SINCE I’VE managed to acquire a new phone with Caller ID (nicked from the accounts department as it happens), I’m now in the happy position of being able to ignore any phone calls from an 0207 number, thereby weeding out the relentless torrent of shite peddled by the PR industry.
Anyway, one of them managed to sneak through last week and I was conned into picking up the phone to hear the dulcet tones of Lavinia or Arabella or Lucinda or whichever oxygen thief it was. It went like this.
‘Hi there. I hope you’re well and enjoying this beautiful day. [Fuck off. I’ve got a terminal chest infection and it’s pissing down here.]
‘I represent the publishers Bertie Bollocks and we’ve got an author local to you who has a new book coming out next week and we were wondering if you’d be interested in doing an article on her?'[Upward inflection.]
‘What’s the book about?’I ask. ‘Oooh, good question. I’ll find out.”
[Much plumby-voiced murmuring in the background. I’d normally have put the phone down by now, but it’s a quiet day and I’m now in this for the sport.]
‘It’s the story of a former merchant banker who is now a mother of three and it’s about how she’s now moved to the country and launched her own kitchen table internet business.”
‘Right,’I say. ‘It’s cupcakes, isn’t it?”
‘Oooh,’says Lavinia or Arabella or Lucinda, ‘how did you guess?”
I take a deep breath. It’s January, decent copy is thin on the ground and this might just fit the demographic of our Weekend features supplement.
‘OK,’I say, ‘If you could let us have 650 words, a couple of pictures, a cover shot of the book and a decent reader offer, we’ll probably be able to find you a slot.”
‘Wonderful,’she says. ‘And how much would you be able to pay her?”
‘How much would you be able to pay for the article? It doesn’t need to be a lot. Say £250 or so.”
I can feel a vein throbbing in my forehead.
‘Hang on. I’m giving you a page of free advertising space at a value of about £600 to promote this book and now you’re asking me to pay for the fucking words? Are you mad?”
‘Oh dear, isn’t that how it usually works?”
I smash the phone down with such ferocity that the handpiece shatters and, a few hours later under the cover of darkness, I’m skulking around the accounts department looking for a replacement.