Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Departing stars have left a profoundly positive mark

I don’t want any fuss, she said. And so there wasn’t any fuss.

Caroline Jones and Martin Wright

And I defintely don’t want a leaving do, she added. And so we made sure there wasn’t one of those, although, in truth, in these days of hybrid working, such office traditions have become increasingly complicated and rare.

The days of all heading to the pub for a boozy do are long gone. I think. Or maybe I just don’t get invited.

But we respected the gaffer’s wishes. And so as she sails off into the sunset to spend more time with her collection of Damon and Debbie DVDs, it’s time to look back as we salute the Weekend Queen who did so much to foster a sense of frivolity and irreverence and was the reason that you were able to laugh into your Cornflakes each Saturday morning.

She’s gone now, of course, otherwise this would end up on the file marked ‘Spike’, for she’d be to modest, too gracious, and too low-key to allow any of us to note her departure.

And news of her exit was followed within days with the decision by the Editor-in-Chief, Martin Wright, to move on – or, rather, up, as another promotion was presented. Well deserved it was too. Good guys sometimes do win. And if ever there were a case for talking about legacy, the departure of the top brass was it. Their announcements came on a day when the annual newspaper awards were announced – and there they were again, like Oscar nominees, heading the lists in front of the chasing pack.

No one’s indispensable, of course, except for those that are. Like the two who are heading for the hills, having left a profoundly positive mark during their tenure, and been a force for good.

So the Weekend gaffer didn’t want any fuss. But why wouldn’t we bid a fond adieu to a boss who embodied the best qualities during her tenure at the top? Flying into work each day in her personal helicopter from her private island, just off the North Wales coast, she frequently brought such friends as Kelly Jones, Noddy Holder, and Damon from Brookside into the office, to work alongside her as guest Editor. Ahh, those were the days.

Sprinkling the behemoth that is Weekend with a little magic dust, scooping up more awards than Taylor Swift – only half-joking about that one, the trophy cabinet looks like Anfield in the 1980s – and being simultaneously honest, supportive, and a proper good laugh, the gaffer whose name we won’t use – Caroline Jones – because she’d be really embarrassed, assumed control when a similarly astute Weekend manager had left to pursue a new career as a black belt karate instructor. Oh how we laughed when she turned up on her last day in the office wearing a red velvet eyepatch, having stubbed her toe on a child’s toy car and fallen into a stack of magazines.

The next cab off the rank, to clumsily describe our former gaffer as a motor vehicle licensed to transport passengers in return for payment of a fare, was the boss who wanted no fuss. Thankfully, she also wanted more fun.

And so jaded writers were encouraged to visit haunted houses, hang out with rock stars, buy a £10 suit, or reminisce about the girls and boys they fancied when they were only 12.

No ideas were off limits and frequently the more outlandish were rewarded with the faintest of smiles as our very own Sarina Wiegman turned Weekend into the superstar-attracting, joke-telling, taking-the-work-but-not-itself-seriously powerhouse that made you laugh and us laugh even harder.

Imagine that, going into work each day – or, in the post-Covid era – heading into the living room each day, and turning up with a smile, looking forward to the eight hours ahead.

Protecting us from the evils of capitalism – ‘make sure you get your time off if you’ve worked at the weekend’ – and showing decency, trustworthiness, but never making it as far as buying us all a Reese’s Peanut Butter Christmas Advent Calendar, she endeared herself to a creative, go-getting team of wordsmiths who were happy to dance to her beat.

And now she’s gone. Ah, alas. Having weighed up the options – ball and chain, versus globe-trotting, lunch with footballers, and the opportunity to binge watch episodes of Damon and Debbie, she’s decided on the latter. More fool her.

While we chop firewood to keep the Weekend engine turning, she’s immersed in the Wiki Fan Page of Simon O’Brien, the Brookside actor who all of us knew we could never match up to.

Soon, she will appear before Clive Myrie on Mastermind, telling the suitably impressed host that O’Brien was born in Garston, Liverpool, on 19 June 1965, and starred in the British version of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock until 1990, having been killed off from his soap bubble. We shall miss her. But not for long. For a new king or queen will take to the throne for high-jinks, thrills, and worthwhile kicks. We shall miss her, however.

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