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Copywriters on the rack #13: Nigel Graber

Welcome to Copywriters on the Rack. Ignore the scratch marks on the inside of the door.

OK, lucky number 13. Lie down, relax and tell us who are you, and what you do to pay the bills.

I’m Nigel Graber and I’m a freelance copywriter. But I often employ a balaclava and shotgun to pay the bills.

Feisty eh?! I like it. So, what was your career path to get to where you are now?

I started out as an abject failure, then became a dismal loser and finally a trainee pointless waster. When that didn’t work out and I also realised that being a tennis coach meant actually being good at tennis, I found a job in HR.

My bosses thought I was crap at that, too, so they sent me to work in the PR department. From there, I paid my own way on the CAM Foundation Diploma at London’s Barbican College and jobs followed.

I went freelance when I got laid off with a small cheque from a medical comms firm in Cheshire. It was the third-greatest thing ever to happen to me.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The free bit is excellent. I’m less keen on the lancing element.

What’s the worst?

Waiting for client feedback. Then waiting to be paid. Hiding from the egg man while waiting for client feedback and then waiting to be paid.

How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?

I’m obsessed with tennis. I stupidly peaked as a player in my mid-50s and my body thought this was a hilarious concept. So I became club first-team captain at the exact moment my left knee looked up at me and said ‘YMBFK’. The same joint also ended my once-prolific running career.

I do write about tennis, though, and have popped up on Five Live to windbag my way through discussions about Mr Murray and British tennis in general.

Apart from that, yomping the hills with my dog and looking after our holiday-cottage rental.

Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s go rogue:

What makes you gag?

Chocolate pudding, chocolate sauce, chocolate eclairs.

What makes you go mmmmm…?

Chocolate. I know this is a strange dichotomy (see above). I’ve wrestled with it all my life. I might never find peace.

Specifically, a 240g bag of Cadbury’s Giant Buttons.

Who would win in a fight, Mary Berry or Gloria Hunniford?

According to Top Trumps, Mary Berry has a maximum unladen take-off weight of 37,000 kgs and an excellent wingspan of 43.4 metres. But Gloria generates a remarkable explosive yield of 1000 kilotons.

Much depends on whether the fight was unarmed, in the trenches, in the air, or in a disused bakery off the Mile End Road.

If you were alone on a desert island for a month, what 6 items would you take with you? They have to fit in a Morrison’s bag for life and yes, you can keep the bag.

Racket, tennis ball, fishing net, bug spray, matches, and Shappi Khorsandi.

What’s that? I’d make her fit.

Write me three straplines for:

1) Government ID microchipping

2) The new 5-wheel drive Dacia Daredevil

3) Fat Bob’s Tattoo Parlour for Pre-teens

Jeez, you don’t make this easy, do you? Right, I’m giving myself ten minutes or I’ll spend all week on them.

1) True identity runs deep

2) Thrills without frills (sorry, need a lot longer than 10 minutes for that one)

3) It’s only illegal if you get caught

What would you like to come back as, if there’s a next time?

Believing in life after death requires physics beyond the standard model. Within quantum field theory, there can’t be a new collection of ‘spirit particles’ and ‘spirit forces’ that interact with our regular atoms, because they would have been detected in existing experiments. And they haven’t.

That said, I’d be a mischievous squirrel called Angela Nutball.

Draw me a picture of inside the mind of a Dartford Warbler (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).

Here you go. You need to know this is no ordinary Dartford Warbler. It’s Professor Emile Zickefoos from the esteemed Huffenheimer Institute. His controversial belief in spirit forces and spirit particles that interact with regular atoms turned out to be spot-on.

Inside the mind of a particularly talented Dartford Warbler

What’s the worst thing you’ve eaten?

A three-year-old horse bladder seasoned with fresh coriander.

Obviously, that’s a lie. But as an acid-reflux sufferer, I simply can’t compete.

What is love?

A surge of chemical activity in brain areas rich in dopamine, including the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, part of the reptilian core of the brain that’s associated with motivation, focus and craving.

Either that or snuggling like bunnies on a Sunday-morning lie-in.

Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.

Here you go. This is a picture of Andy Murray holding the Wimbledon trophy. It appears embedded in the countertop in my en-suite. Incidentally, Andy’s Surrey bathroom features the same marble countertop. We talk about it often.

Is there anyone you’d like to say thank you to?

Some Irish nurses.

Anyone you’d like to say sorry to?

Some Irish nurses.

Write me a very short story featuring: A Hell’s Angel with a lisp, a broken trombone and pickled walnuts*

I hope this causes no offence. Funnily enough, it’s hard to write about a Hell’s Angel with a lisp without actually featuring a Hell’s Angel with a lisp.

An old Hell’s Angel was roaring through the kingdom when he came upon a village. The villagers edged away, locking doors and windows.

The stranger smiled and asked, “Why are you all tho fwightened? I am a thimple Hell’th Angel and former 90s boxer, looking for a thoft place to thtay for the night.”

“Sir, we have nothing to eat,” he was told. “We are weak and our children are starving. Move on, and get help with your thpeech impediment, thir… dammit.”

“No, no,” he said. “In fact, I wath thinking of making thome thoup to share with all of you.” He pulled a broken trombone from his cloak, filled it with water, and began making a fire under it.

Then, he pulled a pickled walnut from a bag and dropped it into the water. By now, most of the starving villagers had emerged from their homes. As the Hell’s Angel sniffed the ‘broth’ and licked his lips, hunger overcame their fear.

“Ahh,” the stranger said to himself, “I do love a tasty pickled-walnut thoup.” Soon, a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage, and added it to the pot.

“Ecthellent!!” cried the stranger. “You know, I wonth had walnut thoup with cabbage and a bit of thalt beef as well, and it wath fit for a king.”

The village butcher duly found some salt beef. Others added vegetables until there was a lovely meal for the whole village to share.

The village elder offered the Hell’s Angel many groats for the magic walnut, but mistook him for Nigel Benn, so the stranger refused to sell and jumped town the next day.

As he left, the biker met some village children by the road. He gave the silken bag containing the walnut to the youngest child, whispering with a wink, “It wath not the thtinky walnut but the villagers who performed the magic.” 

Which just goeth to thow.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

I haven’t laughed since I read my O’Level results in 1879.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

Old photos of my daughters as cute children. It’s time that’s long gone and won’t come back.

Make up your own question and tell me whatever you want to get off your chest.

What’s the most remarkable fact people don’t know about you?

The difference between my IQ and my pulse rate is 120. But which is higher?

Give me three reasons why I should let you go.

1) I’m finding this very uncomfortable.

2) There’s a Dartford Warbler here on my operating table.

3) My IQ is beating too low.

And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.

Now be gone with you!

*Apologies to Hell’s Angels, anyone with a lisp, trombonists, Boxers, The Royal Society of Walnut Picklers and everyone else, just in case.