Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Now then, now then

Some 20 years ago I was listening to the radio in the car as it played Young Girl by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. When it finished, Tony Blackburn remarked along the lines of 'Jimmy Savile's favourite song, you know' and moved on to the next record.
 That's what it was like. Knowing comments, little winks, comments along the lines of 'he's a one isn't he.'
 Everyone knew. His colleagues, many of the public and certainly the press. Savile's relationship with journalists was good, partly because he made himself available.
 At The Sun in the late eighties, you could ring the porter's office at the Leeds hospital known as 'Jimmy's' and Savile would answer. You'd ring him asking for a quote about a pop star in the news or some other trivial matter and after introducing yourself and before asking a question he'd say 'I never touched her.'
 It was a big joke and a line he used every time, particularly when my colleague Phil Dampier - who, for some reason he called Claude - would ring him.
 Occasionally, a paper would send journalists and photographers out to follow him after a phone call to the desk telling us he'd been picking up young girls.
 He would deny it and when anyone tried to speak to an alleged victim, they would not talk to the press or clammed up. The feeling was they'd been 'got at.'
 The press tried, hard, to pin something on him. They couldn't. Most of the tales were about him picking up young women, but not necessarily underage girls. He was rumoured to spend hours wandering around Regent's Park in London chatting up nannies who used to push the babies of wealthy locals around in Silver Cross prams.
 But occasionally there were rumours of reform schools and children's homes. If anyone got too close there would be a lawyer's letter or, more commonly, a very positive story about his charity work would come out.
 The reputation of the tabloid press may be one of a cavalier attitude to the law but they did not expose Savile because they didn't have proof. And they didn't want to spend millions on libel cases. They also worried that readers would be so pro-Savile they would turn against the paper. Imagine the row over privacy if they had published a story and then lost a libel case.
 If the press got wind of it, there's a fair chance that everyone he worked with knew. Even in his own autobiography he told how the police came into a club when he was a young DJ asking him to look out for a runaway girl, aged around 15. He said he would bring her in if he found her but not until the next morning. And guess what, she came into the club that night, spent the night with him and he took her in the next morning. He admitted it in his autobiography but the police did nothing. Savile had that kind of influence.
 He wasn't the only one. Jonathan King was a well known peruser of the charms of young boys and even the sainted John Peel admitted that he spent some time in San Francisco in the sixties getting blow jobs off 13-year-old girls and had a short lived marriage to a 15-year-old. He claimed she had lied about her age.
 Perhaps it was something in the culture of radio DJs. If any were appalled by Savile's behaviour, they didn't say so publicly. You have to wonder if they said anything privately either. Savile, it is said, was such a moneyearning major figure at the Beeb that they may have worried it would be their word against his and he would prevail. Not one, it seemed, turned round to their boss and said 'I'm not working with that paedo.'
 Esther Rantzen has since said she had her suspicions. Did she at any time tell her BBC bosses that if they did not do something about it, she would refuse to sign the next multi-million pound contract to do That's Life? Doesn't seem like it. But she did go on to found Childline. Oh, the irony.
Those of us from Ilford know Savile as the man who invented the disco. During the mid-50s he was manager of the Ilford Palais, then a dancehall which went on to become one of the area's premier shitholes though it also featured in the video for The Kinks' Come Dancing.
At the time, such places had live bands for people to dance to, with a DJ playing records in between as the band had a break.
One night the band turned up and demanded a pay rise or they wouldn't play. Savile sacked them on the spot. As the crowds turned up he played records, continuously, on an early form of a twin turntable so there were no gaps.
The public danced - to Bill Haley or Elvis or whoever. It was immensely popular and much cheaper than hiring a band. So Savile made it a regular feature. The idea took off and, hey presto, became the first disco. In the world.
How's about that then....Solly

