Friday, November 30, 2007

Andrew Neil’s This Week show

Yesterday I watched Andrew Neil’s This Week show (comes on at 11.30 pm, after the end of Newsnight and the last quarter hour of Question Time - a time when I really should be going to bed). Permanent guests include Diane Abbot and Michael Portillo. Additional guests this week included singer Katie Melua, and Kevin Maguire (political editor of the Daily Mirror) and Jonathan Aitkin.

I used to find Andrew Neil very irritating. He seemed to make a joke of everything. This Week seemed to consist of Andrew Neil clowning about, with the guests occasionally allowed to make a serious point.

I now realise that Andrew Neil is an extremely shrewd and deadly operator. Beneath the jovial buffoon is a political analyst who will lull his guests into committing indiscretions, and then happy-slap them into further confessions. If Andrew Neil lived in the 1880s he would possibly have been a candidate for Jack the Ripper since he totally eviscerates politicians and abstracts their political entrails for examination.

Poor Kevin Maguire. I am sure he is a clever man, but he looked a dunderhead in that company. He is supposed to be “close” to Gordon Brown, which means the hapless things he was saying last night were probably officially sanctioned.

More on Kevin Maguire:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wishing and hoping and slick advertising

This afternoon I went with Angela to the local post office. I went there to post a small package. Angela went there to sort out a problem.

Angela is Ian’s PA (and Ian is our immediate boss). Aged about thirty-five, she has a slim wiry build and wavy orange-red hair (sometimes permed into loose curls). Although she doesn’t have a great deal of formal education (no degree) and is “only” a PA she is very clever and has a lot of experience of PR and advertising (more than most of the account managers). Generally she is a model of quiet competence, but occasionally she flares up into an incredible (and alarming) temper. These “run-ins” with people are famous throughout the agency, and when roused her sarcastic shouting is impossible to stop (not even Terry, our MD, can calm her down). I have been told it is “only a matter of time” before I have a run-in with Angela (so far we have been on very good terms).

We had to queue at the post office, Angela directly in front of me. Eventually we came to the front of the line. Only two positions were open, and when one became free Angela went up to it.

Regulations on sending post changed earlier this year. Instead of paying by weight you now pay by size. So an A4 letter now costs 40p second class instead of 24p, even though the weight is the same as previously.

Angela had with her twenty books of self-adhesive 24p stamps.

“Can I have a refund on these and buy twenty books of the forty pence stamps?” she asked.

“No, we can’t give refunds” the woman said.

“Why not, they havn’t been used. They are still in their books. They’re perfect.”

“We can’t give refunds” said the woman (no apology, the woman’s tone was hard and unyielding).

“Well can I have…” (Angela paused to do a quick mental calculation) “…two hundred and forty sixteen-pence stamps?”

“Yes, I can give you those” (the woman began taking sheets of stamps out of a folder.

“Will they be self-adhesive?” Angela asked.

“No, they’re not self-adhesive.”

“What use is that!” Angela cried. “I don’t want to wet two-hundred and forty stamps.” I detected a familiar note of angry impatience entering her voice.

In the queue behind me an old boy began loudly complaining of the hold up. “Well they should open more windows” shouted Angela. Her arm flailed wildly, indicating the row of closed positions.

“Do you want the stamps or not?” the woman said.

“Hang on a minute - if I put a sixteen-pence stamp next to one of these second-class adhesive ones on an envelope can you guarantee the Post Office isn’t going to find some technicality and chuck them back at me?”

“They should go through if they have the right postage” said the woman.

“What do you mean they should? Will they go or won’t they? This is important.”

“Is she STILL there” said the old boy.

“They should open more windows” cried Angela. Again her arm flailed wildly. Her voice had a note of desperation in it, as if she wanted to cry.

“You’re alright there” said a sympathetic middle-aged woman in the queue. “You’ve got a complaint and you need to sort it out. You’re alright.”

“I can’t handle this” the woman behind Angela’s counter said dismissively. She rolled down the (dirty) green Position Closed sign and walked away into the depths of the inner office. Angela was left stranded.

By this time I was at the only remaining open position. I sent off my package and then asked for two-hundred and forty sixteen-pence stamps. I passed the stamps to a fuming Angela.

“Roll on privatisation” Angela yelled to the waiting queue as we left the post office.

