Tuesday, 31 December 2013

It's my own little world, where I get to do anything I want...


An American friend has suggested I write more. All well and good, but time is short, getting shorter and my 3rd-hand laptop at home is older than my cat, does not have internet and has to sit on my lap because I don't have my own office.
But she's right.
So, in the spirit of the wilting of 2013 and the slow erection of 2014 - and yes, there's an obvious "ooeerr missus" in there - I will post two of my short stories that have come out of the magnificent Athenaeum Writer's Group, of which I am but a very minor player... but will endeavour to attend more regularly in 2014.
So I guess that's my New Year's Resolution sorted, whether I wanted to make one or not.
I hope you enjoy...


Holding hands with an adult


I’M NOT GOING to get better, am I Dad..?”
It wasn’t just a question, like all the others Andy uttered. It was as much a statement as anything. Andy was putting on his brave face, talking like us grown-ups were supposed to.
I’d just pointed out an oil tanker on the horizon, creeping up the Thames estuary, heading towards the Coryton refinery, comparing them against the seemingly tiny cockleshell boats which would commute back and forth from nearby Old Leigh.
The cloud was hazy over the Isle of Sheppey and from the Chalkwell Cliffs it appeared we were looking out to sea, rather than the eastern fringes of London’s shabby river. 
I felt that buzzing warmness around the back edges of my eyes, the one that reminds a man his tears are always waiting for him if he gives in. My tongue went dry and it felt fat and stupid, sticking to the roof of my mouth.
‘I have to be strong. I have to be a Dad… I mean, I have to be a good Dad’ I barracked myself silently.
A seagull screeched loudly a few feet from us, making me start. I turned to look at Andy, not really ready to give the speech I’d prepared weeks ago.
Like any copywriter, it was a speech I’d amended along the way, adding fragile sombre words, taking out the gags, then putting them back in again for my own sake rather than his, then changing it again, adding hope but tempering it with realism, like the bereavement counsellors at the hospice explained.
I’d never had to prepare an answer for Andy which was so onerous, so important, as this. I think I was even proud of the one I’d drafted by the end, certainly prouder than the one I’d given him when me and his mum had split up.
But as I drew breath, dreading the darkening monologue I’d rehearsed, Andy suddenly turned away, looking to the distance. His arm feebly came up, pointing towards the horizon, a pitiful mirror of the Queen Victoria statue a few yards away. He gave a forced, chipper exclamation as I turned to squint into the distance.
“A clipper… isn’t that a clipper Dad, over there?”
A handful of heartbeats tapped out the time it took for me to understand that my answer was to go unspoken for now. I knew he’d changed the subject on purpose, and he dropped his eyes suddenly to my hand holding his on the arm of his wheelchair, as if to tell me, ‘I know – I changed the subject Dad. I changed it because of this thing. This thing is just for me and I’m not going to put you through it as well.’
His beautiful blue eyes looked up to mine and his trademark lopsided smile burned across his face. Jesus, when did he get so damn smart? And who the hell did he get that from, because it wasn’t me and it certainly wasn’t his mum?
Again, the buzzing heat behind my eyes threatened me with my shame and embarrassment and weakness. I drew in the cold air quickly through my flared nostrils, the way soft men do to stop the tears taking over.
As I pushed him back along the Cliffs to the car the questions flowed like a bubbling river over a fall.
“Who won the FA cup when I was born Dad? Did the pier burn down four or five times? What’s the red dot on a seagull’s beak?” All the way through town he kept it up, urging on my replies whenever I struggled.
“Why don’t you live with us anymore?”
We had just pulled into the driveway of the hospice when he bowled me that one.
As I got out of the car, came around to open his door and pulled his wheelchair from the boot I rolled out the well-worn response as recommended by the Idiot’s Guide to Divorce (parents’ edition). 
“You know why Andy. Your mum and I… well… we have different lives now. Things don’t always work out for the best in a marriage. But what’s important is that we both love you very, very much and that will never change. I love you, we both do,” I assured him, noting with despair how easily I could lift his feather-light body into the wheelchair.
“But why can’t you love each other anymore?” he demanded, suddenly insistent.
I knelt by the side of his chair, flicking the numerous clips and catches to make it more sturdy.
I sighed deeply, wondering the same, before muttering softly “I don’t know why Andy. I wish I did.”
Andy’s bird-like hand plopped on top of my head and he ruffled my greying hair.
“Well, I’ll always love you… and that’ll never change,” he laughed, knowing full well he was bouncing the approved statement back at me.
“Ha ha, very funny” I replied sarcastically, standing up and grabbing the handles of the chair.
“Ha ha very funny” he parroted, trying to drop his voice as low as mine, causing us both to laugh out loud.
Later that night, after I’d helped him eat his dinner and badgered him into swallowing what seemed like a sweet-packet of pills, I stroked his hand while he fell asleep.
I drew my palm gently up his arm, passing the multitude of bruises where different nurses had struggled to find a vein thick enough or strong enough to take another needle.
The largest blood bruise was still there, marking the time when the new student nurse had shaken with nerves as she jabbed with the syringe.
The senior nurse had been at her back, and had tried to calm her pupil with a hand placed softly on her shoulder. Andy’s cries had argued the point and I could see the young woman become increasingly distressed at the pain she knew she was causing.
She had become so het up, as Andy’s wails grew, she eventually gulped down a sob and fled the room.
“She’s new…” said the senior nurse in explanation.
“You think?” hiccupped Andy, trying to laugh while gulping down his own tears.
“A lot of them get into this because they want to help,” the senior nurse, Gloria, told me later as we shared a cigarette in the hospice car park.
“But sometimes the work here is just too much. They feel guilty, embarrassed, angry with themselves after a while. They know they can’t hack it, but it takes them several weeks to really accept the truth before they finally leave. Others learn how to cope and they’re the ones that stay. Once you learn to accept what goes on here, you stay for ever.”
The blood-bruise had gone black, then blue and had slowly faded to a large mottled yellow stain, like a smoker’s fingers.
Jules, the student nurse, had stayed the entire term of the bruise and had learned to cope. She could now find a vein even better than Gloria, despite the degeneration of Andy’s muscles and arteries.
It was my shift when Andy finally passed away and I was pleased we were alone together. After months of treatment, his mum and I had agreed a rota, some nights she would stay, and some nights me. We made sure Andy was never alone as he went to sleep, that there was always one of us with him.
It wasn’t easy since the split, but at least it meant we didn’t have to meet at Andy’s bedside and go through that awkward handover greeting.
When I arrived I realised pretty quickly the day wasn’t going to end well. I had a dark itch at my back all the way along the hospice drive and the face of the receptionist telegraphed it all. I started to leave an increasing number of phone messages and texts with Andy’s mum, but either the restaurant she had gone to with her new partner was out of signal range or she’d turned her bloody phone off again.
Gloria had given me a look which said “bugger calling, you’re needed now”, so I stopped trying to do the right thing, and just did the right thing.
I never saw the light leave Andy’s beautiful blue eyes, because he’d closed them days before when he’d slipped into a coma.
I held his hand when his heart finally stopped beating, feeling it grow colder and colder, until Gloria gently told me it was time to let it go.
As expected, his mum had screamed at me for what seemed like hours afterwards. Blaming me again and again that she should have been there, not me.
I didn’t know what to say, how to make a sensible reply, so I said nothing.
What do you say to a mother who’s missed her own son’s death in lieu of a romantic but less-than-average pasta bake with a car-wash manager called Brendan?
I didn’t go to Andy’s funeral. Well, Brendan suggested it wasn’t a good idea if I attended as it would upset Andy’s mum and he didn’t want to see her upset.
He did the whole Alpha male thing, using matey words, with the hint of what he must have seriously thought was menace. The whole time he was prattling on all I could think was he probably held his pressure-washer lance on a people-carrier thinking he’s using a flamethrower in the Vietnam War.
I didn’t argue – I’d already decided there was no point in going anyway. It wasn’t Andy in the expensive wooden box his mum had bought for him. It wasn’t Andy, it was just what remained of Andy’s body. The one he’d lived in. The one that had gone and turned on him, taking him apart bit by bit.
I haven’t gone back to work yet and though they’re being nice about it, I think they know I probably won’t ever go back. Selling advertising, copy-writing, it’s just selling false promises. Your life won’t be better if you buy this, you won’t be a richer person, you will not live longer. 
I do still go up to the Cliffs and watch the boats saunter along the estuary. I sit on a bench which bears Andy’s name on a small brass plaque. When my hands begin to shake, I put them together in my lap and try to fool myself I’m holding his hand again. 
No-one asks me much in the way of questions anymore. But it’s alright.
Andy taught me that some questions… well, some questions just don’t have answers.


