For several years I wrote a column for The Journal, Newcastle, based on retirement from Big City journalism to my current rural idyll in ‘Godzone’, far north Northumberland. When the column disappeared, I realised how much I missed writing it, even if my readers didn’t miss reading it. So it’s back. . .
Friday, February 21, 2020
I keep in touch with my life before retirement by listening to LBC (‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’) via the internet. Its award-winning breakfast presenter, Nick Ferrari, is a great friend from the days when we co-presented on both Talk Radio and LBC but we go further back than that: he was a senior executive when I edited the Daily Mirror in the 1990s and I tell him I taught him all he knows.
But unlike my unstinting admiration for LBC’s ‘lefty’ James O’Brien, whose show follows Nick’s, it is Ferrari’s Conservative politics that sometimes come between us; just ask the long-suffering waiters at our favourite London watering holes!
So I was amazed and delighted to hear my old stablemate challenging Home Secretary Priti Patel over the government’s planned points-based immigration system that is intended to “end reliance on low-skilled workers”.
This is personal stuff for Nick, real name Nicolo. What you should know is that his father’s family emigrated to the UK from continental Europe a generation or more ago. Hence his telling challenge to Patel: “Your parents came from Uganda and set up a successful newsagent shop but they wouldn’t have qualified under the new rules, would they?”
Then Nick’s (probably) largely right-wing audience would have been somewhat gobsmacked to hear their favourite presenter declare: “Under those rules I don’t think I’d be here, either; I wouldn’t be sitting in this studio and you wouldn’t be Home Secretary, one of the biggest jobs in the land, under your system.”
Ms Patel’s response? “This isn’t about my background or my parents. This is a very different system to what has gone on in the past. It’s not about refugees and asylum and people who are being persecuted around the world. We must differentiate between the two.”
Best of luck, Home Secretary! I am not hopeful you’ll even be able to persuade your own party that bombed-out refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are as deserving as the Jews who were chased out of Nazi-occupied Europe and the Asians who were deported by Idi Amin’s Uganda.
Sunday, February 23
He’s back and honestly, the playboy ploughboy’s eight-week holiday itinerary through Indochina and Australasia reads like a tourists’ Where-NOT-To-Go guide to the coronavirus pandemic: Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and every Oriental takeaway from Saigon to Sydney were his stopping points.
Stunned domino players visibly shrank from his side as a suntanned Farmer Morebottle declared to drinkers at Godzone’s favourite watering hole, the Red Lion, “I might even have had the virus: big fever, sweats, bad chest, horrible cough. . . nothing to it,” he boasted. “I drank it off!”
The ‘orrible arable farmer’s boasting evoked a variety of responses. “If he was an imported American chicken they’d have to chlorine-wash him,” said one. “The government oughta let the immigrants in and keep returning holidaymakers like him under canvas in tents outside Calais!” thundered another.
Charitable chaps, farmers. . .
Monday, February 24
Talking of farmers. . . a tweet I spotted today shows how the Remainer v. Brexiter civil war still rages.
“On the day it’s emerged that this government is cutting funding to farmers by 25%, seems apt to share this clip of Mr B.Johnson on 2 June 2016 guaranteeing farmers funding in event of Brexit.”
The Duchess of Dragons’ Den, businesswoman Deborah Meaden, retweeted the moan, saying: “Dear farmers, he lied to you”!
Tuesday, February 25
Null points for asking if the Beeb will air the Eurovision Song Contest again this year, despite the UK’s horrendous recent past performances. Of COURSE they will!
But the Beeb, sick and tired of coming last as we did last year, have decided never again to trust the viewing public to select the performer selection with a national vote. In future, the BBC will decide with the help of a major record company.
It’s hardly surprising. Look what happens when you trust the voters: the BBC’s Sports Personality hunt throws up such ‘personalities’ as Nigel Mansell (twice!), Sir Nick Faldo and ‘Mumbling’ Andy Murray (twice!). Great sportsmen, yes, but far from personalities.
Democracy just doesn’t cut the mustard: don’t forget, a referendum delivered Brexit and cranked up demands from disgruntled losers that Britain’s voters should first take an IQ test!
Thursday, February 27
Apparently you’re in no danger from the coronavirus unless you’re elderly with an existing health problem and an impaired immune system, according to ministers, medics and media.
Cold comfort for me, a 72-year-old with leukaemia and an immune system that takes more holidays than I do!
I’m taking all the right precautions: I ordered Farmer Morebottle to quarantine himself instead of joining we elderly, snuffling walking stick-wielders at the Red Lion. And I went to the chemist’s to buy a new thermometer.
Of course, I didn’t even dare pick it off the shelf. . . it was made in China!
Friday, February 29
Gemma having driven south for a family gathering, I took the opportunity to misbehave, persuading John Next Door to chauffeur me to the Red Lion for Friday night fish and chips and a couple of pints.
There we bumped into a disconsolate-looking Lawnmower Salesman waiting for his fish supper ‘kerry-oot ’ (that’s a takeaway to Sassenachs). He’d been given the bum’s rush by the Lovely Sue.
“I was a bit late home from the golf club,” he admitted. “Still, I thought I’d got away with it when she said, all loving-like, ‘What would you like for your dinner, darling? A bit of beef, some chicken or the left-over lamb?’.
“Well,” Lawnmower explained. “No problem. I told her I fancied chicken tonight. But she said, ‘ Not you, you drunken oaf! I was talking to the dog!’”