Saturday, 9 June 2012


           Broadly speaking I am in favour of sex education.

When I was a lad I was told I had grown on a blackcurrant bush. Not very nice going through life thinking you were adopted and your real mother was a shrub.

No whittling wood for me on the doorsteps of my childhood. I might

have been cutting up a cousin. As autumn approached each year I waited in dread for my hair to turn gold and fall at my feet. In the gardens of my youth pruning time was an agony.

In the same way no one has been able to convince me there are no fairies, so I have never been able to shed - if you will forgive the arboreal expression - a feeling that I am part twig, though I rejected with vigour allegations that I was a chip off the old block.

When I got older I was introduced to the more conventional forms of procreation but to be frank with you I think there is more gravitas in the blackcurrant method.

No one warned me that in real life the position was absurd and the method improbable. And it did not always work, though in all honesty it worked more often than blackberrying, an activity which had very sinister connotations in my childhood.

I was always surprised when two people went out to pick soft fruit, three did not come back. My own efforts to provide myself with a brother were a gloomy failure. I would select this fine bouncing bud and place it in a matchbox lined with cotton wool. But alas, nothing came of it.

As to other functions I will only say the blackcurrant bush has much to commend it. No mouth, therefore no toothache. Eats through the feet and the leaves. None of those tiring strolls to work up an appetite for lunch.

Some of us, I regret, are built even more oddly than most. I was literally an all round reporter. I was as broad as I was long. The last TV series I made was a source of great embarrassment. Not to beat about the bush - and how that phrase strikes at the heart- where other people go in at the waist, I went out for quite a distance. People doubted the reality of my body.

On radio you get used to the size phenomenon. The way listeners invariably tell you in a disappointed tone: ‘You are much taller on the radio.’  But what was I to do about the lady who came up, patted me familiarly on the belt buckle and asked:  ‘Is that real or are you just wearing it on tele?’

I loved broadcasting. I felt at home the moment I sat behind a microphone. Nervous until the microphone went live, then a feeling of peace. Wynford Vaughan Thomas (oh, that he had commentated on the Jubilee) explained it wasn’t really nerves, it was adrenalin. The spirit telling the body to do well.

Broadcasting is writing with an extra dimension. Punctuation is replaced by a change of tone or a brief pause. You can add emphasis, even emotion. I experimented with broadcasting columns in a series I called Radio Brynsiencyn, rather than writing them in various newspapers, and it worked.

I was never part of the BBC. For thirty years I worked on weekly contracts, which meant I began every week unemployed. It didn’t matter. In those days working for BBC Wales was like joining a new family. Alas, the BBC changed and my happy family life ended in a spectacular bust up.

For all that I still feel proprietorial about my favourite Auntie and it hurts when she makes a mess of things. So this week has been a bummer.

As always the camera crew filming the jubilee were faultless. They knew where to look and where to linger. They lingered on the shots of those brave girls, soaked to the skin, singing their hearts out in pouring rain on an open deck. Even the Royal Family applauded. Sadly not one of the brash young commentators even mentioned it though it summed up the whole damp day. One critic said of the commentators: ‘It was like an endless One Show.’ Can anything be more damning?

I am in an email loop of newspaper men and they were appalled. Said one, the highly respected former editor of two national newspapers: ‘I yearned for the days when experienced, highly professional journalists worked for the BBC.

‘Describing the gold leaf on the bows of the Royal boat, a BBC idiot said:”All that gold leaf on the stern on the boat must have taken some doing.”

‘Talk about not knowing his arse from his elbow. Had he bothered to do his homework, he would have known that the gold leaf he was describing adorned the bows of the boat. He would have been able to tell his audience that the work had been patiently carried out by a father and son team who, from their workshop in Greenwich, had also worked on gilding the name letters of the Cutty Sark. Further, he would have also known that the gilding on the Royal boat took each of them 47 man hours. And if I knew all that, why didn't he?’

A former managing editor of the Mirror Group counselled:

‘You really can't blame the poor bloody interviewers.

Are you having a great day? -- Er, yes.

What was the best bit for you? -- Er...

Did you see the queen? -- Yes, good.

How was that? -- Er... great

Did you see the fly-past? -- Yeah.

Was it good? -- Yeah, good.

What do you think of the queen? -- Er, nice lady.

And the duke... I suppose you're hoping he has a speedy recovery? -- Er... yes.

You can blame the bloody editors and producers who are running this meaningless, time-filling crap all day (and night), over four or more days.

Difficult to imagine that TV can actually ruin a spectacular occasion. But it does.

I appreciate that it can't be easy to think of something new to say every half hour, all day.

But this, this morning, on Sky News:

"Tell me about this ship. It is unique, isn't it?"

"Yes indeed. Absolutely. In fact it is one of only two in the world."

When I did Vox Pops for the Beeb two researchers preceded me looking for people with interesting stories.

The only newspaperman who spoke in favour of the coverage lives in America. A former Head Honcho on the National Enquirer, he wrote:

‘Remember one thing: in our heyday, we all were trying to please the vast majority of our intended audience. If during my stint at the Enquirer, I had worried about the opinions of other journalists, current or past, I would have been out of a job in no time. The real question is: did the audience (grannies, mummies, postal workers and dustmen et al) hate the commentaries as much as you? If they were happy and too dumb to notice the difference between now and yesteryears it just puts an emphasis on the old adage (which I don’t totally buy): you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of your audience.’