1 October 2009


I knew this band once called The Jelly Botties. They did a song called "Peter Cushing Lives in Whitstable". It went like this:

"Peter Cushing lives in Whitstable
He goes shopping for his vegetables
You can see him on his bicycle

That "Arrrghhh!!! " was meant to be a cry of horror. Horror at the thought of that consummate master of the bizarre and sinister doing such a mundane thing as going shopping on a bicycle. This is certainly an irony. It is precisely the irony that lies at the heart of the media. Every form of expression tends to create its own opposite. Peter Cushing - despite those figures of evil that he played - was in fact a deeply, boringly, sentimental man.

I was doing an interview on Capitol Radio. I was briefed by the producer. "Say what you like," she said: "Only for Gods sake don't swear." After that we did the interview. We chatted about this and that. Both of us were careful not to say anything that might offend the listeners. But as soon as the microphone was switched off he began swearing: an unending string of expletives- Later the same day I had an interview on Radio 4. The Presenter there did exactly the same thing. Consummate professionalism on air, but as soon as the audience were no longer eavesdropping, he was off, swearing like a trooper. It was as if their barrack room language was the inevitable reaction to the constraints of on-the-air broadcasting, as if they were purposefully sneering behind the backs of their own audience.

I was at the annual Christmas Party of a famous left-wing newspaper. I hardly knew anyone. I was bored and shy and thirsting for human company. All of a sudden I recognised someone. He'd been my editor for a while. I had often rung him up with my problems. I leapt across the room to greet him.

"How are you?" I enthused, pumping his hand vigorously.

"CJ," he said, smiling ironically: "I'm not your editor any more, so I don't have to talk to you."

Such is the media.