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Celebrating my 10 years at the Belfast Telegraph

By Frances Burscough

Published 27/08/2016

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

This week marks 10 years since I started writing for the Belfast Telegraph. The column was entitled Mum Alone and it was a bit like Bridget Jones Diary except it was about a struggling single mother... and without anyone remotely resembling Colin Firth. It was only a couple of paragraphs, 500 words or less, which appeared at the bottom of a page in the Saturday's paper.

Ten years, almost 1,000 published articles later on a myriad of subjects and I'm still bashing away at my laptop so much that the keypad has completely worn away. So I thought it would be fun this week to look back on some of my most memorable moments from my decade in print. In no particular order:

1. The time when I learnt to drive a double decker bus. Translink, the Northern Ireland public transport company, had organised a series of special 'Have A Go Days' for women to try their hand at bus driving. I was sent along and it was great fun, but the downside was being photographed wearing a high-vis vest.

2. Appearing on stage in Cats. The world-famous musical came to the Grand Opera House and I was invited to spend the day getting transformed into the character of Rumpleteaser. Then I joined the cast onstage for a rehearsal, during which I tried to mimic their feline dancing and I did my back in.

3. Taking driving test again. After the internet had gone crazy over footage of a Belfast woman trying desperately - and failing - to parallel park on a busy street, I was sent by my editor to be examined and marked on my own driving skills, under test conditions. Although it was 30-odd years since I first passed my test, I failed.

4. My day as a zombie. I joined in with a unique sponsored walk through Belfast city centre on a busy Saturday afternoon - dressed as a zombie, complete with dripping (fake) blood, severed (fake) limbs hanging off and dragging a (fake) broken leg. As I munched on a (fake) human hand, alongside 100 other nutters, the streets cleared as terrified shoppers ran and hid.

5. Appearing in a feature film. An award-winning film-maker invited me to appear in his horror film Splash Area, about a gang of killer clowns that go on a deadly rampage on Halloween around the streets of Belfast. Of course I said yes, it would have been rude not to!

6. My day as Marilyn. To mark the new movie My Week with Marilyn, I spent a day dressed and made-up as my idol, doing all the things that MM might have done if she'd ever visited Belfast. My personal paparazzo recorded every moment as I tried on priceless jewels at Lunn's, sipped cocktails in the Merchant's Champagne Bar and sauntered on stage at the QFT.

7. Air hostess for a day. Not an easy task for someone who's terrified of flying. However I was invited by BA to do their training crash-course (if you'll pardon the expression) and obviously I rose to the challenge. Anything for a story! Of course the abject fear in my eyes was all caught on camera and emblazoned across the paper for your amusement.

8. My swine flu feature. This came about when I actually attempted to phone in sick one day. "I'm really sorry" I said to my editor, "but I've actually got swine flu." I was expecting sympathy and a week off work, but instead she said: "That's fantastic! You're one of the first in Belfast to get it. Write a thousand words and I'll send a photographer to get you in your sick bed!"

9. A charity parachute jump. I still can't believe I did this one, leaping out of a plane, attached to a stranger, at 13,000ft. But I was challenged to do it, so I did and lived to tell the tale. I still have nightmares I'm leaping out of that rickety old plane, five years later.

10. Catwalk modelling. This was a charity fashion show with a difference. Every outfit was made from recycled material and I had a ball-gown made especially for me, entirely out of old Belfast Telegraph newspapers. So I took to the stage at the Ulster Museum draped in yesterday's editions and loved every minute of it!

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