I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Last night I channel hopped across to BBC News 24 to find what has to be the worst piece of journalism I have ever witnessed.

It was just after 11 and a few hours earlier my radio in the kitchen had broken the news that a baby boy had been born in London. I have to say that I didn’t hold a great deal of optimism about hearing much about what else was going on across the planet, but I decided to give it a go anyway. A bad move.

I wonder when was it decided that part of the BBC licence fee should be allocated to producing hour after hour of celebrity drivel?

I first noticed this a few years ago when I switched on the news only to find 25 minutes of live coverage from a frantic reporter outside some poxy suburban courthouse in Los Angeles. Everything was put on hold as we were instructed to wait with bated breath for something truly huge to happen. Know what it was? The arrival of Paris Hilton for her sentencing having been found guilty of drink driving. For twenty five endless, painful minutes we were offered the view of a car park outside an utterly non-descript concrete building. Finally the ‘A Lister’ arrived and was duly bustled inside by a gaggle of crew-cutted, ‘live in the gym’ types.

And that was that.

Paris had turned up, all be it fifteen minutes late. This took us to twenty five past the hour and the rest of the day’s news had to be crammed in before the weather in something of a hurry. The next item was deemed to be worth thirty seconds or so. There had been five huge suicide bombings in Baghdad that day. Well over a hundred people had been blown to pieces.

It was worth 30 seconds of the BBC’s time, whilst someone who was famous for being famous and rich was worth fifty times the attention. Because she was going to court.

For a driving offence.

For Christ’s sake.

So if Paris Hilton can box off the thick end of half an hour of prime news time, then it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that the birth of a royal baby would ignite hour upon endless hour of gushing.

I switched over at just after five past the hour. This meant that the basics had already been covered. A baby had been born. It was a boy. It was eight and a half pounds. The Queen had issued a statement saying she was happy. The Prime Minister said he was happy. Prince Charles said he was proud and no doubt he was also over the moon that something huge had come along to distract the media from prying into his tax dodging.

More to the point, we were told by beaming news readers that the people were happy. The nation was happy. We were about to enter a time of national feel good. Well, obviously. The list was repeated over and over.

Justin Rose, Andy Murray, British Lions, Chris Froome, the walloped Aussies and now a Royal baby. What a completely joyous time to be a Brit. No wonder we are all being told to get out there and feel good. And no doubt over the coming days we will be encouraged to turn this wonderful feel-good factor into something truly positive. As sure as night follows day, we will be urged to dig those hidden credit cards out of locked up drawers and get out there to hit the High St like we used to hit it when Tony Blair ruled over Cool Britannia.

Oh for Christ’s sake.

I guess it is too much to expect anything else in our celebrity obsessed world. There is no celebrity story quite like a Royal celebrity story. Even Posh Spice would have struggled yesterday. She might have called a Press Conference to announce that she was reducing her daily calorie intake from six hundred to four hundred and she would still have been lucky to get thirty seconds. Even a hair extension announcement would have barely caused a ripple. In fact, the sainted Posh and Becks would really have had to push the boat out yesterday to get the media’s attention. Not only would they have had to adopt a Cambodian baby, they would probably have had to have eaten it as well. With mange tout. Now that might have got them five minutes or so. Some expert would have been wheeled out to asses how many calories are to be found in the average Cambodian baby and just how much Posh could have eaten whilst still sticking to her new starvation regime.


Back to the worst piece of journalism in the history of journalism.

By ten past eleven the BBC had a problem. Ten minutes had been more than enough to say everything that there was to say. Baby born. Everyone happy.

So it was time for some breathless, gushing footage from Kate’s home village. Guess what? The residents were all happy. More than happy. Delirious. And it seemed that all of them shared the same sentiment. ‘I just can’t believe it!!!!!”

Well it was indeed hard to believe. A local woman who had been pregnant for nine months had shocked the world by going into labour and producing a child. Unbelievable.

But that is a tad flippant. The main reason they ‘couldn’t believe it!!!!’ was the fact that it was a boy. A more cynical reporter might have pointed out that there is basically a 50/50 thing going on when a human female gives birth. It’s either a boy or a girl. Heads or tails. As yet no human being has ever given birth to a wildebeest or an iguana but I guess there is a first time for everything. The 50/50 thing makes it hard to see why it should be unbelievable either way, but Kate’s neighbours were clearly in a state of shock that it was a male.