Monday, 10 September 2012

No Khan Do

More than 2,000 people have complained about BBC's sitcom-by-numbers Citizen Khan. If I was Muslim I'd complain too. Because it's simply not funny. And that's what makes it offensive more than the badly-drawn characters in their cartoon Pakistani accents overacted for zero comic effect.
 I think I first heard a Brit-based foreigner complain about 'bloody immigrants' to get a laugh in Mind Your Language in the 1970s and it wasn't that funny then. But even though I've only seen one episode of Citizen Khan, guess what? The dad lamented all those bloody foreigners again. Oh how we laughed.
 But that's not offensive in itself. What's offensive is making a trendy, supposedly ethnically-friendly comedy that does not raise a laugh. Why? Because it does not have to be like that.
 Every religion, every minority, every ethnic group is perfectly capable of laughing at itself in a way that neither offends those it is laughing nor alienates those outsiders looking in.
 I bet we all know Catholics or have Irish friends who think Father Ted is hilarious, Indians who get Goodness Gracious Me, Scots who love Billy Connolly and so on. I even know a black man who thinks Lenny Henry's funny but he's the only person of any colour who does, as far as I can tell.
 You don't have to be Jewish to like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks (who else can make Hitler funny) and it's not being anti-semitic if you laugh at Old Jews Telling Jokes. Though anyone who so much as smirks at Adam Sandler, the world's unfunniest Jew (present company excepted) should be shot.
 But the point is, Jewish humour is based on stereotypes, often exaggerated, that we all recognise. And as long as they are funny they are not offensive.
 Even when they're not funny, they are not necessarily offensive, if the character is rich and colourful and not a one-dimensional caricature. Shylock, Fagin, Dr Legg. Okay, maybe not the latter.
 The Sopranos had one Jewish character of note, a crim who lent money to Tony but his Jewishness and the fact he was a moneylender were both noted with dry sarcasm within the plot. The only Jew I can remember from The Wire was the crooked lawyer. But that's fine. He was a great character.
 What's offensive is not being able to mine the deep vein of humour that runs deep in any religion or ethnic group. Muslims did it with East is East. The main character is that was called Khan too. But it took the mickey out of a range of Islamic traditions - forced marriage, circumcision, banning pork - and made it funny. Muslims laughed. We all did.
 Unfortunately the BBC decided they wanted to fulfil their ethnic quota by commissioning a Muslim comedy and chose the first one that came through the door. It was rubbish but as a friend of mine, who used to work at the Beeb told me, the average commissioning editor at the corporation only knows seven people really well and none of them are likely to be Muslim to bounce an opinion off.
Talking of offensive, there's an advert on Tube platforms that says none of the swear, tears, cheers and amazing achievements of the Olympics would not have been possible without....Visa, Samsung, ATOS and a load of others.
So sod all those who gave up four years of their lives to take part, all the fans who queued for hours to pay for tickets for a massive taxpayer-funded event. It was nothing to do with you, but the good folk who make Head & Shoulders or something.
And while we're at it, does anyone seriously believe that British Airways really wanted no one to fly with them during the Olympics or was it just a calculated stunt to make them look nice and cuddly but ends up making them look like cynical, exploitative, corporate suits? Cunning stunts.
Must fly...Solly

