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Finding a female of my own


How I became an Express man
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I used to go with Brockie and I'd watch him writing the stories and I learnt. And one day he said, Oh Fred, pop down to... pop down to Olympia would you and have a look at the British Industries Fair. Now... see if it's got anything there that would be of interest to us. The British Industries Fair happened every year and it was as it sounds, perhaps it still happens, a sort of showcase for British industry. And in theory you would have thought that the paper would wish to applaud what was going on there since they were trying to sell crap cars and various other things around the world. But the Beaver, who determined the content of everything in the paper, even though supposedly he didn't, was hostile to the British Industries Fair because it cut across his favourite form of... sort of international business, which was what he called 'imperial preference', that was, the British should favour Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa as it then was and so on, and that was where British trade should go, not to Europe, which was what the British Industries Fair was trying to do. So it was no use coming back with good news about sales to Europe. And by osmosis I had acquired all the prejudices necessary to be a Beaverbrook journalist in no time at all. Nothing good about Lord Louis Mountbatten – ever, was one of the key things, quite rightly by the way, because he had actually consigned a large number of ill-trained Canadians to their doom in the Dieppe commando landing which was under-trained, under-rehearsed, and entirely misconceived. The Beaver never forgave him, and I don't suppose many people did, except of course Prince Charles.

So I went down there and I really... everything was good news, they were selling cars, they were selling all kinds of stuff, and everyone kept telling me this, until eventually somebody said, you know the Germans are here, don't you? The Germans!? He said, the Germans – they're not supposed to be. He said, but they're wandering round, he said, and you know what they do? They come up to the people who are buying English stuff and they say, 'Psst, want to buy a Volkswagen?' I said, really? 'Ah yes, sir. All the time, sir'. Well, I went back to the office and... Royal Sovereign typewriter, get the paper in, carbon, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap. And I pulled it out and I gave it to the chief sub, Bernard Drew, garter sleeve, horn-rimmed specs.

'This is very good stuff, Fred. Good stuff. Could you, could you bulk it out a bit?' Bulk it out? So I bulked it out. I don't know what more I said, but I'm sure there was something. I don't think it was entirely false, but it was... whatever it was. Anyway and it appeared in the Scottish edition of the paper which went to press at five o'clock on a Saturday. Before even the English football results were in, because the Scots didn't care about those. And they were all incredibly nice to me. Bernard Drew and Bernard Harris who was the chief feature writer and Brockie. And after... after the paper had gone to bed, they took me across to the pub, across the other side of Fleet Street, called The Hole in the Wall, I think, and they all bought me drinks. And they were incredibly nice I mean they were really, really nice. And I became an Express man and I did... I did quite a lot of that.

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: British Industries Fair, Sunday Express, Alan Brockbank, Bernard Drew, Bernard Harris

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014