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SUNDAY 14 APRIL 2024

*

The Ballad of Eric Price


By PAT PRENTICE


I look back on another age

How swiftly time has turned the page

To an editor many held in thrall

Not everyone took to him at all

He'd shout and maybe that was why

Franklin Gothic was always  shy

And hang the indent; a nut each side

To make sure the bastards didn't collide

His metal was hot and his margins sold

With Bodoni Light next to Century Bold

And woe betide, you'd be laid out cold

If your main head fell below the fold

His phrases keen and never static

Meanly measured; quite em-phatic

To help scribes tell the word from the trees:

"I before E, except after seize"

His bullets were dry but he'd scour the joint

For any hack who missed their point

Reporters would panic and intros crumble

When ulcers not presses started to rumble

"More speed gentlemen must be deployed

Otherwise we'll be destroyed”

His withering stare left you almost dead

For wrong par cut below crosshead

None: Kraken, Grendel, not even Gollum

Were safe from a slug in a sloppy column

His sentence was cruel and he'd send to hell

All who mistakenly

cast the wrong spell

One night a big girl came to ask for a post

A mugger attacked her

She hurt him the most

He hobbled down Silver Street bloodied and tired

Eric said simply: "Poppet, you're hired"

Then once, in response to a wire-room boob

He put a dead mouse down the Lamson tube

The union railed and threatened the mob

"You're sacked, cock," said Eric. "The mouse got the job"

His frantic scrawling; takes in tandem

Drove them to madness on the random

It all came down to the last one alone

The poor sod waiting on the stone

The language was fierce and over-ripe

At bonus mistakes from the Linotype

Bollocking timehands was always the norm

If the silly buggers dropped their form

He'd shout and snarl and righteously rave

At the poor benighted galley slave

With a rash desire he'd nearly sprint

To catch and conquer exposed miss-print

And harry and mither any kidder

Who tried to pass him off with a widow

And fairly froth at the mouth and girn

If anything went askew on the turn

He'd squeeze the strap and bump the streamer

"Set it Ludlow," you'd hear the screamer

He'd raise a flap and cause a stink

If proofs came up with faded ink

No one was safe not even the readers

If a heinous error blotted the leaders

The consequences were equally stark

If any blundered and missed their mark

His temper was fierce, no curse too strong

If he managed to find a fault with the flong

His tantrums shrill and impotent, oh!

They heard him out in stereo

Even the foundry would feel the heat

When a late change kept them on their feet

His nose would throb and his pen would dangle

Until the last page went under the mangle

But the beer would be sweet with the vanishing stress

When the first edition went to press

And Eric would laugh

With maniacal sorrow

Hungover and late

Same again tomorrow



© Pat Prentice