Friday 8 November 2013
It has been quite a few years since I turned up at 85 Fleet Street, the only non-Oxbridge trainee from Scotland, arriving hours early and wondering if they would actually let me in the door of that magnificent Lutyens building. Surprisingly enough they did, and for those who want to share in the nostalgia, no farewell note would be complete without a shout-out to the memorable features of my early journalism training - the great George Short, manual typewriters and chain-smoking at our desks.
That led on to a trainee year in Paris in the days when we still went out for lunch; a stint as our woman in Luxembourg examining the entrails of the EU, and then a posting to Cairo at a time when the military were in power and the Islamists hiding in the shadows (some things don’t change).
In the 1990s, again back in Paris, I was lucky enough to have a front seat on history, tracking - inverted yield curve by inverted yield curve; from one freezing doorstep to another outside ministerial meetings around Europe - the long process of creating a single currency. I still find it remarkable to have witnessed a period in which the political will of governments overcame the power of financial markets. I was also terribly proud of Reuters that despite the many different views we were hearing in the different capitals where we were based, we all managed to work together while ensuring this diversity of views was expressed. And to all those colleagues who teased me back then about my obsession with the “temporary and exceptional circumstances” that would allow deviation from the stability pact, I give you the recent euro crisis and rest my case.
When I left for India in 2000 I had little inkling that South Asia would become the region to which I would want to devote the rest of my career. Somehow having a car crash on the way into Delhi from the airport - and then piling out onto the side of the road with my nine-year-old daughter and French au pair while watching the cows go by - failed to put me off. We had a small earthquake the next day and a near-war a year later, so some might call me contrarian. I would prefer to say that in the years covering both India and Pakistan I have rarely met more generous people - in both countries.
My attachment to writing about South Asia has survived my return to London where, after publishing a book on the Siachen war, I started a blog about Pakistan while juggling work on the World Desk. I should thank those of my managers who made this possible.
Finally, since this farewell note is getting far longer than I intended, indulge me with a few more notes of thanks. First and foremost, to my daughter Hannah who patiently tolerated the irregular hours and occasional nights in Delhi where she had to curl up to sleep in the office while I dealt with breaking news. She has now graduated from university and is ready to make her own way in the world.
Then to my colleagues over the years - I cannot even begin to say what a privilege it was to work with so many different nationalities over the years, and with so many brilliant people. Thank you.
To those of you who are staying, remember that independence of thought, and independence in reporting, comes first.
To the women, I was the first woman and first single mother to become Chief Correspondent in Paris and Bureau Chief in India. Keep insisting on equal representation in management. But also recognise that it is difficult enough for women to make their way in a man’s world; don’t make it harder by blaming yourselves for anything that goes wrong.
As for me, I am going home.
Before he died, my father was prescient enough to leave me our house in Scotland - the house I was born in - so I would always have somewhere to go. I shall be living there while writing about South Asia, including a book, and travelling to India and Pakistan as often as I can.
You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or, of course, on Twitter @myraemacdonald. ■