Thursday, February 15, 2018

A long, long sigh as the cock-up king reclaims his crown (not that anyone was ever intent on stealing it). As for literary folk - well, let’s see. And a PS on the stats of those viewing this blog (which are rather confusing)

I should like to begin this entry with a long sigh, but I don’t know how it might be spelled and, anyway, it wouldn’t be a happy sigh of relief or anything as comforting as that. It’s just that I am - sigh - responsible (I almost wrote ‘as usual’, but that would not be quite fair) for a slight boo-boo which might or might not have gone into the first edition of this morning’s Daily Mail. The first edition is, of course, the first to be printed because it has the furthest
to travel in a paper’s circulation area, to beyond the extremes of the civilised world (or Rhyl in North Wales, whichever is furthest).

I am told my boo-boo was spotted, though whether in time to be corrected for the first edition or not, I was not informed. So what terrible thing did I do?

Well, to tell you in detail would require a long and boring (for me most certainly and quite possibly also for you) explanation, but it involves a game running in the Daily Mail at present called ‘Lucky Squares’ which allows readers to ‘win a share of £1 million!’ That, to date and in the three or four weeks the game has been running, the vast majority of winners, about 15/20 a day, have almost all won just £25 each, a sum which might buy you and three friends two rounds of cheap drinks in a pub (US bar), is neither here nor there: you are still winning ‘a share of £1 million!’ so stop griping.

The thing about newspapers is that it is the small things - the puzzles, for example, and the competitions - which are in an odd kind of way the most sensitive. So after the wrong something or other went in - or possibly almost went in - the deputy editor has demanded an inquiry. The deputy chief sub emailed me to ask why I had done what I had done so that he could provide the explanation required by higher up and I told him: ‘Felix, I said, I cocked up. Sorry.’

I also outlined just how I cocked up, and it was essentially a very, very simple cock-up, one which could happen to anyone, but which over the 76 years I have served in Her Majesty’s Press all too often seems to happen to me. Hence the
sigh. But there’s more to that sigh: on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, I shall be retiring, calling it a day, ending an era (or in my case ‘an ear’). I could have done so more than three and a half years ago on or soon after November 21, 2014, for several reasons - I wanted to save a little more money into my retirement drinking fund but I also like my work and the people I work with - I carried on.

Believe it or not, I am rather distressed by my boo-boos. I am most certainly not the only one to commit them, but once I am gone from the Mail, I should like to be recalled as something rather more admirable than ‘our most recent cock-up king’. So last night’s hiccup doesn’t help.

. . .

My retirement is also rather opportune in that just over a week later, on April 13, my daughter, the little sweet slip of thing I first held in my arms almost 22 years ago, is due to give birth. It was not planned, and she was hoping to build up a nannying and child-caring business for she had a family, but then these things happen. And I must say that although I think, for her sake, it would have been better had it not happened, I am rather pleased because I had always assumed - I was 46 when she was born - I would never get to see a grandchild. But now, God willing, I shall do.

I must say that I am looking forward to April 5 and beyond, for although I like my work (and have liked sub-editing ever since I began to work shifts on Britain’s national newspapers (once known as Fleet Street) in 1990, I shall not be sorry not to have to schlepp 240 miles up to London every Sunday morning and 24o back again down here to Cornwall every Wednesday night. I once enjoyed it, listening to music or the radio for four hours while seeing how many other motorist I could burn off the road without killing myself. But for these past few years it has become increasingly tiring and I am glad to get it over with.

The return trip home on a Wednesday is almost always broken with a stop at the Brewers Arms in South Petherton, Somerset, for a few glasses of cheap red, several of my La Paz Wilde Cigarros and the second half of a Champion’s League football game, but the downside is that I don’t get in until after 1am, sleep only a few hours (I usually wake at 8am at the latest and can never get off to sleep again) and then feel like shit for the rest of the day (like today, though it is off to bed as soon as I have completed this entry). But it is still something of a schlepp.

Come April 5 that will all be over with, but then so will the reasonably generous sum I am paid for my toils by the Mail. At some point I shall have to sit down and work out my finances and adjust a few standing orders, but we really don’t live a life of luxury, I have noted before that my cigar habit is wholly affordable if, as I do, I buy them from The Netherlands (and I don’t smoke that many a week anyway), so I don’t think we shall be starving at any time soon.

That April 5 and the beginning of my retirement and days of apparent leisure also has another significance, and although I shan’t elaborate here, you dear reader who has possibly read past entries might already have an inkling of what I am alluding to. A slight clue: I really do hope I am not a bullshitter.

. . .

One other thing on the horizon is that I have volunteered to help out in some way with the North Cornwall Book Festival. It happened like this: I have attended the St Endellion Music Festival for the past few years and somehow or other ended up on some mailing list, particularly the book festival’s mailing list. A month or so ago, I received an email from the organisers saying they were looking for volunteers and listing in what areas volunteers are
needed. They need ticket sellers, folk to direct cars into fields while the festival is taking place, but also listed ‘publicity’. Well, I thought I might be able to help out there and responded. The upshot is that I am invited to a ‘social’ at the house of one of the organisers in St Endellion where all potential volunteers will meet up.

Now take a look at the festival’s website here, and see whether you spot the phrase which caught my eye almost immediately I first called up the page: ‘The fifth North Cornwall Book Festival was a deep and utter glory . . .’ Did you? I have to say ‘deep and utter glory’ does even less for me than folk who get ‘excited’ by a new policy initiative or who care ‘passionately’ about growing different strains of parsley.

I suspect - well, actually, I am pretty sure - that the festival folk and I shall not really hit it off/I shall go down like a lead balloon. But let’s see. At least I can attend the social on March 8 and get a few glasses of cheap read out of the occasion.

Oh, and whatever they want me to do, I shall not be standing knee-deep in damp grass in a slight drizzle directing cars to vacant parts of a muddy field.

Being ‘prejudiced’ is, I think, derived from ‘pre-judging’ (in this case people). So when I flicked through the photos on the website (and as someone who has also taken a picture or two I have to say they are not in any way outstanding and why have ‘photographers-in-residence’?) I did get a slight sinking feeling. To put it another way, I am not ‘passionate about literature’, I just like ‘reading fiction’.

. . .

LATER: Out of interest, I keep an eye on the statistics of who might be reading this blog and where they come from. I have noticed that there is an extraordinary number of ‘visitors’ from Russia and Turkey, their number being extraordinarily high. Take a look at this screenshot.

Now, I can’t think that my ramblings and pontifications are of particular interest to folk in Russia and Turkey, so I can only assume that for some reason bots sent out from those two countries now also have me on their list. But as gesture of friendship maybe these two piccies will prove to them that their attention is still worth while . . .