Monday, 11 July 2011

The News

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Sometimes The News is so interesting that I think my brain is going to explode. I have a dear friend who once worked for one of the mighty broadsheets. On slow news days, she used to make a little joke about looking for The News, imagining it as a shy woodland animal that was prone to hiding under the desk, which had to be searched for and then coaxed out, with many gentle persuasions. Today, The News is not a water vole but an enormous woolly mammoth, stamping about and roaring (did mammoths roar?) and throwing its tusks in the air.

Woolly mammoth via Animal Planet, picture uncredited

The internet too is exploding: with outrage, some real, some politically calculated, some entirely manufactured, some commercially driven, some frankly hypocritical; with fascination; with shock; with amazement. There is a mad scramble to catch up. After all, the brilliant and driven Nick Davies has been writing about this for months, and no one took the blindest bit of notice. (I have loved Nick Davies ever since reading his seminal book Flat Earth News, which I hope now will take its deserved place on the best-seller list.)

The thing I do not understand, and keep banging on about, is that Rebekah Brooks told a Select Committee, in 2003, ‘We have paid the police for information in the past’. I am such a political anorak that I actually watched that, and even though it was eight years ago, I still recall my mouth falling open in an astonished O, as if I were some goofy cartoon character. Paying the police for information is illegal. It was said, quite easily and casually, on television, in front of a room full of our elected representatives. And nothing was done, no headlines were wasted, no police action taken, no independent inquiries announced. Then, when it was reported last week that The News of the World had been paying police for information everyone went crazy nuts in the head. It was as if it were an astounding new revelation. Really, it was like Peter Lorre saying ‘I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on in this establishment,’ and then turning to collect his winnings from the fawning croupier.

What will happen next? Nobody knows. One of my favourite political commentators was reduced to saying, on this morning’s edition of The Today Programme, very slowly and deliberately: IT. WILL. BE. A. BIG. MESS.

There are so many ramifications that it is impossible to count the ways. There are also about forty-seven different ways of looking at it. People are using it to bash the BBC, which apparently has been vicious and vindictive in reporting the troubles of a rival. I call it informing and entertaining, in the manner of Lord Reith, but you say potayto, I say potahto.

One cross fellow decided it was a perfect excuse for a little light class warfare, savaging the bien pensant liberal elitists, who look down their Notting Hill noses at the salt of the earth tabloid-reading classes.

According to taste, the News of the World is either a great pillar of British life, loved for 168 years by legions of Ordinary Decent Britons, or a sewerish bottom-feeder representing everything that is wrong with this small island.

Bob Woodward himself has brought out the –gate suffix, calling it Rupert-gate. I think that is not going to catch on, myself. And talking of gates, my current favourite joke of the entire mess was made by a very jolly commenter on one of The Telegraph blogs who said: ‘This is the biggest story since Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman got Nixon to resign!’

Twitter is delirious with rumours. The number one at this moment is that Gordon Brown is about to break cover and make some kind of incendiary statement. For some reason, this causes Brian Blessed’s voice to shout in my head: GORDON’S ALIVE.

As for me, I am taking it very, very personally. How am I expected to get any damn work done when the news mammoth is making such a riveting racket?


After all that, I think that we need some nice, soothing pictures, like a visual sorbet to cleanse our collective palate. Still too rainy for photographs today, but here is a selection from the last couple of weeks, with many green things to soothe your troubled minds. Or my troubled mind, at least:


11 July 1

Wild grasses:

11 July 2

A little phlox:

11 July 3

Magnificent fern:

11 July 4

Lovely astrantia:

11 July 6

Glorious Portuguese laurel:

11 July 7

Oh, oh, oh, that Pigeon:

11 July 8

I know you’ve seen this before, but sometimes, when The News goes crazy, the only answer is a picture of a baby oystercatcher:

11 July 9

Grass with faded and slightly blurred hill in the background. I like this picture because something about the colours makes me think it looks like 1957:

11 July 10

Perfect viola:

11 July 11

Rather muddly pot table:

11 July 12

The old, leaning, iron fence, of which I never tire:

11 July 13

And a delicate new acer, just settling in:

11 July 14


Should you share my own geekish fascination with this extraordinary series of events, here is some further reading.

John Rentoul, for whom my admiration knows no bounds, has a measured, intelligent interesting piece here.

Matthew D’Ancona also has an interesting take here.

The lovely John Finnemore, whom I bless every day for writing Cabin Pressure, which can make me laugh even when I am utterly miserable, is both funny and serious here.

And, if you can bear any more, one of Nick Davies’ most shocking and fascinating pieces on the whole saga is here. It is so incredible, in the literal sense of the word, that I had to read it twice. It was published in March. As far as I can tell, there was not a peep from the rest of the press.


Oh, oh, and now some News of my own. It is reported that The Younger Brother has arrived on the compound. Can hardly believe it. He has been living six thousand miles away for the last three years, so this really is headline stuff. Hold the front page, baby. Am running now to gaze upon his dear face.


  1. What a wonderful post. It is amazing, I'm not political but can imagine medieval courts full of intrigue and lies being eclipsed by all this. Jude x. Love the oyster catcher!

  2. Jude - how kind you are. And so glad you like the dear little oystercatcher.

  3. I'm an old hack; it doesn't surprise me when there has been so much pressure to sell sell sell rather than research research research but I'm old fashioned and possibly rather dull. Pictures as usual just heavenly.

  4. There's so much of it to take in that I'm quite tempted to tune out for a week or two and wait until someone wise has summarised it all neatly for me. I can't cope without having the radio on all day though so I'll just have to suffer through all the new revelations every 10 minutes.

    ps - the pot table! I'm very pleased to see it again.

  5. Tattie - so agree with you on the three Rs. Do not think it old-fashioned at all.

    Alex - you are so sweet to remember the pot table.

  6. I do find it quite hard to believe that all those years ago, the running of the 'squidgygate' tapes had no-one questioning their access, yet now a previously unmarked line has been crossed, namely grieving families, we only now, ONLY now, start to question how journalists come by their information.
    An interesting point was made yesterday, that we have been more or less conditioned to expect the celebrity news to be the main news. Certainly in terms of the tabloids. Somewhere along the way, with the help of reality series, the line between real celebrity (who might have a sense of privacy and savoir faire about the whole matter) and wannabes who were naive enough to try to ride the wave and come out on top, a line got blurred so now everything is a free-for-all and nobody is sacrosanct.


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