Issue # 60

Back to the typeface

Back to the typeface

Just before we resume toil from what Brother Callan and I always referred to as The Long Vac, permit me to mention that the Euro Lottery this week (that means tonight, Friday) stands at an estimated ₤92million.

Look… it is academic to the members who are already in it, whether you join the Ranters Lottery Syndicate or not. But if you are not in it (to coin a cliché) you can’t win it.

And guess what the bad news is? – If your syndicate wins ₤92million, you’ll have to share it with the other members.

What a bugger that would be. I mean, having to share 92 million quid.

The good news, such as it is, is that membership of a syndicate like ours increases the chance of winning by 3,600%. You still might not win (it’s called ‘a lottery’…) but you at least make the odds more favourable. If you want to be in the draw this week, you need to join before 6pm tonight.

We are NOT encouraging you to gamble. But, if you fancy a flutter, it’s up to you.

The website is: www.e-vwd.com/ranterseditor

So, from enriching your wallet, to enriching your mind.

We have some old favourites, and some new (but familiar) names.

Paddy O’Gara somehow turned his thoughts to insults and examples of what used to be known as repartee. It was Paddy who gave us, on the appointment of a new, limb-disadvantaged, chairman at the Mirror: “In the land of the legless, the one-legged man is king.”

He also, after lunch with the editor, was heard to comment: “It’s true what they say… an hour after eating a Chinese meal, Tony Miles wants to argue with another waiter.”

Paddy’s piece was prompted by a call for copy.

Brian James was prompted by reading a piece by Andrew Jackson about getting his start in journalism. We don’t much care what prompts people to write, but we like it when it happens. Doesn’t everybody have a story about how they started? – I don’t think I have ever heard two that were the same.

After getting started, most reporters worthy of the job title did their stint in a local magistrates’ court. It’s where most of us brushed up our shorthand. But not everybody made a fetish of it.

John Dodd celebrates the work of one who did. James A (Jimmy) Jones filled a daily column in the London Evening News from the London mags courts. On Mondays from Bow Street; Tuesdays from Marlborough Street; Wednesdays from Old Street; Thursdays from Clerkenwell; and on Fridays he’d be back again at Bow Street.

His day was well organised. By 11.30 every morning he’d have heard enough to fill his space. At noon he would have lunch, start writing at half-past, hand in his copy at two at the latest and by 4.15 he would be home, having stopped for a drink at his club.

Ah, the evening papers, de no jours

As for the dailies… They used to say that they bet we met a lot of interesting people.

As Colin Dunne recalls, we certainly did. But most of them worked with us.

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And the same to you

By Paddy O’Gara

The Ranters’ request for some Silly Season copy has pricked my conscience.

It was suggested some time ago that I do a few words on Jeff Bernard, with whom I enjoyably wasted much time in the seventies.

However, the following is no more than a cuttings job on memorable put-downs, not only from The Street, but also from history.

Maybe it will spark more of the same from ranting readers.

A foolish youth in The Coach and Horses once asked Jeff if he thought alcohol was bad for people. ‘How do you think I got like this?’ snarled Jeff, ‘Jogging?’

Another time someone unwisely asked if he drank to make himself more interesting. ‘No, I drink to make you more interesting.’

Away from Jeff, but only as far as the Colony Room Club – which is not very far at all – Alan Brien told the Dueña, Muriel Belcher, he had been invited to a fancy dress party, and could she advise him on what to go as?

‘Why don’t you put some talcum powder on your beard and go as an armpit, Cuntie?’ cooed Muriel.

A bit further from Jeff, in The Stab, I remember an exchange between two sports writers, one of whom had been a professional footballer in earlier times:

‘I may not have been much of a player, but you have to admit I’m a good writer.’

‘I’ll go half way with you on that,’ was the reply.

The next involves Hannan Swaffer (what a name!) whom even I am not old enough to have met.

Swaffer had panned a couple of plays by Noel Coward, but when Coward starred in a work written by someone else, Swaffer was full of praise.

‘I always said you were a better actor than a writer, Noel.’

‘How odd,’ replied Coward, ‘I’ve always said the same about you.’

Last, and for me, the best put-down of all, this from the great Sidney Smith in the eighteen-hundreds.

A loutish old squire – fully aware that Smith was a clergyman – said, ‘If I had sired a son who was a fool, I would have put him in the Church.’

Smith didn’t miss a beat.

‘Clearly, your father was of a different opinion.’

