Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A message from Pisser summons me to the Past

‘Mum, are you ever going to answer that phone?’
‘No. If whoever it is wants to talk to us, whoever can damn well leave a message.’
‘But they’ve been ringing for four days now and, if you answer it, you can tell them to leave a message next time. It’s not some kind of peeing contest, Mum.’
‘Oh, for pity’s sake.’

I snatched up the phone. ‘YES???’
A tinny voice emerged. Obviously a text message. ‘Blah, blah…Pisser…blah blah…three in a bed…ha ha…blah blah…Daddy wants to see you…’
What the…??? I threw myself over the machine so James wouldn’t hear what was clearly some pervy nutter. Fat chance.
‘Who is it? And why are you tackling the phone? And who’s John Warren and why isn’t he coming?’
‘I really don’t have the foggiest.’

But, hang about… John Warren. I knew that name. Way back in the mists of time. And, slowly, I deciphered it. It was my friend Fi, at Pisa (not Pisser) airport asking if I wanted to stay at her house as there would be room (because JW wasn’t coming). And Daddy? Another friend, usually called by her surname Dady (Daydee).  Stupid phone, as Milla would say.

Turned out that tomorrow, now today, was the City Limits reunion party, in London. City Limits was a London listings magazine, a worker’s co-operative, which started when Time Out stopped paying parity. I left my nice well-paid job doing the accounts for the Royal Tournament (where I was fed champagne and had my own pet Commander) to become the magazine’s office manager (on a pittance).

On my first day, I walked in and said hello to the first person I met. ‘Oh good. Glad you’re here,’ he replied. ‘The cellar’s flooded. It's full of shit - literally.’ Kinda set the tone.
I met some wonderful people there and, truth be told, some totally repulsive ones. I started reviewing (theatre, books, food and, weirdly, museums). Ended up as Shopping and Travel editor before being poached by the London Evening Standard. And, to be honest, by that point, it was all over. The spirit and soul of the place had been sucked out. It had lost its way.

But, in its heyday, it was wonderfully, blissfully bonkers and packed with some serious talent. John Fordham and Nigel Fountain were the editors. Duncan Campbell, Bea Campbell and Melissa Benn were in the news room. Ros Asquith and Lyn Gardner were the theatre editors. Sheryl Garratt was music editor. Kim Newman used to wander in swishing his black cape. And on and on..  Ah, the memories come flooding back… some good, some bad.

‘You are going?’ said Lyn (Gardner) on Twitter.
‘Yeah, I guess. Though I think I may be wearing dark glasses.’
‘I’ll have a wig,’ she responded firmly. I could her her voice in my head, clear as a bell.
‘Will we recognise one another?’

I wonder. I also wonder this, as I pack my overnight bag and try to erase the bags under my eyes. Should one revisit the past? All those people who shone so bright…will they still shine? Many won’t be there. Some, like my lovely mate Nicky Pellegrino, cos they live so very far away. Others because they are, not to put too fine a point on it, dead. Daddy sent me an email (she was always of a depressive bent) giving a list of our deceased former workmates. 14 of ‘em. Fecking sad.

Should one go back? I dunno. But I do know I’m looking forward mightily to going back to Dalston to stay at Fi and Andrew’s house (and seeing Daddy of course). Cos, in my twenties, I spent so much time there – at their kitchen table drinking wine; in their back garden chatting over the fence with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (and drinking wine). Arguing animatedly about art and politics, waving our arms around, laughing our heads off, occasionally shouting our heads off.

Should one go back?  Time will tell.


Milla said...

I got a namecheck. Huzzah. Doing what I best, whining.
City Limits always seemed cooler than Time Out (too corporate). Was Kim N the film man?? am sure he cropped up in a prog we did way back when.
Have a great time Janey, though 14 dead does sound excessive. Go careful love.

Exmoorjane said...

But of course... :) You and phone cockups now synonymous. CL was way cooler...and yeah Kim N was film man (horror film man in particular) - has also written novels..

I shall lurk...and be careful..14 is careless, for sure. :)

Thinking said...


60 going on 16 said...

You're right, City Limits was blissfully bonkers - and brilliant. I didn't work there, Jane, but as a press oficer at - oh let's call it a, progressive for its day, quango - I did work closely with some of its writers, especially Melissa Benn and Bea Campbell. Unfortunately, some years into Thatcher's iron grip, the quango got lumbered with a Home Office appointed chair, who was in possession of a title but not much else, and who really didn't have a clue what we were all about. What's more she decided that the press officers were far too radical and should be silenced. With an impending general election, we were instructed, er, not to talk to the press about anything at all. I had a quiet word with Bea . . .

A few days later I told the chair that we'd had a request for an interview. 'Nothing controversial,' I reassured her, 'just a London listings magazine.' The chair was clearly flattered, fluttered her eyelashes, and brushed aside my offer of the usual pre-interview briefing, which she deemed unnecessary.

Bea's incisive interview appeared shortly afterwards in City Limits and, as expected, the chair had shot herself in the foot, over and over, not least with her classic remark that 'these days, we're all working class, dear.' The article was accompanied by a perfect photo of the fragrant one looking slightly vacant and fiddling with her pearls.

Yes, thanks to City Limits, I had one of the proudest moments of my PR career. (Sorry, longish comment, but have been waiting for almost 30 years to tell that one.)

PS I can't believe that we didn't stumble across one another at some point way back then.

Anonymous said...

Hello Exmoor Jane. It's been a year or two since I last read your Blog so I have been catching up. I must say, your blog has become darker and not as humorous as it once was.

Are you OK? I get the impression you may be depressed or expreriencing some instability?

I hope not.

Anyway, I am glad to be catching up on your blog again.

Rob-bear said...

Some people/places are definitly not worth a return visit.
And some are. Absolutely.
Your colleagues seem the type who fall into the latter category.
Hope you go for it.
(You could also take the Soul Puppy — good excuse to go for a walk.)

Exmoorjane said...

Thinking... Funny? Yeah, maybe.
Been watching your blog - interesting.

60/16...You know, it WAS bloody good, wasn't it? I'd kinda forgotten a lot of the campaigning and baiting it did... I wish I'd known you'd known Bea - we had a hug..was lovely to see her and so many others...

Anon: how interesting. I dunno - maybe I'm just more honest nowadays maybe? Hmm.

Bear: I went. I'm back. It was good. Took some of the cynicism out of me (well, just a little). Nah, SP stayed behind. :)