I spent three years in Paddington with DDB/BMP. Like so many agencies at the time, it had become a collision of capital letters. A happy stint, I looked after some international business. A certain, end-of-epoch air was settling about Bishop’s Bridge Road as a crocodile of remarkable people moved on.
Boase Massimi Pollitt had collected a justly famous stable of brain power. Chris Powell and James Best became more distanced (but consistently supportive of me) after I joined. Ross Barr, Chris Cowpe, Paul Feldwick and John McKnight all retired or took up new excitements. Tom Rodwell had just left but dragged himself away from Lords every now and then to inject us with hilarious Rodwellisms. The legendary John Webster died after a Saturday lunchtime run. He was barely 70, still writing scripts left, right and centre. I had been talking to him the evening before over the pool table about his wine growing. I’d bought a few cases at the princely sum of £4 a bottle.
My contract stipulated that I had to spend five days a year – on company time – doing something that wasn’t directly work related but that would help “stimulate my contribution” to the firm. I had to. It was typical of the humanity that ran through both Boase Massimi Pollitt and also Doyle Dane Bernbach’s veins.
I elected to join a poetry class run by Paul Feldwick. A group of us descended on Buxted Park in Sussex. The hotel was a Fawlty Towers of inept but captivating staff, blundering about in a magical setting. I loved it. We wrote our hands off when not staring out at distant trees. At one point, Paul encouraged us to try and capture the passing of time. That year, Alice was approaching her third birthday.
Non-stopping. You're coming up on three And it's coming up on me It's going past a bit fast. The second To your brother's minute The track you're speeding strangely known to me. Familiar but snatched away. Where I have stopped and dawdled once before (You know the names: Firststeps, Firsttooth, Firstwords) They have flickered by as barely made-out signs. I've clattered on On the point of regardless. You're coming up on three And it's coming up on me It's going past a bit fast. These snatched snapshots - Of course, I've filed the pictures Convinced like every other gadget in the house My photographic memory has gone digital. "I'll savour your childhood at a later date." No, it doesn't work for me either. But it's funny, in a way. On Saturday, we'll step down from the train And feed the ducks for hours on end. Settling in to the moment as a deep armchair Your soup plate eyes sweeping me down. However long we take You will still be a second. It will still be too short And I will feel a sort Of wondrous puzzlement. You are particles accelerated Faster than I can grab This was a stab. You're coming up on three And it's coming up on me It's going past a bit fast. (18.9.2003)