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Kick start

By Brian James

Andrew Jackson’s piece about sort of stumbling into journalism did not surprise me; I rather thought that was how we ALL got started in this disorganised trade. I know I did. It happened like this: I was approached by a young man wanting to know about the boys’ soccer team I was running – he seemed especially intrigued by the fact that we played in the grounds of a local mental hospital – with inmates cheering madly on the touchline. Perhaps he wondered if any these ‘fans’ ever drifted out unnoticed amid the departing away side.

He was, he said, a journalist on the local weekly. I was fascinated. My father had died when I was an infant. When, at six years old, I had asked what he had done for a living I was told ‘journalism’. This, I had stoutly declared would suit me too – not having the remotest idea what the word meant. But now I knew, and… ‘er how would one get started?’ I asked,

Well as it happened he was being called up in a few weeks (this was still WW2 time) and no replacement had yet been appointed. A few days later the district editor said yes he thought I’d do – the pay would be 15 bob a week. Thus still a few days short of my 14thbirthday (I was a tall lad and looked the ‘near 16’ I had claimed) I was a reporter, probationer NUJ card and all.

They didn’t even give me time to get my cycle clips off the day I reported at the Banstead office of the Croydon Advertiser as replacement for the now khaki-clad predecessor. I was handed two sheets of names and addresses – police, firemen, vicars, undertakers, secretaries of golf clubs, am-dram societies, the British Legion and Women’s Institute. And I was to do what exactly? ‘Go and see them, get all the news… and for Chrissake spell the names right.’

I had my first scoop within days. Over tea in the village café the waitress, being pestered for news, said perhaps I ought to go and see a Mrs Slovec ‘having a terrible time what with that son and the police again.’ Mrs Slovec WAS having a terrible time with that son, as she spent two hours telling me. Since his father had died in the war, he had been a tearaway, tearing fast downhill. From smoking behind the bike shed, to burning it to the ground, from nicking foreign stamps from Woolworths, he had graduated to snatching notes from sweetshop tills, from riding his bike on footpaths, he moved to riding other people’s bikes for a quick sale to dealers. Frequently in tears, Mrs S said now he had had most of the lead off the church roof.

I spent hours hunt-and-peck typing all this up… the tragic story of a war-widow’s fight to save her son from a life of crime, with all her tears and entreaties in vain. Who could fail to be moved? And dropped the copy in for subbing.

Next morning the boss, a Mr Goldsack, asked me to be seated. ‘Laddie’ he said heavily, ‘I can see you have worked hard on this. But so far young Slovec has NOT been found guilty…has NOT been on trial… has NOT been charged… has NOT been arrested… and in fact the police don’t even have him in mind for this lead job.’ The ensuring 10-minute lecture on The Law And Newspapers was the one piece of one-on-one training I was ever given at the Advertiser.

I did have one tiny triumph that first week. Getting a short item into print that was reprinted by Punch a few weeks later under the heading ‘Apology Pending,’ It read, in its entirety:

‘Mrs Simpkins entertained the Women’s Institute with her extensive programme of songs at the piano. There is a very urgent need for a gramophone at the group.’

Things did not continue in that triumphant vein. Some weeks later Mr Goldsack summoned me to his desk. He waved two sheets of paper at me… they were the record of the sums I was claiming for bus fares and evening meals at 1s 3d a time. Each was headed ‘EXPENSIS’. He glared ‘Sonny, this proves it. You just can’t spell.’ (He was correct; I couldn’t spell then, still can’t spell, so permit my silent toast here to 50 years of copy-takers who can.)

Two weeks later Mr Goldsack sent me home with a note to my mother: ‘Sorry, but this lad will never make a journalist.’

I had been fired. I was upset, but my Auntie Vera was furious. And her anger was not something nice to observe. Aunt V was v. large, v.loud, a former dance partner to Victor Sylvester and ‘wife’ to many jazz musicians; she was also the most familiar throaty voice for some years on all and every late-night radio chat show, her fame was London-wide. She was also deeply theatrical and absolutely loved a scene. Therefore when, 20 years after my sacking, the opportunity arose for her revenge on Mr Goldsack, nothing would talk her out of it.

She was now chairman of the local Conservatives, and Mr Goldsack was to attend some annual party she was throwing. ‘And you, Brian, must be there.’ But aunt… ‘You WILL be there – for the confrontation.’

