letters to the editor 11.11.05

I’ve had my share of weirdos From: Monica Grenfell Subject: Green
pen letters As health columnist with Sunday magazine (News of the
World) for seven years specialising in diet and slimming, I am
accustomed to large numbers of weird and terrifying hate letters from
fat people (‘When nutters turn nasty’ Press Gazette, 4 November).

However, my worst letters come from prisoners.

I especially recall one I received early in my career from a lifer, who on the outside was a bodybuilder.

at the lack of fillet steak, salmon and fresh fruit behind bars, he
wrote movingly about how he could get through his stretch and maintain
a “killer” physique (his words) on a diet of porridge.

As a
nutritionist, I wrote back with a few practical suggestions adding the
playful and insane postscript that he might have thought of the dietary
glitch before battering that old lady to death. This set off a train of
events that make my blood run cold even to this day.

His ‘mates’
wrote to me via the News of the World, suggesting that I certainly
would never be on the outside of a steak again, and when they realised
I worked from home, unleashed a barrage of letters suggesting that it
was easy to bribe a postman to locate my PO box number and therefore my

I told nobody. This story reached a crazy crescendo when,
unable to bear what was now 60 vile letters under my roof, I drove to a
local lay-by after dark and proceeded to set fire to the bundle.

At that moment, my husband drove by and I leave the rest to your imagination.

I simply explain that porridge is excellent soluble fibre and Class 2
protein, and the addition of milk lowers the glycaemic index a treat. I
also foward vile letters to the police.

My marriage survived.

Grenfell The Health Club Sunday Magazine News of the World Tree-mendous
idea from green inker From: Tim Matthews Subject: Three-pager When
working with Jack de Manio on the Today programme I got a three-page
green-inker demanding that we help the writer plant an avenue of beech
trees from Brighton to Broadcasting House.

Tim Matthews Editor CF News (National Association of Catholic Families)n

Ah, those were the days – or were they?

Name & address supplied Subject: Old hacks As a young journalist I
am writing to enquire if the portrayals of life in the industry 30 or
40 years ago are entirely accurate or, as I suspect, the ramblings of
the slightly befuddled, wearing entire rose bushes on their heads
rather than just the tinted spectacles.

It seems to me from the
musings of such “old hacks” (a phrase in itself guaranteed to create
immediate feelings of nausea) that a typical working day on a paper–
any paper – went something like this.

9.35am: Drag yourself to work, or more likely, emerge from under the desk where you passed out the night before.

Try to have a kneeshaker in the cupboard with the girl/boy from
accounts, get a slapped face but laugh it off because “you know they
will be back for more”.

10.30am: Get a roasting off the editor
(not in the contemporary sense of course) who screams and shouts at
you, but who deep down you completely respect and will lovingly
remember when he has gone with the immortal words “he was a complete
and utter bastard but…”

11.03am: The pub is open and you are
not there yet. Therefore this officially counts as overtime and you
begin filling in your expenses which, as usual, run into thousands of

These are then queried by “that f***er in finance” who you go and see and put right in no uncertain times…

“f***ing people, don’t they know I am a journalist?”

Off to the smoke-filled bar where everyone knows your name, the
customers are almost entirely journalists except for the odd respected

who, to gain acceptance to the ‘in-crowd’, must have
done something memorable – perhaps shot down a squadron of Messerchmits
or once looked after trouble for Scarface Pete in the East End.

You find yourself sitting in the snug surrounded by the head of CID, a
man disillusioned with working for the council who knows ‘all the
secrets’, the big name footballer of the day and someone who worked on
Roger Moore’s last film in Acapulco. They tell all.

3pm: Stagger
back to the office and bang out the aforementioned amazing scoops
complete with literals, spelling mistakes and bad grammar (“that’s for
the damn subs to sort out, wank**s, don’t they know I am a scribe and
have no time for the niceties of prose?).

3.07pm: Out to meet a ‘contact’…

5pm: Wake up in that little store room in photographic where no-one ever goes.

Editor screams at you whether you have a story, and thankfully you
vaguely remember a story someone told you last night about Princess
Margaret and 10 minutes later, the splash is in the bag.

Pausing only to brush the ashes from the Navy Strength off your jumper,
it is off to the pub again to celebrate the paper’s circulation rise up
to six million. Repeat Ad Finitum…

A regional journalist who
wishes to remain anonymous Name and address supplied Philistinism at
the NME From: Tim Burke Subject: Pretentious allusions Tim Brooks has a
right to pitch the NME at any readership he wants, but I can’t be the
only 40-something to heave a big sigh at his philistinism (Press
Gazette, 28 October).

