Archive for March 2010
It’s hard to believe there hasn’t yet been an episode of hit nostalgia crime series Heartbeat based on this storyline. I’d like to see PC Alf Ventress try to get to the bottom of this one.
Scarborough Evening News, 26 March 2009 (story):
Frogs death: Who did it?
FROGS have been found massacred at a Scarborough beauty spot.
Children are believed to be responsible for the attacks which were discovered by visitors to Quarry Mount Park, off Seamer Road.
Roger Burnett, Scarborough Council’s parks and countryside manager, said: “Last week we received a call about children attacking the frogs as well as squashing the frog spawn… I would imagine this is upsetting for anyone witnessing it.”
The headline really sets the reader up for a meandering ‘whodunnit?’ of boundless intrigue, only for the second paragraph to immediately kill off any suspense as abruptly as a child’s fist plunging through some frog spawn. Anyone lured into purchasing the paper by the headline alone will surely have been left cursing.
Thanks to Callum Saunders for the photo.
The Cult of Alfred H Lister was founded in 2007 when I discovered the most baffling newspaper letter ever penned while reading the Evening Gazette in the bath.
Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 8 August 2007:
Cleverness of laughing clown
IT TAKES a clever person to hold a serious job and now and again act the fool.
Like when Socialist Denis Healey, on the campaign trail here in Guisborough, was beckoned by myself and asked perfunctorily about his health. He replied thus: “I am full of beans.” He then took my wife’s hand and patted his tummy with it.
For those of you who did not know that Denis Healey got a double first degree (Hons) at Oxford, you do now. Oh, and I wondered whether or not Denis Healey had heard about the law of raspberry jam, that is the farther you spread it the thinner it gets. Not unlike culture.
ALFRED H LISTER, Guisborough
This is a letter possessing the rare quality of being increasingly nonsensical and mind-boggling with repeated reading. Unique in tone, wonderfully crafted and brimming with abstract observations, its discovery was an epiphany. I simply had to know more about Alfred H Lister. Following some routine research it was quickly established that he was a serial letter correspondent in local newspapers across the north-east. It was inevitable really: anyone who insists upon using the initial of their middle name is usually a serial something-or-other.
Much like falling in love with a band for the first time, I’ve followed his work ever since and enthusiastically delved into the back catalogue (I’ve also asked him to sign my breast, naturally). It is now an overwhelming pleasure to be able to spread the word (farther and thinner, like raspberry jam) about the incredible Alfred H Lister over several blog instalments, as tradition dictates.
The Northern Echo, 15 April 2008:
WRITE ON, PETER
I SMILED when cleric-columnist Peter Mullen’s butcher in London’s Smithfield Market cracked the one about him spending the collection money on meat (Echo, Apr 11). I wonder just how many butchers joke with vicars, and vice versa.
One also wonders just what this butcher would make of Peter Mullen’s column in The Northern Echo. Actually, I don’t suppose the butcher knows about Peter Mullen being a columnist in the Echo, itself a Northern newspaper.
Well aside from having a good sense of humour, Peter Mullen occasionally creates quite a bit of controversy, he being no friend of the Government and saying so with vigour. In short, Peter Mullen is my favourite columnist in the Echo.
Alfred H Lister, Guisborough.
I’m really pleased he didn’t just write the ‘in short’ version.
As we’ll learn while this series progresses, Alfred H Lister has publicly mused upon every possible topic of relevance to the human psyche. Here’s what he thinks about the human soul:
Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 17 December 2007:
THE pro-soul case would run thus (Our Faith Tested, 30.11.07): good conduct is respect which you owe to yourself in some mysterious way, and people are manageable in proportion to their possession of this self respect.
Yes there is a mysterious something in us called the soul, which deliberate wickedness kills, and without which no material gain can make life bearable.
Good conduct is not dictated by reason but by a divine instinct that is beyond reason.
Reason only discovers the shortest way there, it does not discover the destination.
