Sunday, May 27, 2007

Peers into the past

... from the blog that always parties like it's 1999. Here's another one, notable for the fact that I got Simon Callow spot on despite it being an entirely wild guess on my part.

from The Big Issue, June 7 1999: Public Image Ltd. no.16 - The Honours System

Start lighting those candles: it's the Queen's 73-and-a-halfth birthday on Saturday. She'll be celebrating this one with a 41-gun salute (she likes to pretend she's only 41, and besides, the other 32 guns are being used on hospitals in Kosovo), and the usual round of prefect's badges for everyone the government owes favours to. Expect Alex Ferguson, Simon Callow and a sprinkling of big-hearted traffic wardens to have a few extra letters after their names come Monday.

Almost 1,000 people get elevated every June, and another thousand at New Year. Maybe two dozen will be people you've heard of - in January they went for cutting-edge talent with Roger Moore and David Essex; a dosen will be faintly controversial politicals ones - Norman Lamont! Senator George Mitchell!; and the bulk of the rest will be faceless businessmen and senior civil servants who apparently see the Order of the Bath as their due after a lifetime of receiving "uncompetitive" wages. Last year the government gave a knighthood to John Chisolm, for developing bigger, better, smarter bombs that kill more people for the MoD, and refused to give one to Sean Connery because he once slapped his girlfriend. Follow that logic if you can.

So how could the system be improved? John Major brilliantly decided that the method that creates Lords and Ladies was an ideal candidate to be made 'classless', and started giving more awards to roadsweepers and children's entertainers. And Tony Blair is keen on the idea of 'People's Peers' - that means ones that doe what he says rather than being Conservatives. Let's just fill the House of Lords with everyone who gets a medal from the Queen - a second house filled by headmasters, elderly actresses and the remaining members of the 1966 World Cup squad would soon sort New Labour out. And in the absence of any credible Tory opposition, who better to lead the new Lords than that national institution, Sir James Saville OBE? Sudenly, I'm quite keen on the aristocracy after all.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lots of stuff in the current Eye...

... but I'm not going to put it up here because it's such a good issue I think you should go out and buy it.

(and I don't want to get lots of hate mail from nutters, which you'll understand after you read page 5).

So instead, here's another PIL column from The Big Issue, dating from August 2 1999.

Rebranding Britain's Institutions no.24: The Silly Season

It was hard to decide what to write about this week. Whether to squeeze another week's coverage out of Posh and Beck's wedding (I think there's some blurred shots of the hen night where you can tell it's Sporty even though you can't see her head), or knock up a quick tribute to the Queen Mum (99 years young and still not dead, gawd bless 'er). And Catherine Zeta Jones is bound to do something, with someone, somewhere this week. If we can get a photographer there, we're laughing.

Yes, August is here, and there is officially nothing happening. The cabinet reshuffle marks the end of real news for summer, and the papers have strung that one out for as long as possible. Soon, however, they will be supplying their journalists with Kendal mint cake and sending them out into the countryside on a mission to MAKE SOME NEWS. You thought it was animal rights activists who released all those mink last summer? Not likely. A crack team from the Daily Mail newsdesk was sent out with wirecutters in order to provide some decent headlines. That followed the success fo their mission to spring a couple of pigs from the bacon wagon. Incidentally, if anyone's wondering what happened to Butch and Sundance, the Mail got bored of them after Christmas and dumped them on the motorway.

So what's on the cards for this summer? It's not looking good. The papers have already exhausted their supply of Nicola Horlick stories, and they're revisiting old grounds. In 1995 it was Blur versus Oasis (soft southern modernists release record in same week as badly-behaved northern rock'n'rollers; papers get excited), in 1999 it's been Blair versus Prescott (soft southern moderniser makes speech about public services in same week as badly-behaved northern roly-poly; papers get excited). But the injuries suffered by Tim Westwood, a DJ who has made it to the top of his profession despite a really bizarre speech impediment can mean only one thing to desparate newspapers: drive-by shootings are the new Air Rage. If you see a Daily Mail journo on a motorbike, start running.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

About eleventy billion years ago...

.... or to be more precise, in 1999, I wrote a column for the Big Issue. It was called Public Image Ltd, and it was all about taking a British institution each week and re-branding it, "new" Labour style.

I'm going to bash all 40 in here eventually, just to give them the afterlife they deserve. Starting with this one.

Originally published in The Big Issue, August 9 1999

Prince William. Isn't he the very model of a modern media monarch-in-waiting? The wraparound shades, the bullet-proof car, the wetsuit - and as of this Thursday, the chance to scatter his shot willy-nilly into a dumb, bewildered bird. No, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson hasn't come back into royal favour. It's the start of the grouse-shooting season, a sport eagerly indulged in by the various artists currently known as Prince.

Personally, I prefer deer-stalking. But the deer in question got sick of hte late-night phone calls and took out a court order against me. So hobbywise, this August is a straight toss-up between table tennis or going out and killing things.

Not that that's how we should be looking at it, of course. Instead of an annual ritualised bloodbath we should see an integral part of our countryside tradition that is, surprise surprise, in decline. According to those cuddly bumpkins at the Countryside Alliance, revenues from grouse shooting have gone down 60 per cent over the last six years. If things get much worse, they'll have to have the servants put down. But let's face it, however bad things get for the shooters, it's a rawer deal for the grouse (should that be grouses? Or maybe grice?)

At least with this one they can't use the fox-hunting argument - that it's not just an upper-class activity, but something that brings a lot of pleasure to the working classes as well, some of whom are apparently terribly nice people, and they have a natural sense of rhythm you know. With costs up to £100 a brace, plus VAT, a really good day's banging away is going to cost you upwards of a grand. And can you remember ever seeing battered grouse on the menu at your local chippy?

I say we give the little feathered fellows a sporting chance. We all know from 'Catch The Pigeon' that teh technology exists for shoulder-mounted avian weaponry. Your average grouse could pack a couple of howitzers with ease. A pheasant could handle a Colt .45. Coming next season: 'High Noon' meets the Glorious Twelfth. That's a sporting event I'd pay to see.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Great discoveries revisted

I came across an old copy of the Eye yesterday - which, as they say, was odd because I was aiming somewhere completely different - and found this, which made me laugh a great deal (a very egotistical reaction to your own story).

It's from issue no.1146, 25th November 2005.

Congratulations to Ofcom, whose new report 'Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation' establishes after more than a year of research that nigger, cunt and motherfucker are very offensive words.

It also offers the following startling insight: 'Bastard God: Profanity could be offensive, but no one has ever heard of this phrase.'

Friday, May 04, 2007

Keeping Mum

“Oh mum, please stop talking about your sex life,” trumpeted Sophie Parkin, daughter of Molly, in the Daily Mail on 3 May, complaining about a lifetime suffering the “sometimes hilarious humiliation of an outrageous and alcoholic mother's behaviour.” “I understand that my parents' generation were liberated by the revolutionary attitude of the Sixties, but do we really have to discuss everything in lurid detail?” she asked. “Aren't we allowed to keep anything intimate, and therefore special?”

Could this by any chance be the same Sophie Parkin who penned an excoriating 2000-word expose of her teenage daughter’s best friend, Peaches Geldof, for the Mail in May 2005, revealing details of overheard conversations between the girls, bedding arrangements during sleepovers and the relationship between the 16-year-old and her stepmother? It surely could.