Just imagine how unbelievable it would have been for them if the message on the Buckingham Palace easel had pronounced that at 4.24pm an eight and a half pound boy had been born and the aforesaid baby was as black as the ace of spades….

Watch it Frankland. You can find yourself locked up in the Tower for less.

Once the good folk of Bucklebury, Berkshire had managed to get their heads around the idea that a boy had been born, which was basically unbelievable, they moved on to more unbelievable stuff.

Some reported that they had seen Kate walking through the village only a few days before. Holy Christ. Imagine it. Kate. Actually walking. Through a village. I mean you can stick your Martian landing where the sun don’t shine. She was actually seen walking. Actually in a village. How fantastic is that!

Finally we left the million pound houses of Bucklebury behind and were taken to the throbbing scenes of national feel good at Buckingham Palace. Here is where the efforts of Woodward and Bernstein and their Watergate story were so completely eclipsed.

The star of the show was Louisa Baldini and my oh my, did she ever have a story to tell. She had three guests with her – a mum and two daughters and guess what, they were from Ohio.
Cleveland, Ohio.
Oh my word.
What excitement!
My heart was banging so hard I wondered it it was about to explode. Here is the tale that the gallant Louisa took ten minutes to tease out. So hang on to your seats.....
They were on holiday. They had arrived the day before. They had visited the Palace only that afternoon. They had eaten their dinner at the hotel. They heard the news that a baby had been born. So they decided to walk back to the Palace.

Oh wow.

Just imagine.

Three people from Cleveland, Ohio had finished their pudding and decided to return to the Palace.

And what had they done?

They had looked at an easel and taken pictures.

No wonder the rest of the world news was on hold. This was the real stuff. This is why we pay up our licence fee. This was true breaking news. A mum and her two daughters had looked at a message on an easel and taken pictures. People all the way from Cleveland, Ohio. And they were excited and happy. No wonder the studio made the call to give Louisa a whole ten minutes to tease out every last detail…

Oh for Christ’s sake.

I actually switched across to Al Jazeera before Louisa had the chance to run through what everyone had eaten for pudding.

Surprisingly enough, nobody chose to send a reporter out to Hanover or Saxe Coburg for a bit of local reaction. But then again, we tend to gloss over the Germanic roots of our beloved and sainted Royals. Much like we like to gloss over their tax dodging.

The family tree of the new addition makes for interesting reading.

We have to go back to some anxious days at the start of the 18th Century when it became clear that William the Third was going to die without leaving a viable heir to his throne. This was a big time problem as the obvious next in line was the offspring of James the Second and all of his family were wicked, pesky Catholics. Now being a Catholic back then was much like being a fully paid up member of Al Queda now. So Parliament had to get stuck into some fancy footwork and dig out an alternative option and lo and behold, they found Sophie of Palatine.

Good old Sophie. Granddaughter of James the First. Born and raised in Holland, married to a German, and not a word of English to her name. In fact she had never visited England. But never mind. She was a through and through Prod and that was all that mattered. So Parliament rattled through the required paperwork to settle the crown upon "the most excellent princess Sophia, electress and duchess-dowager of Hanover" and "the heirs of her body, being Protestant".      

And so it has turned out, for it is pretty nailed on that the new addition will be yet another of those heirs of Sophie’s body who will very much be a Protestant. In the same Act of Parliament, it was written in stone that no Catholic can ever sit on the throne and that is still very much the case.

Seldom, if ever, can an immigrant family have made so good in their new home. It is just a shame that the national feel good factor that we can all look forward to in the wake of the latest Prod heir of Princess Sophie can’t have a more German feel to it. Instead of being all British and spending money in Marks and Spender on our credit cards, we might instead open up a few new car factories and put on loads of extra trains at half the cost we pay now and guarantee that all our football clubs are 51% owned by the fans.

But we are way too patriotic for any of that nonsense. We will celebrate our new Prince in the traditional British way. We’ll buy our tabloids and we’ll spend on our credit cards and when the weekend comes, we will get blind drunk and be violently sick.

All in the safe knowledge that a family from Cleveland, Ohio ate their pudding and went out into the London night to look at an easel.

And they were happy.

Just like we all are. 

For Christ’s sake.

Here's good old Sophie by the way. Let's get Louisa out there for a special feature from Saxe Coburg. Imagine how it must once have been when Sophie walked around her village.... unbelievable.

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