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Verbs You Right

I was looking through a photo album of the kids the other day. One of those old ones. It had a section called 'negative pocket.' I opened it and it said 'these photos are shit.'
So where was I? Oh yeah, the Olympics. I must admit I was cynical but the Paralympics have really inspired me. I've cut my left leg off.
The legacy of the events will live on. Most notably in the English language and not just the mangling it got from Trevor Nelson who, let's face it, compared to Fearne 'Amazing' Cotton sounds like Richard Dimbleby.
It was good to see our athletes medalling, some only bronzed but others silvered and many golded. But it was not just about those who rostrumed, it was about those who evented in general.
Never have so many verbs been added to the lexicon in such a short space of time. Or to put it another way, new words were verbed on a daily basis.
Mind you, even Radio Four have got it wrong. I heard an announcer trying to read out a headline that Britain had got a one-two in the archery. This was obviously a phrase far too modern for our man at the Beeb. He said: "In archery Team GB scored a one. Two in the athletics a new world record...I'm sorry, I'll repeat that. Team GB scored a one. To athletics, a new world record...."
Of course I've enjoyed it. It's sport after all. Which is more important than most things in life.
Doesn't mean there haven't been downsides. The crowds at Stratford Station who fail to notice which way a spotty purple-clad teenager is pointing his great, foamy hand and decide to walk the other way.
Canadians who stand on the wrong side of the elevator.
Jon Snow reminding everyone which competitors live in wartorn countries and showing us why Claire Balding is brilliant at this and he isn't.
Oscar Pistorius who, along with Kevin Pietersen has reminded the world what a bunch of shits white South Africans can be when they want to. With a couple of notable exceptions of course (my next door neighbour and a bloke called Bernard for instance).
American athletes with mild hayfever who reckon it qualifies them for the same swimming events as double amputees.
People posting the same bloody pictures of the Olympic Stadium or handball arena on Facebook as if it's the first time anyone's ever seen them.
And Coldplay.
And then there are the bits which would even cheer up Morrissey. Well maybe not. But I enjoyed:
The Brazilian judo girl on the Jubilee line wearing her bronze medal and letting everyone take her photo with them. And then bursting into tears when the carriage applauded her.
The Spanish triathlete my daughter tried to chat up (in Spanish) who was charming, on the Central Line.
The Tube driver who made all the announcements in French as well as English.
And Danny Boyle's wonderful story of the history of the Labour Party which he successfully disguised as an opening ceremony.
Oh and Claire Balding. Even though she has let her autobiography currently be serialised in the Daily Mail, a paper which once ran quite a nasty story about her sexuality soon after she was 'out' but whose publisher found the best deal it could.
Post-Leveson and are newsrooms losing their sense of humour? If there was one thing about working in a national (or local) paper newsroom it was the bawdy, naughty but hilarious humour that goes on, much as it probably used to in any workplace.
The language was often blue, unPC and not for public consumption but they lightened the mood even on the darkest days and without the pisstaking, impressions and digs, life would have been a lot duller.
Not any more it seems. A senior executive at the Mail on Sunday is being investigated for bullying. It's in Private Eye so I'm not betraying a confidence.
Basically the news editor called his assistant a c**t. (Some of you are sensitive but this is the lingua franca of the newsroom. Whereas 'lingua franca' is not of course.)
If someone was sacked every time they called me a c**t at The Sun the newsroom would have been empty within two weeks. And the editor would have been had up every five seconds. Though in the case of one particular executive, justification as a defence would probably have worked with any judge in the land.
But at the Mail on Sunday it forms the basis of a 12-page complaint. Twelve bloody pages! There's more to it than that but I'm sworn to secrecy. Needless to say it's a pile of bollo.
Leveson may end up doing a lot of good for our industry. Considering the money spent on his inquiry, you'd bloody hope so. But if he kills humour in the newsroom, then it's an even sadder day for Fleet Street that we could have imagined.
Robbers get shot by householders. Great story for the papers because everyone has a view. Which is either: 1.Good for them/an Englishman's home is his castle/hope they killed the bastards/give them a medal.
Or: 2.Why are the only people who legally own shotguns nutters who live in the middle of nowhere.
Last week saw the 15th anniversary of Princess Di's death. I think there was something about it in the Daily Express but I could be wrong.
So that's 15 years of sentimental idiots wrapping a bunch of petrol station flowers to lamp-posts and leaving teddy bears out for people they have never met.
Everyone remembers what they were doing when they heard she'd died. I was listening to Radio Four wondering why on earth they'd invited Polly Toynbee on as a royal 'expert'.
When Tony Blair was in power it was said that the three most dreaded words in the English language were 'John's in charge' when the PM went on holiday.
Though the Olympic Opening Ceremony announcement 'Sir Paul McCartney' instils almost as much dread. As does the byline 'by Mihir Bose' in the Standard. Or 'Kelvin wants you' spoken by his secretary. The point is, whatever the reshuffle, whatever the party and whether it's a room full of rich, white Old Etonians or one with the obligatory crook in a sari, working class buffoon pr former head girl forced to face Jeremy Paxman, no one seems to get it right. And some people don't believe The Thick of It is a documentary.
Cheers for now....Solly

