Friday, June 20, 2008

Who wants to see Kay Burley having a fight?

Watch Kay Burley put some of those skills Frank Partridge taught her to good use outside Uxbridge magistrates court in Sky's own footage here. Enda "my parents were dyslexic and hoping for a girl" Brady manages not to mention it in the voiceover, but you can clearly see at around 1.10 the moment when la Burley realises her cunning plan of hiding round the corner and barging into the crowd shouting "let me through, I'm a close personal friend" hasn't worked, and unleashes hell.

Full stills of girl-on-girl action available, as ever, on the Daily Mail website.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And while we're on the topic of St Kilda...

... big up to Uncle Finlay.

Books I never wrote, no.1

Prompted by the BBC1 programme about St Kilda tonight (and can I just point out that, much as I would still love to go there, it only took me about 20 minutes in the Mitchell library in Glasgow to find the answers to the questions "Who were the strange and remarkable St Kildans? Why did they desert the islands 80 years ago?"), I dug out a very old and clunky laptop and looked up the pitch for Islanders, the book I pitched to publishers six years ago which eventually, by a curious process, became The King of Sunlight.

Here's the introduction. If it makes you want to read on... you can't.

Start with a love story.

Once upon a time – around three billion years ago – a large lump of rock packed its metaphorical backpack, waved goodbye to the super-continent of Laurentia where it had grown up, and sailed off to see the world.

Like any young, good-looking land mass it had some fun on the way, enjoying some hot geological action with the other rocks it came into contact with. For a few hundred million years it shacked up with another continent south of the equator, but when that relationship petered out it spent a few aeons as a merry singleton, drifting around the southern hemisphere partying hard. Another lengthy dalliance, this time with North America, came to nothing, and it soon found itself at a loose end, wandering around the Iapetus ocean wondering if at 2.9billion years old it wasn’t getting a bit too old for this sort of thing, and what it should do with the rest of its life.

That’s when it happened. Over the horizon floated another young rock, this one a newcomer to the travelling scene, just making the first move out of the parental home in North Europe. Their shores locked across a crowded primeval sea. It was obvious this one was going to last. They swapped fault-lines, settled down in a temperate spot in the North Atlantic, and made a baby.

That baby has been called by many names, but we’ll settle on the one by which we know it best: Great Britain. Mummy rock was, roughly speaking, Scotland, and Daddy rock was England and Wales. It was a largely happy, if tempestuous marriage (we’ll gloss over the seven million year itch that saw Scotland tempted to stray, creating Loch Ness in the process), but you could hardly say Great Britain grew up as the most well-adjusted of countries.

For a start it had a difficult adolescence, with acne on a horrendous scale. Great volcanic eruptions burst up across its north-western face, spurting pus-like magma miles out into the ocean. That, and the usual growing pains, created the five hundred or so islands that cluster down the coast of Britain from the Outer Hebrides through Skye, Arran, Ailsa Craig, the Isle of Man, all the way down to Lundy in the Bristol Channel. They ranged from sheer rocks uninhabitable to any but the most determined of seabirds, to fertile fortresses that provided everything your average Stone Age man could want from a home. Later they provided handy stopping-off points for the Vikings, who island-hopped their way down the coast of Britain like package-holidaymakers in Greece, only marginally more violent. And with hornier helmets.

Later, all grown up and as united as it was ever going to be, Britain decided to get some invasion action of its own. This drizzly cluster of tiny rocks off the coast of Europe became the biggest landowner in the world, singling out every country of a different hue to itself and remorselessly colouring them in a garish shade of pink till the globe looked like one of Imperial Barbie’s more garish accessories. It was the empire on which the sun never sets. That was actually just a convenient coincidence of astronomy, but the mood Britain was in, it was prepared to take the credit for anything.

Of course it couldn’t last. The British were persuaded to return their colonies to their rightful owners, largely because once they’d nicked all the decent stuff and killed half the people, they weren’t much use to them any more, and with a last, defiant blast of the national anthem, the Empire dwindled away to a few tiny spots in the middle of the screen at closedown. These days hardly anyone bar the Queen and a few other high-profile tax evaders knows that places like the British Virgin Islands, Anguila, Ascension Island and the Turks and Caicos are still there. The British Dependencies are like distant relatives on the side of the family you don’t talk about, discreetly helped out when they get themselves into trouble (Montserrat), stonily ignored when they get noisy at parties (Gibraltar), or fiercely defended when the right matriach comes on strong about family (the Falklands).

And that is Great Britain, 2002. Never has a nation been more defined by its island status. As referenda loom, the Gibraltarians scrabble desperately to be allowed to stay British, while back home we’re foaming at the mouth not to be European. An island surrounded by other islands is engaged in the constant business of subdivision, finding islands even where none exist. After ceding home rule to Scotland and Wales in 1998, England has plunged further into its customary state of not-so-splendid isolation, worrying about celebrating its saint’s day, fretting about the football, and unsure whether or not waving a Union Jack at Cliff Richard to celebrate the golden jubilee is an ironic gesture. Like Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt, we can stir ourselves into passion over

This fortress built by nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

without noticing that it’s nothing of the sort. It’s a confused little country with arbitrary boundaries and ragged edges surrounded by handy little land-masses that know exactly what they want, thank you very much, and are generally pretty happy to be left to get on with it.