My own views regarding the soul, an invisible entity within the body, are that rather like the existence of somebody called God, the both of them need to be seen, that is by a few credible witnesses, before they can be believed.
ALFRED H LISTER, Guisborough
My view about letters like these is that they also need to be seen, that is by a few credible witnesses, before they can be believed.
Just imagine the scenes.
Lewisham and Catford News Shopper, 19 March 2008:
Woman on toilet attacked by rat
A DISABLED woman was horrified after being bitten by a rat which came up through her toilet while she was sitting on it.
Maxine Killingback, who lives on her own, jumped up in shock when she felt the rat bite the top of her leg and fell over onto the floor, hurting her back.
After drowning the rat herself using a plunger and barricading the toilet to stop other rats which were trying to get out, she phoned Greenwich Council only to be told she would have to wait three weeks for them to come and sort out the problem.
It’s common to be frustrated when something just won’t flush away, but Mrs Killingback’s experience takes it to an extreme.
She said: “You don’t expect to sit down to spend a penny and be bitten by a rat.
“It just felt like someone had put a needle in me.
“When I jumped up it seemed to still have a hold on me.”
Ms Killingback, who has rheumatism in her legs and back, said the rat was still trying to get out of the toilet after she fell on the floor.
She tried flushing the toilet chain twice but the creature came back each time.
Ms Killingback said: “It was a big, black one, seven or eight inches long.
“It was trying to climb up but it kept sliding back down. I put a plunger down the toilet but it kept trying to get out.”
Ms Killingback, who says she has a nervous disposition, then jammed a bleach bottle next to the plunger and kept it there until the rat had drowned.
She said: “Then there were more coming up, I could see their noses poking through the gap.
“I just put two big boxes of washing powder and other things on top of the toilet to block it and shut the bathroom door.
“I’ve never known anything like it.”
Never known anything like it… and probably never will.
I’m sure they’ll have had a laugh about this one back in the newsroom.
When you throw in the ‘romped’ and ‘cruising’ references too, it’s clear there’s something in the air at the Reading Evening Post.
Thanks to Nowtas for the helping hand.
Ah, the dreaded ‘vox pop’. A staple feature of regional newspaper coverage against all better judgement, this peculiar exercise sees news reporters regularly dispatched into the dangerous streets in search of pithy comments from the unemployed and those running errands. The aim is to survey the view of the man in the street on the hot topic of the day, but quite why this might be desirable is anyone’s guess. In the words of Sid Vicious: “I’ve met the man in the street – he’s a cunt.”
Nobody in the office wants it to be their turn to do the vox pop, hence many journalists look to pass the task to the work experience kid or new recruit at the first opportunity. Coming fresh into the industry and being forced to thrust oneself upon the awful general public with no meaningful journalistic purpose is a steep learning curve, and is enough to put some off the job for life.
Whoever’s turn it was to do the vox pop for the Nottingham Evening Post towards the beginning of the month found themselves in for a treat while canvassing opinions about the political nous of a prospective celebrity MP on the streets of Sutton-in-Ashfield – quite literally a world apart from the glamour of the GMTV sofa (obviously).
Nottingham Evening Post, 6 March 2010 (story):
Gloria brings GMTV glam to Notts
THE glamour of the GMTV sofa may seem a world apart from the streets of Sutton-in-Ashfield.
So when presenter Gloria De Piero quit her television career and moved to the Notts pit town, it caused something of a stir.
Although the 37-year-old remains gagged from speaking to the press about what she would bring as MP, one of her qualities appears to have been more forthcoming to people in Sutton-in-Ashfield.
“She’s peng!” said trainee electrician Daniel O’Neill, 19, whose description means “sexy girl” or “fit” in ‘street talk’.
“Maybe we need somebody young and good looking. If she knows what she is on about, why not?
Yeah! If she’s a sexy girl or fit, why not?!