Above: Westlife, Joan Collins, Ant & Dec - where is the cash-strapped Post Office getting the money for all these expensive celebrities? Surely they are not spending public money on propaganda? And why is Joan Collins (who is a Star by any standards) getting involved in something so tacky?

I like the idea of the Post Office in theory. And small corner-shop post offices (where they sell boiled sweets, and newspapers, and those paper lids for home-made jam) are generally staffed by pleasant and helpful people. But the “main” post offices in towns and cities seem to be staffed by people who go out of their way to be rude and obstructive (this is a generalisation - occasionally you get very good service, sometimes from the very same people who are ordinarily unhelpful).

The Post Office is currently running a television campaign done by Shoreditch ad agency Mother using celebrities such as Joan Collins and the members of Westlife. Obviously I havn’t read the brief for this campaign, but I have already seen enough to know I don’t like it. Dishonesty permeates the whole concept.

The exterior shot is of a corner post office (positive feelings), but the interior morphs into one of the depressing “main” post offices (very very negative feelings). And why have they used so many different and disparate celebrities, or is this just a crude device to get attention? The scenarios are unbelievable (Bill Oddie might buy his own stamps, but Joan Collins and the members of Westlife would never queue up in a post office - it doesn’t even work as a fantasy dream sequence since the dialogue is so clunky and banal).

Most offensive of all is the characterisation of “Ken”, “Jill”, “Amir” and “Ted”. Friendly, well-meaning, funny - they are a million miles away from the horrible reality of actually meeting one of the Post Office counter staff. Wishing and hoping and slick advertising will not change a bad experience into a good one.

There is a great deal of bad advertising around, and normally I just look away (my hands are just as dirty as everyone else's). But this is dishonest and self-indulgent garbage. Whoever did this should be tarred and feathered at the next D&AD awards.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I get lots of these invitations

On Friday evening I went to a dinner party (being “unattached” I get lots of these invitations). Occasionally these dinners resembles the middle-class prattling sessions you see in Bremner Bird and Fortune. I had to drive about twenty miles through the clear night air - the temperature was almost freezing, so that I was concerned about the health of the rabbits on the side of the road (shouldn’t they be hibernating?).

Arriving at Marie-Astrid’s house, I handed over to Dave a birthday card and a bottle of 2005 Saint Emilion which I advised him to keep for a few years. Introduced to Anthea who does Communications for a local council (“there’s lots I could tell you but I won’t” she said mysteriously). Aged in her late twenties she has multiple sclerosis and walks with a stick.

Emily and Dan arrived and we sat in the lounge area talking cynically about our jobs. Glasses of grape juice we handed round. Then to the table where glasses of wine were poured.
The meal was vegetarian Mexican - enchiladas, bowls of nachos with various sauces, an elaborate salad. Afterwards we had home-made apple crumble with Haagan Daz praline and cream ice cream. Marie-Astrid’s six-year-old daughter got up and came downstairs wanting some ice cream.

We talked about money, and Dan and Emily described their recent buy-to-let purchases. We talked about the England v Croatia game and Dave became very agitated (“It’s not enough to have talented players, they need to work as a team. Like the sales teams and research teams we have at work. They can anticipate everybody’s objectives and reactions and challenges. Even when things are fast and complicated. An outstanding team takes on a life of its own. That’s when they become unstoppable…”). Emily told us about a very elaborate wedding that she and Dan are planning to go to (everyone is flying out to a Greek island where the wedding is being held, Emily is having a “long” dress made especially, lots of Greek elements are being introduced into the ceremony etc).

Coffee to follow, which we took back into the lounge. Marie-Astrid said several times that she was relieved the meal was over (“She’s been worrying all day about it” said Dan). Anthea complained of being suddenly tired and was taken home by Marie-Astrid - after she left everyone said how much she had deteriorated.

I left at 11.30 and drove home slowly because the roads were a bit slippery. When I got home the dog came downstairs to meet me. I took him out into the garden and we walked up and down the main lawn, a full moon high in the sky, the grass under my feet crisp from a light frost.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Common pipistrelles

I picked up these leaflets today as I want to learn more about the bats we have living around the house. They are almost certainly common pipistrelles. In summer (at dusk) I can stand on the main lawn and have them circling round above me. I havn't seen any for a couple of weeks so I guess they are hiberbating now. They live in the barns around the farmyard. Most people don't like bats, but they do a lot of good work (for instance each one will eat about 3,ooo insects per night).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Treasury is fast becoming a basket case

Above: Victorian advice (in cast iron) about the importance of being organised so that you know where things are. The government has “lost” a database containing personal details of ALL children in the country, together with their parents’ bank details. Over the years I have purchased hundreds of databases from data bureaus, and none of them have failed to arrive - the suppliers ALWAYS sent them by registered post.