©Carl Eve 2012 

interlude 




Jam And Jerusalem


“TO THE LEFT a little please Margaret, closer to the delphiniums, lovely, Jeremy dear that needs to go over the other side, in between the two Greek columns, that's right, oh Daphne those are magnificent cushion covers, but we can’t have them in this marquee, people will think they’re cruising Marks and Spencers, oh for pity’s sake Gerald, I said straight-back chairs, not those, this is Bramley House, not a housing estate...”
The shrill voice of Morag Mulwhinny rang out inside the crisp white marquee, which was festooned with colourful bunting, assuming you approved of the colours being only red, white and blue, which Morag certainly did.
She wiped her hands twice on her sensible tweed skirt and briefly hummed a particularly favourite Scottish reel to herself which she found as calming as a saucer of camomile tea.
Morag was proud of her Scottish heritage. Certainly proud enough to have retained her cut glass BBC accent which even Lord Reith would have approved of. 
She caught sight of an impressive-looking fruit cake on an ivory stand and absent-mindedly straightened it so the clock-piece almonds around the edge did not appear askew.
She then noticed the elegantly written card attached to it and carefully returned the cake to its former askew position.
“Admiring my cake Morag?” said a tiny but true Scots voice beside her.
“Ah Hettie... yes, a fine cake,” said Morag. She had used the word ‘fine’ in the way people use ‘interesting’ when they are unsure of what they’re seeing. The way some parents would use ‘lovely’ when their child brings home a painting from nursery which looks like a walrus eating a Volkswagen Beetle or vice versa but your child insists is actually you. 
“Perhaps a few too many almonds for my liking Hettie, but I think it’s a rather fine effort on your part. You know, I do think there’s every chance you could get a bronze this year, although Cynthia’s Victoria sponge has some admirers.”
Morag smiled sweetly at Hettie who was beginning to frown slightly at the sponge cake beside hers. It was adorned with a dusting of icing sugar which clearly displayed a silhouette of Queen Victoria. Cynthia's recent run of OCD meant she’d probably been up all night placing each individual speck using surgical tweezers and a magnifying glass borrowed from her husband’s surgery.
Morag’s petrified hair seemed to crackle as she looked up and walked with exaggerated urgency towards the marquee’s open tent flaps, her arms raised in melodramatic alarm.
“Emmett darling, you’ll need to put that trestle table out the front, there’s simply not enough room in here for any more asparagus and artichoke displays. And could you tell...” she swallowed hard “Sahara… that she really needs to get a move on. Those dahlias she’s preparing are liable to wilt in this heat, and heaven knows what will become of Glenda’s display of red hot pokers. She knows full well Major Hegarty has a tendency to become somewhat cantankerous if he has to judge wilted torch lilies.”
Morag eyes swivelled and narrowed as she spied suspicious and furtive movements at one of the tables. A voice like cheesewire sliced through the hubbub and ensured all eyes headed towards the subject of Morag’s displeasure.
“Gerald? I’ve told you before – no macaroons. You know they give you indigestion and Dr Parsival quite clearly stated they were as beneficial to your gall bladder as the Zulus were to the garrison at Rourke’s Drift."
A balding, red-faced man gingerly placed a solitary macaroon back onto a rose printed plate, which stood in line with several other similarly rose printed plates on the white cotton tablecloth.
The hubbub returned, embarrassed, as the many continued the work of the few. 
An olive-skinned woman sporting a khaki baseball cap, a denim shirt and a long white cotton Gypsy-style skirt strode into the tent. She waved happily at a couple of the young girls hoisting bunting around the marquee as she approached Morag. With one hand she whipped off the cap and she shook out her long dark hair which had unconcerned strands of grey.
“Morag, I knew I’d find you here in the comp tent. How’s it going? Everything according to plan? It’s frightfully hot don’t you think? Have you had a drink? You’ve been hard at work for ages. You’re starting to look a little flushed you know.”
Morag radiated tireless determination as she gently tended her lacquered hair with the palm of her right hand. She felt the bead of sweat run down the side of her face, but ignored it testily.
“Thank you Georgina, that’s very kind of you, but I can assure you, a childhood in Kandahar, two years in Singapore and three more years as a Japanese P.O.W has left me immune to British summers. I take it you’re taking a break from the holy tent to see how we’re getting along.”
The two were now standing side by side, surveying the cakes, vegetables, flowers and fruits on glorious display on tables the length and breadth of the marquee.
“Holistic tent Morag, although we decided to rename it the ‘Chill Zone’ at our last meeting – didn’t I send you an e-mail?”
Georgina missed Morag’s brief wince at the technological term as she began to look around the marquee full of busy workers. “I must say Morag, this looks very... traditional,” she said with a genuine smile. “It really does look every inch the British summer fete – your lot have done a fantastic job.”
“Well, one does what one can.” Morag’s palm returned to primp the coiffured hair.
“Hmm, anyway, we finished a while ago and I thought I'd offer to give you a hand – do my bit for the sisters in Piggot’s Bottom as it were. The massage table’s up and running, the yoga mats are down, the Bedouin corner looks very cool and the hammocks are out the front. We’ve got whale song and Tibetan monk chants rigged up on the speakers and the organic muesli and yogurt drinks are going like hot cakes. Speaking of which, when's the judging? I'm keen to know how my hash brownies did....”
Georgina caught Morag’s sudden raised eyebrows and grinned.
“Only joking Morag, couldn't resist after that kerfuffle over the speaker I got in from the hemp collective. I actually did mean my carrot cake. I’m looking for a commended this year with some luck, although the competition does look pretty intense.” Georgina cast a questioning gaze over at the cake table which appeared to strain under the weight of this year’s efforts.
“Well, don’t count your organic chickens,” replied Morag sarcastically. “You’ve got some very stiff competition from Mrs Wetherby’s beetroot brownies. What’s so funny?” she asked as Georgina's hand raced to her mouth to stifle childish giggles.
“Nothing Morag, I’m sure Mrs Wetherby’s beetroot brownies will be looked upon with great admiration, as they are every year. Is her husband judging again this year?” she asked sweetly.
Morag took a sharp, deep and indignant breath which was followed by a long stare and a haughty reply.
“Colonel Wetherby is a much respected judge and has been for the past thirty years at each of Piggot’s Bottom Women’s Institute fayres and I’ll brook no insinuation that he is biased in any way. It just so happens that Mrs Wetherby is an exemplary baker and I would remind you and your ladies,” she stressed this word with suspicion “in the Greater Nedging WI that if they wish to compete they should ‘up their game’ to use one of your modern phrases...”
Georgina dropped her right hip and placed her right hand on it, turning to Morag with an arched eyebrow. She sucked on her dazzling white teeth, baring them as she abruptly shook her head. “Oh, we’re not going down this road again Morag – you’ve got your ways and we’ve got ours and that’s that. I respect what you do and the way that you do it, and I would suggest you do the same.  But at the end of the day Morag, if the WI is going to survive the next century and get new members it will have to stop living so stubbornly in the last one.”
Morag drew herself up and puffed out her chest, her hands clasped in front of her in the stance known by servants and put-upon clerks the world over. She positively radiated indignant zeal.