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bernie the dolt

Yes we know it's raining. Yes we know there's a hosepipe ban (in the south). But no we don't need it repeating every single day by every single newspaper, Twitter account holder and television presenter, comedian and pundit. 'Some drought eh?' has become the most boring phrase in Britain.
Bahrain is a bit like our weather. Part Sunni, part Shi'ite.
However, thanks to Bernie Ecclestone's relentless pursuit of adding a few million pounds to his multi billion pound bank account, we all know a bit more about the desert kingdom these days.
If it wasn't for Bernie, the tabloids would not be covering the problems of Bahrain in the way it has. Special mention for the Daily Mirror for a feature this week that explained the situation concisely and informatively. That's what tabloids can do when they try. And if the readers are bored, they're still never more than a couple of pages away from a Simon Cowell story.
You can say what you like about Cowell but when it comes to repulsive billionaires, he's no Bernie Ecclestone.
Of course, Bernie isn't doing it to highlight the injustice and anti-democracy violence in some faraway land. He reckons there's a lot of fuss whipped up by the media who don't really know what's going on.
He knows what's going on because the ruling family have shown him the nice quiet streets of the capital, Manama (now sing the Muppet song, doo doo doodoodoo).
Meanwhile, in the villages beyond the scope of Bernie's prune-faced glare, around 1,000 demonstrators have 'disappeared.' Often helped by Saudi tanks probably sold to them by, er, us.
You always know when you are dealing with a particularly nasty regime when you start to get statistics on the 'disappeared.' El Salvador, Pol Pot, Saddam, the Gulags, Ruanda - every great mass murdering dictatorship has been at it.
In Manama (doo doodoo doo), all you get are convoys of young men from Saudi Arabia driving to the brothels and bars of a country that is run on strict Middle East interpretations of Islam. That is, alcohol and adultery are illegal. Unless you are a rich Sheikh from across the border prepared to pump lots of money into the country. Or part of the US military which still hang out in the region.
So Formula One has educated us all about the state of play out there.
We should thank its midget bosses and jockey-sized drivers, their Pussycat Doll hangers on, the big name alcohol and cigarette companies desperate for the exposure and the fact that machines racing round a circuit attracts around a thousand times as many reporters as an Arab Spring uprising.
Quite why Bernie needs the money is not certain. He's already older than Mr Burns judging by the looks of him and he certainly doesn't spend it on haircuts.
The drivers say that sport has nothing to do with politics. One can only assume they are too young to have heard of apartheid. Or too stupid.
I have deliberately not mentioned my day out at the FA Cup Semi Final up to now. However, what I would say, is that for a national sporting centrepiece, Wembley Stadium has the worst toilet facilities of any ground since Southampton knocked down the Dell.
And that adds to the other downsides such as the lack of atmosphere, the £6.50 burgers and £4.50 pints of beer and hour long wait to get on to a tube train.
Plus making the game a 6pm kick off to ensure that a good majority of the fans were drunk, abusive and more prone to violence (the family next to me walked out early after a rant too many from fans behind them.)
The queues for the gents was round the block a full hour before kick off. I didn't dare venture there at half time in case I missed the second half. Actually, perhaps that wasn't a bad option in retrospect.
Once inside the loos themselves it was chaos and there was no system of queuing (even at lower league clubs you get better organisation).
It's not so bad for the ladies. Like any modern stadium, the organisers like to show how much they care about equality by building as many toilets for women than men. Then they go and host a lot of football matches where 80 per cent of the crowd are male and wonder why there are no queues at the ladies but chaos at the gents.
So, FA. Move the game to a decent time and a decent ground and have done with it.
That's all...Solly

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Pray Silence

If praying is what prevents a 23-year-old footballer from dying, then what's the point of doctors?
 It's not meant to sound flippant. I was there. It was horrible. I desperately hope he survives.
 I was at White Hart Lane yesterday, as I have been for most home games for the past 38 or so years and witnessed scenes that I have never seen before at a football match.
 Like pretty much everyone there, I never saw Fabrice Muama fall to the ground but it was quickly pointed out that a player was down and that no one was near him. I saw his leg jerk off the ground as a couple of players tended to him but this may well have been a reflex action as he was rolled on to his back.
 Confusion turned to grim realisation that this was not a case of fainting or some kind of fit. Seconds later teams of medics had scrambled to the far side of the pitch to deal with him. You could see a machine brought on which was used to try and jump start his heart and players with head in hands, some clearly in tears.
 A man came out of the crowd from the lower East Stand, He was ushered through by fans and stewards, possibly one of those situations where someone shouts "I'm a doctor" and he was applauded on to the pitch and back off again when the medical teams got there.
 I later heard a rumour he owns a heart screening business so I'm not sure if that necessarily makes him a medical expert though one would assume fans would not be so keen to get him on the pitch if he'd shouted 'let me through, I'm a medical equipment salesman.'
 It was genuinely distressing to be there. And shocking too. What was also striking was just how shocked everyone seemed to be. Fans in particular.
 There were some extreme reactions, particularly a young man two seats from me who, coincidentally is also called Solomons (it's not as uncommon at White Hart Lane as it would be, at, say, Spotland.)
 I've seen him over the years, coming to Spurs with his dad since he was a nipper. During the drama, he simply burst into tears. His dad consoled him, others looked away embarrassed, I simply patted him on the shoulder because I had no idea what else I should do. Besides, we might be related.
 Some dads with kids visibly upset were the first to leave, others stayed, perhaps out of ghoulish curiosity or because leaving seemed to be rude and unsupportive.
 No one supposed, for just a minute, that the game was going to go on but people wanted to hear the announcement officially I guess, and when it came, they applauded and then left, quietly and slowly - the exits were rammed anyway but there was no fuss, no arguing. People just made their way out, in turn, and in a very obvious state of bewilderment.
 Perhaps, thinking about it, it was bewilderment rather than shock. Watching a young man collapse and, perhaps, die on the pitch, and see the attempts to revive him, is out of context. You feel like you're invading something that should be private, not played out before a crowd of around 35,000 fans.
 I sit immediately behind a TV camera (when games are being televised live) and the cameraman had turned the lens away from where the action was happening, under orders from the ESPN management. Later, I wondered if we should have all done the same. But, appallingly perhaps, you can't.
 The usual ground noise was gone. On the way out everyone was looking into their smartphones to get the latest newsflash - many were waiting to hear if he had died, I imagine. That's not morbid, but a kind of closure. After all, we had witnessed something dreadful but without a conclusion and that can be even more upsetting.
 Then the Twitter cavalcade started. Players Tweeted 'pray for Fabrice'. Managers came on to the radio to say 'he's in our prayers' and even before that, on the pitch, some players were notably praying.
 I wonder if they considered why their religious belief would help the player now when it hadn't stopped him having a heart attack in the first place. Does God let these things happen to see if we pray for them to get better? And if that's the case, why do people die suddenly without a chance to see if their faith can be resurrected.
 Or indeed, all those millions of others who die of heart attacks, cancer, war, famine and whatever other fate befalls them. Many of those are probably in someone's prayers every night.
 And if praying is all it takes to bring people back to life, then did we need the wonderful medics, doctors and St John's Ambulance lot who got to the player within two minutes of his collapse.
 After all it is they, and not God, who may, just, have given him a chance to live.
 Spurs right-back and a neighbour of mine, Kyle Walker, Tweeted 'even if you aren't religious, pray for Muamba.' Poor Kyle, he doesn't quite get this whole religion thing does he?
 You see, neighbourino, there's no point praying to a God you don't believe in - it doesn't make sense and if there is a God, he's probably saying 'Oh, NOW you want my help do you?'
 But I accept the sentiment. Although it would have been nice to see a few more players Tweet about how brilliant the medical staff from both clubs were in that situation.
 So why others put their faith in an ancient myth of which there is no proof, I'll put my faith in science, medicine and the hard work and dedication of people who have gone through years of training to deal with this kind of incident.
 I'll hope for his recovery as much as anyone else in the country but forgive me if I don't pray for it.
Get well soon, young man. And if you do, don't thank God, thank doctors....Solly

