Lin Edgson had a poem published in Granta. The fact gave him a deal of credibility in the newsroom. Otherwise, Edgson was then an industrial drunk, one for whom alcohol made life more interesting and threw up constant challenges for his febrile brain. For those who had kept up with him on any given drinking session and were thus, somewhere near his orbit, there was a logic to his declamations and an arc of some sort to his dialectical thrust. He was known to some of us as the Brendan Behan of IRN but I don’t know if Behan’s eyes would revolve quite so violently as he warmed to a theme.
It was Edgson who one day, emerged from the underground bar known to us only as “The Dive” but officially called “The Falstaff”, right on Fleet Street but accessed only by an unmarked stairway under a pizza joint, unmarked so the crowds of tourists would not venture there. Seeing heavy rain falling, Edgson hailed a cab. “U-turn first, please Guv”. On reaching the other side of the street, directly opposite his starting point, he asked for the bill, paid quickly and disappeared up a sheltered alley, dry from the rain and ready to resume his newsdesk work, sober or not.
When drinks for staff were hastily arranged on the sudden resignation of George Ffitch, managing director of LBC, the company’s chairman, Chris Chataway, joined the throng up from below decks who were always keen to sup deep on the company budget. Edgson bailed up the bewildered former athlete in a corner and berated him about not actually being the first to break the four minute mile. His lot, amongst the Oxon runners, was to set a pace on early laps for Roger Bannister’s glory. When asked about the training programme for the record-setting event, Chataway once told me it was essentially cutting back to just one packet of fags a day. Edgson’s critical sally was something like: “The trouble is you could never run fast enough in those stupid, baggy running shorts.” Scotch in hand and prodding Chataway in the chest, he continued: “What were you thinking about, dressed like that?” Reeling away from the spittle-specked onslaught the chairman asked company supremo and respected old hack, Peter Thornton, who that was. “Oh he’s a published poet” was the laconic reply, as if that explained all.
On the 2nd April in 1987 IRN had been running the story of the death of Buddy Rich in the bulletins for about five hours. It was a credit to the breadth and depth of the service that such a story had survived through six bulletins. We could deal with art and culture ably alongside blood, smoke and sinew. The jazz drummer had, after all, played with all the greats, like Parker, Fitzgerald and Armstrong. He was famously bad-tempered and rude, which trait once earned him a slap from Dusty Springfield and frequent brawls with Frank Sinatra.
A down table scriptwriter asked no one in particular: “How are we going to freshen up the Buddy Rich obit?” The duty editor impatiently tried to help out: “Look, there are only two ways to update the story: either ‘The jazz world is in mourning…’ or, ‘Tributes are pouring in…’”.
Edgson, cigarette clamped in his teeth, offered the droll suggestion: “How about, ‘Neighbours are relieved…’”