“It may be old fashioned and twee to you johnny come latelies Georgina, but the Piggot’s Bottom WI has a fine tradition of flower arranging, cake making and vegetable growing competitions. Marjorie Twistleton-Ffiennes even won the national award in 1975 for her Beefeater-shaped ginger biscuits and I hardly need remind you of Daphne Fairfax's outstanding plums which made the front cover of the WI’s Life magazine last year...”
She completely ignored Georgina’s smirk and ploughed on like a Crusader in the Holy Land.
“...Like it or not, some of us still hold firm to the concept of Jam and Jerusalem. We're not all into Hamas and Hezbollah.” 
“Humous,” answered Georgina, smiling indulgently.
“Pardon?” quizzed Morag.
“Humous. Not Hamas. Hamas are a political movement in Palestine considered by Israel and some in the West to be a terrorist organisation. Humus is a dip derived from chick-peas. Although I can see how you could confuse the two. You really should come along to some of our meetings Morag, there’s lots more things to learn about the world.”
Morag kept her indignant stance, but softened as she assured herself she had made her point and won the argument. She never wanted it to be said she wasn’t gracious in victory.
“That's most kind Georgina, but all I need to know about the world is here, in this marquee.”
Georgina sighed and unexpectedly reached forward with both her hands to clasp Morag’s.
“I thought as much. Look, if you need some Reiki or a shiatsu massage, pop on over to our tent –  you can have one on the house – I think you need it.”
With kind and smiling eyes, Georgina gave Morag’s hands a little squeeze before turning away and walking out of the marquee, twisting up her long dark hair and placing her baseball cap back onto her head. 
Morag blinked twice and the corner of her mouth twitched. The shock of the unexpectedly tactile and sympathetic offer had taken her quite by surprise and she took a second or two to regain her composure. She watched the receding sway of Georgina’s hips and the swish of her gypsy skirt.
“Shiatsu...” tutted Morag. “The day I let another Japanese get his fiendish hands on my body...” she muttered to herself.
The idea dropped from her mind like cracked eggs into a bowl of flour as she espied a guilty-looking Gerald slinking over towards the macaroons again. 

©Carl Eve 2012

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger


Words have power. Oh they do. I read it somewhere. Well, certainly in between reading a lot of other waffle and, frankly, utter fartwittery, over the past week or two.

You may have noticed that a) a prominent sports star revealed they were attracted to boys. No, not Jessica Ennis. Tom. Woo Yay. Saw the vid and was pleased for him and thought “that took guts mate, and not just the kind of guts that sees you jump 10 metres up, backwards, spinning through the air – that’s pish easy by comparison – so good for you.”

Around that time I also set my stopwatch and started thinking about laying profitable bets on the backlash because, let’s face it, you know me – I’m not local. I don’t have a lot of faith in the six-fingered Plymouth posse and guessed that the 17th century mind-set of most of the city-that-civilisation-forgot was going to get their crayons out and start stringing monosyllabic words together to inform the echo-chamber that they was right sick of them gays and fed up with having them gays rammed down their throats and why didn’t heterosexuals get a “march” like the homosexuals and, frankly, it’s vile because if all men turned to men there would be no more babies, so it’s un-natural and against God and he will burn in the fiery pits of Hell, or Hull, whichever has the better culture these days.

Alongside them I was betting I would be educated by literally web-fingered know-it-all pseudo-citizen journalists who were going to remind me that this wasn’t real news and why was we, as a little Plymouth newspaper, hounding the Plymouth boy by writing about his YouTube revelation which was being retweeted by his million-strong followers, shown on national and international TV, radio, newspapers and sent via the science of telecommunications into outer space.  

And then I bet on the chances that both of these groups would write in, some actually using paper but most just sending in their missives via the wonder of the email and internet, which fortunately for them, allows people to write any old tadgers under the cover of complete anonymity. Yes, I bet they would write in accusing the paper of a) being disgusting for printing Tom’s words, b) being disgusting for printing letters from people who were disgusted at us printing Tom’s words, c) disgusted at the disgusting supportive letters who were disgusted at the disgusting letter writer who was disgusted at the paper for printing Tom’s disgusting words d) eventually it gets so meta, you find you just see a big ball-bag of everyone being “disgusted from Tunbridge Wells” and realise that you’re not remotely bothered anymore.

One of our more erudite and charming letter writers...
Except that I am. It was inferred that I and my workmates were either cheerleaders for bigotry or, worse, the bigots. Particularly from people who should know better. From people who for a number of years refused to speak to me about promoting LGBT issues in this city because, hey, I was a reporter on the local paper and thus couldn’t be trusted not to have the mind-set of Alf Garnett. When I pointed out that I wasn’t from “round here” and thus enjoyed the renaissance, the echoes of the 60s, the decent political correctness of the 80s and a more cosmopolitan outlook on the world, having worked for about a decade in London and living just down the road from it for more than three decades, but it fell on deaf ears. It must’ve been the Alf Garnett accent.

I mean, I know it’s cruel and harsh and very unfair of me to suggest it, but, well… you are a bit backward down here, aren’t you? It’s not entirely your fault, I know. You’re a little island, surrounded by grass and water, moors and channel. The next city of comparable size heading west is probably New York and it’s 50 miles east to the middle-class accents in Exeter. It probably wasn’t until 1976 that you saw your first hippy. You probably ate him. As for the 1980s, I’m sure you were convinced Boy George was a girl until he chained that bloke to a radiator. And you probably liked Clause 28 which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools as a “normal family relationship”. Because saying it’s okay for people to be gay, or lesbian, or whatever, is clearly more evil than the evilist thing we can imagine. You do wonder though why all that energy went into drawing up that bit of legislation when, perhaps, oh, I don’t know, people in the late 1980s should have thought more about whether it was appropriate to invite a DJ with a penchant for molesting children to Chequers on a regular basis.  

My mum brokered reality for me when I heard her say to my dad, who had made some disparaging remark about “poofs” a short while after laughing along with John Inman and Larry Grayson – so this’d be late 70s. Her surprisingly forcefully delivered line, considering it could easily warrant a slap or punch later the same night, was “Who cares if a man loves another man? There’s not enough love in this world and if two men love each other, then it’s more love in the world and that’s a good thing. I’d rather have two men loving each other than them going out and beating up some old woman…” You can’t argue with that, can you? So I didn’t.

"Well, it's better than them going out and beating up some old woman..." said Mum

When my best friend came out to me in our late teens I wasn’t exactly surprised. I was surprised at how well I handled it. Then I wasn’t surprised at how my initially mature response fell by the wayside and for a while I really couldn’t handle it. And a few years later, I found I could. So I asked his forgiveness for being an utter, immature, pratt. To his credit, he did and it was nice to finally rejoin the grown-up world again.

He was, and is, gay. And it’s a word I learned meant “I love him”. It did also mean “him, over there… he’s fit. You Carl, are a minger so don’t flatter yourself that I’d ever be remotely interested in your straight but flabby, unattractive backside.” Saying that – it (the aforementioned backside of mine) did get pinched a bit while it was sashaying through a Priscilla-type bar in Sydney, Australia in teh mid 1990s, so, it can’t be that unattractive.

Well, someone here didn't find me unattractive, so there... 
I liked the Political Correctness of the 1980s because it recognised that words had power. They could be used to create solidarity, and to divide. They could be reclaimed, fought over, reinterpreted. We searched for mutually acceptable words to describe each other so that we didn’t cause harm or hurt. Some will say it went too far, but the aim was good – it was to create a more inclusive, equal and fair world. Women could be bosses – they could be “chairwomen”. By giving them a name for that role, they could be more readily accepted as being able to perform that role. Now, a woman can be chairman of a board. We no longer think of it as a male role. It’s a person’s role. People weren’t “cripples”, they were disabled people. And Gay went from “happy” to “I love him”, which I guess, in a way, is still happy.

Sadly, this current generation doesn’t seem to agree. Gay now means rubbish, useless, wimpy, crap. Thanks to moron DJs like Chris Moyles, who repeatedly promoted thestreet slang word as a negative, it is bandied around playgrounds to disparage, bully, put down. Teenage boys who are learning that maybe they love “him” instead of “her” now face being considered rubbish, wimpy, crap. It’s a 21st century version of Witch-hunting. Find someone, point at them, call them gay. If they aren’t gay (useless), then the continued "you're rubbish" vilification will see them sink. If they really are “gay” (I love him) as well, then the vilification will see them float and then burn. So, we have teenage boys who are and are not gay, killing themselves, because bullies have made their lives hell by calling them gay.

And when I think of what my friend went through, how he tolerated my stupidity, and endured the Government’s stupidity, and the public’s stupidity, it makes me angry enough to give my eldest and middle son a right bollocking when I caught them saying something or someone was “gay” (to them, meaning rubbish/useless). I told them of the legends of music and acting and literature and science who were Gay, of my mum – their grandmother’s – brave solidarity with the concept of being Gay (whom you love) and of my oldest friend who forgave me my stupidity and is a really top bloke, though a bit grouchy at times if he hasn’t had his coffee.


So they don’t use the word in our house, and, I bloody hope, they’ve learned not to use it outside it either. Because if anything is rubbish, being Gay is not it. And I’m pretty happy with that. And I’d really, really like you all to be happy with that too.

I’ll leave you with this thought. Being Gay is like Being Ginger. They just are. Now get over it.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Hello, is there anybody in there, is there anybody home...


It's been a while, I know, but stuff happens.

There's been a lot going on. Things were fraught over the summer at work as we were down a few people and those of us who remained were kept rather busy. But things have settled down, we're up to almost full strength and work is keeping me busy.





Leveson. Ye Gods but it's causing trouble. The predicted trouble is not Leveson and his recommendations. That, I can handle. And to be honest, I agree with much of what he wrote, if not all of it. He was particularly insightful and kind towards us local newspapers

But, as predicted - at least by those of us in the newspaper world who didn't hack phones, didn't blag medical records, didn't bribe coppers or DVLA staff and didn't lie about not doing it afterwards - the backlash has begun.



I remember a reporter friend at my previous paper who was told to go down to the queueing mourners at the civic centre who were all ready to sign a book of condolences for Princess Diana following her death in a horrifying car crash in Paris. Hundreds of people were in the queue and the reporter was tasked with getting a few comments from a handful of them, explaining why they were there, how they felt, why signing the book was a way of offering their sympathy for those left behind. However, very quickly what he got was criticism, and then outright abuse.

