Lionel and the long lunch
Thursday 17 October 2019
When Lionel was appointed bureau chief in Paris back in the 1970s, I was not best pleased. Notwithstanding the undeniable fact that I owed him for helping me to get a job with Reuters in the first place, I was miffed. My pride was hurt, I was the news editor, the number two, and not to put too fine a point on it, I felt the plum job should have been mine.
Of course, the powers that be in London were quite right: Lionel was hugely better qualified than I for the assignment; more experience, more mature, better writer, better linguist, better contacts, etc, etc. Nonetheless, our relations during those first weeks after his arrival were decidedly cool. Not ideal.
Lionel found the solution: lunch, indeed a very long lunch, if memory serves, at a very splendid restaurant called Chez Georges not far from the office. We cleared the air, talked about everything, including our shared experience of beginning our journalistic careers at a provincial newspaper group headquartered in Harrogate, North Yorkshire - Lionel's home town and where my Scottish family moved when I was a lad.
Indeed, when I was looking for wider horizons after several years' apprenticeship at the weekly newspaper group, the old chief sub at the Harrogate Advertiser said he'd put in a word for me with Lionel, by then a big wheel with Reuters in Germany. No sooner said than done, I got an interview at 85 Fleet Street, which finally led to a job offer after a year on the foreign desk at The Guardian.
Thank you Lionel, a fine journalist who understood the value of a good lunch. ■