Rob Williams, owner of sandwich shop The Filling Station, said: “It needs a shake-up around here. I have voted Labour but I won’t be doing again.
“I don’t think the councils are very well run. I spoke to Geoff Hoon about a problem I had and he never helped.”
Market trader Darren Heatherington, 42, said from behind his stall of colourful rugs: “Gloria is a nice looking woman and has been on GMTV. She’s got a good chance. A lot of people can vote for the wrong reasons.”
The decision to have an all-women shortlist sparked controversy among the local Labour campaigners, who had asked party leaders for an open list.
They feared that, because Miss De Piero is not local to Ashfield, she may be an absent MP, or “another Geoff Hoon in a skirt”, as one disgruntled activist said.
Precisely how many ‘Geoff Hoons in skirts’ have there been? And why hasn’t this received more coverage?
Honestly, the professional political commentators will soon be out of jobs.
It is a constant source of amazement how often the regional media are willing to hand over column inches to whinging attention-seekers.
Although anyone of any age with something vaguely resembling a brain would return from an ’18-30s’ holiday describing it as a ‘nightmare’, Margaret Busby, 63, felt compelled to go to her local newspaper about it.
Blackpool Gazette, 13 March 2010 (story):
Disabled pensioner’s 18-30s hell
A DISABLED Fylde pensioner today blasted a top travel agent after they sent her on a “nightmare” holiday to notorious 18-30s’ party resort Magaluf.
Margaret Busby, 63, said rather than the “nice and peaceful” holiday she requested, her stay at the Fiesta Jungla involved round-the clock parties, uncontrollable teenagers and boozed up revellers having sex in the swimming pool.
It is a shame the Bispham pensioner did not do her research.
The hotel is described on holiday-rating website Trip Advisor as “a 24/7 party place”, “the hotel that never sleeps”, “crazy” and “like a youth hostel with no rules”.
While the instinctive reaction might be to feel sorry for Margaret, following further consideration it’s difficult not to sympathise with the spokesman from Co-operative Travel.
Mrs Busby, who requires a wheelchair or walking sticks to get around, says she relied on the expertise of local travel agents Co-Op Travel to select her holiday.
While she admits she was told when she booked the £300 per-person trip at Co-Op’s branch at Asda, in Marton, it was a “Thomson freestyle” holiday, she says it was not explained to her what that entailed.
Mrs Busby described her holiday in the Majorcan resort as “the holiday from hell” and has now made an official complaint.
She said: “It was atrocious. The hotel was called Fiesta Jungla and it was like a jungle.
“There was loud music playing all the time, it was so loud you couldn’t speak above it. You could hear it everywhere – including in your room.”
A spokesman for Co-operative Travel insisted the firm had informed the pensioner what sort of hotel she would be staying at.
He said: “Mrs Busby came in to our branch having seen a window offer.
“At the time of booking our consultant advised her the property was classed as young and lively, and it was further explained this meant it would be busy, noisy, and largely populated by young people.
“We offered Mrs Busby a number of other options, but all of these were deemed to be too expensive, and she was insistent we book the original holiday she had requested.”
Perhaps this was a genuine misunderstanding between a hapless holidaymaker and a blameless travel agent. Or perhaps it was all an elaborate ploy on the part of Margaret Busby to get herself in the paper. Either way, it’s likely to be a while before she has to try and get to sleep to the throbbing sounds of DJ Otzi’s version of ‘Hey! Baby’ again. Poor lamb.
Thank you to Mark Palmer.
Newsflash: senior citizens are only capable of keeping time when the big hand points directly down.
Halifax Evening Courier, 12 March 2010:
Why can’t bus leave at 9.30?
IS there a legal requirement or is it petty mindedness why the 539 bus from Stainland to Halifax leaves Stainland at 9.25am and not 9.30am? This causes the senior citizens to be disadvantaged again.
(Mrs) Dorothy Clarke Brier