Notes from down table

The Grey Cardigan: April column

ANOTHER WEIRD month on the Evening Beast. Our dispirited and depleted staff limp on, leaderless, while speculation abounds about the possible replacement for our former editor Crystal Tits. Alistair, her fey deputy, contents himself with survival and stock-taking the diminishing pile of notebooks in the stationery drawer.

 

I spend the week before Easter patrolling our pages and removing pitiful seasonal puns. Now reporters are allowed, nay forced, to write headlines, we're suffering from some abysmal efforts. Remember those black books of dodgy cuttings kept by the subs? We'd be filling one a week at the moment.

 

So out come 'eggstraordinary'and 'eggcellent"; 'eggsceptional'and 'eggsciting".

 

It's truly eggscrutiating. And eggsasperating. It's as if they've distilled every bad heading they've ever read and deduced that that's what subs do. Maybe it's our own fault. Maybe we're just a cardiganned cliché these days, impaled on our own stereotypical spikes.

 

BEING IN the office on Maundy Thursday is a sad day, but marked by good memories. I can recall the times when the industry would have the day off, no newspapers being published on Good Friday, and decamp en masse to the seaside on a beer-laden charabanc. We'd invade a willing country pub for a hearty breakfast on the way, pitch up in Blackpool before lunch, overdo the Australian all-ins at Yates's Wine Lodge, eat greasy fish and chips and alarmingly pink candy floss, settle a few scores with the stonehands in a coach park scuffle, and end up chucking half crowns into a pint pot for a superannuated stripper to give us a 'special' show in a pub in Haydock on the way home.

 

Of course we weren't the only newspaper in town, and on one memorable occasion our office tea boy passed out and was bundled into the boot of a different coach. He had to spend the next week working in the newsroom of a Glasgow daily before accumulating sufficient funds to pay his own fare home. Happy days.

 

Now the machine just rolls on, ignorant of tradition, or family, or simple humanity. And all those unwilling readers must be delighted to have a wafer-thin, sub-standard local rag thrust through their letterboxes on a Bank Holiday afternoon. And oh how they must laugh at that eggstravagant wordplay.

 

A FRIEND and former colleague of mine has just lost his job as an editor so, as you do, you keep in touch asking how the poor chap is doing – poor being the operative word since the big pay-offs went out of the window.

 

It turns out that he'd been down to his local JobCentre, suited and booted and carrying a briefcase, only to be confronted with the spectacle of two tramps in the queue fighting over a can of Special Brew. He tells me he stood there, just six weeks after being a man of some substance in society, and wondered where it had all gone wrong. We both agreed that it was all Johnston '35 per cent' Press's fault.

 

It got worse. 'I'll take anything,'he told the glassy-eyed woman behind the security screen, who was clearly already on the pop at 10.30am. 'Even a driving job".

 

The woman burped and laughed. 'A driving job? You? You must be joking."

 

'No,'he insisted. 'I'll do anything to tide me over."

 

'Listen,'she said. 'The last driving job we had in here was five months ago and we had over 100 applications for it. You'd have stood no chance."

 

Much chastened, my man retreated to the nearest hostelry and joined the two tramps, now amicably sinking cheap cider. He's 50 years old and has been in the trade since he left school. What on earth have we come to?

 

AS THE country gradually regresses to the 1980s, with recession, mass unemployment and a summer of discontent looming, our national newspapers seem to be joining the trend. Maybe it's the eradication of subs, or the outsourcing of page make-up to foreign shores at £45 a page, but I've never seen so many literals, grammatical errors and missing words in the nation's pages. It's a real throwback. You can almost smell the hot metal and hear the chanting of the pickets outside Eddy Shah's Warrington plant.

 

Ironically the Guardian, the newspaper that made literals a trademark, seems relatively unscathed. A colleague has taken to drawing comparisons between Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Oskar Schindler. Only those 730 souls on Rusbridger's list are safe from the labour camp of redundancy. And, just as Schindler never managed to make a hand grenade that worked, so Rusbridger will probably never manage to make a profit.

 

Instead, those paragons of virtue on the Scott Trust sacrifice 150 jobs, 78 of those in editorial, and close the district offices of 22 weekly newspapers in the MEN Media Group to shore up the perennial losses of their pampered national titles. Pathetic, just pathetic.

 

WHAT HAS happened to the weekly Independent column of Rebecca Tyrell, the first – and best – Polly Filla? She hasn't been sighted in the paper since the end of last year. Has poor Matthew finally snapped and buried her beneath the flagstones of that Devon cottage? I don't know, but I think we should be told.

 

QUOTE OF the month, or of any other month, from somebody called Peaches Geldof: 'I have respect for broadsheet journalists because they haven't succumbed to degrading themselves, to writing pidgin English with all these terrible colloquialisms, the phrasing of which is just, like, embarrassing." 

 

 

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