ALASTAIR McINTYRE attempts to recall an anecdote from the latest Drones’ lunch
Many strange tales are told at the regular meetings of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club and one related by TERRY MANNERS (allegedly) at the October meeting would certainly fit into that category. The details are contentious and have been challenged by ROGER WATKINS but accuracy can take the hindmost after a few flagons of Joe Allen’s house wine.
When I originally published the story, which was written while recovering from the inevitable effects of lunch, I attributed it to Alan Frame. This has resulted in the inevitable response from him and Watkins, which are appended below.
The year would be, at a guess, 1996 and the then editor of the Express Richard Addis was holding the editorial conference. Rather than discuss with his heads of department the contents of the following day’s paper Mr Addis, a former monk who paid scant attention to brotherly love, turned his thoughts to the alignment of the desks in the open-plan office at the Daily Express building in Blackfriars, London.
According to Manners, Brother Addis (who is apparently a member of the eponymous company that makes, among other things, bog brushes) told the assembled company to process out of his office on to the editorial floor. As the august company assembled as instructed, it is alleged that Addis invited Watkins to hold up a yellow HB pencil, close one eye, and inspect the desks. Watkins did as he was bid and could see nothing wrong.
At this the Black Friar (retd) seized the pencil, held it up, and announced that the desks were slightly out of alignment. Some horny-handed sons of toil were then summoned from the bowels of the building to put this outrage right.
Watkins says he cannot remember this incident happening and I am unable to help as I was beavering away at my work station struggling to get the edition out while this tomfoolery was taking place. However I have heard this story before and believe that it did happen.
It would be remiss of me to fail to point out that Brother ‘Clean Sweep’ Addis was once asked how he felt about making so many journalists redundant from the Daily Express. He replied that it was “just like cleaning out an old sock drawer”. I know it is wrong to mention this yet again but sometimes one cannot resist a little mischievous temptation – mischief being the very essence of the Drone.
Meanwhile the following letters have been received at the Drone offices. Sue, Grabbit and Runne are giving them their urgent attention. Allegedly.
FISHY ALCOCK AND BULL
No 4 Temple Chambers
London EC4Y 0HP
Daily Drone plc.
Dear Sirs, October 10 2016
All Rights Reserved
We act for Mr Alan Frame (our Client) in regard to the article entitled The Great Pencilgate Saga and published in the current edition of your organ the Daily Drone.
Our Client would like it be known that at the time of the alleged incident in 1996 he was no longer a senior executive of the Daily Express, having resigned in 1995 and has never met Mr Richard Addis (and hopes never to do so.)
He agrees he was at the luncheon meeting of the WGLC on October 5 2016 as can be confirmed by the report he wrote for your organ the following day and currently published. Mr Frame wishes to point out that it was a Mr Terence ‘Younglad’ Manners who recounted the story of ‘Pencilgate’ and confirms that his version was excitedly disputed by the luncheon club’s founder Mr Roger Watkins.
Please confirm by return that you confirm that our Client is not the teller of such tall tales and that everything he writes for your organ has at least a scintilla of truth (sometimes).
Messrs Fishy Alcock and Bull
Buffy & Co Solicitors
32-37 Temple Court,
Solicitor for Law, Libel and Defamation October 24, 2016
We act on behalf of our client Terry Manners in the matter of Pencilgate and the damaging claims surrounding the events of a Morning Conference chaired by Mr Richard (Bog Brush) Addis. (We make clear that this Bog Brush is unrelated to another Bog Brush who worked for Express Newspapers shortly before such events we are to mention took place.)
That said, the sharpened yellow HB2 pencil at the centre of our client’s claims was taken from a box of similar sharpened yellow HB2 pencils at around 10am on the morning of the alleged incident, which was witnessed by a number of Express executives (thought to number more than eight) who formed a semi-circle around Mr Watkins and Mr Addis as the events unfolded. For the point of information, Mr Manners was standing to the left of Mr Addis and Mr Watkins was standing to the right with a clip board under his arm. We understand that this was normal procedure for Mr Watkins. Indeed, Mr Addis was waving the disputed item in the air like a wand as he usually did when he was demonstrating his magical abilities.
In the first instance our client agrees that Mr Addis did not hand the sharpened yellow HB2 pencil to Mr Watkins when asking him to look down the long corridor along the Editorial floor and report what he saw. Mr Watkins seemed confused and indeed admitted he was bewildered as to what Mr Addis meant. At that point, Mr Addis, who was rightly becoming increasingly frustrated that one of his senior executives, not for the first time, was unable to understand him, was kind enough to demonstrate how the sharpened yellow HB2 pencil could help in exercising his contractual duties.
In our view, nothing could have been simpler. Mr Addis held the disputed sharpened yellow HB2 pencil to his right eye and closed the left, the side Mr Manners was standing on. Then he helpfully looked down the pencil along the room before instructing a still-bewildered Mr Watkins to do the same. The disputed sharpened yellow HB2 pencil was then passed to him. Mr Watkins in full view of the assembled witnesses followed the instruction to the letter we understand and looked down the sharpened yellow HB2 pencil. To the utter dismay of Mr Addis he still didn’t see anything. We understand that Mr Addis then took the sharpened yellow HB2 pencil back and told him that the desks were “out of alignment!” The event we understand took a considerable amount of valuable time and the ensuing conference was then shorter than usual. But the most important task of the day had been set and a team of workmen were sent for to reposition the reporters’ desks in a straight line.
While our client is mindful that the ages of all involved in this matter have moved on, he wishes all protagonists to acknowledge that this is a fair and accurate account of the events of that day … and will accept a withdrawal of the denials without prejudice. Should this not be the case then any legal proceedings will be vigorously defended. He feels, and rightly so, that his renowned storytelling abilities have been brought into question.
We await confirmation of withdrawal.
Peter Stringfellow QC
Buffy & Co Solicitors
Mosley, Coogan and Grant
cc: Fishy, Alcock and Bull
Buffy & Co 7.11.2016
Dear Mr McIntyre
We refer you to our letter of October 7 this year in which we advised you against publishing libellous material concerning our anonymous client, the then Editor of the Daily Express newspaper, Richard Addis, a yellow HB pencil and some misaligned desks at Express Newspapers’ offices in Blackfriars Road, London, in 1996.
Our client is disappointed to note that, since then, you have given space on your website to solicitors’ letters which do, indeed, repeat the calumny and, especially, one emanating from a law firm representing Terry P.K. Manners.
We wish to make the following points: At that time in 1996 the Express group was involved in increasing internal turmoil and Mr Manners was deputed to undertake mysterious, confidential and unreported duties which often necessitated his absence from the day-to-day production of the newspaper and, indeed, the editorial floor. Also, we say that now his advancing age makes him an increasingly unreliable witness.
To put it simply: He was not there and if he was, he could not remember it!
In addition, our client informs us that none of his contemporaries actually believes that he could have taken part in the alleged incident and this, coupled with increasing concern about Mr Manners’s cognitive fragility, leads him to instruct us to take no further action at this time, although we reserve the right, without prejudice, to activate proceedings in the future if necessary
Mosley, Coogan and Grant
Nutwood Chambers, Leveson House, London EC4A 1RB