I TAKE an instant dislike to the Party Bag woman, despite the promise of more money for old rope as she’s obviously swallowed the massive lie about my PR prowess.
It’s the house that does it: picture postcard perfect, gravel drive, peacock in the garden, handmade kitchen, carefully arranged black Labrador in front of a top-of-the-range Aga, the smell of baking bread and nouveau middle-class wealth. And the sense of entitlement that this certain class of woman develops – taking offence if the queue in Waitrose is more than two-strong, the weary sigh if a coffee shop girl asks her to repeat her order, the patronising manner with which she explains that a little man comes to do her garden, and a little man washes her car, and now a little man is going to handle her PR requirements.
“So tell me,” I say through resentful lips. “Show me what your fantastic business is all about.”
“Well, as I said on the telephone, I market party bags to busy mothers, saving them the hours of hard work required in advance of a children’s party.”
Hours of hard work? I somehow doubt it, but let’s press on.
“So how does it work? What do you charge?”
“Well it’s around £2.99 for the basic bag, and most mothers order at least 30.”
She tips the contents onto the scrubbed pine kitchen table. All I can see is a pencil, a couple of stickers, a small bar of gluten-free chocolate, a plastic keyring, some plastic beads and a handful of cheap and nasty Haribo sweets, guaranteed to have your youngster climbing the walls come bedtime.
“And of course, the bags are extra,” she enthuses. “They’re £1.99 apiece, but I do personalise them and add some glitter.”
I examine the example, trying hard not to sneer. It is a bag, granted, on which the name ‘Tabitha’ has been written in pink felt pen. And yes, there is glitter, which is now all over my jacket.
“Oh, and you must see our latest fantastic product!” She rushes out of the room. The black Labrador takes the opportunity to pass wind, at length and with evil odour. When Party Bag woman returns she is waving a stick with a piece of ribbon tied to it like a demented Morris dancer. She eyes me with unfounded suspicion before saying: “Here you go. It’s a Fairy Party Baton!”
No it fucking isn’t. It’s a stick with a piece of ribbon tied to it, albeit with added glitter.
“And how much is that?” I inwardly sigh.
“Oh, they’re just £2.99 each,” she says, with a completely straight and possibly deluded face.
I do a quick mental calculation (which is something of a feat for a former editor). Thirty party bags, complete with Fairy Party Batons, are going to bring in around 240 quid – for, basically, fuck all.
I drive away thinking that I really must be in the wrong business, but console myself with the fact that Party Bag woman is sufficiently mad to think that £500 for a single press release is excellent value.
I WAS quite interested in the Newspaper Society’s seven-point plan to save the regional publishing industry – and then I actually read it.
Dropping opposition to mergers despite monopoly issues, curbing BBC competition, enforced use of local press advertising by government and public bodies, keeping statuary public notices in newspapers, shutting down council newspapers which compete with the local press, tighter copyright enforcement on the content of newspaper websites and maintaining zero-rating on newspaper cover prices.
Is this really the best the NS can do? Seven points, every single one of them either defensive or protectionist (although I do agree with a couple of them). No leadership, no innovation, no brilliant ideas… Pathetic, just pathetic.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan