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Sunday, 29 July 2007

“Procrastination and delay are the parents of failure” - Canning

That seemed a good opening to the story I promised about the stabbing, the suede coat and the stripper, but never delivered because I forgot to save it on my computer.

(I might add that silly mistakes made on computers by absent-minded techno-nitwits like me are the parents of gibbering fury, frustration and lots of laughs from their colleagues).

Anyhow …

You may recall that I was living with A, the retired cash-for-favours lady. She was forcibly retired by the diligent boys in blue, actually. When I met her she was on probation for alleged possession of heroin.

She said she’d been “fitted up”, with a friend, the former drummer of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, by having the drugs planted on them. As she pointed out, meth – speed – was their thing, not heroin, which is the very opposite in its effects.

The drummer went to goal – she thought because he was black – and hanged himself. She spent a fair bit of time trying to find justice, without success. She told me the only really helpful person was the late Ludovic Kennedy.

Another thing she told me was that in her short career in the entertainment business she has made £50,000 – and spent the lot on drugs.

When I met her, she had been employed as my secretary in the mail order business I had started working in. One look at her legs in their patterned tights, carefully displayed to attract my attention, and my small reserves of moral rectitude vanished.

When this was followed a week or two later by an evening at the tiny bed-sit of one of her friends, all was lost. I think it was the mirror at the end of the bed that did it.

My wife eventually threw me out – I think with every reason. We’re still friends, and she now says she made a mistake. Whatever the truth, I have always felt bitter regret because as a result I never spend as much time with my children as I should have.

Hardly anything is what you expect in life, and who could have dreamt that somebody who had spent five years selling her most obvious assets would turn out to be insanely jealous?

One day when I came back to our little flat next to Whiteleys on Queensway (bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom, £8 a week, if you’re interested in inflation) I had had a good lunch with a girl I worked with at the Grapes in Shepherds Market.

I was cross-questioned sharply. What follows is abbreviated, as it lasted a good half hour and was highly repetitive with a very little variation in theme or language.

“Did you kiss her?”

“Only on the cheek.”

“You fucked her, didn’t you?”

“No. Just kissed her goodbye when she left.”

“You don’t have to fucking lie to me, you c**t. You fucked her, admit it.”

“I didn’t, honestly.”

“Just tell the truth. I won’t be angry. Admit that you fucked her.”

And so on, until, from sheer exhaustion, some irritation and extraordinarily bad judgement (which I am very strong on, by the way) I caved in – and lied.

“Alright, if it makes you happy, I fucked her.”

At this admission - entirely untrue, as I say -she exploded and launched herself at me like a nuclear missile.

Freeing myself from her I rushed out of the flat and scrambled down the stairs.

She was a relatively small person, but uncommonly violent, and chased me up Queensway punching, pulling, kicking, shouting comments about my character, until eventually a random blow caught me on my nose.

Blood streamed out, all over my newest acquisition, a knee-length suede coat from Take 6. I never could get it cleaned properly. Tragic.

She gave up the chase, and I wandered round to a hotel in Inverness Terrace and asked for a room.

“Certainly, Sir,” was the reply, delivered as though bloody apparitions like me appeared every ten minutes.

I said I’d be back and went to get my things.

When I reached the front door, it was closed, but I got a response when I knocked and said I’d come to collect my things.

Have you ever notice that abuse always comes in volleys, just as sheep come in flocks?

Well, that’s what I received. Not a flock, a volley. A fusillade. Maybe, to mix a metaphor, a tsunami of abuse.

I kept on hammering on the door to get in.

Suddenly it opened.

A rushed out, stark naked except for a carving knife, aimed at my gut. Thank God for my suede coat. It saved my life.

I grabbed her, swung her round, shot inside the door and closed it, leaving her outside in her glory.

Despite all the row nobody in any of the flats came out to see what was going on. British reserve? Or maybe just the kind of people who live around Queensway.

“Let me in, you c**t” with variations on the theme continued for a while.

Eventually I agreed to do so if she pushed the knife through the letterbox first.

She did, and I decided that since I was paying the rent, I was damned if I was going to leave my own flat because I shared it with a homicidal maniac. So, believe it or not I got into bed – and so did she.

Did we kiss and make up? Did we hell. Every few minutes she would start shouting and thumping me, and I would restrain her until I gave up and went to lie down on our settee next door.

She only attacked me a couple of times, thank God and eventually I slept.

