Friday, 22 July 2011

Distraction therapy

I once shared a lift with Rupert Murdoch when I worked for News International. Watching his recent performance I concluded that I've aged better than him – and unlike him, I prefer not to use my son as a public punchbag.
It's very telling that the BBC News website today sees fit to run a piece on 'Phone hacking: The other news you might have missed'. While we've all been glued hour on hour to to the unfolding drama of Murdochgate, the world has kept turning it seems.
The scandal is an obsession for journalists, who love nothing better than rubbing their competitors' noses in it when things go pear-shaped. Getting one over the opposition is the oldest trick in the book in the battle for readership, and being able to dish the dirt on market leaders the News of the Screws and the Sun will have the Rothermeres, Richard Desmond and other proprietors rubbing their hands with glee.
So it will be interesting to see what slithers out when the Met's finest and the judicial inquiry roll over stones in other newsrooms.
The media is unlike other sectors in that it's a fast-revolving door for staff – people slip seamlessly from one organisation to another and back again. Add to that the traditional use of casuals working shifts and it's easy to see how questionable practices such as hacking into phone messages can spread.
If, as seems likely, newsrooms outside of Fortress Wapping find themselves tarred with the same brush as the News of the World, it will be interesting to see how they report events in their own backyards. The words 'mote' and 'beam' spring to mind.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Shame about shale

Parliament's energy select committee is urging the government to allow drilling for shale gas in the UK. My favourite beach, dreamy Kilve on the Somerset coast, has shale beds that an oilman tried unsuccessfully to exploit a century ago. I'm hoping that no modern JR Ewing revisits Kilve – please, no Texan burgers and French fries on The Chantry tea gardens' menu alongside the scones and cream...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Tunnel vision

There's nothing like cycling against a strong headwind to get me gritting my teeth. I'm trying to get fit for the RATS Ride from Lincoln to the north-east coast with my cousins next month, and did a three-hour ride at the weekend. The outward leg over the Mendips with a tailwind was fine but the ride back against the wind was gruelling. What made it bearable was cycling through a tunnel on the Strawberry Line, a disused railway that's now a multi-use path. It was a test of blind faith: I couldn't see a thing in the dank darkness apart from the line of solar-powered cat's eyes and trusted that nobody was taking a nap on the floor.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Too close for comfort

Reminder to self: beware what you blog about.  A couple of days ago I posted that I expected to see the first grass snake of the year soon. Over breakfast I read in our local paper of a lurcher bitten by an adder. Just now I got a call to a domestic crisis: Izzy the big dog had a large snake cornered outside our French windows and was barking furiously. Big dog's predecessor lost her bark after an adder bit her. Luckily this one turned out to be a fat grass snake, but worryingly it disappeared into the undergrowth - will probably reappear just at the wrong moment.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Blink of a lizard's eye

You learn something every day: most lizards are able to blink but snakes can't – hence the unblinking stare of a snake. Had the warm spring weather continued, I reckoned on seeing the first grass snake of the year soon, but now it's turned cool they have gone back to wherever they rest up – our wood pile, probably. Last summer I filmed a massive grass snake slithering across our top field towards the wood pile.
Snakes are up there with scorpions and giant spiders in the lexicon of unpopular wildlife: nature's equivalent to MPs, estate agents and we journalists. In the days when you had to give your profession on your passport, mine said 'Printer & bookbinder'.