JCB’s logo from 2003 – you can see its evolution here…
I could scarcely believe my eyes.
I was standing in the control room of JCB’s gear manufacturing plant. Around me were the controls for a group of CNC lathes set up on the factory floor below. And scurrying around those lathes were a small and furiously busy population of robots.
As it was explained to me, the system was clear. The robots could retrieve any one of thousands of components from the five-storey warehouse area just next door. In fact I could see it from the control room, with more robots scampering up and down the shelves to retrieve what was needed. They’d bring those components to the chosen assembly point on the shop floor. And any additional components not in stock could be created using the lathes.
At the time, this was not so much cutting edge as bleeding edge technology. And I had to write a script about it.
So I thought about it for a few minutes. And grinned.
‘You know what?’ I said to my director. ‘How about doing a David Attenborough?’
We both laughed. But that was what we did…
At this point Sir David was not yet Sir David, and his programmes were a decided novelty. So everyone recognised the slow, respectful but excited tone of our voice-over. And everyone got the joke when we described the robots much as Attenborough might have described a particularly exciting new species.
Just one example of the relationship I then had with a company called First Creative – who gave me tens of thousands of pounds of work over many years. For which I’m grateful. Don’t get me wrong.
I was slightly less grateful for the speed of payment, which was invariably glacial. The problem was that First Creative were usually dealing with large (and often huge) corporate entities who insisted on 90-day payment terms. And I, as a scriptwriter, only got paid when First Creative got paid.
As a result, on more than one occasion I’d go into my bank for a quick chat with my bank manager. (Remember them? Quite possibly you don’t…) In those days managers had a great deal of discretion, so if I said ‘I’ve got £4,000 in outstanding invoices. They will get paid – eventually. But in the meantime…’ the response would be ‘No problem. We’ll give you a bigger overdraft.’
My connection with First Creative went back to my first relationship with Tim Ball. But the company he worked for had folded – and First Creative was its successor in business. (That had happened under slightly dubious circumstances, which in later years I’d have treated with more suspicion.) Tim himself – sadly – had succumbed to ME. As, by now, had I…
My fees from First Creative were always generous (though for historical reasons they weren’t handled by One Stop). But they were also always very, very late. And as time went on that became more and more of a problem…