A couple of amazing things have happened this week. It appears I have been working at The Canberra Times for a full 30 years. Several of my colleagues weren't even born the night I first turned up for work in the sports department. There was another newbie, Peter Clack, a few of you might remember him, and Chris Uhlmann was there too, hasn't he gone on to make a name for himself? He was never really interested in sport, his mind already, even then, wandering off to the big house on the hill.
We were sub-editing (they call it producing now) the words of the likes of Brad Turner, Gary Scholes, John Hourigan, Graham Cooke, Barry Rollings and Geoff Thomson. What did a young whipper snapper like me - surely if I've been here 30 years, I was only 11 when I first started - know what to do with the words of men (it was mainly then) who had been in the game much longer than me?
I posted something on Facebook about it and it's been great to see messages from colleagues from far and wide. Here's a few names to take you back: Graham Tidy (still one of the few people who calls me Fitzy), Wendy Dawes, Tom McIlroy, John Thistleton, Kym Smith (we need more golf trips Bimbo), Sharon Palmer and Fiona van der Platt (didn't the three of us chicks stir that department up over the years), Jen Rosenberg, Bill Goodall, Emma Macdonald, John Lilley, Verona Burgess, Paul Newman. I'm hoping some of you subscribers recognise a few of the old timers.
Jack Waterford, who was there at my initial interview, with then editor Crispin Hull (and I still believe it was my random knowledge of squash that won me the job in 1989) wrote "You were such a cute and efficient 11-year-old who was chief subbing in sport in about five minutes, was you not?''
Indeed I was. I don't mean to blow smoke up my own bohooha but I'm quite good at what I do. I was rather good at sub-editing, with an anal eye for an apostrophe and the wit for a good headline. I could delete unnecessary words, tighten sentences, find a good lead, I think that training has made me a much better writer over the years. Me, write something that doesn't add to a story? Never.
It's been interesting watching my colleagues, in the past few months, write profiles so you all get to know us a little better. So you, dear Canberrans, prospective subscribers and engaged readers, get to know us, so you trust us, willing to part with your hard-earned cash to read what we write.
I know some of my colleagues thrive on the dissection of their weekly numbers, yes, we're told how many people look at our stories, click on our pages, how long they spend reading, even what device they're reading on.
I try to not pay too much attention to it all. It's all at the behest of the people we call producers now anyway, how long they think your story should be on the home page, and where, if it's even there at all.
What I pay attention to is the emails and letters that arrive, yes handwritten letters, telling me how what I've written that week has resonated with them for whatever reason. Or when people come up to me at a party, or my butcher's or some school function or hockey or just this week out at a winery while I was there with some friends. Are you Karen Hardy? The most random moment was at a McDonald's restaurant in Yass where the young girl behind the counter asked if I was me while I was ordering my fries. She wanted to be a journalist and she admired me. Me?
I never wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a geography teacher. What happened there?
If somehow I've touched your lives in a more personal way, made you realise that even in this what can be the loneliest of towns, you're not alone, then my job is done.
Life happened. And I think for the past 30 years, in between writing about cricket and rugby league and hockey and reviewing television shows and movies and trying to make sense of art exhibitions and education and food, writing about life, and the things that happen has brought me the most joy.
For that's the other amazing thing that has happened this week. I first started writing about life in a column called Motherload in about 2003. It appeared in Relax, which I was editing at the time, I bet you didn't know I came up with the name Relax - what else do you want to do on a Sunday morning. It was my one chance at doing some writing in the days I was firmly entrenched in the production process.
And it all began with Blossy. Who graduated from school just this week. Can you believe it? She's 18 and a half, I remember when the half was really important. Finished school, for good, and off to coasties and schoolies and music festivals before she probably takes a gap year before heading off to university. We kind of reached an agreement at some point where I said I would stop writing about her, and her brother, so much. I failed. But that's life.
If I'm really honest what's kept me here for 30 years is the opportunity to serve the Canberra community. Not in the way someone such as Kirsten Lawson may have done, breaking stories about all sorts of wrongs. But if somehow I've touched your lives in a more personal way, made you realise that even in this what can be the loneliest of towns, you're not alone, then my job is done.