Within the Wapping complex, The Sunday Times first inhabited the oldest building on the plot, an extremely long, low structure with arched windows and a corrugated plastic roof. It had been, we were told, an old rope factory and this seemed reasonable as you could see through from one end to the building to the other. Because it was so open plan, it seemed to amplify the noise and when it rained the rattle echoing throughout the building made any telephone conversation impossible. One difference between the sunday heavies and their daily siblings is that they are not prone to noise. As the deadline looms the editorial floor gets ever quieter. Nothing can be heard above the muted tapping of the keyboards. The phones are answered immediately with urgent whispers. The silence of concerted effort is greatest in the few hours before first edition, when the mass of copy collected in the previous days is re-written, re-edited and then shoe-horned into the pages.
Which is why none of us fully understood what was happening when the lesbians burst in. Four sturdy women in sensible clothing, gripping chains and handcuffs, stood yelling in the doorway. They were greeted by looks which ranged from astonishment, to bewilderment and in one man’s eyes, something approaching fear. This Journalist ( whom we shall call Nigel Davies) had written a piece in the previous week’s paper ending with a throw-away line about the Militant Lesbian league, an organisation I am sure he had thought was entirely fictional. Yet here they appeared to be – big, brash and very loud. As three of them started to chain themselves to the nearest desks the fourth planted herself in front of the news desk, where Nigel shrank into his chair.
She twirled a pair of shiny handcuffs in one hand and held a chain long enough for two in the other. Her eyes scanned the office ” Where is Nigel Davies? We want Nigel Davies. We are miltant lesbians, Where is Nigel?” Her colleagues began ‘ We shall overcome ‘ behind her.
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man
Nigel was magnificent. He casually stood up and collected his jacket from the back of his chair. He looked her straight in the eye and said ” He isn’t here at the moment. I shall go and get him for you, shall I?” And with that he was heading towards the sports desk at the far end of the building and an exit.
So the lesbians didn’t manage to chain themselves to Nigel that day. They stayed for an hour or so before the police took them away, still singing, to the local nick. Peace was restored to the office and Nigel was restored to the news desk. Of course, lessons were learned: the far gate was locked on Saturdays, the security guards were issued with bolt cutters and Nigel thought long and hard before mentioning the Militant lesbian tendency again.