"Why are you here? It's your lot that killer her. You lot killed her you bastards... You scum!"

Yes - a 25-year-old ginger-haired reporter from Southend who liked doing stories about house music had apparently been the cause of a Royal death in another country. Or at least someone very much like him...

Obviously, trying to point out the difference between a local scribe and French paparazzi was a mute point. I mean, they're all the same, aren't they? All the same. All vermin. Like those on benefits, eh? All skiving scum.

Except that one doesn't represent all. It's a hard concept to have to accept. It means having a few calm thoughts, recognising the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, and having the conscience to not take the easy "you're all the fecking same" and accept that one's opinions could do with being tweaked a little.

So, as I said, the backlash has begun, again. Already in my role I'm having a few problems with officers who think I have horns, a curly tail and cloven hooves. That I will taunt them and call to them with my siren song, tempting them onto the rocks of corruption with a well stuffed brown envelope and the promise of a well paid column after their retirement (possibly their enforced "A19" retirement).

I know... mental, eh?

I have bribed cops you know. Oh yes. A cup of tea at Capn Jaspers. To date I have bribed two Chief Superintendents. I bought them a cup of tea and insisted the deposit went in the Fishermen's Mission charity box afterwards. Oh, and a Sergeant. He got a cup of tea as well. And a burger. In payment of the burger he'd bought me a few weeks before. I promised him it would balance out.

Scandalous, aren't I!

Devon and Cornwall Police have responded to Leveson by taking on recommendations by HMIC to ensure that all contacts between journalists on daily publications and police officers is recorded. Reporters on our sister weeklies don't have to go through the same thing, but the paper I'm currently working on, telly and radio, all have to submit to it. The copper has to note down on their computer system their name, the date, who they spoke to and from what organisation and what they talked about. The information gets sent off to the police press office who "monitor" it.

Of course, any suggestions that officers will be carpeted if they speak to the wrong person, or say the wrong thing, are scurrilous, unfair and a downright untruth and I will horsewhip any of you who suggest such a thing...

Sadly, despite these vicious rumours of it being used to terrify officers into choosing not to talk to the press, some officers appear to have found it far easier to, erm... well, not talk to the press.

I get a lot of "oh God, not you Carl, now I'll have to fill in one of those bloody forms and I'm up to my eyeballs in paperwork as it is... tell you what, you bugger off and I won't have to fill it in". I also get a couple of "but we're not allowed to talk to you anymore Carl - I'm sure there was an e-mail from one of the Chiefs saying not to talk to you. Everything has to go through the press office now. Yes I know they've gone home, but that's the new rule". I've even had a couple along the lines of "Can't really talk to you Carl. Apparently you're person non grata at the moment with the bosses. It was after that article you did... you know, the one about the Plymouth Headteachers having concerns about Op Encompass not working as well as it used to..."

I also occasionally get a few "feck the forms, this is not 1984 and I won't have some busybody in Middlemoor telling me I don't know what I can and can't talk to you about. Now, I've got this appeal I want in the paper and I want it prominent. And I've had a result on that racial assault and they're up in court next Thursday, can you get your magistrates reporter to cover it". Which is nice.

Anyway, there are trolls about, it's late and I've got to get home. Those brown envelopes won't stuff themselves you know...

PS
I've just learned that Amy Childs, from that telly programme The Only Way Is Essex, is coming to town and I am praying to God, or in my case Billy Bragg, that I won't be sent to cover it. Please Billy, watch over me and keep me safe from celebrities...




Thursday, 12 July 2012

"Whine, Whinge, Moan, Gripe" - yes, now you too can speak Plymothian like a native...





"You love us, you really love us..."




Ooooooooooooooh, some people. I mean, really, some people. It's gets so that you hurry the day when you have to pass a test and get a licence to allow you to put comments on the internet.

Fortunately, that day isn't here and anyone can put the boot in on anyone else, ideally under the cover of a false name with no chance of anyone finding out who you are... unless you have the bottle to say who you are... or are stupid enough to say who you are. Yes, I am the latter, welcome to my small world.

I found this on a story which I'd spent much of a Saturday out in the rain covering, then followed up with a corking tale about an escaped suspect from a police station. By the time I got home (around 8.30pm), the kids were abed and upset I hadn't read them their bedtime story as I always try to do, dinner was cold and the Mrs was doing a fair impersonation of a highly unamused partner. And who could blame her? I am not the kind of guy you find in 50 Shades of Grey... more like 17 Versions Of A Sickly Green Colour...

I mean Nevman has a point, I'm not saying he doesn't. But he seems to think we have an army of reporters and the kind of backing seen at The Mail, the Sunday Times or the Observer, with hosts of reporters, plus stringers, freelances, part-timers and oodles of subs and proof-readers. We don't. We're a local paper. We do, however, have articles which those three newspapers, along with all the other nationals, regularly partake of (read "steal") and then put their name to.

So it got me to thinking, what the blinking flip have I been doing since I got here. I mean, I'm no investigative journalist. I'm no Nick Davies, or Seymour Hersh, or John Sweeney (although I have worked alongside Sweeney on a piece of investigative journalism which I'm particularly proud of and really, really got up the noses of the MoD, but that was another time and another news organisation)

So, I had a bit of a dig in respects to what could be construed as my own "lack of depth and background to articles" and my own "absence of investigative journalism":

Well, we could start here – which we got first and then BBC et al followed up on… http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Man-tried-tell-police-seen-escaped-rape-suspect/story-16514502-detail/story.html

Earlier this year there was - http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/pound-950k-seized-Plymouth-club-boss-Jersey/story-15306195-detail/story.html - this one took, off and on, a year of digging and being knocked back, even to the point of getting an MP to ask a minister who appeared to not give the full picture.

Then there’s some late night being out on the beat:
http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Inside-raid-Border-Agency-targets-Plymouth/story-16364272-detail/story.html –having already done a day’s work in the office, and yes, this'll get to be a moaning theme of mine, as it does with every crime reporter because our subjects do not like to keep respectable hours)

Then there’s the times I’ve been out into the very early hours – having already done a full day at work - http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/line-war-poachers/story-13470919-detail/story.html & http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Plymouth-police-target-deer-poachers/story-15505538-detail/story.html (and no, we don’t ever, ever got overtime payments… again another theme with reporters, sorry to go on... and on... and ... you get the picture)

There's kind of a theme with these three:
http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Area-manager-flooded-city-streets-drugs/story-14228011-detail/story.html - which again took ages of interviews with detectives who weren't usually okay with talking to a reporter. 

