The Private Pennings of Fiona Ferret: Political Journalist on Probation

FEBRUARY

I am really paying the price for my foray into Afghanistan as Willie (my editor) has labelled me ‘the loose cannon’, won’t let me out of the country and has put me under house arrest which means complete censorship and all my copy has to be double checked by him. Talk about control. He says I’m not even to be trusted with a local wedding let alone a royal one and now that HM is coming to visit he doesn’t want any screw-ups, Fiona. I pleaded and begged and promised I would not describe Kate’s dress as an undercooked meringue or her veil as mosquito netting. Assured him I even know what tulle is and chenille and that Philip Treacy is to hats what Michael Lowry is to trouble. But Willie wasn’t having it. He said I was on probation for the month and would have to prove myself by undertaking some very basic tasks and he was sending me over to Features for a week before allowing me back into Politics. This was particularly humiliating seeing as the election was in full swing and I ended up at Vera’s (my counsellor) in a heap of tears, which she said was rage. Had a soggy rant about my control freak boss and my house arrest and then built up quite a head of steam about Ronan (now very DEFINITELY the EX boyfriend) who disappeared to Roscommon to help Ming get elected. I think he just wanted free hash and some publicity. Bridie (my best friend who works in pensions in the D of F) heard through the face book grapevine that he has another woman. Do I care at this stage! Vera shifted somewhat in her seat when I heaped torrents of abuse on Ronan (and Bridie) but I felt really good afterwards. Vera usually sits there nodding in her kindly way which is not helpful and pretty annoying but this time she sat up straight, wiggled her toes firmly into her Birkenstocks and started on about someone called Yung (probably one of her Chinese gurus) and my masculine and feminine energy. I got fairly lost in the yins, yangs and yungs but basically she thinks my ‘masculine’ has taken me over (how weird is that) and I need to find my ‘feminine’, especially as I’m operating in a man’s world. I told Vera that right now I’m trapped in Willie’s world (he controls the purse strings in the worst recession ever) but she got quite passionate and said I was not to be a victim and that I could still find my ‘lost feminine’ through the written word.

Flummoxed I left Vera feeling confused and wondering if this is a feature of turning thirty or a serious gender identity crisis. As soon as I got back to the office I was sent by Willie to perform one of my Herculean tasks with a special fashion feature and interview with Mum’s now ex heartthrob Bertie (since he climbed into a cupboard Mum has shifted allegiance in the heart throb stakes to Michael Boyo Martin.) My mum Betty is a free spirit which means she is basically whacky and is currently making yoghourt in a commune somewhere near the Corrib gas pipeline where she often hangs out chained to lorries in protest). My article was pretty deadly and became a full page spread in features entitled Anorak Man: Canary Yellow the New Spring Colour, which was hotly followed by an in-depth interview with the man himself called How I’m Managing without Mercs, Perks and a Driver’s License. He got very tetchy when I asked him why he wanted to sell off Ireland’s forests and what was Rupert Murdoch like as a boss. He became very tight-lipped when I asked what remuneration he was getting for being an economic advisor to Nigeria.  All the tight-lipped aggro was really cool and gave my copy loads of human interest. After the ‘money trail, ‘human interest’ and ‘scurrilous gossip’ is what sells print. Willie was really pleased and says he is going to cut me some slack. I’m not holding my breath. So work for this month progressing really well but had some SERIOUS emotional setbacks. Election results came through end of the month and with sinking stomach watched Ronan lifting Ming up on his shoulders in celebration with blonde standing close by looking at Ronan all doe-eyed. I am not jealous, I am not jealous. I’m raging. Then the biggest betrayal of all time. I had texted Bridie after my counselling session ‘Do u think im a man?’ which is a serious question and all I got was a text from Bridie saying ‘am preg. Thrilled. X B’. This is my BEST friend and I get no response to a really big issue in my life and she texts me her life changing news which came up one hundred and thirty of the one hundred and fifty texts I got that day. Nearly had a heart attack. We had AGREED we weren’t going to have children. She never consulted me or even phoned to chat about it. Had another melt down at Vera’s who pointed out that this was an illustration of my ‘feminine’ energy being conflicted. I remain confused and miserable. Drown my sorrows in chocolate and resist temptation to phone Badger (my Dad) who will get wound up and just give me the usual Ferret family spiel: We never give up or give in – basically, pull yourself together, girl. Or worse he might start in on how I need to find a reliable boyfriend and even worse start a family.

