PR firms provide a wonderful service to the nation - by snapping up inadequate graduates

On my way out of Red Fort, in Dean Street, I bump into a young woman wearing an elaborate shawl who tells me enthusiastically that she has recently had the good fortune to be appointed deputy media controller for a new public relations firm called Jam. As she chatters I concentrate hard on her face and decide she must be Geraldine Bingham. There is a serious disjunction between her present animated state and the catatonic picture she typically presented in seminars at York, but the general availability of cocaine in the metropolis these days has done much to make the introvert an endangered species.

I also reflect that if the person yapping at my heels as we negotiate Dean Street is indeed Geraldine, any job at all is good news. The last time I heard, she'd been rejected for a post of community social worker somewhere in the Midlands and was beginning to wonder whether the years she'd spent at university had been a complete waste of time (a view also entertained by the examiners who had to plough through the pages of misinformation that constituted her finals papers).

As we reach Old Compton Street I realise that she's only at the beginning of her good news story and I have two options. Either I mutter something about having to be home to read a dissertation and make a dash for the Nigerian minicab firm or I bite the bullet and invite her for a house white at The French House.

Civility wins out. "What exactly does a deputy media controller do?" I ask her after securing two spare centimetres near the bar.

"Well," she explains, "my particular job is unmediated celebrity contact. I provide a communications bridge between charities and celebrities."

I concentrate on the most concrete term in her discourse. "A bridge?"

"That's right. Supposing you're a charity and you want a celebrity for some sponsorship or advertising work, then rather than ringing up the celebrity's agent and paying their percentage, you'd ring me at Jam, and I'd find a way to contact the celebrity directly and secure their services."

I probably should have stopped there and made my apologies, but somehow the same old instinct that years ago had me pressing Geraldine for a precise definition of the Protestant ethic led me on. "There's only one thing I can't quite understand. How do you make money out of such a deal? Who pays you?"

Her startled look suggested that I might have innocently stumbled on a problem that hadn't so far occurred to the bright young things at Jam. But I realised that there'd been a reversal in our traditional roles. It was her turn to treat me as a second-year dunderhead.

"We make money from the charities," she said patiently. "Their public relations people pay us for making the unmediated contact."

When I eventually climbed into my minicab I offered up a short prayer of thanks to all the new media and public relations companies currently making such a substantial contribution to our new and much-vaunted weightless economy. They do provide a wonderful social service by snapping up all those inadequate graduates who, without the help of such firms as Jam, might even now be plunging parts of the third world deeper into crisis during their extended periods of voluntary service overseas.

God knows what the future will bring for these hordes of animated media people. But at least, as Geraldine's mirrored pashmina forcibly suggested, there's certainly Jam today.

This article first appeared in the 23 August 1999 issue of the New Statesman, No Jews on their golf courses