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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Jonathan Coe

Jonathan Coe

Published in The Financial Times, 2004

Martin Amis once observed that interviewing literary heroes was an excruciating business. “As a fan and a reader, you want your hero to be genuinely inspirational. As a journalist, you hope for a full-scale nervous breakdown in mid-interview. And, as a human, you yearn for the birth of a flattering friendship. All very shaming.”

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West Midlands Wine Country

West Midlands Wine Country

Published in The Financial Times, 2004

If you drive down the B4176 from Wolverhampton to Dudley you’ll eventually pass a small brown sign – a small brown sign you’d be forgiven for dismissing as some kind of prank, for it is labelled “Halfpenny Green Vineyard” and the Black Country, as this part of the West Midlands is known, is hardly famous for its fine wine production.

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Column: The Company Song

Column: The Company Song

Published in The Financial Times, 2004

Business fads, I am beginning to discover, are a bit like Bobby Ewing in Dallas: they never die. They may disappear for a while but, when you’re least expecting it, they reappear in your shower cubicle, wearing nothing more than a thin lather of soap.

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Jack Vetrriano

Jack Vetrriano

Published in The Financial Times, 2004

Jack Vettriano opens the door to his flat on the second floor of a mansion block in Knightsbridge. “Hullo,” he grunts in his Scottish accent. “Is it Sadman?” No, not quite: it’s Sath-nam. “Sad-dam? Right. Would you like something to drink? I have coffee, coffee, coffee and coffee. An’ it’s decaff. Is that OK?”

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Bill Drummond

Bill Drummond

Published in The Financial Times, 2004

In the English countryside somewhere to the west of London, a middle-aged former pop star is jumping up and down on a children’s trampoline for the benefit of the FT photographer. Scattered around the field there are the following items: two armoured personnel carriers, an old cooker, a flock of Soay sheep (a primitive breed that apparently dates back to the Bronze Age), two dogs and a road sign inscribed with the words “Twinned with Your Wildest Dreams”.

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Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Published in The Financial Times, 2004

I’m halfway through telling Sir Ranulph Fiennes about my nightmarish journey from London to Exeter when it strikes me that the man who has, among other things, walked across the Antarctic continent unsupported, parachuted on to Norwegian ice caps, circumnavigated the globe via its polar axis, and run seven marathons over seven days on seven different continents (just months after heart surgery), probably doesn’t care that I had to haul my fat bum out of bed at 5am (five in the morning!) and drive through wintry showers (wintry showers!) in order to meet him on time. But being the charming English gentleman that he is, Fiennes nods along sympathetically.

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David Blaine

David Blaine

Published in The Financial Times, 2003

“Hello, I just woke . . . up,” says David Blaine in his trademark drawl, dressed in a black T-shirt and what appear to be black silk pyjamas, standing in the entrance of his pal’s penthouse flat in west London. “It’ll take me…. A little while…. To get with…. It…. I still have…. Jet…. Lag….”

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Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin

Published in the Financial Times, 2003

Tracey Emin is running late, so there’s time to snooparound her studio – several large white rooms based, predictably, in a street off Brick Lane, theself-consciously groovy area of East London.

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Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

Published in The Financial Times, 2003

Bill Bryson is on the phone, saying he doesn’t mind where we meet – whatever’s convenient with me is convenient with him. I say I don’t mind either, whatever’s convenient with him is convenient with me. No, no, he insists, he really doesn’t mind, whatever’s convenient with me is convenient with him.

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Sir Jack Hayward

Sir Jack Hayward

Published in The Financial Times, 2003

Sir Jack Hayward, multimillionaire owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, is prone to the occasional gaffe, so few people were shocked when, this summer, at the start of his club’s first season in top-flight football in decades, he was quoted in The Guardian saying: “Our team was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.”

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