Media: `I grin like a maniac but it feels like death'
Call it what you like, I've lost the editorship and it feels like death. I am grinning like a maniac and trying to swallow a lump the size of a cannonball. I can't hear the silence because somewhere in my head Concorde is taking off. A hundred or more unblinking faces are taking the news of my replacement as editor of The Mirror with stoicism bordering on cruelty.
But all I can see is Thatcher's face, as familiar as my own mother's, hunched in her limousine behind rain-spattered windows leaving Number Ten. Her right eye, the one nearest the feasting Press, molten with tears.
That was the moment when she knew what it was to lose the best job on earth, the role she thought her birthright.
Now it is my turn.
The managing director is speaking my name, praising my time at the top and, in the same breath, introducing my successor. How hard are the mighty fallen!
I feel nauseous as I scan the faces of staff and colleagues for signs of pleasure or triumph or revenge. I see only outrageous sympathy. And I hate it.
A jumble of crazy, angry thoughts spin in my head as I mealy-mouth familiar words: "Congratulations... richly deserved... thanks for your work and loyalty... please support him as you did me..."
How long have they gossiped behind my back? Was I the last to know? What will I tell my children?
I inform executives that their new editor will meet with them in an hour's time. They nod. More sympathy. And then they are gone, shuffling back to their desks. The newsroom is ablaze with scarcely suppressed excitement.
Inside my room my secretary hugs and consoles. What will become of her, I wonder? We both know that Fleet Street editors' secretaries are at least as vulnerable as their bosses.
The journey home isn't the usual riot, either: my driver, Keith, has become a family friend since the first day he called to collect me. He has become indispensable. Errand boy, courier, stand-in father, minder, collector-from-pubs, restaurant guide, driver (in emergencies - she disapproves of such luxuries) of my wife... all for nought. The new editor, we both know, will have his own man in mind.
As it happens, the company is compassionate. Generous redundancy for my secretary, a director for Keith to drive. Indeed, I keep a chauffeur- driven car for three months while I make "other arrangements".
Three months in which the invitations to receptions, premieres, fancy parties, political soirees dry to a trickle.
Three months in which I go from being a power in the land (hopefully for good) with an automatic "Access All Areas" pass to a "Used-To-Be-But- Isn't-Any-More". Three months in which I rediscover my family, who my friends are, public transport, that nights at the movies aren't always followed by black-tie parties, washing my own car, dinner at home and paying to go to the theatre.
After which I am ready to shrug philosophically - Piers Morgan recently called me "the least bitter former editor" he'd ever met - and carry on.
In the past four years, I'm proud of what I've achieved: persuading Mirror Group that the Internet is a big part of the future; learning the art of broadcasting and using it to the company's benefit; and establishing a group-wide network of internal and external communications.
You see, there is life after editing a national newspaper.
But not much!
The author was editor of The Daily Mirror from 1992-94
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils