“Eleven years. 552 issues. Maybe half a million words or more.”
You’ll only get to the end of something if you start it.
And I started and restarted writing this week’s column maybe six or seven times, because even as I reach the end of this second sentence, I still don’t quite know how to handle this one.
I’ve been writing a column for ShortList each and every week since it began. Eleven years. 552 issues. Maybe half a million words or more. And yes, I’m still learning some of life’s hardest lessons.
But it’s a column that began when the world seemed less confused.
Certainly, my life was less complicated. I was about 30, at a moment I was slowly realising that things were changing in my life. I suddenly had “display cushions” in my flat – cushions you just look at! - and my local pub had been gentrified and now offered a Sausage of the Week. I also remember being concerned that the cans of beer in my fridge had now been replaced by crisp white wine, and that this strange turning point in my life also meant I had ready access to basil, but that I still wasn’t quite sure what for.
Now, more than a decade later, I have moved out of the city. I have three children. I have more display cushions than you could ever imagine. And I know exactly what to do with basil.
ShortList was a brave magazine when it launched, particularly as it was to the sound of people saying it wouldn’t last five minutes. And it remained a brave magazine, thanks to brilliant teams I watched flourish, from side of pitch, as they created and sustained a magazine for men (and come on, women, let’s be honest) with more than one thing on their minds. Because in a world where people think magazines like this just recommend cufflinks, I remember Andrew Dickens revealing his battle with depression, before it seemed totally okay for men to do that. I remember Ralph Jones writing about the toxic self-image his teenage spots gave him, and how he carried that forward into his adult life. I remember the first week of a free magazine – free?! – at a time when everything cost five quid, until everything was suddenly free. In fact, I remember ShortList doing lots of things that others weren’t, until they suddenly were.
And each week I’ve written about something from my life, in the hope that it might resonate with something from yours, and I’ve emailed it to two men. Howard and Phil. I have probably therefore emailed Howard and Phil more than anyone else in my life. I would send them stories of rude men in pubs, what happened to me in Greggs, my wife being furious at me for something I did in her dream, my neighbour making fun of my bodywarmer, why I feel the need to mollycoddle workmen, or waking up on a train and realising in abject horror that I’ve been loudly snoring. They would always reply with a friendly “thanks!” or “cheers!”. I have to be honest, it’s a very one-sided correspondence, and I feel they probably know more about me than I do about them, but at least I had someone to tell.
And while I’ll miss that, I’ll miss you most of all. I have met you on streets, in restaurants, in queues for late-night kebabs. I’ve met you in foreign lands, on airplanes, in pubs and – once – on a hovercraft. For years you have very sweetly sent me pictures of the strange things you’ve seen at work or at play, saving me the hassle of having to come up with two entirely new things to write about each week on top of the column, and for that alone you deserve a series of knighthoods. Or you’ve stopped me in town and told me about something you’d read and how something similar happened to you. I’ll miss those little insights into a readership I feel I know very personally.
And so I’m going to stop telling you stories for a while. At least in ShortList. You can still catch me on Radio X on Sundays. Or find me on Twitter at @dannywallace. Or perhaps (and I’ve always tried to stay away from plugs) you’ll get yourself some of my books.
Actually, just get the books, because I might get 50p out of that.
And until we next meet outside a pub, or in a late-night queue for kebabs, or on a hovercraft, let’s bid a brilliant magazine in a world of spiralling paper costs a fond farewell. Let’s thank team after team of (amongst many other jobs) talented designers, writers, editors, production editors, digital editors and freelancers who made their deadline every week. Let’s thank the team who started it in the first place, and those who made sure it never stood still.
Until the day it had to.
ShortList is a magazine that over a decade evolved from reflecting the times to staying ahead of them. It was never afraid of a bold move.
And as we’ve established, you only get to the end of something… if you start it.
Keep in touch.
I’ll miss you.
Danny Wallace was a man.