Thursday, October 30, 2008

So, farewell then, Lesley Douglas

ooh ooh ooh! D'you think that means there's more chance of George Lamb getting sacked now, and I will be able to go back to listening to 6music in the mornings?

Alright, bored now, move on

A quick analysis of the state of the world, according to this morning's news bulletins:

Top global priority - BBC director general is in a meeting

Second string - Some sort of genocide going on in Congo, apparently

Monday, October 27, 2008

What happens in situations like this at places other than the BBC...

"Ofcom has hit Emap with the largest fine ever levied against a UK radio company - £175,000 - after a series of complaints about Kiss FM's former breakfast show host, Bam Bam… concerning wind-up calls. One call was to a man that had just been made redundant. Ofcom said the broadcaster's treatment of the man was 'totally unacceptable'.
'They showed a serious disregard for consequences of their actions and their behaviour was inconsistent with the necessary care that broadcasters would reasonably be expected to take to avoid potential unfairness and unwarranted infringment of privacy.'
Emap told Ofcom it agreed that the call was 'a horrible intrusion into someone's privacy and degrading someone in public ... it was also extremely bad for the radio station' and descibed the decision to broadcast the item (which was pre-recorded) as 'inexplicable'."
Media Guardian, June 2006

Mind you, according to the Ofcom website it turns out they could take action in this case:

"Ofcom can consider complaints about programmes transmitted by all broadcasters licensed in the UK as well as the BBC and S4C. However, we cannot consider complaints about accuracy in BBC TV and radio news or complaints about impartiality in BBC TV and radio programmes. These complaints have to be dealt with by the BBC."

And a £175,000 fine would be... ooh, ten and a half-day's salary for Jonathan Ross, wouldn't it?

EDIT ON TUESDAY MORNING: And indeed, they are: Ofcom to launch BBC Brand Inquiry

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lever Park

This is how I described the ruined estate of William Lever at Rivington, in my book The King Of Sunlight (As recommended on 'A Good Read' on Radio 4!).

"Follow the grass-pocked macadam road across the fields, a stumbling parabola up into the woods that cling to the side of the hill. It's only when you reach the shade of the trees that you realize they are not what they seem; though the branches are as gnarled and intertwined as the spookiest of fairy-tale forests, this woodland is barely a century old. It's the rhododendrons that give it away. Nineteenth-century British landowners planted them like tom-cats laying down scent: you are now entering our territory, beware, Big House ahead. But money comes and money goes, while plants that were built to survive the snowstorms of the Himalayas prosper, and these rich green bushes have long since spread and multiplied across the hillside, swamping paths and bridges and summerhouses on their way. For beneath the rhododendrons, the leaf-mould and bracken and the detritus of eighty years of neglect, there is a formal garden here. A series of terraces is etched into the sandstone like the levels of Dante's inferno, their once formal planting sprawling out and spilling between levels in the darkness beneath the trees. A flight of 365 steps snakes steeply between them; one for each day of the year, bisected by four paths which were built to represent the seasons but have long since mulched down into a year-long autumn twilight. The upward path is treacherous; the steps irregular and slippery underfoot. You're exhausted before you've even made it up the first month's worth.

A hundred years ago, there were lions round here. And zebras, and emus, and buffalo and yak in specially built paddocks, not to mention the flocks of flamingos that lived on the Japanese pond further up the hill, laid out with ornamental lamps and pagodas as a living copy of the willow-pattern plate. There was every intention of stocking the caves that had been specially bored into the hillside with bears, too, but somehow it never quite happened. The man behind this fantasy made real, this other Eden in Lancashire, had moved on to another project by then - reading a book about the history of Liverpool Castle and its ruination by Cromwell's armies, he had been seized by the similarity between its site and the banks of the reservoir below, and decided to build a full-size, pre-ruined replica of it instead. Like you do."

It is one of the most magical, beautiful, extraordinary places in England. And a number of locals are very upset about the felling of a number of trees and the pushing through of planning permission for an adventure centre called "Go Ape" by the local council using delegated powers, which mean the public weren't consulted.