It is here necessary to understand her thinking. In these 20 years I had bobbed back up again, actually quite well. A stint in the London Office of the Melbourne Herald, having to surrender some of my post-war sweet ration when the owner Sir Keith Murdoch visited with his 16-year-old son, Rupert, in tow, ought to have served me well in later life. But didn’t. Then a lively slog on East London weeklies. Now as aunt V’s masterplan unfolded, I as Chief Football Writer on the soccer-obsessed broadsheet Daily Mail, had a picture by-line leading the back page most days of the year. And popped up often on the front. I was also broadcasting on BBC radio at least three times a week (Sports Report, and all that,) and I had also become some sort of all-sport expert on ITN’s midday bulletin. Auntie V had become ludicrously proud.

So her idea was Mr G would be confronted with this overwhelming evidence of his own judgmental frailty in front of hundreds at the ball; he would then, of course, stagger back in ashen-faced horror as though confronted with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Quite possibly drop to his knees in abject apology, as some versions of Auntie V’s vision had it.

How it happened was this. ‘Ah-ha Mr Goldsack!’ Auntie V boomed in a voice trained to reach the back row of any theatre in the land. ‘Of course you remember my nephew’… pause for effect… ‘Brian James’.

‘Of course’ said Mr Goldsack, turning on me a look of deepest pity. ‘Dear boy, such a shame. Now whatever did you decide to do with yourself… whatever became of you?’

Even Auntie V couldn’t find a word to say.

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Court circular

By John Dodd

One Fleet Street veteran remembers him as being ‘reclusive’, someone who would slip into the office very infrequently and then disappear as silently as he arrived. Another describes him as ‘an insignificant man in glasses –you would have thought he worked in a draper’s shop.’

But if we are to regard Bill ‘Cassandra’ Connor and Vincent Mulchrone as jewels of different styles of journalism, then it would be impossible not to place the bald, bespectacled and deferential James A Jones beside them in the same display cabinet.

‘Jimmy’ Jones wrote what was undoubtedly the best-read column in London. It was called ‘Courts Day by Day’ and it ran every weekday for well over 30 years in the (London) Evening News, beginning in 1931.

Everyone tried to copy him; no one could do it as well. He covered the lower London courts – the old ‘police courts’– Bow Street, Marlborough Street, Old Street, Clerkenwell and others, not for the sensational but for the humdrum.

He minutely described the beggars, drunks, prostitutes, pickpockets and all manner of hopeless wrecks who had been scraped up from the streets the day before and made them deliciously human.

Who else would write ‘She was as insubstantial as a sigh’? Or ‘she fluttered agedly towards the cells’? And what about this from 1947?

In the ’90s, (that’s the 1890s) when hansoms jingled along the streets of London and every City clerk wore a silk hat, John was picking pockets in The Strand.

King Edward came to the throne and motors began to splutter in Piccadilly and John’s hands went on sliding into pockets. He thieved all through the four years of the Great War. Dictators rose to power and maps were altered overnight but John, white haired and venerable, was still standing with his itching fingers amongst the noise and bustle of The Strand.

This piece, like many of them, was a wonderful essay in its own right.

It goes on:

A detective who had not been born when John picked his first pocket saw that round old figure in the throng by a bus stop. He watched him for a while and then tapped him on the shoulder.

‘I’m arresting you,’ he said.

‘All right,’ said John.

‘For loitering.’

‘I know.’

John turned resignedly, as he had so often in the years, towards the usual trial and inevitable sentence.

He walked on old slow feet towards the dock at Bow Street, and he rested his slender old fingers on the wooden rail in front of him. His face was round and pink below the snow of his hair, his eyes had a dim kindliness in them, and his coat curved amply around him towards the ground. He looked a gentle but rather timid old man, an old man unworldly but benign, and he blinked at the solemnity of the court.

‘You are charged,’ said the clerk briskly, ‘with being a reputed thief, loitering to pick pockets in the street.’

‘Guilty,’ said John in an old voice.

‘You understand the charge?’

‘Oh yes,’ said John.

‘Very well.’

Mr Fry, on the bench, had been regarding John with his usual air of grave surprise. Now he spoke to the detective in the witness box. ‘Do you know anything about this man?’ he asked, rubbing his chin musingly.

The detective unfolded a massive sheet of documents.‘Yes, sir,’ he answered. ‘Unfortunately he has a most appalling record of crime. He’s an expert pick-pocket and has 34 convictions – ‘

‘Thirty four,’ echoed Mr Fry dubiously. ‘You could hardly call him an expert, could you, if he’s been caught 34 times?’

