Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sick As A Dog

I'ver had a bad cold for the last few days so I haven't written much. Not 'flu, which I've had three times in my life and which is infinitely worse than a cold, but I just feel off colour and listless with a sore throat and a blocked nose. When I don't feel well I have trouble writing.... just managed to get to 25,617 words on the new Spider book which is ok but means I'm behind schedule. I am aiming to finish it by the end of May and I'd like it to be about 125,000 words so I have to write 100,000 words in about sixty days. That's actually not too bad, about 1,700 words a day which is achievable.

I can't write when I feel ill and I can't write when I've been drinking. The delicate balance that's required for me to write creatively is one the reasons that I have never ever taken recreational drugs - I'm too worried about how it might effect my ability to write. I do have a writer friend who swears that his output trebles when he takes cocaine, but I'm not prepared to take the risk!

It's a far cry from my time as a financial reporter on the Daily Mirror, when I would have three or four gin and tonics at lunch and share a couple of bottles of wine with the City Editor, the great Bob Head, at 6pm. Those were the days...

Bob died last month. He gave me my first job in Fleet Street and hired me after a couple of hours drinking in the White Hart (known as the Stab In The Back). He wrote my salary down on a beer mat!

Here's his obituary from The Times:

Robert Head was the youngest City editor on a national newspaper when he was appointed in his early thirties by the Daily Mirror’s bulky, hard-drinking but shrewd and authoritative Editor Lee Howard as the first in that post on a tabloid paper. Thirty years on he was the longest serving when he finally retired from the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, both of which he had served for seven days a week.

In those three decades he had given the English language a new expression — “hole in the wall” for the new cash machines that proliferated in City and suburb. He also succeeded in establishing news of soaring stocks, plummeting shares and boardroom drama that preferred privacy to publicity, as an integral part of tabloid journalism, no less at home in that popular format as in the pages of broadsheet pink and white newspapers.

In the always lively and sometimes boisterous newsroom in the Daily Mirror’s Holborn Circus home, he was a calm presence whose authority grew with every year that he occupied his small, personal office by the side of the celebrated agony aunt Marjorie Proops. And by the end of his stint, the bulk of the Mirror’s largely working-class readership knew that stocks were an instrument not of punishment but of profit and occasional loss, and that shares could be bought over the counter at their high street bank. It was as big a revolutuion in tabloid journalism as any brought about by Alfred Northcliffe or Hugh Cudlipp.

Head was born in Winnipeg, Canada, where his parents had gone in search of work and a climate that might benefit his father’s fragile health. He was 4 when they returned first to Liverpool and soon settled in the western suburbs of London. He went to Gunnersbury Grammar School, and from there straight to the City Press as an apprentice reporter to the formidable City editor S. W. Alexander.

He took to financial journalism as others did to the crime, gossip or politics, never deviated from it and ultimately brought it from the fringes to the mainstream of tabloid journalism. He established standards that were remembered with nostalgia when a couple of his successors became embroiled in scandal. He set a shining record by never owning a share from the day he first went to work for Alexander to the day he died. And for decades many a City reporter or editor got their training and first experience in his small Mirror office.

He was married twice, first in 1952 to Phyllis Rose. That marriage ended in divorce after about two decades. He was married secondly to Maureen Mauchline in 1974. She predeceased him and he is survived by a daughter and two sons of his first marriage.

Robert Head, financial journalist and pioneer of tabloid City pages, was born on June 24, 1930. He died on February 6, 2009, aged 78

Okay, it's back to bed with some Night Nurse for me....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of your characters were based on some of your journalistic experiences. I am kind of hoping that this guy Bob was not the Basis for the obnoxious Big Malcolm or Malkie with farty chair we meet in the Fireman, or Payoff, I can't remember which. I was nevertheless fascinated to here how editors might stimulate their young eager reporters to bring in the news.
Would be interested to see if you bring in any new players that are based on your journalistic or far east experiences. I in particular found some of the earlier books had a piece of you in them, hope that makes sense.

Hope you get better.