STRESS LEVELS at the Evening Beast are on the up, as Luddite sub-editors are forced at spike-point into training sessions designed to turn them all into Web Wonders (and the lettuce allusion is appropriate in many cases).
It can't be easy trying to teach technology to this recalcitrant rabble, some of whom still struggle to cast off three decks of 48pt Nancyboy Grotesque, the font of choice of the latest red-socked twat to dabble with our design.
I've tried to explain to them that their computer (aka "the magic box") will do it for them. Instead they struggle, tongues out, with an HB2 pencil and a piece of yellowing, contraband copy paper smuggled in by an ex-News Chronicle staffer who looted the stationery cupboard the night the paper closed in 1960. (By the way, if anyone wants supplies of carbon paper, bottles of Gloy glue or typewriter ribbons, I know just the man.)
Suffering particularly badly is Eddie Crowther, a glum Yorkshireman (if that's not a tautology) who could well have inspired PG Wodehouse's line about distinguishing "between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine" if only he'd changed the geography.
"How's it going, Eddie?" I stupidly asked him as he emerges from the training room, gasping for a roll up and a brew. "They're doing my 'ed in, Grey," the dulcet tones of darkest Leeds inform me. "I'm stressed, my 'ealth's suffering…"
"I tell you what – if they carry on like this I reckon I'm only 24 hours from t'ulcer."
Magnificent. And proof positive that you can't keep a good man down.
NOT MANY journos get to write their own suicide note, so step forward Mr Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian. Inspired by the decision of bosses at a company in Norwich to limit their employees to 15 minutes of internet time a day, Mr Jeffries devoted a recent column to his own electronic indolence.
The piece began: "Take my day. Could I be more unproductive? Consider the following the most public resignation letter in history." Highlights of the next six hours included calls to Hoover, Telewest Broadband and the council, while cheese was bought, glasses were repaired, a baby swing was advertised for sale, an iPod was listened to and Popbitch was perused.
The column ends: "3.01pm: Finished! 3.02: Apply for pay rise – don't these fools realise I'm indispensable? 3.05: Sneak out so boss doesn't see me sloping off early. Steal pencils from stationery cupboard as I go. Damn! Forgot to check my pension and set up MySpace page. I'm so fired. Aren't I?"
Errï¿½ yes. Four weeks later, the axe fell. As Mr Jeffries relates: "I was, I hoped, being evidently ironic. My boss even sent me an email: ï¿½You're fired!' which I took to be ironic. That, it turns out, was unwise." Such is life under the New Roundheads.
(Incidentally, does anyone know where Jan Moir, the Telegraph's restaurant critic, has gone? She appears to be Missing In Action amid the chaos of redesigns and redundancies. And can I just say that if she has got the boot, it's no longer a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, it's throwing out the fucking bath as well.)
WE FINISH with a vintage batch of coverlines from this week's loveit! magazine. Beat this lot, if you can… "I Go To Work Naked", "I Had A Bucket Of Fat Sucked Out In Paradise", "I'm Too Busy To Die!", "I Betrayed My Hubby Dogging With Pervy Copper", "Killed Over A Chicken Vindaloo" and the inspired "No Sex After Alsatian Bit Off Hubby's Bits".
And only one dog's cock amongst them – a model of restraint. If I was the competition, I think I'd be waving the white flag now.
You can contact me, should you be minded, at firstname.lastname@example.org