Ben’s World: The final column before content editor Ben Raza leaves the Bedford Times & Citizen


And that’s it. I’m off.

After many years - more years than I really want to think about - this is my final week at the T&C.

It’s been almost nine years at the paper, including three-and-a-half as content editor. And it’s now ten years, to the month, since I first did work experience at one of our sister titles in Luton.


> Leaving do’s are a bit like birthdays: The actual party might be bad for you, but you probably need to have them every now and again. If only to remind yourself that you’re still alive.

So here’s my tribute to some of the T&C greats from over the years.

A special shout out goes to Girlie Garduce, without whom the patented T&C quote-of-the-week would never have started.

Classics include “What do you call those sharks that have heads shaped like hammers?”, “Huh, that old conker!” (“Don’t you mean ‘That old horse chestnut,’ Girlie?”), and the time that she called Woburn Safari Park and asked to speak to “Mr G Raff”.

Olga Norford and Paul Fisher will be remembered by their assumed names. Long story short, a caller once sent an email to the news desk, explaining that they had spoken to a reporter whose name that they didn’t quite catch but they thought it was Ron Baza.

Ron went down in history. Soon there were unsuspecting press officers who, when they wouldn’t take ‘No,’ for an answer, were encouraged to send their information to either Ron Baza, to Paul Fish-Er (always fun, listening to them try to pronounce that one on the phone), Aglo Drofron (Olga’s name spelt backwards) and even the odd Harvey Okafai (and God bless the mangled hearing of whoever thought that was Hayley O’Keeffe’s real name).

There’s plenty more too. From Mike Simmonds’ cat impersonations on the sports desk, to Mark Woods putting up with remorseless teasing on the same department, from the legendary lady-killer Paul McNamara, to Jim “The nicest man in journalism” Stewart, and singing June Essex’s name to the melody of the theme tune from Jamie And His Magic Torch.

I honestly don’t believe I could have worked with a better bunch of people over the years.

I really don’t have room to list them all, but I will say this much: Anyone reading this who has ever fancied a job in journalism should absolutely try their absolute hardest to break into it.

The pay’s hardly great. Jobs are hard to come by. And if you have a boss like me then he’ll have no compunction about telling you for as long as he needs to everything you’ve done wrong (and how to do it right).

But when it all comes together - and even when it doesn’t - it’s the best job in the world. The best people too.

> I’ll still be in Bedford once I’ve left the T&C. I’ve learnt many things in my time here, but maybe most of all I’ve learnt to love this town.

Which is why, even when I have long departed the mortal coil of, um, journalism (stick with me on this one) I will be like the ghost of Banquo (see?).

I’m part of the team behind The Rough Cut Sessions, which is a TFI Friday or Tube-esque event that takes place several times a year at Esquires. There’s live music, comedy, sketches, interviews and more.

Plus the whole thing gets edited together as a TV show, and you’ll be able to see the latest one online in the next week or so.

I’m also helping to pull together the region’s largest comic exhibition, which is coming to Bedford this summer.

Stay tuned for full details, but there it will be even bigger and better than last year’s Expo in Northants. Plus last year I got to pal up with an awesome cosplay girl, which is obviously not to be sniffed at.

My favourite Lebanese restaurant in the world will still be Reem in Bedford High Street, and I’ll still be preaching to all and sundry that if they’ve never tried Lebanese food then they really, really need to.

My favourite Indian restaurant will still be just up the road (that’s Rajkot, obviously). I’ll still swear by pizzas from Santaniello’s, ice cream from Spaghetti John’s, comics from Close Encounters, random items of funkiness from the Coolhaus, and, oh, you know the rest.

There’s so much great stuff in Bedford, but (and this goes especially for the many excellent independent businesses) they’ll only continue for as long as well support them.

So please, continue to spend your money locally, come to the T&C for the finest local news, and celebrate all that’s great about Bedford. Adios!