When I was but a small boy – about six years old or so – my parents found me one day lying on the floor of our front room.
This room had the best furniture and with certain exceptions was really only used when we had “company” so I don’t really know why I was in there.
To digress for a moment – a couple of years after this the main “exception” was me using it as a music room when I decided to teach myself to play the recorder.
And why, you may well ask, did I decide to do THAT?
You see, Mum and Dad had developed a thoroughly nasty habit that even as an eight year old I was certain I did not want any part of!
They had included in their post-BBC news viewing the absolutely ghastly “White Heather Club”!
This, as you may well have gleaned from the title, was a Scottish production featuring traditional songs and dancing from that strange land.
It “starred” the unholy trinity of Moira Anderson, Andy Stewart and Kenneth McKellar with contributions from folk duo Robin Hall & Jimmy McGregor as well as the as-bad-as-they-sound “Jimmy Shand and his Band”!
I have (amongst the gems) some pretty dire stuff in my music collection but I can assure you, NOTHING by any of those named!
Off topic again Alfie!!
OK, so the question is, why was I found lying on the front room rug aged about six?
Simple! I was reading a newspaper and it was too big for me to read it in any other way than by having it spread out on the floor.
It was obviously a Sunday because I was not reading “The Times” (which my Dad got for the Law Reports) but the somewhat less respectable “News of the World”. For the uninitiated this is, nowadays, a “tits ‘n bums” tabloid with the nickname “Screws of the World” but in those days it was a broadsheet.
The content seems to have been similar back in 1959 however, because what I was reading was a steamy confession-style article about the life of the British actress Diana Dors.
For the benefit of those who don’t remember her film work (and, offhand, I can’t think of ONE that she was in!) she appeared as the large, blousy Fairy Godmother in Adam Ant’s “Prince Charming” video in 1981.
As far as I can recall I was reading the words as reading practice only, with no comprehension of the actual content. The paper was taken away from me without any undue fuss and I don’t remember reading any subsequent editions.
And the point of that story is that it probably represents the last time I sat down with the INTENTION of reading a newspaper story.
Yes, I have looked at specific stories from time to time but usually only after being referred to them by someone else but I have NEVER bought a paper with the firm intention of absorbing its content from cover to cover.
I DID, when commuting by train in the late 1970s, occasionally get one of the “red top” tabloids to look at the pictures but stopped even that after the Falklands War when “The Sun” notoriously trivialised the loss of life involved in the sinking of the Argentinean battleship “General Belgrano” with the massive full page headline “GOTCHA”!
We do buy one paper a week – The Daily Mail – on Saturday when it produces an excellent TV guide supplement for the coming week. The rest, however, gets thrown into the recycling bin after tearing out the Sudoku puzzles for Faith.
We do this because the paper does indeed seem to live up to its reputation of reporting all news from home or abroad in terms of its effects upon the property values of middle-aged, middle-class homeowners in the South East of England.
There are also local papers. I purchase the Peterborough Evening Telegraph once a week on Thursday – the day that it has the word “JOBS” on the front page. I feel the typesetters usually waste the letter “S” in that word and, in terms of my own requirements, often the letters “J”, “O” and “B” as well!
The actual content of the paper (when you can find it amongst the classified advertisements) is not usually of a high quality and the best bits are the readers’ letters. Even here there seems to be little editing going on and I find I am looking at the writing rather than the content.
For example, anyone who uses “of” instead of “have” or its contraction “’ve” has immediately lost me as far as any valid point they were trying to make is concerned.
We now approach the inspiration behind this piece.
A few years ago I discovered an internet site that parodied local journalism to such good effect that I read the hundreds of pages of archive material that had built up before I found it. I have never before laughed so much or for so long!
The “newspaper” is called “The Framley Examiner” and strongly resembles a local paper which I looked at occasionally when I lived in Chelmsford. It is certainly based on Essex places – the fictional seaside towns of Fracton and Clinton DO seem to bear a passing resemblance to the real Clacton and Frinton, don’t they? I’m not quite sure where Effing Sodbury is meant to be though!
You can find it for yourself – it isn’t updated so regularly now but there are loads of pages to catch up on – at www.framley.com. I hope you enjoy it as I did.
AND THEN! I found another one. This takes the mickey out of the Daily Mail itself by overdoing the prejudices of the target readership that I mentioned earlier. You can find that one at www.thedailymash.co.uk. This is still updated daily and certainly (in my opinion anyway) deserves a place in the favourites folder of your web browser alongside this blog of mine.
Oh, and in case anyone influential is reading this – I do fancy a job in local journalism. Thank you.