Huge numbers of young people growing up in
the 70s and early 80s had their minds stretched and enlarged by the
NME’s team of writers who were given a very long rein when it came to
“pretentious allusions”.

Proust? A bit lowbrow for Ian Penman. The NME was a vital part of my education.

Burke Consultant editor Young People Now Bangor and Newtownards ARE
covered From: David Alexander Subject: Audited figures In reply to a
letter published on 21 October from Lord Kilclooney regarding “NI
Government to demand audited figures”.

I would like to correct
this statement that Bangor and Newtownards are not covered by ABC
registered titles. We publish the County Down Spectator in Bangor, and
the Newtownards Chronicle in Newtownards.

These are the main newspapers in the respective areas and have been members of the ABC since 1957.

E Alexander Managing director Spectator Newspapers Some tips for happy
snapping From: John Jeffay Subject: Digital cameras Reporters looking
to buy a digital camera (‘Happy snapping’, Press Gazette, 4 November)
should think about practicalities. The most important question is: does
it take AA batteries? You can buy them pretty much anywhere. If you’re
on a job and your camera dies the chances are you won’t have a
dedicated charger or somewhere to plug it in.

But you will find a newsagent or petrol station.

considerations, from my experience of providing reporters with cameras:
any camera over £100 should produce publishable pictures.

If it’s
a ‘just in case’ camera there’s no need to spend more, unless you’re
after a fashion accessory. Don’t be fooled by digital zoom, which just
means the camera will magnify an image. Look at optical zoom, which
means the camera is actually capturing more detail.

Don’t assume
that the lead and CD that come with the camera mean you’ll be be able
to download images with ease. The most reliable method is a £20 card
reader. Some cameras now have built-in memory, which is great.
Otherwise they come with a joke-sized card. Buy 256Mb, which are cheap
and more than adequate.

Generally speaking, small cameras are not
rugged. I have just sent off four to see if they can be repaired. But
some of ours have survived trips to Iraq, Kilimanjaro and Oldham – and
produced some remarkable results.

John Jeffay Picture editor
Manchester Evening News Cardigan has become offensive From: David Loyn
Subject: New columnist I have enjoyed the Grey Cardigan during the past
few weeks; he has a great eye and gentle humour. But his gratuitously
offensive comments about women newsreaders (4 November) came as a shock.

Are cardigans worn only by neanderthals?

Loyn By email Betes noires wind me up From: Gerrard Tallack Subject:
Irritation I long ago gave up protesting at the apostrophisation of El
Vino perpetuated by Fleet Streeters ignorant of the rudiments of
Spanish grammar, or perversely heedless of the highly prominent sign
hanging over the pavement outside the premises. But now I’m moved to
start on a new tack by El Vinos – no possessive mark – in Chris
Buckland’s letter in your last issue. Ugh!

Another horror: in
Press Conference, talking of Matrix Churchill, Michael Heseltine
(below) is quoted as using the words “connived, plotted or acquiesced
in sending these guys to prison”.

The misuse of “connive” and
“conniving” is another of my betes noires on which, given a bit of
encouragement, I’d like to expatiate – ditto for “guys”.

Tallack London I found tragic Sophie – in an obituary From: David
Antwis Subject: Sophie Walker I’ve just read Sophie Walker’s obituary
(28 October) on your website.

I’ve been trying to find Sophie for
about 10 years after losing touch with her in the early 90s. I’m sat
here shaking. I don’t know what to say.

Hardly a week elapsed in all that time that I haven’t prayed for her.

often trawled phone books and the web looking for her again. Your
article is the first reference I’ve ever found in those 10 years. I
guess I was looking in the wrong places.

I would dearly love to
hear more about her. Her father won’t know me but might remember Sophie
bringing home a particularly tall, gaunt and scruffy goth boy called
Beany for tea one evening. Perhaps your obituarist might able to put me
in touch with the family?

My sincere condolences.

“Beany” Antwis By email Nothing wrong with barbeque From: Roger St
Pierre Subject: Spelling For Henry Taylor’s information (letters, 4
November), a barbeque is an outdoor meal cooked over a grill.

Yes, it’s a widely used and perfectly acceptable alternative spelling to his favoured barbecue.

his silly nitpicking aimed at your columnist Janice Turner, Henry
seerms to be one of those thoughtpolice subs who insists on changing my
adrenalin to adrenaline and mediaeval to medieval when, in fact, all
these spellings are correct.

Surely, it is one of the eternal
delights of our wonderful and everenlarging language that there are so
many ways of saying the same thing?

Roger St Pierre, London

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