A day of rain. And as I had to be in and out of the office all afternoon I became fairly damp. Coming back from BQW I saw that all of the floor (twelve people) were at the television in the Conference Room.

"Listen to this” Ian (our boss) said, sounding like a Catherine Tate character.

The television screen showed Chancellor Alistair Darling giving a statement to the House of Commons. It seemed incredible that people such as Judy (Alan’s PA) or Janette (Sheila’s assistant who does the accounts) should give a second glance to this scene, since they have often expressed their contempt for all things political. What made them rooted to the spot was the fact that details about their children (their children!) had gone “missing”.

Janette in particular was becoming panicky, calling her husband to tell him to take the money out of their main account and put it into another one they have. This agitation affected Paul (one son) and Tony W (two teenage children) who both became jittery. Angela was more sanguine (“It’s probably lying in someone’s drawer”).

Above: a display of hand-made baskets. Basket weaving used to be a staple industry in the county. There may be a revival as plastic carrier bags are likely to be phased out.

With the scandal over tax credits and the scandal over Northern Rock, and now the scandal over the missing children’s data the Treasury is fast becoming a basket case. From a PR point of view, it is difficult to think of anything worse than upsetting half the population in the country, especially by placing their children / grandchildren in “danger” through official negligence. This may well be the end for the government, the point at which they realise they have no hope of winning the next election.

But also looking at the situation from a PR point of view, it was a master stroke to have Treasury Secretary Andy Burnham sitting next to Alistair Darling during the Commons statement. Unlike the Presbyterian pursed lips of the Prime Minister and the elegant diffidence of the Chancellor, Mr Burnham looked filled with remorse and private anguish. Looking at him you knew (since he couldn’t have faked those expressions) that one person at least in the government was sorry for what had happened (I have never really understood the phrase “tortured brow” until today).

In less than an hour someone from the government will have to appear on Newsnight to explain what happened. And do it again on the Today programme tomorrow morning. Those two interviews may well decide the fate of the government.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It was absolutely dire

Another lecture in yet another remote church in the east of county. This one was not as erudite as others I have been to recently. In fact, there was something fraudulent about the whole set-up.

The village was set on level lands which had originally been long strips of flat land rising from the marshes. The Sunday afternoon was warm, with gentle sunshine. I drove there through well-kept farmland, the hedgerows subtly becoming more gentrified and displaying specimen trees as I neared the settlement, the whole landscape shape-shifting into micro Edwardian suburbia as I entered the village itself.

Although the village was big, it was not so big that it justified such an enormous medieval church - one of truly vast proportions. The medieval economy had been based on wool, transported by water since the land routes were (and still are) constricted by strategic natural bottlenecks. The wealth generated by the wool paid for the church and the draining of the marshes.

Entering the building, the construction was on such a scale that I felt like a citizen of Lilliput among the towering columns. Most of the windows were of clear glass, so light fell down on you from all angles. The acoustics were particularly good, which meant that the slightest noise (footsteps, whispered conversations, clinking of tea cups) was accentuated and magnified.

The chief treasure of the church is a medieval ladder (see above) that goes forty feet from the ground to the first level of the tower. The area under the tower was a sort of kitchen where ladies were preparing cups of tea (rows of teacups on a trestle table, very big white enamel teapots, immaculate tea towels). One of the ladies told me the ladder was made of primeval wood reclaimed by medieval monks from the ancient marsh (this marsh wood was greatly prized in the medieval period as it had lain in the mineral-rich water for several millenia and in the process had acquired an extremely tough, pliable, boiled quality that resembles modern plastic).

Above: another view of the ladder (note the sun streaming through the gothic arched window to the left). Apparently the ladder is still in use. Pevsner writes gleefully about this survival from the pre-industrial age.

Gradually other people arrived for the talk. They stood around in couples and small groups, drinking tea and whispering to each other. A large number of foreigners (unusual for such an out-of-the-way place) were attending the lecture - I heard them talking in French, Spanish and German (or was it Dutch?).