Then there’s this ongoing story which I'm particularly proud of for personal and professional reasons, yet no other news organisation was interested in for around a year, where Plymouth schools, council and police lead the entire country on something truly worthwhile -
as long as you ignore the commendation bit... I'm vain, but there's only so much adulation you can take.

Add to that the Kelly Edney story (http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/ERRORS-LED-ESCAPE-VIOLENT-RAPIST/story-11403887-detail/story.html) which took nearly two years of FoI haggling with Prison Service and Information Commissioner. Okay, it's a bit old, but cases like that don't come around often in sleepy Plymouth.



Now this is just a quick-as-I-could-get selection of stuff I’ve written in the past four years… there’s lot of stuff I know I’ve written but can’t find online about police investigations - the Chinese brothels/traffickers case, the Essex/Plymouth cocaine dealers,  the Vietnamese cannabis crime gangs which I was the first to highlight down in the South West, even the in depth interviews with rape victims, victims of domestic abuse.

Now, that’s just my stuff. Admittedly, I could be doing more, but there is the day to day gubbins to be getting on with, writing about incidents and crimes, doing picture captions for charity events, schools events, amateur theatrics, appeals for witnesses (many of which work and I have coppers galore admitting to me that they’ve had a result from The Herald and/or thisisplymouth appeals), plus fluffy bunny stuff like http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/VIDEO-Plymouth-s-Charlotte-Holmes-crowned-Miss/story-16456523-detail/story.html and http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Heading-headig-headig-heading-headig-headig/story-13630670-detail/story.html (I know, shame about the heading, eh)

Now, add to this some of the phenomenal material dug out by people at The Herald like Edd Moore who covered the Plymouth Argyle shenanigans solidly for more than a year so brilliantly that other news organisations were reading him to find out what was going on. Some of political reporter Keith Rossiter’s work, and health reporter Diana Prince’s work has been incredible, insightful and revealing, covering both the nitty gritty of the NHS and council to the personal stories.
Not to mention the award-winning work of defence reporter Tristan Nichols who spent three months alongside “our boys” in Afghanistan, one of the first local reporters to be embedded for such a length of time with frontline operational servicemen.

I really think not enough credit is given to The Herald for having not one, but two full time court reporters Stuart Abel and Graham Broach - one for the magistrates and one for the crown. My last paper in Essex had one such reporter, just for crown and just for Basildon. The Southend office would occasionally go to mags and crown court, as would the Thurrock office, but not everyday and not both courts. So to have two is quite remarkable and really gives Plymouth a view of the justice being meted out in the public’s name. I wonder if the Plymouth people would rather that was hidden from their gaze?

One thing which bothered me was the dismissive tone about the “human interest” stories. My old news-ed (Dave - he'd been a reporter for longer than I’d been alive by the time I started at the Echo) used to say “people like to read about people”. Which meant that whatever the story, however big, however seemingly divorced from mere mortals, it would actually always have a human dimension worth revealing. A massive new housing development? Who will it benefit and who will it harm? Incinerator near a school? Talk to the pupil or teacher with asthma. A crime or court verdict? Talk to the copper and the victim, or the victim’s family. 

Dave also used to say "Eve, what's this sh**? Can't you spell properly? If you send me one more bit of copy with a 'teh' instead of 'the' I'll come over there and rip out your liver you feckin' muppet" on a regular basis, so take what he said about people-wanting-to-read-about-people with a pinch of salt if you wish...

As for not noting Plymouth’s weaknesses? What, like this paper has never ever mentioned the city's racist element, it’s above-average number of child-abusers, it’s small-minded stuck-20-years-behind-rest-of-UK mentality, it’s crap internet speeds and train-to-London timetable, it’s lack of a bleedin’ airport, diminishing dockyard and lack of use of its derelict spaces and properties left to rot….

I mean, the paper loves the city, but you have to be honest in any relationship, don't you?

Personally speaking, and keeping in mind I'm not local, as is often said to me with a finger jabbing into my chest by someone with three-too-many fingers on a regular basis, I’ll tell you one thing we really don’t focus on in this city as much as I’d like to since I arrived here six years ago – how much people in this city feckin’ moan… I mean they REALLY do moan a lot. Everything from the sky to the ground, the sea to the rivers, the view to the smell, the streets to the pavement. (Although, the potholes are a real pain in the suspension if you know what I mean, I'm with you there on that one folks)

What I will say in defence of the paper is it’s not perfect, despite the efforts of the staff at the place. It’s easy to carp from the sidelines, (especially anonymously, without risk of being identified), it’s easy to forget the good articles (such as the Support for Devonport campaign), it’s easy to remember the spelling mistake, or the missing word or comma.

It is not perfect, but I'm pretty sure that here, as with many other local newspapers up and down this green, pleasant and wet land that the reporters and others at those papers will continue to do their best to get the news of their town/city to the people of aforementioned town/city.

Meanwhile, for those of you who girded your loins to read this ongoing pile of horse manure I write, if you've been invited by the guvnor of The Herald, why not take a shot and give it a go? What have you got to lose, other than your pre and mis conceptions?

Love, as always... (mutter, mutter, grumble, grouch, mutter, grumble...)




Monday, 2 July 2012

I asked the barmaid for a double entendre - and she gave me one...

I like writing, even when not at work. I joined a writing course after moving down to Plymouth, thanks to my colleague William Telford. It was led by a wonderful, funny and earthy teacher called Roy York. Roy was a sprightly, "senior citizen" with a good line in rude one-liners, a love of film noir and a vast knowledge of literature, writers, the art of writing and comedy.
Roy encouraged my writing like no-one else since I was a schoolboy and lusted after Mrs Smith, my English teacher, for whom I would would write lavish stories in the vain hope that one day she'd see me as a kindred soul, dump Mr Smith and be my Mrs Robinson.
She didn't, but it never stopped me trying.
Roy would encourage amatuer writers like me, but also he'd amuse and entertain us with his own big book of funny anecdotes and observations during the classes we took out at Millfields. If I wrote something a bit too saucy or gritty for the older members of the group, he was as supportive as if I'd written something mature and worthy. I rarely did write anything mature and worthy. Well, what d'you expect? But we both like an element of filth and an element of gritty violence.
Sadly, Roy passed away recently after fighting a variety of illnesses that Fate likes to put in our way. His death leaves a very big hole in a lot of Plymouth writers' lives.
Here's something I wrote for one of our evening classes, to highlight the kind of meetings I've attended as a reporter, but also to give a big nod to the likes of the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue radio programmes and the Carry On film series. We read all our stories/poems/haikus out loud, so when you get a laugh from your classmates, it's joy to the ears. But getting a grin from Roy... that was always gold. Bless you Roy.






