Just before I attend my interview at John Brown Publishing I meet up with my former Acme buddy Dick Hansom. Dick’s subsequent career sees him move into TV animation. He becomes Script Editor on Bob the Builder at a time when my son is obsessed by the show, and nowadays works for Aardman Animation, the place where Nick Park created Wallace and Gromit. Back in 1989 though he has taken his turn at Acme’s primary, £5K salary which means, among other things that he is Editor of Speakeasy.
Over a drink we discuss the impending interview – Acme are of course keen that I get the job, as it will make disposal of the title more straightforward. A few months after I leave Acme, the company have managed to employ an Assistant Editor by the name of Stuart Green, primarily to help Dick with Speakeasy. Dick suggests to me that Stuart has made a significant contribution to the mag, and that I should recommend to John Brown that he employs him to help me should I be appointed Editor. He also mentions one ot two other things which, on reflection, should have worried me. However by this time I am genuinely excited at this opportunity to break into ‘proper’ publishing, after the Acme years of shoestring funding. Even though I have never met Stuart, I agree to make the recommendation to John. In retrospect this is perhaps the single least wise decision I have made in my career to date. There’s still time of course, but it will take some topping I think.
Shortly thereafter I troop down to the JBP offices. At the time these are based in a converted boathouse on the Thames, close to Fulham Football Ground. This necessitates a tube journey from Walthamstow to Hammersmith, and then a walk down Fulham Palace Road. Anyone with a reasonable grasp of London geography will appreciate this represents one hell of a commute. The Boathouse has been beautifully converted into offices – it is a very impressive space populated, it seems to my naïve self at the time, by beautiful and confident people. I remain excited by the opportunity.
I am interviewed by John, who I find friendly and amusing, and his Publisher Vic Lime, a softly-spoken individual with many years of magazine publishing experience. The interview is generally pleasant and I give a reasonably good account of myself I think. In the course of it I arrange my own shotgun wedding with Stuart, who I still have not met. You may think it is unwise to recommend someone for a job if you have never met them. If so you would be correct. Naïvely, (did I mention I was being naïve?) I am trying everything possible to make what I regard as a major opportunity succeed. I also reason that I will need some editorial assistance after all. Nonetheless, this is a bit like buying a house purely on the basis of a few chance comments. Oh well, everything in life is a learning opportunity, at least in retrospect …
During the interview they ask me about my I.T. experience. JBP is an all-Mac production shop (fine by me) using Aldus PageMaker to do the desktop publishing. I know PageMaker pretty well – I have temped on it and have a stolen copy on my Mac Plus (if you haven’t tried to lay out a page on a Mac Plus’ tiny monitor, you haven’t lived!). So I am breezily confident about my page layout skills, not pausing to reflect hang on, they want me to edit, and write, and lay the bloody thing out?
Shortly afterwards, JBP contact me to offer me the job of Editor. Realistically Speakeasy is such a niche title that I am unsure how many other people they have interviewed, but nonetheless I am thrilled. And apprehensive. And as is often the case in those days, they exhibit more confidence in me than I do in myself. I am not thrilled at the prospect of the commute but I am excited by the opportunity. I am due to start on December 1st 1989 – I continue temping pretty much up to the start date.
Just before the start date, I finally meet up with Stuart. And then things start to get interesting …