The Grey Cardigan: 15 December 2006

A GUST of wind blows through North London. "Cockney Gets Wet," screams the news bill. Charity staff stuff shoeboxes with truffle oil, guacamole and pancetta. So is it any wonder that the national media is accused of being London-centric?

It may have escaped the notice of our "betters" on what was once Fleet Street, but Birmingham was hit by a tornado 18 months ago, devastating 420 homes and shops and causing damage that is going to cost the city council £260m and take 10 years to put right. From admittedly failing memory, there were also incidents in Somerset and Devon.

Yet one street in Kensal Rise gets a bit of a pasting, her Maj's hairdo gets ruffled in the breeze, and suddenly the Iraq war and radioactive sushi get booted off the front pages. It was a lead for the Evening Standard, nothing more. But then, what do we provincial hicks (or hacks) know about news?

WHILE WE'RE on the subject of retreat from reality, the prosecution calls Mr Adam Boulton (pictured, bottom), who appeared on Sky News last Sunday morning to puff his upcoming programme featuring disgraced liar Jeffrey Archer.

During a rather forced chit-chat, Mr Boulton revealed the fact that Archer had asked the genius that is Ronald Searle to illustrate his latest book of short stories. As his co-presenters pondered this incongruous collaboration, Mr Boulton went on to claim that: "They do have something in common. They were both prisoners."

Point of order. Ronald Searle survived the horrors of a Japanese prisoner of war camp and worked on the Siam-Burma railway for four years after the fall of Singapore. Archer did two cushy years, mostly in the holiday camps that are our open prisons, after being convicted of perjury. Something in common?

I don't fucking think so.

I shall now forever think of the blondlocked Mr Boulton as Sky's answer to young Fotherington-Thomas, skipping along crying "Hullo clouds, hullo sky" as tornadoes rip through Isleworth.

JUST TO show that I'm not a complete malcontent, I heap praise upon the Mail on Sunday's Jonathan Oliver for his ruthless exposé of the 15 government apparatchiks, ranging from the MoD press officer to the Whitehall intelligence chief, who have been showered with pay rises, promotions and even gongs since playing a part (or, more accurately, playing their part) in the Dr David Kelly scandal. Nice work, fella.

I used to work for an editor who was similarly thorough in extracting every ounce of juice from a story. Every four weeks he'd have the papers from the same month, but from two years previous, brought up from the basement. He'd then uncork a bottle of Chardonnay and settle down with an old NGA scalpel.

Two hours later he'd emerge with a list of follow-ups, missed checks and features ideas that would turn the bowels of the bestorganised newsdesk to water.

It's a habit I'd commend to many of the Boys In Suits currently occupying editors' chairs because of their corporate compliance rather than their newsroom know-how.

THAT Liz-fucking-Jones and her convenience husband were at it again in Saturday's Daily Mail, hacking together a follow-up piece in response to the research that claimed that women spoke 20,000 words a day compared to the 7,000 uttered by men.

Our modern-day Terry & June weren't quite up to the task, Liz managing 8,557 words while the emasculated Nirpal only managed 2,452. Quite why he can't come up with the two words that would change his life for the better overnight is beyond me.

MY INBOX was bulging after my comments about heavily pregnant weathergirls obscuring Wales when they should be at home with their feet up.

Listen, ladies, keep it up and you'll be treated to both barrels of Mr Cardigan's treatise on the position of women in the workplace. And that won't be a pretty sight.

You can contact me, should you wish, at

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