The detective glanced at John’s white hair and venerable stoop. ‘He’s been picking pockets since 1896, sir,’ he explained…

The column was so popular that a hardback collection of them, called Courts Day By Day (Sampson Low Marston and Co) was published despite wartime paper rationing.

They all adhered to the same formula, now as distant and forgotten as a thousand Fleet Street features editors: no full names or addresses of the defendants, merely a (probably made up) first name and the conclusion of the case left till the last. So just about the opposite of everything taught by news desks and journalism colleges. But Jones’s shorthand caught the exchanges, as in…

Mr. Langley glanced at a typewritten document on his table. ‘The prison doctor says you’re deteriorating due to alcoholic habits,’ he said. ‘You look it, too. I shall order you to find a surety in the sum of a hundred pounds for your good behaviour or go to prison for three months. That’s my order.’

‘But, Mr Langley – ‘

‘That’s my order.’

‘But won’t you – ‘

‘No, I won’t,’ said Mr Langley. ‘You’re a regular nuisance and you’re gradually getting worse.’

The feverish fire died abruptly in Jessica. She sagged, mumbled something that could not be heard, and turned the wreckage of her beauty towards prison.

Jones, indeed, might have been lucky to have been covering the courts at a time when there was barely a lawyer in them. In those days a policeman would go into the witness box, give his evidence, and then the accused would question him and then give their own, with interventions from the stipendiary magistrate. So they were often three-way conversations from completely different worlds exploring impossible truths; in fact, the kind of drama that the best of playwrights seek but rarely find.

Even TIME magazine afforded Jones the accolade of running a pen profile of him as a prince of court reporters at a time when the News far outsold the other evenings with a readership of 1.6 million readers a day. At the end of the war Evening News editor Guy Schofield sent him to cover the Nuremburg war crimes trials, a good idea which only half worked because the cases were far too structured for Jones to be at his best; he was delighted to get back to his old stamping ground.

George Hollingbery, about to golf-swing into his eighties, but then an Evening News crime reporter (later news editor), recalls that he could set his watch by Jimmy Jones.

‘He would get to court before they opened at 10 o’clock. It would be a parade of drunks and prostitutes, the flotsam and jetsam from the streets of London. The fines would be ten shillings or seven-and-six or a day inside, which they had already served. I would be there for the big stuff that came on later, but he would get enough colour from the morning stint for him to go to the office at twelve and start writing his copy. Then he’d go home. We never saw him in the Harrow, the News pub.’

What he also remembers is commuting home and seeing City people and others with ‘the News’ tucked under their arm, settling into their seats and, ignoring all the sensational headlines, turning first to Jimmy Jones’ cases about London down and outs.

Percy Trumble, former Evening News news editor and now 90, remembers Jones as ‘a most retiring sort of man whose work was so perfect it was sent straight to the printer without need of subbing.’ He would slip into the old press club in Salisbury Square at around 11.30, be in the office just after 12 and his copy would be in the subs’ basket by 1.30pm.

Among the cast of Jones’ characters was ‘old Vera’, habitual alcohol who enjoyed haranguing the passing public. She appeared in his column so regularly she became a kind of street celebrity.

Why does no one try and run the same kind of column today? Perhaps it is because courts have changed too much – too many lawyers apologising for their client’s ‘inappropriate’ behaviour – or because petty crimes now receive a mere police station caution, or maybe it’s because, too, editors raised on a biff-bang celebrity culture have no understanding of the genre and no true conception of what ordinary people still want to read about.

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Our man in Hamburg

By Colin Dunne

He was always one shave behind the rest of the world, and, I suspect, one drink ahead. With his crumpled linen suit, dark glasses, and fat French cigarette, Stanley Bonnet was always too exotic a figure for the Mirror office and the Stab. He needed a bigger stage.

He was the real thing. He’d been an agency man in Africa, I think he’d worked around the Middle East, he was even said have been an MI5 man, and to have run a bar in Beirut at one time. I was never quite sure whether he’d taken his character from Graham Greene, or whether Graham Greene had used him as an inspiration. Either way it would’ve worked.

So I was delighted, if a little overawed, to find myself in the same Hamburg hotel as Stan one Friday in the seventies. But I was quite upset when I saw the look of grave distaste on his face: I’d said the wrong thing.

‘You’re doing what?’ he asked, eyebrows rising. I explained again that I was going to take an evening coach tour of the city to see all the fascinating sights and I asked, rather timidly, if Stan would like to do the same.

