Day 20, and a clip with a personal connection, taken from the 21 February 2001 edition of BBC Breakfast. Tiger Tim Waterstone was threatening to launch a takeover bid for his old company, and, desperate for someone with a bit of book trade nous to fill in the background, reporter Brian Milligan (no relation to Spike, but brother of Stephen) called the offices of Publishing News and asked to speak to chairman and all-round grumpy old sod Fred Newman. Milligan and crew duly turned up and, for some unknown reason, it was agreed that it would be best if Spint (as Fred was known – long story, some of which can be found here) sat on my desk to deliver the piece. So, from about 1:41, you can see a bit of my personalised partition, covered with detritus designed to elicit a chuckle during the darker moments of press day. Just behind Spint’s right ear is the Times obituary for Rev Bill Westwood, former Bishop of Peterborough and father of ‘urban’ music advocate Timothy. If this were in HD, you’d be able to see the rap slang speech bubble that my colleague Ralph Baxter had added to the accompanying picture of the deceased churchman. Then, by Fred’s left ear, you can see a masthead from Simon Heffer’s Daily Mail column with something obscene or absurd (I forget exactly what, but it looks like a pie of some description) scrawled on it by me or Ralph in a moment of severe vexation with the Tory philosopher. You can also see the luxuriant pube-like thatch of Roger ‘Eraserhead’ Tagholm bobbing about in the background, no doubt thinking up clever but unfunny punchlines for the diary page. That’s no judgment of Rog, who is one of the funniest people I know. It was a sort of challenge among him, me and Ralph to put in the most laboured yet unamusing shite we could think of. My personal best was describing Politico’s bookshop as “a home from Douglas-Home”. Geddit? No? Good. Love the misspelling of Spintola’s name and Tanya Beckett’s pay-off, by the way. “A very interesting story, and a very interesting man…indeed. Another interesting man…” [Creak, groan, rictus grin, etc]. We’ll be the judges of that, thank you, Tanya, unless you were talking about Fred, in which case, oh yes. A fascinating study.

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