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cor Blimey Trousers

Why do football managers have their initials on their track suit tops? I've never been able to work it out. Surely everyone else knows who they are. Perhaps it's for the laundry staff so they can hand them back but then why doesn't everyone have their initials on their training kit?
And the Fulham staff, for instance, have got to realise which king-sized zip up top belongs to Martin Jol without needing the letters MJ on it.
Which leads to the obvious conclusion that it's either vanity or perhaps one manager started it all off many years ago and the others have simply followed.
The government wants to step up the old Thatcherite policy of buy-your-own council homes after a few years of Labour trying to discourage it.
It was, of course, introduced in order to get more Tory votes in working class areas and succeeded, in particular in the kind of towns built to cope with the overflow from major cities - the British version of white flight. Here in the south it helped the Conservatives to win seats like Basildon and Harlow for instance.
But with an estimated 74,000 council flats and houses a year going private, it does create an enormous shortfall of public housing. That, in turn, lets in enterprising private landlords who can secure a decent and guaranteed rental income from a local authority.
It also leads to six bedroomed houses in Hampstead being rented out to a family of 11 Eastern European benefits claimants which in turn sparks the kind of Daily Mail protest that so worries the Tories.
Now I'm not against working class people moving from council to private. I did it, when my parents went from an East End council house to their first home for instance. It was the first time any of us had lived in a house that wasn't owned either by a council or a brewery.
But how about some kind of rule that for every council house bought by its tenants, the local authority has to provide another one of its own to replace it?
What's the point of the Halifax? Apart from its ability to make the worst adverts on television, is there really any need for this High Street chain of banks?
The Halifax is owned by the pisspoor HBOS group which in turn was foisted onto the much better-run Lloyds TSB (and the name TSB might as well be ditched too, come to think of it.)
This means the group that owns Lloyds Banks in the High Street also owns Halifax Banks in the High Street.
So you have the ridiculous site of a Lloyds Bank just a few doors down from a Halifax with both offering pretty much the same products to the same kind of customers.
It might be different if the Halifax was still a good old northern run building society which put its customers first.
And that's what Lloyds thinks. It reckons the Halifax has a bit more of a working class image which attracts a different set of customers that Lloyds itself.
This comes from the days when it was mutually run for the benefit of cloth cap northerners who wanted a safe haven for what little they could save in order to build up a nestegg.
Old style building societies - when we had the Abbey and the Halifax and the Woolwich and all those others that are now banks - used to have something like 15 times as much money in savings as it had in loans. Which of course makes it far harder to suddenly go bust owing billions of pounds in failed Ponzi-style mortgage schemes.
But it's not like that any more. The Halifax is nows a greedy, run of the mill bank famous for making crap adverts, overweight staff and tacky interiors.
Having a Bank of Scotland chain makes a bit more sense, if only to satisfy the sweaties and have some kind of historic, national identity north of the border. Though the days when having the word 'Scotland' in a bank's title meant trustworthy and good with money went out the window around the time Fred Goodwin did to the country what he did to that pretty, female worker in his department.
But Lloyds now has a whopping great chunk of our money helping it get through these difficult times (don't mention it lads). And a lot of that is now spent on a chain of banks, expensive promotions and the multimillion pound marketing and advertising budget that no longer has a purpose.
So scrap the Halifax, switch the accounts to Lloyds (or one of it's many other trading names) and spend the money saved on paying off the debt to the taxpayer.
Talking of adverts, there is a long running commercial for the Ford Focus which you can't avoid. It shows some Germanic sort called Mattheus wasting his time driving around Europe visiting the sites of 'his favourite book' on two tanks of fuel.
His favourite book happens to be The Da Vinci Code, which suggests Mattheus is one of those people who finds it hard to read without his mouth moving at the same time.
Or perhaps he's only ever had three books and he's already coloured in the other two.
Anyhoo, the point is that when the advert was first shown, the voiceover said, quite clearly 'his favourite book, The Da Vinci Code'. But within a couple of weeks they had edited this down to 'his favourite book' without ever saying what it was.
Were Ford embarrassed by the fact it couldn't find a Focus owner who had ever read a decent novel? Or did Dan Brown feel he was not a Ford-type of guy and order the name of the book to be removed.
So I rang Ford. And they said that the reason they edited the advert was because having too much information in it distracted the viewers from the overall product and message.
Yes, that's right. Potential Ford Focus buyers are so distracted by hearing the words 'The Da Vinci Code' that they plum forget what car was being advertised.
On the programme Room 101 (a phrase from the book 1984 which has inspired me to buy a Ford Focus and try and visit all the places named in the novel) guests were asked to choose something that really annoys them they could banish forever. Predictably, celebrity chefs were picked. They were picked by the panel show fixture Micky Flanagan who has only got to appear on Deal or No Deal and Question Time and then we can have him on the our screens on a permanent 24-hour loop.
And the reason he picked them? Because, in his words, every time you turn on the TV there's a celebrity chef. No. Every time you turn on the TV there's Micky 'I'm a geezer' Flanagan.
If Catholics are against having gay marriages in church because they can invent a biblical reason why it's God wouldn't approve, then should they not have a medical examination for every bride to make sure she's a virgin and a criminal records check on every prospective bride and groom to make sure they have never been convicted of any crime that is specifically mentioned in the bible?
Of course, they could start with their own priests.
Thus endeth the rant....cheers, Solly