To find out how they do just that, I decided to tour the outer British Isles, taking my mainland sensibilities and prejudices and giving them a good shake-out along the way. I wanted to know about the practicalities and romance of island living, the physical realities and the mental state of what it means to be an islander. Like Piglet, I wanted to find out what it felt like to be Entirely Surrounded By Water. I was off to meet the Islanders.

Headline of the day

... comes from the Daily Mail's random-word generator:

Ethiopian boy who was born 'inside-out' was saved by surgeon husband of actress Natascha McElhone

I don't know why that came into my head just then...

Gordon's got a new friend.

It was Big Willy time at Leicester Square in London last night for the premiere of WILL SMITH action flick Hancock.

It sounds like an event for Clapham Common but couldn’t have been a more cleancut affair when I met the Hollywood hero.

I had Tom Anderson from MySpace in the office the other day, who is officially the world’s most popular man with over 210million friends.

But Mr Smith could give him a run for his money judging by the turnout at the huge opening for this cracking film.

Will had a joke at my expense when I asked if he’d played footie with DAVID BECKHAM yet.

He said: "Football? I think you’ll find you mean soccer."

If he wasn’t such a nice bloke I would have shown Big Willy my two-footed tackle.

And - bless him - he's even started dressing like Craig from Hollyoaks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reader feedback

Delighted as I am that Liz Jones noticed me flicking bogies in her direction:

A few weeks ago, Private Eye magazine wrote a piece about the amount I spend on clothes, and how my profligate, high-end spending not only ended my marriage (they wrote that I got divorced because my husband refused to spend more than £300 on my Christmas present), but also my friendships (I had written a piece about how my friend Lucy blows more than £400 a week on food for her four children, in which I commented: 'Why on earth doesn't she learn how to "make do"?').

The magazine pointed out that while criticising children for eating food, I had just spent £585 on a pair of silver leggings by Les Chiffoniers.

... I refuse to believe that it took someone as self-obsessed as her six bloody months to get round to reading something that featured her name.

What's wrong with this picture?

... which the Sun has used to illustrate its latest "drunk teens" scare?

Of course, it it had been taken on behalf of the Mirror, the photographer wouldn't just have managed to open the booze for her - he'd have taken her order for the offy-trip in the first place, as this story in the current Eye - the lead in Street of Shame, don't you know - demonstrates:

“A vow to curb teenage drinkers was exposed as a sham yesterday with figures showing kids go unpunished,” declared the Mirror last Saturday. “In the past three years, only 34 children have been prosecuted for buying booze. And just seven landlords got the top £1,000 fine for selling booze to underage drinkers.”

Curiously, the paper chose to overlook another shining example of the law going easy on an adult who supplied booze to children. Just one day previously a 28-year-old journalist from the South West News Service agency had accepted a caution from Avon and Somerset Police for giving cider and alcopops to a group of 16-year-olds in Bristol, so that they could pose for a series of photographs intended to illustrate an article on underage drinking for… the Mirror. The hapless hack told the youngsters they were welcome to hold on to the booze when the shoot was finished – and several of them went on to be involved later that night in what police describe as “a serious disorder incident” which resulted in a teenager being left in a coma for several weeks.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Free Vashta Nerada with every copy

Here, on the top shelf in my office, are a bunch of copies of my book The King of Sunlight, published in 2004:

And here is a still from last Saturday's Doctor Who, set in the biggest library in the universe, over three thousand years in the future:

Clearly - and I'm not interested here in any smart comments from anyone who watched Doctor Who Confidential and saw the nice man explaining about how they made the false book spines and lit them in different colours for different scenes - I wrote one of the key texts of the 51st century.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Eye: pleasing people's mums since 1961.

It's always nice to get feedback.

And even more pleasing when reading all the way to the end to discover that while at the time you thought "barlesque: I wonder if they realise how much like twatty Charlie Brooker-penned web developers they sound", of course they did...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obviously I'd only go out with her if she's got a fit friend for you, mate...

The rather sweet friendship between the Sun's Gordon Smart and his deputy Pete Samson continues to blossom. Yesterday Gordon and Pete found some rudie pictures by the side of the railway line and Pete got an erection, yes you did, you totally did, don't lie, it was HILARIOUS.

Bizarre Deputy Editor Pete Samson clocked these pictures yesterday and asked the office if we had seen Abbey Clancey’s “fun suit”.

A confusion of “funbags” and “play suit” had occurred as his mind frantically tried to process the images without letting his obvious excitement get out of control.

The end result was embarrassing and fair punishment for trying to impress the girls with his fashion knowledge.

Tomorrow they plan to just fill the pages of Bizarre with big sketches of hairy willies and the headline "Smarty is a bender".

Monday, June 02, 2008

That emo protest in full

Perhaps. But I for one still think there are unanswered questions about the link between MCR and autism.