Coco Khan

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The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

One of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries of read­ing a news ar­ti­cle in print was a tabloid story about a woman who gave birth to a frog. Ex­cept she hadn’t given birth to it she’d gone swimming in a pond and, in my mem­ory at least, a rogue bit of spawn at­tached it­self to her – a hor­ror she dis­cov­ered when a trip to the bath­room re­sulted in a tad­pole in the bowl. A per­fect story, I thought in my 11-year-old mind. The twists! The turns! The drama!

I set about mem­o­ris­ing the tale to retell it in the play­ground. I had it all planned out: I would build up the sus­pense (“She was just mind­ing her own busi­ness”); add colour through mime (the swimming bit, maybe a frog jump); throw in some poor toad puns (“Sur­prised she didn’t croak it!). But when it came to de­liv­ery, my story was met with non­cha­lance.

“Yawn, al­ready heard it,” one of my friends said. “That story’s three weeks old, mate.” “Mum strikes again,” I thought.

You see, when I was grow­ing up, there weren’t many news­pa­pers around – they were deemed too bor­ing, up­set­ting or con­tro­ver­sial. Plus, you had to pay for them, which in my per­pet­u­ally skint fam­ily ruled out all broad­sheets, no mat­ter how much we kids begged.

I will never for­get Eid 2004, when my Aun­tie B wrapped up a copy of the Ob­server and gave it as a gift to my cousin Amir. I can still see it now: Amir, con­fused, forced a grate­ful smile, while Aun­tie B de­clared proudly, “It’s got all the sup­ple­ments!”

The best we’d get was the chance to read an old pa­per at the doc­tor’s surgery or the hair­dresser, which Mum might bring home if they were throw­ing them out (hence the three-week-old frog preg­nancy story). Per­haps my de­sire to get into jour­nal­ism stemmed from this, a yearn­ing not just to have point­less in­for­ma­tion, but to have up-to-date point­less in­for­ma­tion.

It’s a quirk that has per­sisted. I re­cently ap­peared on the Guardian’s front page for the first time, and a num­ber of friends mes­saged me to say that my mother must be proud. And she would be, if she had seen it. Let’s just say it will be very big news in the Khan fam­ily in about three weeks, once Mum has been to the hair­dressers

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