You might think this little drama would have had me out of there for good, but no. I waited till I had an alternative. Among my many weaknesses, one at that time –and for many years after – was an inability to live on my own.

At this point you may ask – if you’ve been following this twisted tale – “What about the stripper you promised, Drayton?”

All in good time, but let me start that story with a phone call I had from a friend one morning. He had been a colleague in advertising, and introduced me to the mail order business.

“I have a new receptionist,” he said. “She wears the shortest skirts you’ve ever seen, and no knickers.”

God, what trivial beasts we men are. I was round like a shot.

And, God, how often life lets us down. She was indeed wearing an exceedingly short skirt (remember, this was the ‘60’s). But a series of fleeting glances revealed that the second statement my friend made was not true.

More important, though, the wearer of the skirt and knickers had the most beautiful eyes and smile – and agreed to come for a drink.

And that is the start of the story about the stripper.

But did you feel disappointed with the stabbing? I wasn’t really stabbed was I? But don’t worry, you have yet to read the story of how I nearly bled to death after another little exchange, and was indeed stabbed eventually by someone else.

But that was much later.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

D’oh! idea of the week

“The others to some meaning make pretence;
But Shadwell never deviates
into sense”
- Dryden
This week, crouching heading and shoulders below all other contenders … epic in its stupidity, witless irrelevance and incomprehensibility … a textbook example of corporate idiocy and waste… you just have to hand it to the e.on TV spots.

It is no easy trick to run something nobody understands, from a company they have never heard of and care less about asking them to do nothing, praising something both ugly and widely disliked by those affected by it.

What am I wittering on about? What is e.on? Why is this commercial so transcendentally bad? If you haven’t seen it go to http://www.eon-uk.com/media/286.aspx

Here we have creative masturbation harnessed at vast expense to such effect that even people who know nothing of this country find it irritating. I know that because even an Italian nanny of my acquaintance, with no interest in marketing at all finds it infuriating and pointless.

I’m not totally thick, but after five viewings I had no idea who was advertising, or why, or what they want me to do. I only know people affected by them hate those giant, ugly propellers so much that people in Wales are protesting.

Here is what they say on the site that shows the commercial:
“Powergen is part of E.ON UK, which is part of E.ON - the world’s largest private sector energy services company.
Worldwide, E.ON has around 45 million customers and currently employs around 70,000 people. Powergen has been part of E.ON since 2002.”
This is what is known as a “who gives a s**t except you” statement. These people in their fancy offices know so little about real business that they’re unaware of the three questions every customer always has: Who are you? What’s in it for me? What do you want me to do?

Of course, you’ve got it, haven’t you? This is our old friend re-branding at work. You know, the idea that almost ruined the Royal Mail when they changed their name to Consignia and completely ruined Abbey when they just changed their look.

At least Powergen had some vague meaning.

By the way, the Italian Nanny, whenever she brings something back from Marks & Spencer repeats their line: “It’s not just salmon; it’s M&S salmon.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Mea culpa! Mea culpa!

For those of you never cursed with having to learn Latin, that means "It’s my fault".

So … it’s my fault you never got the story about the stripper and me being stabbed.

It’s my fault that I wrote most of it then didn’t save it on my computer (again).

But it’s NOT my fault that I’ve been fiendishly busy.

However, please blame me if you don’t like what comes next, which is from the site of a friend, Denny Hatch - www.businesscommonsense.com.

His is an excellent site, mingling lots of good business advice with comment on all manner of things. I recommend it as a reassuring insight into how many thoughtful Americans view things.

Anyhow, here’s a sample which I hope will strike a chord with you, as it did with me, because it shows how we and the Americans are all in the same dismal, politically correct boat.

It seems Wall Street Journal writer Stephen Moore wrote about an Independence Institute bash in Colorado where there was “a whole lot of drinking, smoking and shooting, but thankfully not in that order.” Then he stated: These people are just dog tired of having the government tell them what to do: Buckle your seat belt, wear your bike helmet, don’t smoke, don’t shoot, teach your 8-year-olds to wear condoms—and, most of all, stop complaining and pay your taxes...

There was a discussion over lunch at my picnic table about how Congress is regulating nearly every basic household appliance—refrigerators, washers and dryers, toilets, hair dryers, shower heads, lawnmowers—to make sure that we are not, God forbid, wasting water or energy.

