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Outside chance

A week ago, when in most parts of the country it looked like six friends could still gather together in a garden, we ran a piece in the Weekend section about outdoor eating. Well, that worked out well for us. Our crystal ball was clearly malfunctioning.

I return to it now only because you may find it illuminating how it was put together.

I’m sure most of you will assume we had an editorial conference, decided it would be a subject worth covering and spent a productive couple of weeks tracking down the best recipes, lining up chefs to interview and researching the best barbecues and outdoor heaters.

I wish. Much as I’d love to say I am the master of my own destiny, hierarchies on newspapers mean that we all have a boss further down the line who calls the shots. And who is able to call the shots as and when they choose.

So it was I was asked (told) to put together a spread on outdoor entertaining late on Monday afternoon, to file by Tuesday lunchtime. Times like that, speed trumps everything else. As it happens, I’d been wanting to do something for some time with Mike Robinson, owner of the brilliant Woodsman in Stratford upon Avon, who cooks everything over charcoal, so he was an obvious first port of call.

And luckily two PRs whose crystal balls clearly were working had been in touch the week before. Gabrielle at Fraser and Nancy Brownlow had pitched Tomos Parry, Niklas Ekstedt and David Carter – three of the best grill chefs around. What’s more, they were able to put me in touch within minutes. I couldn’t have wished for a better cast for the feature and it was all sorted within ten minutes of the commission.

I can’t emphasise enough how “last minute” so much of the work we do on newspapers is, so if you and your clients are top of our minds when we don’t have the time for much research, beautiful things can happen. The feature didn’t come about because of Gabrielle and Nancy’s emails, but it meant that when the stars aligned, they were able to reap the rewards. Result: happy bosses all round.

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