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Blood, sweat and beers

'THERE is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.'

As usual, Ernest Hemingway got it about right. When you're on deadline, the brain is fighting the effects of twenty shots of bourbon, the paper keeps jamming, the ink ribbon is fading and the editor is bellowing obscenities from the far end of the newsroom, you can be excused for thinking the lifeblood is seeping out of you.

This is my depiction of Papa's famous quote. It is dedicated to all those old hacks, like me, from pre-computer days who were obliged to work on battered Remingtons and Underwoods from the Damon Runyan era and produce pristine prose ready for the press with minimal intervention from those miserably malevolent drones on the subs' table.

With acrid smoke drifting up from the plate foundry, rumbling presses rattling the windows, the aroma of fresh newsprint permeating everything, there was something indescribably alluring about ancient newsrooms and the assorted characters gathered within them.

They included fallen gentlemen, frightened drunks, flamboyant eccentrics, neurotic chain-smokers, displaced intellectuals, comely wenches, crotchety old dames who joined the paper before the Crimean War (or so it seemed), and careworn, bow-tied old-stagers who had interviewed Benjamin Disraeli in their youth and taken photographs with the help of magnesium flares.

Journalists are well-known for their sentimental reflections on newspaper life, especially when under the influence of eight best bitters and half a dozen whisky chasers.

This is my contribution to the groundswell of nostalgia. Ah, they were good old days, weren't they?

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