A woman told me that she is stocking up on cartons of incandescent light bulbs, because soon it will be illegal to buy them. (The poor lady insisted on remaining anonymous so that the light-bulb police don’t come to search her home.)

At least they don’t have snoops coming round to their houses to check if they’re recycling properly. And they can still shoot’n’smoke over there in quite a few places without being arrested. Nor are they watched by the astonishing number of CCTVs we have in place to substitute for the poor old plods who are too busy filling in forms to catch criminals.

Having got that out of the way, and apologised for failing to deliver any startling revelations lately, I now faithfully swear that before I fly to the US next week I will rewrite the chronicles I lost and carry on with my multi-stranded story.

What’s more, if you sit still and stop fiddling, I’ll tell you about the time I nearly bled to death – not as a result of the stabbing, but from another unprovoked assault.

God, considering what a devout coward I am I seem to have been in harm’s way far too much.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Sordid details and politically correct comments postponed …but in the meantime some marketing (yawn) …

I realise you may be straining at the leash to hear about the stripper, immigration and so on, but here’s something that may be of practical interest.

I wrote an article on subscriptions marketing a little while ago that my friend Peter Hobday published on his website. It may make you think. Look at


I don’t know of anything harder to write copy for than subscriptions – nor anyone who has as much good advice on the matter than Peter.

------“Don’t be such a wise-guy, Drayton.”------

I once worked with a man who had cost the Mafia a ton of money – and lived.

When I got carried away he would say “Don’t be such a wise-guy, Drayton.”

So having promised to point out something stupid each week, I thought I’d be complimentary for a pleasant change.

In a store window by Piccadilly Circus I saw this line: “How old is your brain?”

Immediately I thought, is my brain older than my body? Or younger? Or just useless, as I fear? How do I make it young? Or keep it young?

Who would not be interested – no matter how old they are?

If only I could write stuff as provocative as that every day!

Friday, 13 July 2007

This week’s load of old codswallop

I got out of the tube at Oxford Circus the other day to be greeted by a pretty young thing who handed me a bag.

Here it is.

Fittingly it was made from bio-degradable plastic, as it was one of those bio-degradable ideas from the people whose job it is to sit around thinking up new ways of pissing away my money.

What it was doing, in the most inane, incompetent wasteful, stupid way was to tell me that I should go and “improve my skills”.

Inside was a fortune cookie with the message, “Our future is in our hands” plus a little leaflet clearly written by someone with the literary charm and persuasive skills of a plastic ashtray telling me I could get all kinds of training to improve myself.

If anyone in a proper commercial organisation did that sort of thing they would be shot out of the ejector seat as fast as a speeding bullet.

But of course the public sector tossers who paid for this are concerned with expenditure, not results.

And so are the people who put it together: i.e., get the fools to part with as much money as possible because they’re too thick to evaluate whether it was a good investment or not.

By the way: if you were handing out stuff to people in the street, would you say a senile buffoon like me was the right age to start a training programme?


A police van getting in the way of the traffic in Piccadilly this morning.

Written on the side: “Metropolitan Police. Making Westminster safer.”

Ah, so now we know that they do. Thanks for putting me right. Brilliant!

I wonder which “communications consultant” came up with that gem.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

“There is nothing so bad that politicians cannot make it worse” – Mark Twain

Before I begin, a disclaimer: I belong to no party - though I’ve worked for two – and will talk about that eventually.

Do you know when the licensing laws came in – and why?

Lloyd George’s government introduced them over 90 years ago to keep munitions workers sober during the Great War - you know, the “war to end all wars” that didn’t.

He brought them in because we depended on munitions workers for shells and mines that blew up when they should and it seemed a good idea to make sure they weren’t too pissed to know what they were doing.

This did not apply to the politicians, of course. They were probably too pissed to know what they were doing much of the time because the 11 bars at the House of Commons continued to remain open all night. (Lloyd George probably wasn’t that far gone, to be fair. His hobby was fucking everything that moved.)

Anyhow, the moral seems to have been that those determining where the shells and mines went didn’t need to be as sober as those making them.

Politicians think they know better than us. So do journalists - and those two loathsome sub-species “opinion-formers” and “activists”. These people - who want to determine what we do and how we think - live in a weird parallel universe that should be blown up.

Gordon Brown stole half my pension - but his is safe no matter how bad a job he does. Journalists - even the right wingers - keep saying what a good job he has done.

I just don’t get it, do you?

Suppose you hired a financial director ten years ago.