"Go Ape" is a series of tree-top walkways, tarzan swings and aerial runways, which it must be admitted sounds pretty aces - until you consult their website and find out that each visit will cost £45 per 10-15 year-old child and the adult who's obliged to accompany them. When he gave the land on which it will stand to the people of Bolton in 1901, Lever was very specific: it had to "be used as a Public Park for the use and enjoyment of the Public for ever... the purpose for which the Park is intended is its free and uninterrupted enjoyment by the Public."

They're trying to build one in Glasgow's Pollock Park, too, next to the Burrell Collection, my favourite art gallery in the world, which makes me think they've got something personal against me.

The Friends of Lever Park's campaign website is here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Next week: Andrew Alexander buffs his scrotum

Sweet jesus. Today's Daily Mail has actually devoted a full double page spread to Amanda Platell's wrinkly tits.

(I promise that description is not just me being gratuitously offensive. Click on the link if you don't believe me. The Femail pages do rampant misogyny so much better than I ever could...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things that happen when (completely unexpectedly) your book features on Radio 4

1. That nice Patricia Routledge off of Hetty Wainthrop says nice things about you.

2. This happens on Amazon:

3. Your mum phones you up, all proud.

Which was nice...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

11th Doctor: shock casting news

Sod editing a national magazine. Never mind getting on the front page of the Times. Screw the publication of my first book. This is without doubt, and by a very long way, the most exciting thing that's ever happened in my career:

Oh, alright then. I'm going to be interviewed next month for a DVD extra, about dalek jokes and the Birtspeak column in Private Eye. But deep inside of me - right down near the magnetic core, pass the Slither and turn left - there's a five-year-old with a Playmobil-scale Tardis made out of an old milk carton and recurring nightmares about what happens at Mistfall on Alzarius - who is very, very, very happy indeed.

0 out of 7

I see they still haven't libel-proofed the comments mechanism on the Daily Express website, then.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little by name...

Ah, how refreshing to read Richard Littlejohn in the Mail last week:

"Lord Sleaze and the Lady Reinaldo will continue to receive invitations to garden parties at the palace long after New Labour is a distant memory."

It's just like old times:

January 2007: "If Mandy and Reinaldo want a bay-bee, all they have to do is turn up at Haringey Town Hall and Millie Tant will be only too happy to offer them an exciting selection of children in a wide range of shapes, genders, creeds and colours."

November 2006: "Mandy does get a £21,000 housing allowance, but I would imagine that all goes towards paying for his Brussels residence in the exquisitely-named Rue des Six Jeunes Hommes, where he holds court with his Madame Pompadour, Reinaldo."

May 2006: "Our chief stewardess in our First Class cabin is Mandy, who will be assisted by the lovely Reinaldo."

September 2005: " Speaking of Mandy, I notice that his boyfriend, Reinaldo, has become a British citizen. That's nice for him, although no one has ever explained how he obtained a visa to live here in the first place. Did Mandelson pull any strings? Did Reinaldo receive preferential treatment as the live-in lover of a Labour minister?"

February 2005: "Peter and Reinaldo fly to Brazil, where they practise the ancient ritual of choking the chicken."

July 2004: "By the time the appointment was announced officially, Reinaldo was already checking out curtain fabrics for the new all-expenses-paid pad in Brussels.

September 2003: "Mandy is lucky he didn’t have to spend a year as prison bitch to a hairy-arsed lifer from Bermondsey, which would have been no substitute for the tender caresses of the fragrant Reinaldo."

May 2002: "The fact that he was gay was irrelevant. The same question would have been asked had Reinaldo been a female flamenco dancer called Reinalda."

December 2001: "Mandy's known as something of a karaoke virtuoso. A couple of songs wouldn't be too much to ask. My Way, followed by I Will Survive, accompanied by his lovely assistant Reinaldo on backing vocals, would liven up any party."

August 2001: "he could always find himself a leading politician to move in with. I should think there's probably a spare bed at Shaun Woodward's place, in the next room to Mandy and Reinaldo."

June 2001: "Peter Mandelson was on stage, delivering his rendition of Frank Sinatra's My Way. This column has obtained an exclusive live recording of this brand-new version - But what I did, I did it all/ For my Reinaldo./ Yes there were times/ I'm sure you knew./ When I blew off/ More than I could chew..."

