YOU KNOW how it is: you're drinking with a gal who says she has a pal (note to subs: I'm AWARE it all rhymes, I'm waxing lyrical!) who remembers you from 30-odd years ago and says you should be sure to tell her such-and-such a story.
Well, it happened to me the other day. The friend-in-common was Stewart Bonney, with whom I worked on The Journal in Newcastle, long before that stripling Alan Shearer was out of nappies. The tawdry story Bonney wanted retold was of the night fellow pisspots Tom Petrie, Keith Belcher and I drank a rival team of imbibers (three thirsty steel erectors, they were!) under the table in a catchweight contest at The Journal's office pub, the Printer's Pie.
I won't weary you with the story here. However, it DID get me thinking along these lines: every newspaper I know has an office pub and, often as not, a host of stonking alehouse capers just begging to be revealed. Please, PLEASE tell yours to me and I'll publish them as an occasional series here in Banks' Notes.
I'm serious. This is social history of great import. Mail me now if, as the Grey Cardigan would say, you're so minded (firstname.lastname@example.org) with details of your office pub and, if possible, your favourite pub story.
So, you ask, where are they now, my erstwhile boozing buddies?
Well, Stewart Bonney is a very successful Northeast publisher, Tom Petrie continues to take the Murdoch shilling and Keith Belcher is, I hope, still belting them down at some Old Bull and Bush or other in Hertfordshire.
TIME for another edition of my ever-popular Frequently Unanswered Questions column (or FUQ to you).
WHO CONTROLS the media?
Parade magazine's recent online poll posed this question: Who is to blame for Tom Cruise's wobbly PR image — the actor or the media?
A surely predictable 84 per cent blamed the press. But wait… the magazine's IT department did a little techno-digging and discovered that around 14,000 of the 18,000 votes cast were generated by only 10 computers!
Makes me wonder why Julia Hobsbawm feels the business needs even closer links between press and PR. We're in the PR men's pockets already!
WHO RUNS the country?
Don't ask Julie Kirkbride, MP for Bromsgrove: she's not allowed to say.
Pressed by radio's Today programme presenter Ed Stourton to admit that her party's ‘Vote Blue, Go Green' call was just a meaningless slogan, the Tory sweetheart replied — without so much as a blush — "At the moment it's above my pay grade to answer those questions."
Come again, Julie?
"Questions like those are subject to a review," she cooed, "which will be considered in about 18 months' time."
OK, fine… we'll just stand here chewing our pencil ends and wait then, shall we dearie?
KOMPETITION KORNER: Following the BBC mole who gave us £800,000 worth of Wogan and half-a-million pounds' worth of Woss, it's time to put your thinking caps on and fit the newspaper executive to the salary.
The game's so simple it will appeal to editorial managers everywhere! First, the salaries, each with a handy hint to make answering a doddle: a) 35p an hour when in town, zilch when he's in the suburbs — two-tier pricing works both ways b) 30 pieces of silver — think Sarah Tisdall c) Princess Diana's weight in gold — obsessions can be costly d) Pin money — one duff tip deserves another e) 30 camels a month and a lot of Respect — G-allah-weighheigh!
And now, the candidates: 1. Investigations editor, NoW 2. Editor, Racing Post 3. Editor, The Guardian 4. Editor, Manchester Evening News 5. Editor, Daily Express.
Just team the salary with the appropriate executive. Answers in an email to email@example.com