Many times last year we talked - on the phone, during a car journey, on a train, over lunch at the Garrick - about his writing. In crisp sentences, where the subordinate clause was a rarity, he had a knack of conveying the picture. Although he had previously written books in collaboration, now he envisaged something solo about growing up in the North-east, early journalism, at odds with the establishment at Cambridge, life on the Guardian, being sacked by the Manchester Evening News, television and ultimately radio where he was most at home.
He would in passing have railed against injustices. He would have deplored falling standards, particularly in newspapers. There would have been a wry smile no doubt that the reports of his death, even in his old paper, the Guardian, managed to misspell the first name of his wife Jenni. Recalling with pride his provincial newspaper training, he would have referred them for checking to his Who's Who entry.