The lecture was on the career of a very minor sixteenth-century explorer who had been born in the village. This historical connection had been obscure and unremarked until “discovered” by a Rector in the 1950s who single-handedly built it up into a tourist attraction, bringing a buoyant level of income into the village. The result was a Festival-of-Britain-style mixture of earnestness and frivolity (like orange-flavoured cod liver oil - the nasty taste of the history disguised by dressing-up and silly re-enactments).

The lecture was delivered by a retired local headmaster. It was absolutely dire. Every suspicion I have ever harboured about the abysmal teaching of history in state schools was confirmed. Disjointed, laboriously politically correct, WRONG. I felt like heckling him. He walked up and down the low stages set up in the side-aisles (where an Oberammergau-like play is performed at weekends on the subject of the explorer) beaming at us as he showed off. It was all garbage from start to finish.

Eventually I just walked out.

I left the group clustered round the declaiming teacher. I walked past the ladies at their trestle tables loaded with tea cups. I walked through the great gothic entrance arch and down the long avenue of yew trees, back to my car.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

“No, no, no, we are not watching them!”

Above: the Eleanor cross at Charing Cross. I have never looked at it properly until today when I took this photograph. It seemed a brooding monument, as if resentful of the centuries of grief it commemorates (or it could have just been my mood, or indigestion from the Pret a Manger sandwiches).

Lunchtime and I was bored so I went to see Kim Blacha at her place of work (bridal wear designers in one of the side streets near Charing Cross). It was the first time I had seen her place of work, which comprised showroom/shop on the ground floor, designers above, and admin and PR on the top. I was surprised at how well appointed the place was - obviously there must be a lot of money in bespoke bridal wear.

I took in some sandwiches from Pret a Manger. Kim made some tea. We went into the boardroom where they have an HD television.

We had lunch and talked, while Kim flicked around the music channels, lingering on a series of Abba “classics”. A slight disinterested press of her thumb and Abba were zapped away to be replaced by a Take That revival song (revived band, not revivalist music). This video promo was styled in the form of a Busby Berkeley production from the golden age of Hollywood, with hundreds of Ziegfeldesque dancing girls, images of radio waves, the shorter Take That member dressed as Fred Astair in a tailcoat far too large for him (so that he resembled Mickey Mouse).

The band moved up and down a gigantic staircase in one of the silliest routines I have ever seen. Occasional close-ups showed you professional dimples undiminished in faces that were clearly no longer young. I’m not sure why I found the video disturbing (possibly it reminded me of the uncomfortable fact that I am aging myself), but I grabbed the remote control.

“No, no, no, we are not watching them!” I said.

Take That vanished to be replaced by Andrew Neil’s midday politics show. Keith Vaz, disgraced former Minister, was in a studio discussion with a bland Conservative MP (a man so insubstantial that he fully justified the description “shadow” spokesman) talking about detention periods. Keith Vaz dominated the screen, a beautiful plump serenity pervading his on-screen persona.

Keith Vaz is MP for Leicester. He has been turning up in the media a lot recently, in a worrying indication that he is trying to rehabilitate his career (“look at the hands” I said to Kim, “those are the fingers that were caught in the till”). The re-emergence of Keith Vaz mirrors that of the appalling Jonathan Aitkin, so that you wonder if retro-sleaze is the new political fashion.

“Okay, you win” I said to Kim, “let’s have the Abba classics back on”.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I nearly walked out

Above: Brunswick PR in Lincolns Inn Fields (middle building).

Increasingly I am “moonlighting” for the upstairs PR division. They seem to like my writing style, and every week I get several assignments. Ian (my boss) doesn’t like me doing this, but as work is fairly slack at the moment he can’t really complain.

This morning I went with Rachel (one of the PR account handlers) to a client meeting in the Strand, and on the way back we walked through Lincolns Inn Fields and she pointed out Brunswick where she used to work.

“I went there straight from uni” she said. “My interview was really weird. I answered a small ad in PR Week and got invited to an interview. When I got there the waiting room was packed with people - they had asked in everyone who had applied. Lots of people walked out when they saw how chaotic everything was. I nearly walked out myself. But I stuck with it, and eventually got five minutes with a funny little man - I won’t say who. And I was asked back for a second interview which was more professional. And the rest is history.”

Brunswick is one of London’s biggest PR companies, with offices in America and Germany. The firm was founded by Alan Parker who has given a lot of support to Gordon Brown over the years (“but he’s planning to jump ship - don’t tell anyone I told you”). Their client list includes a big chunk of the FTSE top one hundred.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Details “modelled on the Place de la Concorde”

Above: Camden Town Hall.

