Column: Why not be a Writer?

Column: Why not be a Writer?

Published in The Times, 2008

Why not be a writer? If the question sounds familiar, it's because it probably is. An organisation called The Writers Bureau has been posing it in national newspaper adverts for years. You know the ones - they begin with the claim that "as a writer, you can earn very good money", continue with the offer of a full refund of fees if you don't get published and conclude with a picture of "Christina Jones from Oxfordshire", an apparently satisfied customer, gurning above the quotation: "So far, I have had 16 novels published!"

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Column: Suicidal Lawyers

Column: Suicidal Lawyers

Published in The Times, 2007

The juxtaposition of two stories in The Times last week -one reporting that top-flight City lawyers were charging as much as Pounds 1,000 an hour for their expertise, another that a quarter of lawyers wanted to leave their profession -raised a pertinent question: just why are those in the legal business so miserable?

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Column: The RAC

Column: The RAC

Published in The Financial Times, 2006

It seems there are certain things you’ve just got to start doing if you want to get ahead in business: peppering conversation with words like “strategy” and “vision”, for instance; developing a preference for golf over all other human pursuits, up to and including seeing your own children; and, if the results of a recent survey are anything to go by, joining the Royal Automobile Club.

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Column: Brevity is Best

Column: Brevity is Best

Published in The Financial Times, 2006

Last week I wrote about how I would rather eat my own arms and legs than speak in public and received two sorts of response: e-mails from people who would, similarly, rather eat (their own) limbs than make a speech; and e-mails from people who had recently endured a speech so tedious that they wanted to eat (their own) limbs out of sheer frustration.

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Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan

Published in The Financial Times, 2006

Among the many initiatives Piers Morgan introduced at the Daily Mirror – the 3am Girls, the anti-war stance, the declining sales, etc – was a zero tolerance approach to pushy celebrity publicists. It is a surprise therefore that the PR arranging my interview with the former tabloid editor tries to insist that weuse the pictures they have taken and that we run a competition linked to a product Morgan is promoting. The cheek!

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Jack and Suzy Welch

Jack and Suzy Welch

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

Of course, I know that Jack Welch, former chairman and chief executive of General Electric, is a big deal. I know that in his first year in charge, GE was America’s 11th largest company, and that when he left in 2001, it was number one, with a market cap of about Dollars 400bn. And I know that for four years in succession, between 1998 and 2001, the FT ranked him the “world’s most respected business leader”.

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Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

We know that Gordon Brown is being lined up to be the next leader of the Labour party. We know that Ken Clarke, David Davis and several others are lining up to lead the Conservatives. But what of the Liberal Democrats? Is there anybody in line to take over from Charles Kennedy?

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Nancy Dell’Olio

Nancy Dell’Olio

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

Nancy Dell’Olio peers through one of the windows of Rhodes 24, the restaurant on the 24th floor of the tallest building in the City of London, and remarks, “Ah, so zat’s what is so-called za Lipstick Building?” The photographer, the two publicists and I peer out of the window and then at each other. None of us, it seems, have the guts to inform Nancy that while the building in front of us has been labelled “The Erotic Gherkin” and “The Towering Innuendo”, it has never been known as “The Lipstick”.

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Column: No Role Model for Diversity

Column: No Role Model for Diversity

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

My colleague and good friend Tom Catan grew up in Mexico, the US and Britain, attended a state school in England, graduated from a university that wasn’t Oxford or Cambridge and, as a journalist, has lived and worked in countries including Argentina, the US and the UK.

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Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

In retrospect, I should probably have conducted my interview with Louis Theroux in his kitchen, as he removed the limescale from his kettle, or in his bathroom, as he gave his toilet bowl a good scrub. After all, talking to people in intimate places is one of the ways in which Theroux extracts delicious revelations from his documentary subjects – revelations such as the one from Tory MP Ann Widdecombe that she possesses a collection of teddy-bear plates, or from former TV presenter Sir Jimmy Savile that, in his days as a nightclub manager, he would tie up miscreants and lock them in a basement.

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Julie Burchill

Julie Burchill

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

There are certain questions that keep cropping up when you mention you have just interviewed Julie Burchill, Britain’s most notorious journalist: (a) was she fat? (b) was she off her face on booze/drugs? (c) did she sound ridiculous? (d) was she terrifying? and (e) is she serious?

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Column: Hedge fund managers

Column: Hedge fund managers

Published in The Financial Times, 2005

After the butternut squash soup, followed by the rump of lamb with chateaux potato and ribbons of carrot, one of the two hedge fund managers looked me straight in the eye and asked: “So then, would you fancy my job?”

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