The Grey Cardigan 18.11.05

THERE IS something of a kerfuffle in the glass corner office
occupied by The Beast. Two accountants, so utterly grey that they
barely exist (think Harry Potter\’s cloak of invisibility), sit
surrounded by street maps, restaurant menus, tape measures and
calculators.

The expenses crackdown has begun in earnest.

A
young reporter is summoned to the inquisition. He\’s put in a receipt
from a nightclub, but unfortunately it\’s one of those that shows the
time of purchase – 3.24am. It\’s down as \”drinks with contact\” on his
swindle sheet.

\”So what fucking contact is that?\” cackles The Beast. \”Nosferfucking- ratu?\”

Then it\’s the turn of Tommy Cockles, one of our veteran snappers.

A
dapper man with a toothbrush moustache and an occasional Trilby, he\’s
spent 30 years keeping his head down and knocking out his eight jobs a
day. Tommy never returns without a complete left to right for the
caption and, unlike most photographers, he isn\’t borderline dyslexic.
And he then goes home at night to sell picture sessions starring his
naked Thai bride to neighbourhood nonces with no film in their box
Brownies.

The Beast has noticed something amiss with Tommy\’s
mileage claim. There, among the carefully detailed trips from school to
village fete to charity bean bath, is a regular weekly entry: Reverse
Mileage – 4.3 miles @ 40p = £1.72.

\”What the fuck is reverse mileage?\” screams the purple-faced Beast. \”You\’ve been claiming it since 1974.\”

Tommy
is not rattled. \”Well, you know when you\’re trying to find the job, and
you drive past and have to back up, well that\’s reverse mileage. It all
uses petrol, you know…\”

I\’m told the subsequent explosion could be heard on nearby planets.

THE
TEASMADE goes off at 6am. As BBC Radio 4 clicks on, I hear John
Humphrys interviewing Tessa Jowell and the androgynous Ruth Kelly who,
for some reason, reminds me of a fag I used to beat at public school.

\”Tell
me,\” he asks the ladies. \”Do you wear thongs or panties? Do you drink
white wine or alcopops? And would you rather bed a toned, six-pack gym
monkey or a sleazy lounge lizard?

Come on, answer the question.\”

He\’s lost it this time, I thought to myself. And then I woke up.

Of
course Humphrys wouldn\’t commit career suicide by asking such
patronising and facile questions. He\’d have been sacked before he even
got out of the studio.

But such standards clearly do not apply to
Woman\’s Hour presenter Martha Kearney (above) who, given the
opportunity to quiz Conservative leadership candidates David Davis and
David Cameron, resorted to the kind of trivial, intrusive questioning
that simply wouldn\’t be tolerated if the sexes were reversed.

A
reader last week accused me of having a Neanderthal attitude to women
in the media. While that is quite true, let\’s face it – some of them
don\’t help themselves, do they?

TURNING on Radio 4 on Sunday
morning to listen to the Archers omnibus, I am instead greeted with the
sepulchral tones of Fergal Keane commentating on the Remembrance Day
service from the Cenotaph.

Am I alone in thinking this a
seriously misguided appointment? Mr Keane is an icon of the Diana
generation, a touchy-feely grief junkie, a tissue-wielding over-sharer,
whose own inner thoughts and personal agonies often appear more
important than the events he is supposed to be covering.

Is this really the kind of person to report on an occasion that is all about the sacrifices of others?

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