When he arrived, business was good. You were very productive; you had more in the bank than for over half a century - but you’d neglected your firm’s infrastructure in important areas like staff training and communications.

He and the new MD were amazingly good bullshitters, so even though nothing seems to go according to plan and they keep on repeating the same promises, you give them more than a fair chance.

Ten years on, all the things that weren’t working now work even worse. What’s more all the money in the kitty has been pissed away on crazy schemes that failed to sort them out, often involving over-priced consultants and friends of the management.

What’s more the firm is far less competitive, he’s been quietly dipping into the reserves, and nobody trusts him or anyone else in management because the one thing they’ve shown themselves to be really good at is lying.

Would you describe him as a brilliant financial manager or a totally useless arsehole who should be swiftly kicked into touch?

Then, what if by some strange quirk in company law, without being asked by the shareholders, he was promoted to managing director?

Would you believe the latest load of flannel he came out with? Or be seriously worried?
I only ask, because I’m beginning to suspect the alternative could be even worse.

“Do bears shit in the woods?” they ask.

Cameron is a marketing man. If Seth Godin is right, “All marketers are liars”. So it’s natural for him to be a deceitful wretch.

But that’s not what worries me. If we all told the truth all the time, it would be the end of polite society. Anyhow, give me a competent rogue rather than a well-meaning but clueless do-gooder any time. Look what a mess Carter was as U.S. president.

What worries me is that he seems suspiciously like an incompetent rogue. Surely the journalists have it wrong again when they praise him for copying Blair.

To go back to war, where I began this, the maxim is: never fight the new war with the last war’s weapons. That’s what he seems to be doing.

What most people would like from a politician now is a rare quality, recommended by, of all things, an advertising man that a friend of mine worked with many, many years ago.

The friend is Joel Raphelson, a writer so good that David Ogilvy sent him the draft of Ogilvy on Advertising with the request, “Dear Joel, Kindly improve, D.O.

I had lunch with Joel a few weeks ago. I learned that he started his career working for Charlie Brower, a copywriter who later became a hugely successful chairman of BBD & O. He said something I often quote:

“Honesty is not only the best policy; it is rare enough nowadays to make you pleasantly conspicuous.”

The art of persuasion starts with saying something so clearly true that people believe what you say next –
you can quote me on that, by the way.

Cameron should try that as a substitute for phony bike-rides and ludicrous hoody-hugging antics.

And he should try a new weapon his role-model never tested. Forget the vague promises. Ask what people really, really want and tell them exactly how he will deliver it.

It’s not hard to discover. And it’s not a parade of posed photos.

Wouldn’t we all like to be treated like grown-ups, able to make our own decisions, capable of distinguishing truth from fiction?

If he thinks he can do things better, why not answer the question most people usually ask when someone makes promises. How will you make them come true? And not just with the usual waffle about policy and strategy. Details.

Why doesn’t he do it? Instead he’s wheeling out the con man’s old excuse: “I can’t tell you exactly how I’ll make you rich yet. Give me the money first.”

Why not say, “This is how we plan to sort out the hospitals, the schools, and transport. It may not work out exactly like that – nothing in life ever does – but you can see we’ve got some sensible ideas.”

But for a man with a career based on Eton followed by marketing bollocks, I guess that would be a bit intellectually challenging.

We know after ten years what Gordon Brown thinks is the way to go. The government will tell you, aided by an army of snoops.

But I think - especially after our experiences of the EU - most people rather appreciate Ronald Reagan’s joke:

“The most frightening words in the world are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

That’s enough excitement for today, but would you like my views on immigration next?

As I shall explain, I’m something of an expert, starting with the wonderful Polish stripper I lived with. That’s another story.

Monday, 9 July 2007

What does happen when drink and drugs combine without you knowing it?

… Plus how to leap from loss to profit in a trice

One of my old bosses used to say “never promise more than you can deliver; and always deliver what you promise.”

Maybe I wasn’t listening properly, as I promised all kinds of things last Monday that I haven’t delivered yet.

I touched on the combined effects of amphetamines, rum and Methedrine - taken in ignorance – and also the tale of how my new suede coat was ruined by a carving knife attack. And how my partner Martin and I took a failing mail order piano course and turned it round.

Shall we start with the druggy part?

If you remember, I was living with a lady - let’s call her “A” - who’d retired from a life of well-paid misbehaviour. By well-paid I mean she told me that in the five years before we got together she’d blown £50,000 on meth.

Multiply by at least 10 and maybe 20 to get its value now.

We only had one encounter with her old druggie pals, when we went out one night. At that time – and for some years before and after – I suffered from what I eventually discovered was hypertension.

I had fearful panic attacks - was utterly convinced I was going to die each night as I tried to sleep. No fun at all.

No doctor seemed to know what to do about it; they were all a bit vague about what worked and what didn’t, but the one I was seeing at that time, decided a suitable treatment would be purple hearts. This I quickly realized was about 100% the wrong idea as they excite you, not calm you down.

Nor did I know they were disastrous when taken with alcohol – until one day during a meeting after a good lunch I made romantic advances to the wife of our biggest client. She was probably as surprised as I was, being hardly the stuff of fantasies - just rather cuddly in a motherly fashion - and very forgiving

Anyhow, returning to the day I was talking about, I went home – a top floor flat next to Whiteleys in Queensway - where I my love and I shared a joint. Then we went to a club in Carnaby Street, where we shared half a bottle of rum with some of her friends.

One kindly soul, it seems, livened it up with a spot of liquid meth.

I never quite understood why I was unable to sleep or keep still for a second for two nights and days. Nor why I kept weeping inconsolably as I gazed at my loved one, who was lying in the bath as I lamented that she had sold her body to so many for so long.

This was a trifle odd, really, as part of me had always found that thought vaguely exciting.

So now you know what happens when you mix all these contrasting mind-modifiers: insomnia, restless energy, and weepy mopings.

But you don’t yet know about the carving knife attack, my beautiful, ruined mushroom suede coat, how A amazed me by turning out to be insanely jealous – odd in one of her professional background.

All yet to come – but now back to business.


I have a confession here: this narrative is bobbing about a bit in terms of what happened when. My first venture with Martin took place two years after the adventures with A, but the facts in both cases are as I describe them.

When we got hold of the mail order piano course – which was called Easy-Learn – Martin and I had to invest some of my £780 savings to get its owner back to Canada, where he came from, in exchange for him giving us the rights.

So I paid for his air flight, did the deal, then went to see George Gibbs, the chairman of the ad agency Martin worked for.

George was owed so much money he wouldn’t allow any more advertising. But that money was down the drain, so when I promised to pay for advertising as we went along, and gradually repay the debt, he agreed.

Then we had to make the course profitable.

Martin had detected the flaw in what they now p0mpously call the “business model.”

The course – which was a book of lessons - was being sold off the page, then after 6 weeks customers were offered the whole thing on record for a lot more money. Not enough bought to make it really profitable.

What did we do?

What we did was sell the paper course and offer the upgrade by return when they bought. That made all the difference – and demonstrates an important, simple business truth many people still don’t appreciate.

The best time to sell people is usually when they’ve just bought.

You may know this, but we didn’t till we tried it – and it laid the foundation for what could and should have made us rich.

But it didn’t, because of a few simple mistakes and one piece of bad luck involving a lying newspaper.

More to come, dear readers, if you’re still with me.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Here’s a little quiz – and a few smiles for you

Do you like “Who wants to be a millionaire?”

Here’s your starter for absolutely nothing.

His father was a successful writer. He himself was a novelist, dandy and wit. He was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite men. He was so bad with money when young that he had to find a rich - older- bride; but when much older he did one of the best financial deals in British history.

Here are some of his best jokes.

Thank God for something warm at last” – when they served champagne at
a country house dinner where the food kept arriving lukewarm because the
kitchens were so far away.

No, thank you. She’ll only ask me
to take a message to Albert
” - on his deathbed when the Queen asked if he
would like to see her.

It would be a disaster if Mr, Gladstone
were to fall into a canal – and a catastrophe if anyone pulled him out
” –
on being asked the difference between the two words.
Have you guessed?

He was the first – and last - person of his origin to become Prime Minister of this country.

And this is him.

Do you know who it is?

It is Benjamin Disraeli, the only person of Jewish birth (though not religion) to become prime minister of this country.

Among other clever things, he bought shares in the Suez Canal on the government’s behalf – without consulting anyone - which proved an astoundingly good investment.

Here’s something clever he said, which prompted this little piece.

“What we anticipate rarely occurs. What we never expect invariably

And that came to mind when this morning I found in my “junk mail” file a message I had sent myself. I certainly didn’t expect that.

I mean, I know YOU may find my stuff junk, but I love it.