St Pancras station has been restored and reopened as the Eurostar terminus for trains to Brussels and Paris. I’m not sure what to make of the renovated structure - I prefer buildings in a melancholy state of decay, devoid of people, holding still and undisturbed atmospheres. About ten years ago I walked into the old Great Midland Hotel at St Pancreas (at the time comprising abandoned offices) and went up the staircase to the tatty grandeur of the second floor before being challenged and asked to leave.

I am looking forward to exploring properly the old Goods Yard at Kings Cross, now also in the course of redevelopment. I had an unofficial tour of the place before the development began. I have a hazy memory of going round the Milk Dock, the old soot-encrusted Railway Mission, the Rothschild mansions (seemingly tenanted by reformed squatters with a predilection for rainbow murals).

One of my favourite buildings in this part of London is Camden Town Hall. Such is the anathema felt towards Camden Council (a body that personifies the cry “political correctness gone mad”) that it is difficult to get people interested in what used to be the town hall of the old borough of St Pancras. The building was designed by A. J. Thomas (an assistant to Lutyens) and put up between 1934 and 1937.

The cramped site means that most people do not look at the building. It also suffers from the ebullient proximity of St Pancras station. But in its way it is a masterpiece (raised attics, giant Corinthian columns, details “modelled on the Place de la Concorde” etc).

Monday, November 12, 2007

War defines who we are

Yesterday was Armistice Day and also Remembrance Sunday. On the Andrew Marr show writer Will Self attacked the “state sanctioned cult” of remembrance, which made me think about the ways in which culture is influenced by the continued fall-out from the First World War. In more ways than we realise, that war defines who we are.

This year there seemed more made of the event than previously - Jeremy Paxman presented a documentary on the poetry of Wilfrid Owen; Radio 3 broadcast (live) a war requiem not performed since 1929; all the serious Sunday newspapers allocated articles to the significance of the day.

I watched most of the BBC coverage of the ceremonies at the Cenotaph. You would think that participation would begin to dwindle as veterans died off, but a commentator said that if anything the procession was growing year by year. There have been sixteen thousand casualties in the years since 1948, commemorated in the new totenburg opened in Staffordshire (with acres of empty wall space, indicating that war is to be an active instrument of foreign policy for years to come).

Above: there are thousands of war memorials across the country. Not just in churches (as this elegant example) but also in places of work, and at strategic points in the landscape (crossroads, hilltops, railway stations). After the First World War military commemoration became a national institution.

Above: I was in a forgotten military chapel and noticed this memorial. I say it was “forgotten” but actually the memorials had once been in a chapel attached to a barracks which had closed. They had then been moved to an aisle of this nearby church which had been re-designated the regimental chapel. The memorial interested me since it referred to Poona (a town near Bombay) during the 1920s - a time and place that had been comparatively peaceful. I thought possibly they might have died in some kind of epidemic but a churchwarden told me they had died on service on the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. “I think that period of our history was terrible” she said several times, undermining any “sacrifice” the memorial commemorated (in fact it might have been better for the men not to have had a memorial at all as then they would not have been the object of her obloquy).

Above: the war on the North West Frontier was the subject of Zoltan Korda’s 1938 feature film The Drum (later parodied in Carry On Up The Khyber). In a sub-plot that could have been scripted by Russell T Davies (author of the recent Dr Who series plus other dramas) the film portrays a (presumably subliminal) homo-erotic inter-racial relationship between the regimental drummer boy and the son of a tribal chieftain. Even I, who am usually the last to spot these things, noticed this.

Seventy years after the making of The Drum and the British Army is once again policing the North West Frontier, and making incursions with relative impunity throughout southern Afghanistan. The public has been criticised for not supporting the armed forces more, especially when they return to the United Kingdom, but actually there are hardly any areas of public life where the civilian and military worlds overlap. The only place you are likely to come across soldiers is on a train on a Friday evening.

In the picture above (please excuse the wonky angle, it was taken with my mobile phone) you can see a soldier just back from Afghanistan. I knew this as he was talking at the top of his voice into his mobile phone, one call after another to friends and family, all saying exactly the same thing (“…just got back two hours ago… it was a fucking shit-hole - six contacts a day… I’m in the infantry not the SAS…”). I had seen on a Newsnight special report a frightening picture of what the war in Afghanistan is like, but it was only by hearing that squaddie talking on the train that the reality of close combat came alive.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How comfortable things would have been had we won

Monday - I got to my desk feeling fairly relaxed since I knew I did not have a great deal to do. In many ways I felt I had deserved an easy day after the excessive work of recent weeks. I sat back in my chair, with a cup of tea, and congratulated myself on having a job where I could do nothing (within reason) if I wanted to.

