The Grey Cardigan 13th April 2007

I bring you this missive from the newsroom of the Evening Beast on Good Friday afternoon. I hate working on holidays. The atmosphere is not so much soporific as comatose.

Nothing is happening. The building is dead. The piss-poor canteen (sorry, bistro) is closed. And, thanks to the strictures of the beancounters, we are working on overnight pages for Monday so our one edition can be shipped off to an industrial estate three counties away to be printed on Sunday evening.

At least in the olden days we used to have the Maundy Thursday piss-up as Easter compensation. (Note for younger readers — nothing was published on Good Friday.) Loading up the charabanc with crates of brown ale for the trip to Blackpool, into the dingy pub at the back of the Tower, passing a pint pot round to pay the strippers for an extra show, fumbling with a casual copytaker on the way back… those were the days, my friend.

Our news editor for today, a good district man who's been "promoted" as holiday cover, is out of his depth and struggling to fill. We've got the compulsory picture of the new-born chicks; ditto the Bank Holiday fete preview with a heading containing the word "eggstravaganza"; and it appears that our local motorways might be a bit busy for some reason. News it ain't.

Scrolling through the near-empty baskets I find a report from last Tuesday's council meeting that has been abandoned because it is so badly written that it will take at least an hour to rewrite. Can we get away with it? A six-day-old story as a page 5 lead? Fuck it, if we don't we'll be here until half seven. I sigh and reach for a piece of paper, ready to list the key points in some kind of order… Now call me a cynic (arf!) but how is it that every zoo in the country seems to have some kind of newborn animal on show for the Easter weekend? Is it just coincidence, or is genetic engineering running amok in the entertainment industry?

And why is it that every regional television programme feels honour bound to report on this astonishing fact? And to run a competition for viewers to name the new arrival? (Yes, I know — it's the same reason we have a six-day-old council report as a page 5 lead.)

Passing through the ITV West area at the weekend, I noticed that their miracle arrival was a baby camel. And yes, you were invited to name it — only it had to be a male name and it had to begin with C.

Taking the time of year into account, I though it only right to phone up and suggest "Christ" as a suitable name. I'm not holding my breath about winning those two free tickets to the zoo.

It seems that the delicate sensibilities of Daily Telegraph restaurant critic Mark Palmer have once again been offended by the plebian habits of the Great British Public.

Having in recent weeks suffered unwelcome exposure to the kind of people who arrive in white stretch limos (Milton Keynes) and partying groups of women who whip out cameras and take photos of each other while dining (Guildford), Lord Snooty takes himself off to The Crab in Chieveley. Surely here in genteel West Berkshire he can get through four courses without having his digestion disturbed?

Sadly not. A young couple sitting nearby raise the hackles: "The woman is attractive but she holds her knife like a dagger and her table manners are appalling."

Dear God, can they not send the poor man somewhere where he won't be offended by the lumpen proletariat, even if they are Telegraph readers?

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