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How I became an Express man


Rubbing shoulders with the workers
Frederic Raphael Writer
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You have to have friends. I'd never had great friends in the sense of lofty friends and I've never had access to great influences, but you make use of what you can, and Guy got me in there as my father had got me in there first. So I went in and I went to work with Brockie.

And it was the first time that I'd ever met working class English people. Because journalists in those days were not graduates, they were you know, leg men. They went about. The Sunday Express newsroom except on Sun... Saturdays, when the paper was gearing up for the... 'the stone' as they say, there were only seven or eight people in the newsroom. They wrote everything. Brockie was the diplomatic correspondent, he was the naval correspondent, he was the defense correspondent, he was the diplomatic correspondent and he was the industrial correspondent. And sometimes he was Alan Brockbank and sometimes he wasn't, depending on how they wanted to arrange the by-lines. But he didn't sit in the office like journalists do now, looking it all up on a screen, getting hand-outs and phone calls, he went everywhere, and I went with him. 

So I had a marvellous education in the underbelly of, to some extent, business and also politics. We went to the pubs, where the people like Herbert Morrison and others used to congregate, outside Transport House, and I began to hear how real people spoke in England. Not provincial people, they were mostly Londoners, but there they all were, and I learnt you know, just how shabby and cheap most people were. It was very reassuring. It was good fun and eventually one day I remember Guy said to me, 'You doing anything, Fred?' I said, 'No, no, no, sir'. I nearly always called people 'sir' in those days, I mean, I tried not to, but even with journalists... 'Oh', he said, 'would you write this up as if you were in Peking, old man?' And he handed me a piece of copy from the Press Association which was about the fact that whatever had happened in Peking, I don't know what, and instantly, you know – nothing comes more easily than falsehood – instantly I was, 'As I was looking out of the Forbidden City, I noticed large crowds had assembled, and blah, blah, blah'. All of this. Well, that was okay.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Sunday Express, Peking, Alan Brockbank

Duration: 2 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014