…is perfectly expressed in yesterday’s column by the chief political commentator of The Observer newspaper, Andrew Rawnsley. The title is more negative than the rest of the article. I’m indifferent rather than hostile to the Olympics (unlike many of my London-based friends) and it is genuinely a coincidence that I will be outside the UK for nearly of the Olympic period (in South Africa, northern California then Ireland). Andrew sums up what many of those who are not sports fanatics tend to think. I haven’t bought The Observer or any other Sunday paper for at least a decade and, feeling a twinge of conscience about the loss of revenue resulting from the free provision of their content online, I’m happy to provide this free advertising.
Andrew, by the way, is an old friend of mine. A distinguished political journalist, broadcaster and writer, he was given his first break as a writer on the little-known Sidney Sussex College student magazine, El Sid, when the editor was one Simon Taylor. Production was fairly basic in those days before desk top publishing and this led to some unintentionally hilarious but inflammatory misprints. Andrew wrote an anonymous gossip column, which once referred to a female student as a “fey teaser” which seemed innocent enough. Unfortunately the printed magazine rendered this as “fly teaser” which has a rather different and more prejudicial implication. The student concerned stormed into my room, where I made copious apologies but, like any good editor, refused to name the source despite some serious pressure being brought to bear. Andrew owes me for that, though I have now retrospectively blown his cover.
He then became editor of the University student paper Varsity (at that time titled Stop Press) and soon after joined The Guardian. I also was his campaign manager when he stood, successfully, for the role of JCR President. I gave some thought to standing for this myself. It seemed to have only two advantages. First, you got a bigger room in college than most others (being captain of the boat club gave you an even bigger one, but that was quite out of the question for me). Second, all JCR presidents received an automatic offer of a job interview with Procter and Gamble.
The larger room was needed to host all of the meetings that went with the job, something that didn’t appeal to me, ironically in view of how much of my life I now spend in tiresome and inefficiently run meetings. And as for the interview, well let’s just say that in those rare, dark moments when I wonder whether my whole life has been a failure, I console myself that things might have been worse. At least I’m not working for Procter and Gamble devising a marketing campaign for Pampers nappies in Mongolia, or wherever the frontier for infant sanitary wear currently lies.