Adding colour to the chaos
I should have known it was going to be an interesting day when before lunchtime on the interview trail, note pad in hand, camera, phone and several passes around my neck, a teenager in the South Stand looked at me through bleary eyes and said: “What are you doing in here, you cougar."
On a cool damp squib of a Saturday I was showing as much flesh as the average Amish. And I’m not yet 50 Shades of Grey hair.
It took me until the next Sevens to tell this one to my media centre colleagues, who are still laughing.
It pays not to take yourself too seriously if you’re a woman writing about rugby. God knows, no one else does a lot of the time (Which is probably also why I write the more left-field/off-field side of it).
I like having a name more commonly associated with a man. It’s fun disarming people when you meet them, like Scottish players who have read with amusement what you’ve written the week before and assumed you were also a tall, Scottish, rugby-playing chap. (Correct on almost two counts.)
Women also sometimes assume you’re a man. I suppose it puts the “bi” into by-line.
I’ve had female editors I’ve never met or spoken to assume I’m male, flirt on email, request a picture for the front credits of the magazine … and then the work suddenly dries up.
In reality, as Marilyn Monroe said: “I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.”
I don’t wear a blonde wig in the South Stand anymore or dye my hair blonde. Over the years, I’ve figured blondes may have more fun, but redheads make more trouble.
And no, blondes don’t call brown hair dye “artificial intelligence”. No matter what your hair colour, you can have the last laugh if you can laugh at yourself (As long as you don’t turn up to interview a CEO in a pink affro wig).
And in the move to metro sexuality, I’ve seen plenty of rugby players – current and former – spend more money on hair dye than women reporters.
Dangle a media pass around your neck and you’ll confuse everyone. People think you’re a walking information desk. “Where do I find programmes? The toilet? T-shirts for sale? The place to put messages on the big screen?”
In the South Stand, I’ve been asked if I was an undercover policewoman, if I can get any free tickets, if I’ve got any tickets for sale, if I’d like a drink, and if I can lend my media pass.
When it comes to interviews with players – former and otherwise – I’m not the only one asking the questions. You field myriad questions: What is your life like in Hong Kong? Why do you live here? Can you help me get a dinner suit for tonight; I didn’t know the function was black tie. Where’s a good jeweller to buy my wife a gift? How do I trace photos with my family taken here in the 1990s? Have you got anything for a sore throat? Even: Where do I buy new underpants?
I’ve wondered if there shouldn’t be a female word for “avuncular” to sum up the role. It’s part PA, part valet. I’m like a hairdresser with a pen.
Accompanying the white-knuckle fear of the deadline, there’s also incredible memories that will last a lifetime. You experience things you can’t quite explain. It’s true what they say: life is not measured by the breaths that we take, but the moments that take our breath away.
I’ve seen the Sevens 11 times through a notepad and camera. That means you can’t sit in the stadium with friends in town from overseas, or stop to watch any game you’d like, dance to your favourite songs. Nor can you talk to people for more than five minutes, or eat with more than one hand, because the other one is typing.
Many people in Hong Kong live by “Kai Tak Rules”. Named after the old airport which closed in 1998, it means that once you go through the tunnel and board it never happened.
At the Sevens, I’ve never been bored. Because the secret to happiness is good health and a bad memory.