Not for the first time, I thought that software causes a lot of needless problems because it can’t think.

From a marketing point of view it makes life a pain.

That’s because the spam catchers often prevent you putting the one thing in a subject like that you know works in all other media: news of a benefit or offer.

I’ve had to completely retrain myself - and it’s been damned hard work.

Drayton Bird Copywriting Services

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

************************Folly of the Week************************

I promised to show you something dopey at least once a week. But it’s too easy to criticise, so I’ll also show you something I think is excellent. Where better to start than with the world’s second biggest employer – after Indian Railways? Yes: it’s the dear old NHS as sorely afflicted by deadly germs as it’s clogged up with bureaucratic drivel.

An article I read the other day suggests that the former is mainly because a radical new idea called keeping things clean has yet to take hold. The latter no doubt comes from semi-literate bureaucrats who confuse pomposity with meaning.

Here’s a sign I saw opposite the Chelsea and Fulham Hospital.

What does it mean? Any clues? Do they come and shout at you or beat you up if you’re ill?

Twenty yards away is another sign in the window of Richer Sounds/ They used to have the highest turnover per square foot of any store in the U.K. – and may still have with messages this clear. Here it is.

What is the difference between these two signs?

My old boss David Ogilvy used to say “We sell – or else”.

The NHS sign is from people who, if they fail, just get more of your money and mine to squander on drivel when they should be investing in soap.

The other is from people who know they have to sell – or be out of work.

Makes a difference, doesn’t it?

“I lost something –my joy, my innocence – says Hollywood madam”... YOU WHAT???

Are you like me? I find almost everything interesting, including Marie Claire magazine, which I read yesterday morning whilst on the throne.

The July issue has an interview with Jody Gibson, the Hollywood madam who employed the other Hollywood madam, Heidi Fleiss. Remember her?

Jody was making up to $1m a year till she got caught. Her success was largely, as far as I can see, due to training her girls to give The Swirly Move, which is the ultimate blow-job, to clients including Bruce Willis, who tried to sue her for naming him in her memoirs.

What a disgustingly hypocritical country the US is.

She went to jail for seven years, where she was beaten up by other inmates, got a fractured jaw and lost eight teeth. But the court protected the identity of her clients “to protect them from public scrutiny”.

Don’t these double standards make you want to vomit? And doesn't it please you just a little that even the radiant Bruce has to pay for it?

I did get a laugh from this article when I read about what the journalist, taking refuge in the comforting arms of cliché, called her “psychological scars”. Jody felt that when in jail “I lost something – my joy, my innocence”.

To what can we best compare the innocence of the average madam? The social conscience of the average Albanian crack dealer?

Which reminds me of something else pretty ludicrous that probably costs us more than crack but gives no pleasure at all - the European Common Agricultural Policy - CAP.

I have a special place in my heart for this absurd concoction. In my first job after walking out of university (more on that one day) I was assistant editor of a trade magazine called “Cotton”.

I used to write the editorials, in which I often fulminated on the idiocy of the U.S. Farm Support policy. This was, like CAP, a costly, elaborate system of bribery to win farmers’ votes by paying them not to grow or raise things – and so keep commodity prices up.

Still with me?

Like so many other stupid, wasteful American ideas it has been copied by the buffoons in Brussels, endorsed by the wretches in Whitehall.

And that is to introduce the following brilliant letter, sent me by a friend, Ian Dewar. I roared with laughter. If you don’t, we’re incompatible.

Rt Hon David Milliband
MPSecretary of State,
Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR12

June 2007

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend, who is in farming at the moment,recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the “not rearing pigs” business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many
people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven’t reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever
made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?

I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about
£240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my
second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department.

Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing
harmful and polluting methane gases?

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don’t rear?

I am also considering the “not milking cows” business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please
could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields?

Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Dewar

Ian said it was all true except his promise to vote Labour. But wouldn’t telling the truth to a politician be a cruel jest likely to confuse?

By the way, 11 years ago when I was doing an interview on the BBC, I got talking to one of their drivers. We discussed people he’d driven. At that time Labour were still in opposition.

He told me Gordon Brown was one of the most obnoxious he’d ever come across.

The next issue reveals some more about how I finally went into mail order – with one little thing that made all the difference between making and losing money, plus a little about the lovely John R. T. Davies of the Temperance Seven.

Too young to remember them? Look ’em up! Or check out the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, who were much the same a few years later.