His face creased into a smile of ineffable weariness. ‘I don’t do coach trips,’ he murmured, stubbing his fag out in an overcrowded ashtray. ‘But I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.’

Now he didn’t know how that coach trip was going to turn out, and neither did I, of course. I wish now I’d never told him. It almost broke his heart.

It was sheer coincidence that we ended up the same hotel – that one opposite the station. We’d both been on missions for the Mirror. His was proper journalism – something about the political line-up in Europe. Mine was the saucy lightweight crap to which I was about to dedicate my entire career.

This one was interviewing a girl who worked at an Eros Centre, which was what they called municipal brothels in Germany. Luckily, I’d found one who spoke excellent English, with a marked upper-class accent. She’d learnt it, she told me, when she worked as an au-pair in Finchley and had a smart surgeon boy-friend. Was her new life very different from England? ‘Wherever you are the sex is the same. But here the money is far better.’

This was all a bit of a shock to me. I’d not long left the Yorkshire Dales where sex and money were much the same: unavailable. The excuse-me quickstep with Antoinette Thompson at the Wharfedale Young Farmers’ Ball in Grassington Town Hall, music by the Craven Players, was about as racy as it got. So it’s no surprise that by the time I’d finished the Eros interview my biro was quite moist.

I found Stanley in the bar. We were both due to pull out the next day, so we were discussing what we would do with our last night in Hamburg. Stan, the old hand, had just had another £100 wired through. I had about £15 left and daren’t ask for any more. That’s why I was proposing to go on the coach tour. ‘It only costs a tenner and includes a free glass of champagne at a leading night-club,’ I pointed out, in the hope of catching his interest.

It failed. He sipped his whiskey, and said maybe he’d jump on a flight that night. ‘Have a good night with the grannies,’ he said. As I climbed on to the coach, he waved from the back of a taxi.

Stanley was exactly what an international reporter should be. I’m pretty certain that I heard him refer to James Cameron as ‘Jimmy’. Fifty-ish, short, thinning hair, he looked as though he was planning a revolution. You couldn’t look at him without somehow hearing the whirr of crickets and the croak of frogs. A high humidity man, he belonged beneath slowly stirring fans in a steamy Congo bar, possibly in the company of something with impossibly long legs, dabbing tears from her eyes. He’d done decadence, without a doubt.

What few facts I know about him are remarkable enough. Unlikely as it seems, he began on the Slough Observer, but it was when he was on the Mail that his talent for the unpredictable surfaced. He was sent to cover an American glamour girl – was she called Jane Baldesare? – who was attempting to swim the Channel underwater…

I know, I know. The early sixties were desperate days.

Astonishingly, this attempt failed – after about 20 yards, I should think. Stan not only covered the story, he married it. He and Jane dashed off to open a bar in Beirut, which went the way of the underwater swimming bid. After that, he was a stringer in the Middle East hot-spots like Aden where he slept with a gun under his pillow.

We hadn’t seen anything like him on the Craven Herald and West Yorkshire Pioneer, that was for sure. I was so thrilled to find myself in his company, and so disappointed that he wasn’t interested in my night-out.

Hey-ho, off we go, on to the coach, and he was right about the grannies. There were four or five at the back, two couples from southern Germany, a thirty-ish textile salesman from Baildon, in Yorkshire, called Trevor, and a pale young man with a spotty complexion. The three of us, as the youngest males, sat together. As we went round, Trevor said he was worried because he’d been unable to telephone his wife, Brenda. Brenda was worried about Trevor meeting exotic continental girls, which, looking at Trevor, seemed a bit of a long-shot. And the pale young man held out a limp hand and said: ‘I am Hamid. I am from Dubai.’ He said it as though it explained everything. He was right: it did.

Our guide was a middle-aged man called, oddly, Winston. I mean, do they have London guides called Adolf? Anyway, Winston showed us elegant streets and smart shops, vast yachts on an inland lake, several fascinating ball-bearing factories, a couple of old churches which had somehow survived the RAF’s scene-shifting, more bridges and canals than Venice, and marzipan shops. People in Hamburg eat marzipan by the ton. No doubt people in Marzipan do the same with hamburgers. Finally, he took us to the nightclub, with an emphatic warning to stick to our free glass of champagne and not to order any more drink. ‘Very, very expensive,’ he said.

Next to me, Hamid, who’d been telling me he was educated at Eastbourne College, again announced: ‘I am from Dubai.’ Good, we said, and went into the night-club. It was a sort of Talk of the Town affair, plumed and towering showgirls on stage, a smooth big band in light-blue jackets, lots of glitter and flashing lights, and all pretty harmless.

Trevor wondered if there was a telephone where he could ring Brenda. I thought it was perhaps as well Stan hadn’t come: no crickets, no frogs, no revolutions. Hamid called a waiter over and ordered champagne. Instantly, Winston appeared and said no,no no, it was far too expensive for mere tourists. Hamid again came back with his simple statement: ‘I am from Dubai.’

Slowly, we began to see what he meant.

Winston told him the price which, as Trevor said, would have bought a beer for every man in Baildon, and for one or two in Shipley. Hamid gave a shy smile. The price, no problem. As we toasted Hamid, Winston vanished to make enquiries, then returned. Did Hamid really want to spend serious money? If so, Winston knew a place that was more… well, a little more geared towards the Dubai trade. But, these places didn’t come cheap. Instantly, Trevor and I ruled ourselves out.

But Hamid put his arms round us, we were his new friends, he wanted us to go with him or it wouldn’t be fun. He would pay. He was from Dubai.

At first sight, the Pelican Club looked like a fantasy in Habitat. A long, low-ceilinged room, with sofas and baggy armchair scattered around glass-topped tables. The colours were all pale creams and browns. I didn’t pick up much more detail because it was then I saw the staff. The waitresses were all around 19, they were all stunning, and they seemed surprisingly unconcerned about their uniform: one smallish silver star and a pair of high silver stilettos. The star was placed exactly where you would place a star if that was all you had to wear. The shoes were on their feet.

In Grassington Town Hall, the girls sat down one side and the boys down the other. In the Pelican, the system was different. The men – only seven or eight altogether – sat on the sofas and the girls swarmed all over them like smooth-skinned bees. I could not compare them with Antoinette Thompson because I had never seen her wearing a star. Trevor said the same of his Brenda, and looked anxiously at his watch.

Hamid mentioned his home town, and once again the charming staff bore in more bottles of champagne. It was beginning to occur to me that ‘I am from Dubai’ was some sort of international code meaning ‘Please help me get rid of lots of cash.’ Well, the club certainly kept their side of the bargain. Trays came round bearing delicious titbits (not a word you could easily use in that setting). Champagne followed more champagne. Trevor told me all about ‘the textile game’, as he liked to call it and, like good young Yorkies, we discussed the poetry of Boycott’s cover drive. It wasn’t easy through a tangle of scented and wriggling limbs, but we men of Yorkshire are not easily deterred.

A hand tapped me on the shoulder. It was a man in a suit with a bill on a silver tray. It had now reached £500, an astronomical sum in those days, and he would like an interim payment. Where was our friend from Dubai?

A good question. Where was our friend from Dubai? He’d vanished. I didn’t think that bill would sit too happily on my exes. We whizzed around, calling out his name, until we heard a strangled cry from a side-room. There, lying on a bed beneath a sort of living duvet of human flesh, was Hamid. They kept pouring champagne over his head to keep him awake. They even…. Oh you don’t want to go into all that. Let’s just say that they had developed ingenious means of helping clients fend off sleep. When he was asleep, he wasn’t spending. One hand came out from beneath the flesh duvet, holding – thank God – an Amex card.

I don’t know what time it was when we left. Trevor and I more or less carried Hamid back to the hotel. ‘You can have a good sleep now,’ I told him. He shook his head. ‘Tonight I go to Copenhagen,’ he whimpered. It’s not easy, being the Man from Dubai

Somehow, I got my flight back. I didn’t see Stanley until noon on Monday, in the Stab. He dabbed his cigarette into another overflowing ashtray and gave me a pitying smile. ‘How was the coach trip?’ So I told him.

As I did, he ground his cigarette out with some ferocity. He called up another large Scotch and asked me to go on. His eyes, which had seen into the darker corners of the world, filled with moisture. His fingers took my wrist in a tight grip. ‘You’re not making this up, are you?’ I assured him I wasn’t.

Graham Greene could have described the effect my story had on Stanley. He had the countenance of a man who felt he had been betrayed by everything that, until that very moment, he had believed he understood.

Unfortunately, Mr Greene was not present in the Stab that day.

‘All my life…’ Stanley began. ‘All my life…’ He never finished the sentence. He waved me aside. A little hurt, I went back to the office. As I left, I could’ve sworn I heard a sob.

(End)

Mem to subs: the last sentence isn’t true, but I knew you’d write it in anyway. – CD

End memo.

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