Banks' Notes 24.02.06

OKAY, curvy Carole Malone, so I never truly understood what you meant on Thursdays at the Sunday Mirror when I offered coffee and a Danish in the canteen and you said: "Sorry, Banksy, it’s Column Day." I thought it was just a brush-off.

Sarler was as bad: I could call Carol (The Columnist For Everyone)

pretty well any day of the week to offer her lunch at the Camden Brasserie and it was always: "Not today, love, it’s Column Day — how about next Thursday?"

A man could get a complex. I nearly did, until I got a column of my own. Now I begin to understand the sheer hell of Column Day, the day of the week when EVERYTHING goes wrong.

Columnists? I’ve hired them, fired them, admired them… great God, I’ve even sired ’em (my son, the chef, writes a mean restaurant review if you’re interested!). But I’ve never really understood that, just as deadlines rule a journalist’s life, what makes a columnist’s heart tick faster is the approaching deadline laced with a hint of disaster.

And then they write about it, using The Column as a form of therapy. Jeez, they should pay US! Or so I thought until I also took the strain.

Tomorrow is my Column Day, so I go to the Press Gazette news conference to filch some ideas. Some hope! Zilch, nada, nothing.

On the way home I do a favour for My Son The Chef (honestly, his columns are as cheap as his chips): my wife is away, he’s lost his front door key, so I get a new key cut. Safely ensconced on the Tube I realise that [1] I have been overcharged, [2] I have had the wrong key copied, and [3] I have left my own house keys with the locksmith.

Disaster and Column Day are looming, like twin peaks, over my horizon. Worse, tomorrow being Column Day has naturally clashed with final judging for the Press Awards.

Column Day dawns, still nothing to write about. Why the hell do I bother with the Monday media sections or Professor Roy’s impenetrable Tuesday business lectures? I head for Press Association HQ, where my fellow British Press Awards judges have foregathered.

The bomb squad delays my bus, my Tube station is closed, I hail a cab and tell him: "Press Association, Buckingham Palace Road, step on it!"

The address turns out to be wrong. So how was I to know? The last time I looked I was 46 and PA was where we all should be, in Fleet Street.

I arrive at PA’s real address (Vauxhall Bridge Road, pedants!) to a reprimand from judging chairman Charlie Wilson (not my first), laced with coffee and sympathy from two long-suffering ex-deputies of mine who are also judging.

The entries? Numbers down, naturally, but standards in the categories for which I was responsible well up to scratch. Judges’

deliberations? Fierce, very honest and impressively objective.

Awards night will be quite an occasion and I predict that Messrs MacLennan, Dacre and Desmond will judge themselves accursed they were not there. But I can’t stop to chatter like this… it’s Column Day.

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