By Edward Rawlinson
I suppose because I failed my 11 plus I was destined to be a Lens, rather than a Nib. Nibs often went to grammar school and either went on to university or spent those same formative years as a junior reporter on some suburban weekly, then on an evening newspaper before joining the officer ranks of a national daily.
A Lens moved up the ranks after being allowed out of a darkened room and promoted to the rank of Snapper. The dark room was his training ground where he learnt the skills of photography. I can recall many Nibs who had been to university but not a single Lens other than the two bigger Lenses I will mention later.
The great advantage a Lens had over a Nib was that he had the chance to see how Nibs worked and was able to compare them with other scribblers. He learnt a lot from that experience and was able to guide young inexperienced Nibs when they went out together on assignments. A Lens always seemed older than a Nib somehow; it could have had something to do with early developing.
One lesson many young nibs learnt in early scribbling was never, no not never, call a Lens ‘my photographer’. Trilby and notebook have gone flying at such words and a Nib’s only transport back to his office been seen departing in a cloud of blue smoke and screeching tyres… leaving him interviewing a very confused person.
An advantage a Nib had over a Lens was when the going might have been getting tough he had no need to be at the scene of any violence; he could get the words at a later stage from his - oops sorry: from a - Lens. The worst Nib to work with was one who had a vivid imagination, producing words unable to be portrayed truthfully with light. I have seen many encounters between Lens and Nib staged on the sawdust strewn floor of Yates’ Wine Lodge after such complication.
Nibs - Lens, Scribbler – Snapper, Reporter - Photographer, name them what you like but when working together as a team they were invariably a formidable force, much like Starsky and Hutch but occasionally (can’t deny it) more like Laurel and Hardy and very rarely even a bit like Tom and Jerry; but like Morecambe and Wise the truth was that they were best as a double act, and were generally less effective as a solo turn.
Don’t want to take sides, of course. But could I just mention the words, ‘by Royal Appointment’? Yes, we had Tony Armstrong Jones and Lord Lichfield, one the Queen’s brother-in-law, the other her cousin. Beat that, His Nibs.