Leo again because he had been ya-hooing his way around Rangoon hot-spots.  Leo's boss was furious and had him on the carpet first thing Monday morning. Leo, and soon everyone else, had worked out who Jane Adams was.

Jane Adams was mortified. Without realising it, she – I – had become that pathetic, despicable creature, a gossip columnist, although that term was probably not yet in common use. I didn't have the hide for the job, thank goodness. All yours, Mr Murdoch.  

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