Monday, 2 July 2007

He made more money than the chairman; I was seduced by a professional syren

Do you ever do something as dozy as this?

I do – about twice a week.

I write something utterly brilliant, then forget to save it or send it someone.

I did that yesterday, and it’s waiting to be found on my machine at home.

Sadly, every time I do this, when I finally exhume the missing work of genius, it’s sheer tripe.

Nevertheless, I’m quite sure I did write something good yesterday, but only because I copied something by a much cleverer friend. I’ll show it to you tomorrow

You may recall that in the 11th paragraph of my last entry, I mentioned the astounding talent my younger self showed for snatching disaster from the jaws of success (a talent I have not lost, by the way).

I shall go into that in detail because anyone who’s in business can learn a bit from my mistakes.

I also promised you some sordid titillation. I will keep my promise as we go along, but first, let’s go back to my meeting in 1967 with Martin Topley, 21 and making more money than the chairman of the ad agency he worked for.

It was entirely the chairman’s fault – and here’s why.

It was entirely the chairman’s fault – and here’s why.
Martin asked for a job, but was turned down. So he said, “Give me a desk and phone and pay me on commission”.

The chairman agreed.

Martin made his money by spending his time in the Peter Evans Steak House in Fleet Street, where he made friends with all the hard-drinking newspaper advertising reps.

(Young Martin did like a drink, perhaps as a reaction to his strict Salvation Army upbringing.
“I’m making up for four generations of teetotalism” he told me.)

Anyhow, by getting to know all these reps, he would find out, towards the end of the day who was really desperate to sell space – and snap it up for peanuts. Then he would offer it to mail order clients.

In this manner he made the reps happy, the clients happy and his liver very confused. But since he also wrote pretty good copy he was soon doing very well.

The reason he got in touch with me was that he had a client who had a piano-playing course which had been shown on TV in The Bernard Braden Show.

You may not remember the show, but it was where that woman who looks like a concerned horse got started. Her career has largely been based on copying the Bernard Braden format of investigative reporting. You know the one. Esther Rantzen. I have heard she is mostly concerned with making money – but aren’t we all?

Anyhow, the amazing thing about this course was that it worked. A man who’d never played in his life took the course for 6 weeks, went on the show and played a tune.

But as I mentioned, the owner of the course was spending more than he made. And to be honest, he wasn’t making much anyhow; the course wasn’t all that profitable.

He needed to get away from his creditors – who included the advertising agency, which was refusing to run any more ads.

The challenge was simple. I had £780, you may recall. Was it enough to pay for the man to leave the country, persuade the agency to run some ads and open an office? And of course, we had to make more profit.

Now you already know the answer is going to be “yes”. But how? Keep with me for a few days. I’ll tell you – and one thing we did was smart enough to be worth remembering.

Now, here’s a little about the private side.

Well, you may recall I was living with a retired call girl. (She hated the phrase. “I’m a party girl,” she said. “Definitely NOT a bloody whore”)

She had been a methedrine – speed – addict. That’s a faster, more addictive killer than just about anything, as a lot of people are finding out.

Then she and a friend had been fitted up by the police with some planted heroin. It would have been most unusual for someone on speed to take heroin, but that didn’t stop him going to jail and her getting two years’ probation

I met her when she got a job as my secretary during my first stint in the mail order business. She crossed her long legs, which were equipped with slutty fishnets … and looked at me.

Then a couple of days later she took me to visit a girl friend with a small room and a mirror at the end of the bed to give me a no-obligation free trial.

I stood no chance. Within weeks my marriage collapsed and we were living together in Earls’ Court and doing unseemly things in the porch of the church two doors down. The relationship only lasted for two and a half years, but a few things happened that you might find interesting.

Like, what happens when you combine amphetamines with rum and methedrine – without knowing it. And how my new suede coat was ruined by a carving knife attack.

All will be revealed, but I’m going to stop here and tell you about my forthcoming new feature.

It’s called Folly of the Week, and is inspired by something the great American columnist H.L. Mencken said:

“The older I get, the more I admire and crave competence – just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.”

Tomorrow I’ll show you something highly incompetent I spotted on the Fulham Road on Sunday – and contrast it with something very good. If you’re at all interested in business or communication, you will find it amusing – and perhaps instructive

Talking about competence, have you ever noticed how often the grammar and spell check on Word tells you to change something correct into something illiterate? It did that twice in this piece.

Well done Bill Gates!