David Montgomery was my editor at Today newspaper and my mentor - though not in a warm, cuddly way. I learned from him everything that makes me the journalist I am today: very thick-skinned and able to turn my hand to anything. He was a bastard, but he was a fair bastard.
I'd been working at The Sun on Bizarre as the first woman editor, but burned out, aged 23. I couldn't handle the late nights and the harsh reality under Kelvin MacKenzie; he used to sack me on a daily basis. I was too young and took it too seriously.
I left The Sun at 26 and pitched up at Today to work shifts. David sent me off to Wimbledon: great, a couple of weeks sitting around watching tennis. But each day he rang me wanting an exclusive: Steffi Graf's new boyfriend, Boris Becker's new girlfriend.
For the latter, I waited with a whole pack of people outside this house. His girlfriend came out and started to walk towards Wimbledon to watch him play. "You'll never make it in time," I said, before bundling her into my car. David threw half the paper out late that night - he did that a lot - for our front page exclusive.
I had this rather charmed fortnight and he gave me a staff job. From that moment he put me on this learning curve: deputy news editor, royal correspondent, features editor; fast-tracking me into awkward jobs. He loved creative tension.
As a features executive, I used to see him every morning with my usual sorry list of ideas and he'd say: "What else? What else?" They were rubbish and I had to come back with better ones. I used to get bollocked all the time. Another favourite phrase of Rommel - as Private Eye called Monty - was, when you suggested something within the editor's remit, he would fix you with a withering stare and say: "You provide the bullets, I'll fire them."
It was completely relentless, but I learnt so much from him. He taught me to be aspirational, creative and write quickly. Wherever I went after working for David seemed a doddle. Even going back to work for Kelvin was fine - I'd been through the mill and was older and more confident.Reuse content