We were due to hear this morning whether we had got the business following the Warwickshire presentation a couple of weeks back. There was a great deal of anticipation. Pete (my assistant) took a particular interest (“Will you be taking on extra people?”).

At eleven o’clock Ian (our boss) asked Kate and myself into the Conference Room and said that we had lost the presentation due to the creative element. Ian looked very shaken. Kate was aghast at the news (“I’d have put money on us getting it”).

Gradually the news seeped out to the rest of the staff. Failing to get the client leaves us all slightly vulnerable (and silently asking: what will the Directors in the senior division upstairs think of it?). The worst aspect is that we lost to arch-rivals Henry Webb Advertising (where Kate used to work, and from whom she stole a number of clients when she moved to us).

In the afternoon things began to get busy for me. In this job there is so much chasing to be done. You can never rely on people to do things on time.

Towards the end of the day freelance designer Joey came in to be briefed (by me) on a technical drawing. He was just back from holiday and was very tanned, although I am not sure how much of the pigment was genuine. While I was talking to him he blushed a deep red under his dark brown skin - it was an odd sight (a sort of purple). His eyes looked over my shoulder. As I turned round to follow his gaze I was just in time to see Kate smiling at him before walking off smartly. And I thought: what is going on there?

Tuesday - how different the situation has become, now we know we are not getting the Warwickshire work. How comfortable things would have been had we won, how smug and complacent we could have become. Instead we are forced to face the reality that not enough money is coming in (plenty of money is being made, but it simply isn’t “enough”).

Lunchtime, and another staff meeting in the Conference Room. We had to sit around the table for about ten minutes waiting for it to begin, a sotto voce grumbling going on among Sheila’s admin team. The “lads” (Paul, Pete, plus Iain and Ben from the photographic studio) came in early from their football practice out in the compound and stood all sweaty while boss Ian made another of his rambling speeches. Ben looked bored. Pete fidgeted. Instead of the usual pizza slices and tepid wine we had catered sandwiches, pastries and cream cakes - and it occurred to me that this lunch had been booked to celebrate winning the Warwickshire account (as we had lost presumably the champagne had been held back).

Wednesday - a paucity of work, almost as alarming as the vast amount of work I had struggled with last week. Most of the day I spent visiting a northern client (the meeting only look an hour, the rest of the time was driving). As I arrived and got out of Kate’s car (borrowed for the day) I dropped all my papers and in the wind they scattered around the car park. All this was watched from an upstairs window by the client and his sales team. For some reason they thought it was hilarious, and it put them in a tremendously good mood, so that in the meeting everything went through on the nod. This was very good news as the campaign proposals were quite ambitious and I had been afraid they would want to scale it back.

Thursday - another sluggish day. In the morning Kate, Ian, Alan and myself held a new business meeting to try to get things back on course. Terry, the Managing Director upstairs (and our ultimate boss) came in to give us his advice (“You need to double your failure rate” he told Kate, “instead of doing two presentations a month, do four”).

Later a small disaster for Sheila and her admin team. A company magazine we do for a client (everything from writing and designing it to stuffing the envelopes and posting it off) was returned by the post office for having insufficient postage. This puzzled Sheila as they had been weighed and franked correctly. Eventually she discovered that Iain (photographic studio) had left the franked mail in his van outside his house overnight before taking it to the post office. In the damp weather the magazines had absorbed moisture and this had taken them over the weight limit. Because of the postal strike the mailing had only just been returned to us (it was meant to have gone out a month ago - we had even billed the client).

Friday - student designer Stuart left today after a couple of weeks work-experience in our studio. He seemed very sad at leaving, although most people were completely indifferent to his going. At half-past four Tony and Paul in the studio gave him a card and some vouchers. He then came over to where Alan and I were talking (Ian was out) and shook hands. Then he shouted a general goodbye to the office, to which no-one responded. And then he left.

His going made Alan very philosophical.

“When you first arrive at a London ad agency you are led to believe the world is your oyster” Alan said.

“And then you discover oysters are actually cold, unpleasant and slimy” I said.