The Grey Cardgan: 25 May 2007

A MAD woman rings the Evening Beast picture desk. She’s staging a candlelight vigil for ‘Missing Maddie’and would we send someone along?

Photographers being bereft of any kind of quality control gene – ‘point and click and we’ll sort it out on the computer,’ being their motto – the gurning idiot manning the diary immediately agrees. It is left to me to interject.

So does she know Madeleine McCann or her family? Err… no. Any connection at all with the case? Err… no. Has she perhaps been on holiday to the same complex in Portugal, or even once watched Everton play? Err… no. ‘But something has to be done to help find the poor child, and I’ve contacted Team McCann and they said keeping her on the front pages of newspapers was vital…”

I try to point out that: a) it is extremely unlikely that Maddie is going to be spotted playing on the swings accompanied by a man with a squinton the Evening Beast’s patch, and b) keeping the story in the public eye isn’t really a local issue when you can’t pick up a tabloid or turn on the telly without seeing the latest stage-managed pictures of the kid’s parents walking to church, shopping in the supermarket or playing with their twins – and definitely not sneaking out for a quick couple after tucking them up for the night.

But the diary’s thin so the picture ends up appearing anyway, top half of page 5. It shows a dozen or so scrotes with prams and pushchairs, clutching yellow ribbons and the odd can of cheap lager, standing huddled around a few candles, a teddy bear and one of those posters from The Sun.

Ironically they’re just the kind of people who, if this terrible thing had happened to them, would have had their other children carted off by social services. In fact, I’m sure I recognise some of the faces from the mob who last year tried to burn down a pediatrician’s house.

In protest at this sanctimonious twaddle, I knock out the following bit of bollocks and drop it in the PA basket: ‘When Manchester United and Chelsea players walk out for the FA Cup Final on Saturday, they’ll each be wearing a single contact lens in support of missing toddler Maddie McCann. The disposable lenses, which mimic the distinctive mark in four-year-old Madeleine’s right eye, are intended to help highlight the search…”

Two hours later, and just before deadline, I have to hurriedly retrieve it from where it’s been placed on the inside back page. Poor Maddie. She truly is The People’s Abductee.

INCIDENTALLY, there’s been some sterling work from those members of Her Majesty’s Press who are on active service in Praia da Luz, not least with the unveiling of Robert Murat as a suspect just as the story was going cold.

(Glass eye, lives with his mother, a bit too helpful to the press pack, almost certainly ‘keeps himself to himself’and therefore an obvious suspect.)

One quibble: the journo who grassed him up to the Portuguese cops was working for the Sunday Mirror, yet blew the whistle on a Monday afternoon, so excluding her own newspaper from the story. Call me hard-hearted, but I’m afraid I’d sack her the minute she gets back.

EVERY successful columnist ends up giving away a little too much of themselves. You write what you know, so inevitably family and friends find themselves dragged into the creative maelstrom.

The Independent’s Rebecca Tyrrel – the original, and best, Polly Filla of Private Eye fame – has made a career out of the trials and tribulations of living with the slothful Matthew Norman and precocious son Louis.

Poor Tom Utley’s four boys are almost doomed to grow up with personality disorders due to the public discussion of the devastating impact their expensive private educations have had on Pater’s financial affairs.

But never before have I seen someone apparently destroy their own relationship in pursuit of cheap material.

Yes folks, the marriage of Liz-fucking-Jones and the hapless fornicator who fell into her web has finally hit the buffers – a story deemed worthy of the front page of the Mail on Sunday, no less.

Inside, she tells us: ‘He has blamed, over and over again, his philandering on the fact that he felt emasculated by what I wrote in my column…’Well I’m not fucking surprised.

So Ms Jones is now off men, and is presumably heading for the traditional embittered ex-journalists’ habitat of a dimly-lit bedsit surrounded by cats. One can only hope that her irritating You magazine column goes the same way.

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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