July Committee Meeting of the Innuendo and Double Entendre Association (Little Nobbing branch)

1) Apologies for Absence:
Vice Chairman Humphrey de-la Fleur offered his apologies. He said he wasn’t feeling himself tonight but hoped to be coming out later this evening before his wife got home. 

2) Declarations of Interest
Committee Secretary Sasha Boomdiere revealed she had an ongoing interest in the Little Nobbing Rovers football team, the Little Nobbing Cricket Team and the First Nobbing Scout Troop.
Social Secretary David Gimlet asked the committee to note he regularly wrote for the town’s weekly paper for a small sum.
Ms Boomdiere said she had often cast her eye over Mr Gimlet’s column and congratulated him on its length and content, adding it always brought a smile to her face.


3) Minutes of last meeting:

Branch secretary Gerta String read the minutes of the previous meeting which were agreed by the committee. She said she hoped this meeting will not go on for as long as the last meeting as she often found her fingers became quite stiff after taking down everyone’s particulars.

4) Treasurer’s Report:
Eileen Felt said there was very little cash left in the kitty as of last month after members had been regularly whipping it out.
She hoped members would remember to make substantial deposits into her safe-box in the coming weeks. Eileen said either a cheque or postal order would be preferable and members could give her one at the end of any meeting.
Eileen said she had sought out a financial advisor who had made a couple of suggestions about where she could get a lot of interest.
Eileen also wanted to reassure all members that she had a firm grip on the finances and had bent over backwards to ensure her kitty was easily available at all times.    

5) Social Secretary’s Report:
David Gimlet was pleased to note the association had enjoyed a few busy nights on the social diary of late with a host of organised events.
He said what with the bad weather he had worked up quite a sweat on many a filthy night, trying to come up with activities for members to get stuck into.
One such was a evening of golf. All members got a chance to play a round, and we were given tips on how to improve our swinging from a pro who been entered in the Open. One of our number apparently had a birdie on the 18th hole and celebrated by throwing their balls into a nearby bush.
Some of the more alcoholic evenings at our local – the Duck and Swallow – have resulted in a few members finding it hard to remain erect by the end of the night. One of our lady members was said to have had more than one Bishop’s Finger inside her, leading to her being in a rather excitable state come last orders.
David said he also appreciated the help from the Chairman’s wife, Sarah Loins, on the stalls for the summer fayre. He said she was invaluable with the extra-large snakes and ladders board she had created, with David later learning that Mrs Loins had been working on the game for quite some time.

6) Chairman’s Report:
Our chairman, Roger Loins, remarked on the impressive number our association had grown to in recent years. He was particularly pleased the Little Nobbing branch was now larger than our sister branch at the neighbouring village of Nibbling-under-Lyme.
He wish to offer commiserations to the outgoing chairman of the Nibbling-under-Lyme who was retiring early due to advancement in years and ill-health, adding he hoped there was no hard feelings. Former chairman Hamish McTaggart said he had harboured no hard feelings for a while now.
There was also a hope the two branches could meet up for a forthcoming social event at nearby farmland he had inherited from his good friend, the widow Macintosh, who sadly passed away last month. He said she had always promised him she would leave him with a couple of acres and, as usual, she didn’t disappoint.
Chairman Loins queried his failed attempts in recent weeks to contact our Treasurer regarding deposits and withdrawals. It appears he had little joy in asking the receptionist at her workplace when was the best time to get Eileen Felt.
 

7) Any Other Business:
Church warden Bernard Hind has asked the committee if it could vacate the church hall early next month as he needed to prepare the flags and insignia he bought for the next Scout and Guide parade. It appears he will be asking Brown Owl and Akela to spend most of the evening helping him polish his regalia.
Chairman Loins also urged members to be cautious when advertising their membership of the association to the local press, noting how one gentleman at a branch in Scunthorpe had been hung out to dry by the tabloids.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

We're So Sorry, Uncle Albert


Right. I know. Yes, yes, you're right, I'm sorry. No really, I am.

I have been somewhat lapse.

There's some good reasons. One of the main ones was disillusionment. I retorted to some comments which were added to a story I wrote and in hindsight, I shouldn't have. I mean, part of me still feels I should have the right to respond to intimidation, but arguing with anonymous commenters... well. As better and more experienced bloggers have noted before, feeding the trolls is a kind of pointless and damaging exercise. Trolls like the oxygen of publicity and responding to them is grade A oxygen, fresh from the mountain-tops of the Himalayas. Added to which, I got my nuts slapped (metaphorically) by my "work" and bluntly told to shut the feck up. Which was good advice, albeit too late for my benefit.

Needless to say, it does put a little pinch on your desire to write freely, openly and without any fettering. So, I've held off.

Also, time... three sons keeps me rather busy, as does the full time job, as does the full time partner, as does the full time dog, cat and new cat. Yes, new cat. Thank you Woodside. Thank you for yet another cat to feed. Hopefully this one will be friendly and settle on my lap, giving me an excuse to say "honey... I can't get up to help you with the dishwasher... the new cat has just settled on my lap and it'd be cruel to get up now" [and no, I don't think that will ever work, for the record]

Also... this cold. No really - I've had this cold since November last year. I say cold, but it's a blocked nose and enough mucous coughing up and down my airways to supply the next Alien film with that material that drips from its mandibles. I'm actually getting worried about it and even thinking unmanly thoughts about going to the doctor's *again*. I know, second time in six months - what an absolute girls' blouse, eh?

The repeated nightmares about Zombie Apocalypse has not affected me however. I still believe it will come and only those with shotguns and high ground will survive. Alternatively, only those who can set up running machines all around the outside of their house will survive. The Walking Dead cannot run and thus when the treadmills are set to jog, they will be buggered. These are facts, ignore them at your peril.


Anyway, point being, I will return to proper blogging now as there's a lot of stuff I'm in the mood to chat about again. I'll even take requests. No really, I will, but obviously "naff off hippy journo filth" will not be acted up, regardless of how many times you shout it Mum...

I still enjoy writing, any kind of writing. The writing club I've joined is fun, the writing I do for The Herald is still my very enjoyable job, and writing on this blog is cathartic.

