Former Leamington Courier journalist who went on to report on events around the world looks back on his time working for the paper 50 years ago in new book

In his new book, Bloody Adjectives: Ripping Yarns from Sleepy Hollow, Peter Rhodes looks back on half a century in journalism with assignments, including wars, exploration and natural disasters, that took him all over the world

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 11:32 am
Former Leamington Courier journalist Peter Rhodes.

A former trainee journalist at the Leamington Courier has looked back on his time working for the newspaper 50 years ago in his new book.

In Bloody Adjectives: Ripping Yarns from Sleepy Hollow, Peter Rhodes looks back on half a century in journalism with assignments, including wars, exploration and natural disasters, that took him all over the world.

But he has a special fondness for the years 1969 to 1973 spent at The Courier and for the journalists he worked with.

Peter Rhodes at Sarajevo Airport to where he had travelled on the first RAF flight to break the siege of Sarajevo in 1992.

His first job as a trainee on the newspaper was to write the Uncle Tom column for the Young Courier Club made up of 500 words of 'inspired general knowledge for children'.

He had decided to write a weekly series about keeping pets.

In an extract from his book, David has said: "This was not a good idea.

"The weeks came round awfully quickly and the supply of suitable animals ran out after a couple of months.

"I considered branching out into horses and ponies but the editor said this would inspire envy among the less well-off.

"He was wary, too, of tarantulas or anything else likely to bite Young Courier Club members."

In some despair, Peter hunted inspiration in the Leamington Courier library – "a small room lined with shelves and overseen by a pipe-smoking old gentleman called Romney who spent his days scissoring the latest Courier into separate stories and stashing them away for posterity".

Peter said: "The combination of scissors, newspaper cuttings and a pipe was a permanent fire hazard and it was not unusual to see Romney dashing through the newsroom brandishing a blazing waste-paper bin and dumping it on the lawn outside.

"There was nothing scientific about Romney’s filing system.

"Stories about people were filed under their names.

"Everything else went into a massive archive,which stretched around two sides of the room, called History of Leamington. Romney knew where every story was but none of us reporters had a clue.

"The library also had a small collection of street directories and books of local history.

Among these I found a pre-war travel guide to Warwickshire.

"Here, in one old volume, was the answer to Uncle Tom’s prayers, a vast supply of Warwickshire villages if not from A to Z then at least from A to W.

"The next 'Hello, Boys and Girls!' was followed by a shamelessly filched description of the delightful town of Alcester and in the weeks that followed Uncle Tom introduced his youthful followers to Bidford, Charlecote, Dunchurch, Exhall and so on.

It ran alphabetically for some months and when the series ended, with a fine commentary on Wroxall, I had served my time and gleefully handed over the column to an even younger and fresher trainee reporter.

“'Any ideas?' he asked me, glumly.

“You could always try tarantulas.”

Bloody Adjectives: Ripping Yarns from Sleepy Hollow is published by Brewin Books and copies cost £8.95.