For Calais, read chaos. It is a disaster zone this summer and it has been, on and off, for years. Want to know how to jump a queue of 700 cars at the French port? This book will tell you how – and it doesn’t necessarily involve dressing up in a Clermont Auvergne beret or an Agen jersey match-worn by the former French international centre Philippe Sella!

 

How do you do a live radio broadcast on a rugby match with a half-naked woman sitting in front of you, trying to distract you by stripping off? You will find out in this book.

 

No journalists’ training course can prepare you for these situations.

 

But a new book by top sports writer Peter Bills reveals the devious answers. Bills was a freelance sports writer for more than forty years working for national newspapers in Fleet Street and around the world. More recently, he was chief rugby writer worldwide for the Independent News & Media Group.

 

His work took him all over the world to some of sport’s most iconic events: The Masters at Augusta, US Open golf tournaments, every Rugby World Cup to date, European soccer finals and the Sydney Olympics.

 

During his career he met and interviewed some of the greatest names of the era: South African presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Donald Bradman, John Arlott, Bill McLaren, Gareth Edwards, Willie John McBride, David Campese and others such as Spike Milligan, Oliver Reed and Jose Carreras.

 

This book provides a revealing portrait of many of those characters. It tells of amazing times, extraordinary escapades and downright outrageous tricks of the trade… like how Bills wangled a free upgrade onto a British Airways Concorde flight, how he rode in the team bus with the French international rugby players and dined out with stars such as former French rugby captain Jean Pierre Rives, Formula 1 motor racing driver Alain Prost and New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter.

 

But the book is much more than tales of dinners with the stars and speed-breaking journeys to airports. Bills visited South Africa in the apartheid years and writes harrowing accounts of the brutality and hatred he saw among the white people. He also went to Auschwitz and writes a poignant memoir of his visit, believing that it changed him forever as a person.

 

This is no book of rehashed rugby reports, of tries scored, penalties kicked long ago. It is, in the words of one critic, a book that lives.

 

Four Hundred at Five-Thirty is the story of how a British sports writer made fun his modus operandi and set off around the world to experience it in every corner of the globe. The book is full of front-row atmosphere, and true tales packed with humour, sadness, emotion and detail – not to mention some amazing nannies. 

 

In case you're wondering, nannies means 'nanny goats', which is rhyming slang for quotes; and the title is what many an editor would have said to Peter. In layman's terms: "A four-hundred word report, by 5.30pm, with quotes (nannies) from one of the subjects!" 

 

Click here for more information, or to read a free sample from Four Hundred at Five-Thirty with Nannies – Inside the Lost World of Sports Journalism.