However, I don't think I'll be dual publishing the notlocal blog on the thisisplymouth site anymore.... Plymouth has a lot of great things about it, it really, really does... but it also has a lot of Trolls and people who are happy to let the Trolls have free reign. I think thisisplymouth will get along fine without me. Anyways, they can always come over to my gaff here and try their luck. I still work on the basis that no-one's listening/reading and I'm the last one left, on the shortwave radio to a barren wasteland. It's that Zombie Apocalypse again... I told you it was on my mind a lot, didn't I?

Anyways, Hi, hope you're all well and let's see how we go...

Carl - and I'm still not local.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Can't Stand Losing You

One of the reasons I like being a reporter is you do get to hear some interesting stuff. And 'interesting' is a very broad church.
I do get to hear gossip, and intrigue, and truly slanderous stuff, inside information, dirty deals, inappropriate material. And being such an inquisitive - alright, nosy - geezer, I do love it. Downside is you get to hear some very upsetting stuff, and despite what you think about the cold heartedness of reporters, most of the time it does get to us.
I mean, I got all choked up when a Navy sub came home earlier this year, because all of the families on the dock, the hugs, the atmosphere, the brass band playing, the wives and girlfriends breaking down, the sailors clutching their partners and cuddling their children.
One of my fellow reporters recently worried that she wasn't being tough enough because she blubbed at the return of HMS Ocean.
I told her I'd wobbled and it was okay because we are human.
No, honest, we are and I have a doctor's certificate to prove it.
I won't deny I've occasionally cried at funerals of people I don't even know, because the service is so moving, the music so haunting, the words spoken so honest and sad.
I've always cried at funerals for kids.
I hate covering a child's funeral. Really, really hate it. They're always the most heartbreaking things to cover as a reporter and personally speaking, the smaller the coffin, the more awful I feel being there.
One, because any child's death is a sad affair.
Two, because as a parent myself my heart goes out to the parent of the dead child and how much agony they must be in, and three I darkly imagine how I'd get through it if it was one of my kids in that little box with rows of people sitting numbly in front.
Now, there's been a lot of debate online about reporters covering deaths, particularly what is termed in the "industry" as 'death-knocks'.
The main point of the debate boils down to "why do evil, callous, parasite reporters knock on people's doors within hours of them losing a loved one, the evil, callous, parasitic b'stards?'
It's not necessarily an unfair question. But if you've done them, the answer is easy.
You're sent, because that's your job.
What isn't easy is actually doing them. Nor is understanding why people do talk to you.
In fact, understanding why the great majority of people you knock on the door of, do want you to come in and talk to you... well, it doesn't seem to make sense... until you do them.
Because when you've lost someone, you all sit around together, heartbroken, stunned, hollow, trying to come to terms with what to do next.
Then in walks someone who doesn't know this dead person and asks straight out, 'can you tell me about them, what were they like, what did they say that made you laugh, what did they do that infuriated you, what was their favourite music/film/book/meal, what did they want to be when they were little, what will you miss most about them?
'Who were they, that other people could possibly know what they've missed out on. Who was this person they will never know. Can you help me write something they helps explain why they were so wonderful to you, explains why their leaving this world means you feel so terrible right now.'
And so, they do tell you.
And you often wish you did know this person, because they sound just like someone you would like.
I don't like doing death knocks at all.
I do know reporters who are decent people who don't have as much of a problem with them.
I don't think I've ever met a reporter who 'enjoys' doing them.
But the one's I have done, the person who's telling me things is often smiling as they do so.
It's the first chance they've had since their loss to enthuse with another human about the person they love who has gone.
I've interviewed families - parents, siblings, friends - as a group and often they start to tell stories to each other, surprising each other with tales that other family members never knew about.
They often learn new things about the deceased, a tale about who was really responsible for a broken plate when siblings where young, or a dad lets slip about them on a weekend away that mum never knew, or some medal grandad was awarded that no-one but grandma knew about.
The stories are often warm, jovial, endearing, full of humour, admiration, love.
A couple of times, I leave the house and there's been more smiles than tears.
Good memories of a loved one, not sadness.
So, I go back to the office and try and put that person across on paper, the way their loved ones have done so to me, to let you - the readers - know what you missed, never got the chance to meet, to know, to love as much as their family did.
I consider it an onerous task. I've been given a great responsibility. It's not the sort of thing I should take lightly.
And I don't. Ever.
Neither do my colleagues, at least all the ones I've ever worked with.
That's a death knock.
When you've written it, it becomes a 'tribute' piece.
And before you ask, yes, I've done death knocks on people who've been complete gits most of their lives.
But even the most obnoxious git has someone who loves them and mourns their passing.
And I'll record that too.
Until you're there, in that situation, you can't know or understand the way it'll go.
Maybe you'll close the door quickly, maybe you won't even answer it. Maybe you'll open it wide and let the reporter in.
Regardless, reporters will still call, still record what's said, and write it.
That, as I said earlier, is our job.

****************************************

To end, I'll give an example of what I mean.
I once did a death knock on a mum who's 19 year old son died when his car span off the road and hit a tree.
Lovely woman, really kind, in shock. Her friend was with her, giving support and I called on her for the tribute. We had cups of tea. She told me all about him. He sounded a typical Essex teenager really. A bit of a lad, one for the ladies, liked his motor more than anything.
I got back to the office late and started writing.
Then I got a call from his best friend, effing and blinding, shouting about how evil I was, how obscene it was that I'd bothered his mate's mum, how stinking vile I was, why the bloody hell I'd bothered her?
'Because as of right now, your mate is number 15, and that's all he'll ever be if I don't write this.'
*Eh? What are you going on about?* he shouted.
'Your mate was the 15th person to die on this county's roads this year. Just another number in a long list of people who've died. Next week there will be a number 16, then 17 and so on until we start all over again with number 1 next year. This way, he's John Smith, a teenager who was loved by his mum, who liked cars, liked girls, liked certain music and clothes and had some really good mates. He's not another statistic, he's a person and people will be able to remember him as a person, not a statistic'.
It all went quiet for a while, and then his best friend apologised profusely, stumbling over his words, trying to take it all back.
I made it very clear that it was completely alright, there was no problem at all, it was very understandable and he wasn't to worry, fer chrissakes he'd just lost his best mate, of course he's upset and angry and everything.
He shyly asked if he could add some comments of his own to the article I was writing.
I was more than happy to oblige.
The kid's mum phoned up later, wanting to change a word. She'd said he was a bit of a devil, or something which didn't really match him properly.
I already knew what she'd really meant when she said it, and I'd changed it to something like tyke or rascal.
She said that was what she'd really meant and thanked me.

What I did is nothing unusual. It is what most reporters (local - can't talk for the nationals) do everyday.
It may seem strange, but there it is. I hope that helps the debate.