This week has been a bit odd.
First let me say this, I am not entirely new to getting a little bit of attention. Back when Google+ was a thing, I had several hundred thousand followers and a verified account. I had a weekly column in the local paper as well and it was a thrill to receive occasional recognition from people who I met who had read it. I even got the odd email here and there from people in other parts of the world.
You get used to that sort of thing, but it still felt a little surprising in an uplifting kind of way.
This week was unexpected.
It all started in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. I was fast asleep and had no idea what was about to happen. So let’s fast forward and skip the bit about me snoring in my sleep.
My wife Gina works at the West Sussex County Times and heard people over on Facebook talking about some paving slabs that had gone missing in the Storrington Library car park near where we live. There was some speculation as to the cause of the missing slabs; was it the council, was it kids mucking about, was it thieves or rogue traders? As she often does when something newsworthy happens nearby, she asked me to wander down on my way to the shops and take some photos for her.
So a little while later that is exactly what I did. I wandered down, speculating on the way about what I might find – was it just a few slabs missing, were there broken ones left behind, would it be easy to spot? That sort of thing. When I got there I realised it was painfully obvious where the slabs had been taken from. Whoever had done it had pretty much ripped up the entire pavement. I remember thinking, “Yep, they have definitely been nicked.” I might have used a few expletives as well.
I sent the photos to my wife and then forwarded them on to her colleague Sam Dixon-French when I got back from my trip to buy milk, so that he could put the story online. By now HDC (Horsham District Council) had confirmed they had been stolen overnight. I put it out of my mind and got on with my day.
Towards the end of the day, my wife said, “That story about the paving slabs is getting loads of hits. I don’t get it. They’re just paving slabs.” I agreed. It was a bit weird. It was just a local news story after all and slabs are boring, right?
Well, the next day turned out to be even weirder. At least for me it did. It started off normally, with me checking Twitter to catch up on things. I saw a couple of people had followed me, so I followed them back. Then they DM’d (Direct Messaged) me within the space of a minute or so of each other. They loved the story and my photo and could they use it? The first one was LADbible and the second was SWNS (a press agency). I said sure and sent them the pictures I had taken.
Later that night I was chatting with my old university friends and mentioned the stolen slabs. It turns out they had heard about the story and wondered if I knew anything about it, not realising it my photos they had seen!
While I was chatting with them I had a missed call and an email from BBC Radio Sussex. They wanted to interview me first thing in the morning. Wait, what?! The weirdness factor had just gone through the roof, but I said yes anyway.
So the next morning I was on the radio, which was a completely new experience. I think I kept my cool and the presenter Allison Ferns asked me to be their ‘Special Pavement Correspondent’ for updates on the pavement. It was all very surreal, but not that scary. Allison is very good at putting you at your ease and I enjoyed our chat.
Anyway, I knew my time in the limelight was going to be a fleeting thing and I am thankful that it happened. It’s certainly given me something to talk about!
ADDENDUM: It’s been on The Last Leg on Channel 4 now too! My week is now complete.