Shortly after Irvine Hunt joined the Accrington Observer as a cub reporter he had his first big story as flames burst from a town centre shop. What does a green reporter do? Phone the fire brigade first, or phone the office? He got it wrong.
I read Cub Reporter with real delight. Writing with humour, affection and wonderful observation, Irvine transported me back to a world I had almost forgotten and enjoyed revisiting. – Audrey Eyton, author of The F-Plan Diet
Forty Cups a Day
Gradually I got to know the editor a little better. Mr Watson sat at his desk and often looked up at you over the top of his glasses when he spoke. He drank endless mugs of tea and his office was full of empty cups and mugs, some on the windowsill with mould growing in them. Forty cups of tea a day: the office joke.
He smoked frequently and from time to time beat ash off his chalk-stripe suit. It was his demobilisation suit, one given to members of the armed forces once the 1939-45 War was over.
During my second week he called me in: “There’s something I need you to do, but discretely, if you will. Would you empty this lot into the bins downstairs? I don’t want the wife to see it.”
The ashtray was full of cigarette stubs. “If you keep it emptied from time to time?”
I didn’t know why he asked me to do it, perhaps because I was new. I promised I would.
“And don’t you start. Asthma and cigarettes don’t mix.”
But he continued to smoke.
His pill cupboard, as he called it, stood in a corner full of bottles of medicine and pills, which he had bought down the years as possible cures for asthma. Among them was a bottle of Dodo tablets, a cure I had once tried myself, though with a feeling that anything that was named after an extinct flightless bird might not work.
Alas, Mr Watson’s breathing remained uncured, and he continued to wheeze, though his optimism had not waned and I was sent to a chemist shop a couple of times to buy him the latest asthma cure as it arrived on the market.
If the editor could sometimes look frail, there was nothing weak about his ability to run the paper. Week by week he designed many of the page layouts, wrote the gossip column, Observ(er)ations (an old pun) and much else, crouching over his desk, a mug of tea at his right hand. When it came to writing he could be quite hard-hitting, and at times straight laced.