Sunday, 21 March 2010

“Sometimes, I don’t hate it here. You - yes. But here? Not always”

Of course, there will be blood. There is always a little bit of aggro, a bit of violence and tragedy on the front pages. Crime reporting and bad news – for someone at least – always seems to go hand in hand.

And of course, there is the understandable assumption that the world, or at least the little bit that you inhabit, is a terrible place.

(Well, probably for “Boris Napper, Eddystone Lighthouse” and “Mick, the Barbican” it probably is, because you constantly inhabit your little bit of it. So that’s a given.)

But for the rest of you, I’m sure there are times when you just cry out “for the love of Cliff Richard at Wimbledon in the rain – is there no good news out there to rescue my aching soul?”

And of course, there is.

Remember the old dear who appeared on our front page the other week? Looked like everyone’s treasured nan, had her face battered and bruised thanks to some ne’er do well?

Well, since then, I’ve had a letter from one woman, asking me to forward £20 she had enclosed, ideally turning it into flowers first.

Another woman, who wrote with such eloquence and reserve, enclosed a card which, it turned out, held £50. Both were formally taken off my hands by the police who – having signed for it’s contents – assured me it would be handed to the woman (I checked later… it was). In addition we had the manager of a residential care home who offered the old dear a night’s stay, a meet up with others of a similar age and a spa day at their place. All for free.

Added to which, the photo on the front page elicited enough phone calls of a similar nature for the police to make an arrest.

So, that was nice.

The Haiti earthquake was undoubtedly a sad affair. But as a reporter, I cannot begin to count the amount of ‘cheque presentations’ I and my colleagues at The Herald wrote about schoolchildren of all ages raising enough funds through a variety of activities to help buy Shelterboxes (a relatively local charity which provides something solid in the way of help) for the Haitians. While the bitter among our readers (yes, you Boris and Mick, you moaning, whinging maggots) constantly lament the respect of youngsters today, painting them all as feral filth, there in our pages were kids doing everything they could to provide shelter, materials and hope to others thousands of miles away.

Which was heartening.

For my part I enjoyed a exceptionally rare treat – a press freebie. I and a couple of workmates were invited to the newly opened Seco Lounge down at Royal William Yard in Stonehouse. Where there was a free bar for two hours…

Needless to say, I drank alcohol to the point where the next day I promised I would never drink alcohol again. But what I certainly do recall is looking out from the bar, across the water to Mount Edgcumbe, taking in the fantastic architecture of the Yard and the bar itself (it’s in the old bakery building) and saying to anyone in earshot… “why do Plymouth people moan about how ugly their city it… this is bloody AMAZING!”

Which it is.

I know it rains a lot (I spent three years in the valleys of south Wales, so I know what I’m talking about) and the builders of a lot of Plymouth’s houses had the same mentality as Mr Ford (‘you can have any colour house you like, as long as it’s dark grey’) but honestly, you’ve got a lovely looking town.

Take into account, I’m from south Essex. It’s flat as a pancake there and the view opposite from Southend beach is of a power station on the Isle of Sheppey and the gas storage facility at Coryton, next to Canvey Island. You get ruddy great oil tankers lumbering up and down the Thames as you whisper sweet nothings into your bird’s ear as you both lick a Rossi ice-cream. So I know what good scenery is by living with a lack of it.

But seriously, you gaff is gorgeous. Look out from parts of Jennycliff and you can see from the Eddystone lighthouse, across to Cawsand/Kingsand, to Drake’s island, to the Hoe and up over to the moors themselves.

Even up in the city itself you are rarely anywhere where you can’t see a view of green hills or the sea. Some of the city’s buildings are fantastic (particularly near Stonehouse barracks, the Hoe, Barbican and bit of the city centre. Out at Millfields, Royal William Yard and other hidden areas you have the remains of military buildings which reek of charm, splendid moustaches and bloody campaigns.

Admittedly, a lot of the young men look as gormless as a hillbilly born of a drooling moron and a badger that’s had a stroke, but you’ve got some pretty fit birds to compensate.

So, chin up eh? Open your eyes a bit and take heart at the lovely little city you’ve got.

It’s such a shame you spend all your time whining like a planefull of Australians who lost the Ashes when really you should be strutting around, chest out, head high at the lovely town you inhabit.

After all… you could be living in Basildon. Trust me - you’d kiss the bloody ground on your return.


Finally, as an aside, a fun time was had by me recently at a public meeting at Mutley Baptist church about the road closures on Mutley Plain. A nice gent had a good old venting of spleen about The Herald's appalling coverage, full of inaccuracies, hyped up to the max. He said it knowing full well I was in the room and I endured the glares of the crowd of people for my paper's terrible reporting. He positively glowed in the limelight as the crowd applauded his brave and honest stance.

So when I approached him, brandishing the aforementioned article and asking him to point out the inaccuracies for me, he at first declined. I insisted, quite forcefully for me, I must say.

After taking the piece away, he returned after the majority of people had gone home.

He meekly mumbled an apology, recognising the article had actually been, having read it again, completely accurate and without any kind of exaggeration.

I stuck out my hand and said "no harm done... except that everyone in the room has gone home thinking my paper's full of it. Cheers"

He took my proffered hand and toddled off home.

1 comment:

  1. Hear hear! People born and brought up in and around Plymouth have no idea just what a wonderful little city the have here - I moved here from South Essex too (Harlow) for a reason and would not go back for the world.