It happened when I went to lunch with Michael Winner. I was working on The Sunday Times's Style section and had been editing his Winner's Dinners column for two years. But we had never met, so he kindly invited me to lunch.
Anxious not to be late - he was always banging on about tardiness in his column - I set off from Wapping to Holland Park in good time to meet him. However, the driver got lost and we spent ages trying to find Winner's place.
Eventually, I arrived at his front door 20 minutes late. I anxiously rang the bell and a maid showed me in. "I do apologise for being so late," I said immediately. "Not at all, dear boy," replied Winner. "You're actually a week early."
I was. I had the wrong date. I had interrupted my poor restaurant critic in the middle of eating a modest sandwich in his kitchen. Winner was exceedingly gracious, and off we pottered in his Bentley to a very nice restaurant around the corner.
My other faux-pas happened a few months earlier. I was new in the job and was sitting in the Style editor's office when her phone rang. It was press night, and Alison McDonald, the editor, was busy working on a headline with the sub-editors. I answered, and a gruff voice said: "Is that Alison?" It was obviously one of the designers being silly, so I said sarcastically: "No, Alison is a woman; she has a woman's voice. I'm a man, and I have a man's voice." The voice, pretending to be cross, snapped: "There's no need to be rude."
"Ooohh, who's all hoity-toity then," I laughed. There was silence. And then I realised it wasn't a designer; it was John Witherow, the editor of The Sunday Times. I turned white and gasped, "Oh, God, it's you, isn't it?" "Yes," came the reply. I dropped the phone and ran to his office. Now, however suspicious I may be of a voice on the phone, I never jump to conclusions.
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