January 2001: "Talk about classic bunny-boiler behaviour. Except that in Mandy's case, the bunny would be free-range lapin, poached in a light bouillon with a fragrant bouquet garni and served over polenta by a Filipino boy in unfeasibly tight trousers... I have a vision of Mandy strolling round an exhibition of wooden elephants, with a terminally-bored, gum-chewing Reinaldo hanging on his arm wanting to know when they can go to Maxim's for lunch."

And so on, forever.

It was bugging me for ages what this reminded me of. And then in Littlejohn's own paper, I read the latest in the seemingly endless whinge-fest from Rachel Royce: "How could my ex-husband Rod Liddle give his young floozy the white wedding I was denied - and make my children lie about it?"

Richard - honey - you need to get over it. I know it's hard to hear, but he was just never that in to you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Polly Lingual

Sam Leith - lovely man, once assured me I wasn't the worst reporter ever to work on the Peterborough column on the Daily Telegraph - is that paper's literary editor, and a while back he cast a critical eye over Polly Toynbee's prose style.

Yes, it's a couple of weeks old, but it gives me the chance to -

a) point out that while Stephen Glover may have been the latest to join in "the new sport, common to all newspapers but her own, of juxtaposing what she wrote a year ago about Gordon Brown with what she writes these days", I did it before him, in the Eye.

b) share with you my favourite spiral of mixed metaphors, from the masterpiece that was Gina G's I Belong To You, released in 1996:

If I had wings
I could fly
Like a sweet song
That makes you cry
Like a river
To the sea
I hear you calling
Out to me.

Go on. Parse that any way you like, and see if you can work out what the hell she's on about...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Week four, and the paint is probably best described as "tacky" to the touch

The Times kicked off a new series today: Damian Whitworth is going to try and not switch his central heating on until he, er, does.

"Follow Damian Whitworth's progress every week" it offers. I will - with fascination, because frankly, he's pushing it to try and get 600 words out of the topic today.

If anyone at the Times is interested, I've got a fascinating story of how I'm not planning to tidy up my shed any time soon. I reckon it would run to at least 52 installements, 500 words a time...

Ronnie Hazelhurst was in S Club 7, too...

It's always a bit of a surprise to be reminded that things you write have a life beyond being sent to the sub-editors on press day - I have on occasion had to forcibly restrain myself from telling people on trains "what are you doing turning the page, you haven't shown proper appreciation for my bits in Street of Shame yet" - so it's gratifying to have had a demonstrable effect in the real world.

Well, alright, not the real world. Wikipedia. They've just redrafted their editorial guidelines as a result of something I wrote last issue.

"Some news organisations have used Wikipedia articles as the sole source for their work. To avoid this indirect self-referencing, editors should ensure that material from news organisations is not the only existing source outside of Wikipedia. Generally, sources that predate the material's inclusion in Wikipedia are preferable."

Here's the article in question:

Idly sabotaging the user-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia following the UEFA cup draw back in August, a user of the b3ta web forum going by the name of “godspants” made a few amendments to the entry for Cypriot team Omonia Nicosia. He noted that they were sponsored by Natasha Kaplinsky, that their former players included Jean Claude Van Damme and Richard Clayderman, and claimed that “A small but loyal group of fans are lovingly called ‘The Zany Ones’ - they like to wear hats made from discarded shoes and have a song about a little potato.” As you do.

Writing up his pre-match report on Omonia’s match against Manchester City for the Daily Mirror on 18 September, sports hack David Anderson decided to do some in-depth research. Thus it was that Mirror readers were informed that City manager “Mark Hughes will not tolerate any slip-ups against the Cypriot side, whose fans are known as the ‘Zany Ones’ and wear hats made from shoes”.

Brilliantly, by the rules of Wikipedia – which relies on “verifiablility - whether readers are able to check that material added has already been published by a reliable, third-party source” such as “mainstream newspapers” – this is now officially true.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Prick upset by prick joke

An Algonquin Round Table-esque retort from Joe Mott's column in last week's Daily Star Sunday:

"Once respected media-mocking magazine Private Eye has taken to discussing the size of my Wilson. Apparently I've got a small one. Two things spring to mind here. 1: They must have fallen on hard times to sink this low and 2: Given my notoriously impressive track record with most of the hottest women in Medialand, I'm surprised there wasn't a female member of staff there available to put them right.

I can only conclude every woman on the mag is a hideous river pig."

Joe Mott looks like this.

Phwoar. Shame he's got such a tiny cock, isn't it?