MARCH

March is starting off nicely. Bridie has apologized for changing her mind about having a baby and not consulting me and she says I can be a godmother (which I’m not sure about) but all is forgiven. She definitely does not think I’m having a gender crisis and got Phil (her husband) to phone and he enlightened me on the world of Jung (Swiss apparently, not Chinese) and the challenges of a female living and working in a patriarchal society. Willie thinks I’m wonderful and has asked me to not only report on the opening of the Dail but is going to see if I can get over to the States for Paddy’s day, even if means carrying the shamrock. Suddenly everything in the garden is looking rosy and this is usually when something hideous happens to spoil it all. Oh my God, the White House, Obama, Washington, this is so amazing. Willie actually wants all my copy from a thirty-year old woman’s perspective. Wow, since when has my opinion been actively sought? Is emigration so bad that the powers that be are terrified there will be no young people left? Maybe we wont end up as just a country for old men (golf and Cheltenham), run by old men (based in London and Marbella)? Globally it looks like the seats of power are on shifting sands – well they may well be shifting in the Middle East with the internet revolution but the Dail is still a bastion of blokes on the wrong side of fifty. How come Egypt is ablaze with articulate burkad women taking to the streets and we have only a handful of elected female representatives? At the grand opening of the Dail was quite overwhelmed by the broad sweep of dark suits and ties lined up like an army preparing for battle and there was plenty of warrior-speak especially from the newly elected independents. Michael Pull-no-punches Martin heading a very depleted platoon of FFers was playing safe in his new role in opposition. Gerry I Know Nothing Adams threw down the gauntlet to FF as well as to FG and this was followed by a predictable rant from Joe Blunderbuss Higgins. New boys Richard Boyd Bayonnette and Shane Scorepoints Ross competed for sound and fury and both ended up saying the same thing which was pretty boring. There was definitely no ‘feminine energy’ here and I found myself desperately looking for some oestrogen amid the whirlpool of testosterone. And THERE he was in a pink shirt (amongst the blues) sporting blonde curly locks and yes, earrings! Michelle Ma Belle Wallace of the gentle voice. Things were looking up. Then I spotted Kylie Mingogue with the ponytail but sadly not a matching voice and plenty of testosterone to boot – or maybe he was just high. The great surprise came from our newly elected leader, who I think is an honorary woman (not quite Maggie Thatcher though the hairstyle is close). Dame Edna spoke with passion and emotion, quoted poetry and sprinkled her – sorry his – speech with words like ‘care’ and ‘compassion’. I could see people looking bemused – wasn’t this supposed to be a bonfire of the bondholders, budgets and banks: big boy stuff. Apparently the press in Washington had heard that the newly elected Taoiseach was an Ms Edna Kenny so was somewhat surprised when the real Mr. Kenny stepped off the plane in a suit and tie but our honorary woman did us proud. Dame Edna hit the ground running and Willie, God love him, did get me to the States clutching the shamrock. I had a ball in the White House and did a special feature on the first lady – Michelle is so cool, a great role model for women and a savage dresser. Dame Edna proclaimed Ireland was open for business (even though we are still wrestling with the IMF and being bullied by Brussels) so we’ll keep hoping but his big coup was securing a visit from Baraigh O’Bamaigh, a now honorary Irishman (who has had his DNA tested and yes there is a great-great-granny there). It took me two weeks to recover from the parties and the jet lag. Was bumped down to earth by Willie who thought I had covered enough frivolity and fashion in Washington so was sent to research and write a SERIOUS article on a recent survey which showed how women are reported on in the media: basically we feature mainly in three categories: as victims, eye candy and mothers which might explain why there are so few female elected representatives. Since I don’t really fall into any category except perhaps occasionally the victim when I’m in a moaning Minnie mood do I have a future?

APRIL

Everything in the garden is still looking rosy and keep wondering when my luck is going to run out. Have forgotten about Ronan who Bridie informs me is now embedded with a blonde in a vegetable patch in Roscommon – Bridie had heard he was growing his own weed seeing as there was a market for it but now that Kylie Ming has given it up and focussing instead on turf and bogs, Ronan might have to go back to producing good old leeks and potatoes. Decided to do a follow up survey on how men are reported on in the media – to cut to the chase after days of wading through print and watching hours of TV, I came up with three categories: aggressors, guy candy (in the form of footballers, actors, etc.) and experts (someone with an opinion on anything and everything) especially when it comes to money: how to make it, how to get a bonus for making it – how to lose it (horses and dogs) – how it makes the world go round – how it gives you power and status and how you are nothing if you don’t have it. On the home front we had the Mobile Menace who is worth billions bleating on about not spending a red cent. Tip me a Wink had never received a brass farthing and Big Ben only had to phone a minister to get red cents and farthings sorted. Once you are a member of the power tent there is no end to your possibilities…There is always a place for you, be it on a state board, giving after dinner speeches at forty thousand Euros a shot, advising other governments, and so on…Reading the above is making me feel that the new thirty is fifty and am wondering if anything will ever change. Phoned Badger who had just been to see the Dalai Lama and sounded a bit spaced out. He gave me a bit of Ferret pull yourself together girl speech but he was less strident and more Zen. He did point out that our generation are really at a disadvantage right now because we had it so easy – everything given to us on a plate and we have lost our initiative as well as having high expectations. I didn’t like hearing that but felt there was a niggling grain of truth in it.

I went to Vera with all this swirling around in my head. After a lot of exhausting forensic mind and body dissection she asked me what I wanted to do right now.  ‘Lie on a beach and read a Mills and Boon romance novel.’ I couldn’t believe my response. Seems my feminine energy is getting the upper hand.

So excited – Willie is putting me in charge of weddings – attended the first gay wedding which was so romantic I cried buckets. And next week I’m off to UK to cover the big wedding – I’m betting on a trench coat style dress with a hint of petticoats. Meringues are so out.

Willie is so pleased with my work he has given me leave so I’m off to Italy for a week in the sun, armed with my first Mills and Boon novel. I might even try my hand at writing one.