Cathedral Press is in a building not unlike a church, enormous chimneys piercing the sky, nestled on a grassy knoll at the edge of a park overlooking Sydney Harbour. They presently have a position open for part-time copy editor. I had an interview with them yesterday.
I arrived at 10.00AM. It was a warm day – 24 degrees C – the sun was high in the sky, but the temperature dropped and the light dimmed as I ascended the steep, moss-covered sandstone steps leading to the front door. I have a soundtrack that lodges itself in my head, particularly when I am nervous, which is eclectic in nature, ranging from Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water to Madonna’s Holiday; but today the strident tones of Wagner’s The Ring were raging in my head.
As I raised my hand to ring the doorbell a flock of crows flew overhead, the wind whistled in the trees, leaves scratching like fingers on sandpaper; and I noticed my hand was shaking. Before I could even press the doorbell, the door opened and I saw him.
Have you ever met a real person who is the exact personification of a character from a book? Well, I met one today. Straight out of the pages of Charles Dickens David Copperfield, he stood before me. Long, oily hair brushing his shoulderblades; thin lips, a weak jaw, furtive eyes; hands joined in a pleading clasp; obsequious tone to his voice. My very own Uriah Heep.
“You’ve come about the editor’s position,” he stated with the slightest Cockney edge to his voice. “Are you an editor too?” I asked. “Oh, no,” he replied. “I wouldn’t ever presume. I am Mr. Monkford’s personal assistant. I am not good enough to be an editor.”
As we walked along the enormous hallway with beautiful blackbutt floorboards and rich cedar panelling, I imagined my new acquaintance espousing my favourite Uriah Heep quote from David Copperfield, throwing his arms about with a flourish, a steely edge of insincerity in his eyes.
“When I was quite a young boy I got to know what ‘umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate ‘umble pie with an appetite.” CH.36.
Lost in the throes of daydreaming, I was surprised to find myself in a very professional looking office. Rows of Macs and PCs stood on a line of desks in the centre of the room; printers and photocopiers hummed; efficient-looking workers checked proofs. It was a veritable hive of activity.
Mr. Monkford was a kindly, harassed looking man. “We’re a non-fiction press,” he said. “Everything from coffee table books to government brochures. I bet you thought we published books about religion at worst, historical architecture at best.” He laughed, sides heaving painfully. “Cathedral Press is the bane of my existence. Wish I’d never chosen it. It was my wife’s idea – because of our surname. Monkford – monk – cathedral. The link is tenuous at best. You wouldn’t believe how many clerics submit their memoirs thinking we are a religious press. It’s turning into a nightmare. But I’ve registered the name now, so I have to make the best of it.”
He led me to a desk where I had to edit 3 sample pieces. Straightforward stuff except for the fact that Uriah Heep watched me the whole time, his beady eyes boring into me as if trying to curse me into writing is instead of are; bring instead of brought. I suspected Uriah had wanted the copy editor’s job but his plans had been thwarted. I held on to my nerve and Mr. Monkford seemed pleased with the result. “I’ll let you know,” he said as Uriah jumped to his feet, steering me back down the hallway, shuffling behind me like an extra in a Gothic horror movie.
In a totally unrelated story, the glorious Amy Winehouse has won Best Female Performer of 2007 at both the MOBOS (Music Of Black Origin Awards) and Vodafone Live Music awards. This is no mean feat considering she was competing against Joss Stone, Jamelia, Beverley Knight and Corinne Bailey Rae. Winehouse is without question, one of my favourite jazz/soul singers; to me, she has all the subtle, delicious stylings of Nina Simone. LOVE HER !