Friday, December 07, 2012

The Back of My Cab

The news has been making me feel very old. Not just old. But like an old seen-it-all-before black cab driver. This is what happens when you start heading towards fifty - Here's who I have had in the back of my cab.

God I hated working for Newsnight. The bitchiest, most unsupportive newsroom I have ever worked in - this from a woman who (when working for another organisation) was once backed against a wall by a boss holding a chair, who imprisoned me between its four legs all the better to bollock me. I could go on about Newsnight but I'd still be hammering my keyboard frothing about the license fee this time next week.

George Entwistle.
How old do you have to be before the former director general of the BBC is someone who was your successor in a different job? George took over from me at Westminster as a Newsnight producer. I remember someone saying "He's very BBC" and wondering "What the Hell does that mean?" I understand now though.

Jimmy Savile.
There is a moment in my first book Wife in the North where I lift the ponytail of a little cousin who has been sick from cancer and who is well again, and as I lift it and run it through my hands, I celebrate the fact this girl-child is so lovely and healthy again. Years ago, I covered some charity event - I think for the local paper I worked for then, but it might have been for ITN. The children in the centre of the room were sat at tables having tea, grown-ups lining the walls around them. Jimmy Savile was holding forth, Jimmy Savile was why we were there. He walked around the tables, around the kids, parents chuckling at his banter, and as he stopped behind one girl, he lifted her ponytail and ran it through his hands, talking all the while. I thought: "Yeah gods, the guy is a pervert." I said as much to my photographer (it might have been a cameraman) afterwards and he told me: "Everyone knows. That's been around for years."

Max Clifford.
I never really dealt with Max Clifford - maybe once, maybe twice. I feel it ought to have been more on the grounds I have been a journalist so long - in my defence, celebrity stuff wasn't my area. But I did still have him in the back of my cab. Well not "have" him. Not have him and get snapped and sell my story through the agencies of well - Max Clifford.

(Scene fades to black, and up again.)Occasionally you feel good. You wear the right thing, your hair falls as it should, the light hits you like it ought to. Doesn't happen all the time. Hardly ever happens. It may never happen to me again - but it did that day, that day it was all a fit. I'd had a hellish train journey but I'd finally arrived in London to talk about the possibility of a book deal. I was walking along the Strand, wearing black, a tight belted top and a fishtail skirt which swished - I could hear it. Black boots clung to my calves and a long riding-style coat, lined all in silk, framed me. I was running late but about to walk into a meeting I was looking forward to (shame I managed to tuck that swishy fishtail skirt into my knickers when I got there, but that's another story.) My skirt was not tucked into my knickers as I walked purposefully along the Strand, and I was smiling a little because the prospect of a book deal can do that to you. Ahead of me, Max Clifford walked out of a building to climb into a car. He glanced my way. I met his eye. He was Max Clifford. I knew it and he knew that I knew it. I was all dressed in black, black, black with lips the colour of crushed raspberries. At that moment, Max Clifford thought he might see me again. Thought I had a story to tell, that I might knock on his door and say breathily "Mr Clifford, there's this man. He told me he was going to leave his wife or I'd have never...I've got pictures." It is one of my proudest moments.


ADDY said...

Greg used to work at the World Service Newsroom and that (up to about ten years ago anyway) must have taken the prize for the bitchiest, most unsupportive newsroom, if ever there was one. Seems to go with the territory. said...

I wrote a blog recently about how I try to impress my great grandchildren by tell them tales of people I have met or have been (very)losely connected with who, incidentally, they have never heard of. Names like Bill Wyman, Tom Jones, Erice Clapton etc!
Now that does make you feel old!