Last updated: August 24, 2012 7:27 pm

Goodbye snow machine, g’day Australia

A trip to Australia gets Mrs Moneypenny thinking about what it means to be female in the media - and how she should with an internet troll
Illustration by James Ferguson©James Ferguson

Australia is on the agenda. It is more than three years since I was last there, but I have finally got myself organised to return at the end of October. Despite being married to an Australian, and having three children with Australian passports, I don’t spend nearly enough time there. So a trip taking in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney is something to look forward to, even though it is mainly for work.

I have therefore turned my thoughts to preparing for my business meetings and various speaking engagements, not least because one group has invited me to talk about what it is like being a woman in the media. This is way outside my usual topics, which range from versions of my stand-up comedy show to a summary of the key points of my careers advice book. I don’t really think of myself as being “in the media” – unlike my colleagues at the Financial Times, I am not a professional journalist, simply someone who voices her opinions each week.

But however I may perceive myself, I am of course now “in the media” because I have a weekly television show that is nearing the end of its third series. We have a fourth commissioned to air in January and there is talk of a fifth, all within two years. Even my agent finds this astonishing. So what is it like being on TV, and does it have any relevance in this age of social media?

Being on television hasn’t made much difference to my life per se, other than having had to commit about 60 days of the past 18 months to filming. I am getting used to the process, and arguably better at it. I have also managed to see off the organ-failure-inducing undergarment that the production company wanted me to wear. As far as social media goes, I should nail my colours to the mast by stating that I don’t have a Facebook page and have spent years trying to remove myself from LinkedIn – I have no idea how I even got on it in the first place. And then there is Twitter.

I have a Twitter handle (@mrsmoneypennyft) but I don’t tweet. That doesn’t stop people tweeting about me. You have to have broad shoulders to be “in the media” these days, which is why it took me until I was almost 50 before I agreed to go on TV. When I was in Austria recently, and couldn’t watch my programme being broadcast, I only had to log on to Twitter to see what the world thought about the programme each Wednesday night. I have taken to awarding, in my mind, a “tweet of the week” to the person who makes me laugh the most. A fortnight ago we had “Mrs Moneypenny is awfully smug for someone who looks like they are sculpted out of lard”. Perhaps I should have kept the undergarment.

I suspect this is what could be termed “trolling”, which, for those who haven’t encountered the term, is slang for posting inflammatory messages on the internet. Do I respond? No, I can’t be bothered. Someone has even set up a parody Twitter account, complete with an actual photo of me. Should I be offended? Instruct lawyers? No, I am far too busy dealing with the vagaries of a snow machine, wheeled on for my show’s Christmas special that we’re working on. It’s impossible to talk over a snow machine that’s churning out flakes at full tilt, so we have to switch it off when I’m about to speak and hope that I can get my words out before it stops snowing.

They are probably more accomplished in dealing with snow machines over in Australia, having rather more need of them than we do, by and large. My mother, 84, is going to accompany me on what will be her first trip to her son-in-law’s country of birth. I have warned her she must pack carefully for predicted temperatures of 28C. I will certainly be packing carefully, principally to ensure that I have my almost-never-worn wedding ring about my person when I visit my mother-in-law – one of my more crucial appointments Down Under.

mrsmoneypenny@ft.com

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