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Dear reader, I married her

Nothing says I Love You on Valentine's Day quite as much as a Smiths/Morrissey song but I'm torn between Girlfriend in a Coma and You're The One For Me Fatty.
I don't know what the fuss is about. As they say, if you lock your wife and your dog in a shed for an hour, guess which one is happier to see you when you open the door.
OK officer, it's a fair cop. Come and slip the cuffs on and load me into the back of the Black Maria, I'm guilty.
You see, at the Ilford CID Christmas party of 1983 we ended up at the Red Lion and I'm pretty sure I put into the whipround that saw several of our local Regan and Carter lookalikes get served with a large Bell's or two.
In return I was obviously hoping that at my twice weekly police calls for the Ilford Recorder I would be able to ask one or two detectives a question here or there and get more than the standard two word response.
If only it had stayed there, maybe I would only be looking at community service. But I couldn't stop. Every Thursday I'd pick up a pile of newly published papers and drive round to the various fire stations on my beat and hand out free copies so they could read my latest Folk Focus column or look through the classifieds to buy a second hand Cortina from the Murder Mile showrooms of Seven Kings High Road.
In return I'd get a cup of tea and a Lincoln biscuit, paid for no doubt by honest GLC ratepayers. There's a law against that you know. At least there is now that they've dusted off the 1906 Bribery Act.
There's other TICs too. I occasionally bought a pint for local press officers from Redbridge Council, mainly the two old blokes who had been there when 'all this was fields' but more so when a newly graduated young lady joined them.
In fact I not only bought her a white wine spritzer at The Angel, and then claim it on expenses, I bought her several more at The Warren Wood and, in a desperate quest to get the inside track on the Fairlop Waters Planning Sub-Committee decisions ahead of deadline, I even had sex with her. That was a bit harder to put on expenses I must admit.
To her credit, she never gave me any inside information on council matters. And 26 years later we're married with two teenage children and a labrador. She still doesn't give me any decent stories but perhaps that's because we don't have sex as often either.
Naturally I married her in order that, decades later, if plod called round at 6am she wouldn't have to testify against me. It's an extreme measure, I grant you, but it's always best to plan ahead.
As a journalist and a tabloid one, and a former Sun man, I'm appalled at the arrests of several of my former colleagues including a couple of good mates this week.
But I'm not going to beat my chest about it like Richard Littlejohn and Trevor Kavanagh did, so brilliantly in the Mail and Sun this week.
And there's a simple reason for that. No one gives a shit if journalists get arrested. We can bleat on as much as we like about civil liberties and freedom of speech but that just makes readers turn round and say 'you were not so bothered when the police shot a Brazilian bloke on the Tube' or any other number of rights' abuses gleefully reported in the tabloids.
Both Trevor and Richard's pieces were, I suspect, written more for the benefit of their comrades in the industry - what are known colloquially as tabloid scum - rather than the general populace.
One look at the comments section under their stories quickly tells you that.
There is a simple fact. Journalists have been buying drinks for coppers for hundreds of years. Many of those that did it on local papers now work for organisations like the BBC and The Guardian.
Senior executives on newspapers have gone further. In return for considerable favours they have paid considerable amounts. I suppose in the eyes of the law, a few pints at the Red Lion for a detective constable is no different to a fully paid weekend in a spa for a chief constable.
But there is a world of difference. And there's a world of difference in those executives invited to present themselves at their local nick and a van full of anti-terrorist officers taken off other duties to burst into the house of a 67-year-old Fleet Street legend who helped literally scores of us when we started our Fleet Street careers, going through his draws, looking under his floorboards and searching his attic.
As I said, there are a lot of decent reporters on broadsheets and broadcast who have, at some time, bought a drink for a public servant, not to mention nicking a family photograph by pushing a coathanger through a letterbox.
I could name names but then I'm not a dirty little grass like Will Lewis or Simon Greenberg, dobbing on former mates to save their own skins. Though I doubt it will save their reputations. Already hated by the public, they are now universally hated by journalists too. Nice going boys. Did they teach you that at Harvard?
As they should say on Crimewatch, don't have nightmares - we're only tabloid scum. Evening all...Solly