Sadly tomorrow is my final day at work after 33 and a half wonderful years.
I’ve been very lucky to be sports editor for 30 of those and have absolutely loved it, so I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has helped me over the years.
To all of you who have written reports and told me your news, I’m very grateful.
Thank you for letting me share all your successes and milestones and the not so good bits too.
I started as a trainee news reporter in the Albert Street office in November 1988. I’d already been writing Sporting Spotlight features on the back of the old midweek paper, after work experience the previous year while I was still at school.
Sport was what I always wanted to do and I was so lucky to be given my dream job in January 1992.
Since then I’ve met so many wonderful people and the sports people of Rugby have given me so many incredible memories.
Thank you for all the amazing sports twinning weekends in Russelsheim and Evreux, the chance to try everything from bowls, clay pigeon shooting and synchronised swimming to sub aqua, pétanque and orienteering, share your awards dinners and presentation evenings and give out trophies to sweaty, muddy footballers!
People often ask me if I’ve ever interviewed anyone famous, and I have an impressively long list to name drop, from the 1988 Australian rugby team, many of England’s 2003 World Cup winning squad and All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, to Sir Steve Redgrave, Lord Sebastian Coe and Dame Kelly Holmes.
But it’s the day-to-day I’ll look back on most fondly - the office life, all the lovely people I’ve worked with over the years, carnivals and quiz nights we used to organise as well as staying up half the night to cover local elections and then giving out results flyers in town all morning!
I’ll miss the challenge of fitting everything into every paper, answering all your emails, chatting to writers I’ve known for years although we’ve never met and the satisfaction - still mixed with trepidation - of picking up the paper every Thursday morning.
Being around for so long I’ve had the pleasure of following the progress of talented youngsters and seeing them go on to achieve their dreams, to mention just a few Olympic 400m medallist Katharine Merry, canoeist Kimberley Woods, England cricketer Ian Bell, golfer Lauren Taylor and just this week athlete Craig Murch has been selected for the Commonwealth Games.
Of course the job has changed a lot over the years. I started on a typewriter and carbon paper and used to design pages on paper, sizing up photographs fresh from the darkroom, which were then driven to the typesetters for them to make up ready to print.
I’m finishing on a laptop, writing text straight into a choice of page templates, calling in digital images and sending the completed product to press with a click of a mouse.
The 19-year-old Zoe could never have imagined the difference - or that she’d one day relish being responsible for the sports pages in Leighton Buzzard, Aylesbury, Bedford, Banbury and Leamington too.
I also enjoyed doing our looking back column for a long time and appreciate everyone who contributed to that over the years as well.
I could fill all today’s pages with my memories, there’s so much to say, but I mustn’t miss my final deadline.
I’m not sure what lies beyond my summer of garden leave, so for now this is it and I’ll just say goodbye and thank you for everything.
It's been an honour and I wouldn’t have swapped my life on the Advertiser for the world.