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Simon's been everywhere, man!

                                                                                    Gerry writes:   I asked Simon Malia (a 1985                                                                                                student) to fill me in on his life since college

                                                                                    days  -- and this was his reply!  So I decided

                                                                                    that his colourful and entertaining tale could

                                                                                    have a page all to itself .  .




Hi Gerry.  Here is the  life-story piece you requested. Please feel free to edit it as you wish and, should you see fit, add it to the letters on your wonderful website.


I did shifts on the Sunday Express and later the Mail on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times and the Sunday Mirror. I also darkened the doorsteps of the People and the News of the World at different times, and did several shifts for the Mail, the Mirror and the (now long gone) Today newspaper.


After leaving Richmond, I bade farewell to the fleshpots of Tyneside (the Shields Gazetter) to take up a job with Mercury Press Agency in Liverpool, where I was thoroughly knocked into shape by the late, great Roger Blyth and his oppo, Chris Johnson. Lots of fun, very little pay - the typical lot of the avid and ambitious agency tyro. But, while there, I had the chance to interview senior politicians of the era galore - Heseltine, Kinnock, Baker, Lawson, Brittan, Ashdown, Clarke, King, Major etc etc - as well as stars of pop and rock  (Holly Johnson, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Pursey and members of Deacon Blue spring to mind) and sports (Howard Kendall, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Big Ron Atkinson and many more), as well many, often more fascinating, people from less celebrated walks of life.   


  I spent a year in Nottingham, too, where things were often lively.  One memory is of being chased down a garden path by an irate Brian Clough wielding a tennis racket and a vicious grin. It was time to make my excuses, leave, and phone the Daily Mail news desk with the line: 'Mr Clough declined to comment, but made it clear he was not happy', before setting forth to cover a sad and rather pathetic child murder in Lincoln, and then having to file copy on another killing in Nottingham that evening. All in a day's work? So it seemed. 


  Then it was on to Birmingham for a spell, before having to choose between the Mail, Today or Granada Television.   So, telly it was. And I spent the next 20 years making programmes covering local and national news, politics, sport, the arts and - sometimes - whatever took the fancy of the brilliant, gadfly mind of the late Tony 'Mr Manchester' Wilson. An absolute giant, and real gentleman to boot, as was the late and wonderful Bob Greaves, who presented 'Granada Tonight' or, as it was more often known, 'Granada Reports'. 


I shared some truly exhilarating, enervating and exhausting times, covering everything from the Hillsborough disaster to the Strangeways riots, the Warrington bombings to the tragic murder of James Bulger, and on to the IRA bombing of Manchester city centre. Turbulent times make for busy newsrooms. Amid even the grimmest of such times we could usually find lighter moments. I'll forever treasure the sheer comic genius of another late, and much missed, colleague, our roving, ever-natty, reporter Carl Hawkins. His item about pensioners accused of taking cuttings and making off with pot plants from garden centres still makes me chuckle to recall.   The teams I worked with, at Granada, and later at BBC North West, were astounding. I was lucky enough to play minor roles in the coverage of all these events and much more besides. 


Another ten years whizzed past after joining Manchester United's own in-house television channel, MUTV, as Senior Producer. Live long enough, get old enough, and you will inevitably be a 'senior' something. Again, lots of fun, and wonderful colleagues - and very, very occasionally, the chance to celebrate quietly when my team, Newcastle United, managed one of their rare triumphs over the Reds. 


  In later years, I turned my hand to bits and pieces of PR and even online business journalism, before landing - quite by accident, and very much thanks to the good offices of a friend - a dream job, acting as media liaison for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. 


  These past ten years with the Foundation have been among the most rewarding of my entire career. There have been terribly sad moments too; lung cancer tends not to spare our best allies and advocates, people who find themselves diagnosed with the disease. Helping to raise the profile of the charity and its astounding work has been a huge honour, and I'm always in awe of the people who, despite receiving the worst possible news, are keen to make themselves available to share their stories and get the word out about the stunning advances in diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, no matter what age or how healthy their lifestyle. Worth noting. 


  Gerry, when you told us all those years ago that a career in journalism was unlikely to make us rich, you spoke the literal truth. I've never been particularly highly-paid (and many would say, rightly so!), but I've amassed a wealth of astonishing experiences and memories, and met some of the most wonderful people. 


  I've travelled right across the world, and known great highs and deep, deep lows. But it's been a hell of a journey, and for that I must thank you, and Ron and Lynn and all the talented and patient staff at Richmond College who drew on their own knowledge and experiences to enrich us and equip us to go forth and earn our livings, doing what we love, and having the most fun we possibly could with our clothes (mostly) on. 'Thank you' doesn't begin to cover it, but I'm offering you all my sincere gratitude. 


  From  trudging  around in search of a scoop for the Richmond Reporter to running round Wembley Stadium with the FA Cup winning Liverpool team, or chatting with hard-boiled detectives in the Liverpool Press Club to holding hands with a survivor of the Munich air disaster, or taking tea at the House of Commons to shivering with cold and fear outside a gangster's flat, this has been the ride of my life. 

Thank you.  

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