Diamond Dogs it Out


The scene: An office in Canary Wharf, London.

Bob Diamond: “I’m resigning”
Marcus Agius : “You can’t resign, I’m resigning. In fact I’ve already resigned”
BD: “When?”
MA: “Earlier on. Before you did, anyway !”
BD: “You never told me!”
MA: “Well do I have to tell you everything?”
BD: “Yes, frankly”
MA: “You were out hunting with old baldy Hester. Couldn’t get hold of you”
BD: “Anyway, it’s me who has to go. They’ve got me by the balls”
MA: “I thought you were gonna dog it out ? You said to me ‘fuck them, they don’t understand what we do anyway. I’ll tell the MPs on Wednesday to go fuck themselves’. That’s what you said to me”
BD: “Well I’ve been thinking. I haven’t got the balls to front this one out.”
MA: “You’re an American, for Christ’s sake ! You can’t go around admitting to anything now. You’re letting down generations. That’s not the American way.”

A Secretary buzzes through: “Stephen Hester on the line, Mr Diamond. He wants to know if you’re free for a jog around Canary Wharf at lunchtime”
BD. “Oh I need that fat fucker right now, don’t I ? Tell him to bugger off. Tell him I’m away. Tell him anything. Tell him I’m dead”

Bob and Marcus resume their chat:

BD: “Listen. I’ve got my $100 million Dollars out of this lot. I would think I’ll get a nice payoff and Gideon will sort me out, so I’m catching the first stage outta Dodge. Then I’m gonna play a hell of a lotta golf. I’m good mates with Tiger.”
MA: “I Bet you are. Oh Bollocks! What the hell am I supposed to do now ? If I’d have known you were gonna resign I’d have never jumped. I’ve up shit creek with a  poxy couple of million. Plus my payoff, of course. And my shares. Not forgetting the Christmas bonus.”
BD: “Jeeze, sorry, Bud…..Hey wait: I gottit !”
MA: “Oh Christ, what now?”
BD: “No, hear me out. I get a cab up to Regen…er…Bond Street, buy a big leather trunk in which to put all my cash, but on the way back I stop off at Downing Street (I’ll get the cabbie to park round the back) and suggest to Gideon and Davey that you come back but (and here’s the smart part) we’ll say it’s only so that you can choose my successor. You know: we’ll use the ‘we don’t want to leave the ship rudderless‘ bullshit that everyone uses. The public will lap it up”
MA: “They’ll never buy it”
BD: “Why not ?”
MA: “Well for starters, I’ve already said that I was “Truly sorry” for everything and…”
BD: “And What ???”
MA: “er…..well, I think I may have said we were guilty of an ‘unacceptable standard of behaviour’ and that the ‘buck stops with me’
BD: “Oh for Fuck’s sake, Marcus ! Why the hell did you go and do a thing like that ?”
MA: “I thought it might be for the best. Sorry, Bob”
BD “Robert
MA: “Robert, sorry. So they’re not gonna take me back now. How would it look ?”
BD: “When did you say you did all this ?”
MA: “Yesterday morning. It was all over BBC Salford and everything
BD “Hmmm…” (thinks)
“Oh Fuck it, let’s give it a shot. No one will remember that far back. What’s Nick Robinson‘s number ? He’s pretty tame…..”

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Don’t Read All About It


Wotcha, sorry I’m late.I just spent an hour in a line waiting for the last ever copy of The News of the World.

No, not really. But I suspect a lot did.

So farewell then etc etc … As horrible as it must be for those hundreds of poor sods, the subs, the secretaries, the IT crew, the designers, the researchers, the ad sales guys, the marketing men and, dare I say, the picture editors who were obliged to fall on their swords to save the the fragrant Rebekah Brooks, I stand before you as an ex-News International employee who can reveal (though not exclusively) that there is life after Wapping: a life of dignity and respectability, of honour and pride, a life where you can at last look yourself in the mirror because you no longer work for that bunch of nasty cnts. (and if you’re reading this, you know who you are).

But I digress.

Dear, dear Rebekah. We are told she offered her resignation to Murdoch and he refused to accept it. Tell you what, love, offer it again. Offer it again and again. Keep offering it until he accepts it.

In a secretly-recorded speech, Brooks told her (former) colleagues that within a year they would all realise why The Screws had to be shut down. How bad is this gonna get???  They have already pissed on the chips of their core readership: the hang em and flog em brigade; Mr & Mrs Castrate-Rapists; those poor families who receive the remains of their loved ones in a Union Flag-draped coffin at RAF Brize Norton. By hacking into the phones of murder victims and war casualties, the NOW have stabbed their week-in-week-out reader straight through the heart. And it’s gonna get worse than this? Jesus, RebeKAH, what the fuck have you lot done? You been funding the Taliban?  You didn’t secretly vote for Gordon Brown, did you ? Kill Diana ??
(Is it only me, by the way, who every time I see her picture I hear the phrase “lollipops, lollipops children” running though my head ?)

The Child Catcher and Rebekah. Separated at birth?

Oh well, we’ll find out soon enough, I guess. At least La Brooks will be tucked in safe and sound in her wapping great office (or is that great Wapping office?). Or maybe not. Let’s see what Rupert has to say when he arrives.The story changes by the minute and there’re sure to be many more twists in the tale, all of them minutely reported by News Int’s rivals.

There’s nothing the press enjoy more than writing about the press. And when one of their rivals gets itself in the mire, then happy, happy days. Pick up any copy of last week’s Mail or Mirror, Guardian or Telegraph and you will be overwhelmed by the stench of smugness, and self-righteousness. Just imagine ! Paying the Police for information !!!!! How disgraceful !!!

Yeah, right.

Working on one American magazine (the exact name escapes me) during the 7/7 terrorist attack story, I remember voicing my astonishment that we didn’t have a tame copper on board who’d pass us information. All very bloody frustrating. How the hell was I supposed to move our snappers into the right positions ? Rely on Sky News ? I don’t think so. Fortunately there were plenty of old pals back in the Fleet St who were on hand to help. Though heaven only knows where they were getting their info from. Maybe they were just very good at guessing.

I’m not saying anything more than a Ruby Murray and a pint changes hands when hack meets detective, but any journalist who says his paper doesn’t curry (geddittt???) favour with their local crooked plod is a fibbing rotter. Legend has it that the greater the size of your wad, the greater amount of info and help you can expect in return. Thus, those papers with the bigger budgets (I’ll leave the calculations to you) have the means to get the most info from Inspector Knacker. Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a bent coppers favourite things. Failing that a chicken dhansak and a pint of  Cobra, please.

Stick your head out of the window and listen carefully. If you can block out the mass-indignation and tut-tutting of editors, you’ll hear the unmistakeable sound of shredders going into overdrive all over Fleet Street as the red-tops and broadsheets alike get rid of the evidence, should Cameron ever get around to setting up an inquiry. I should think Murdoch jnr will be up for some sort of Queen’s Award for recycling, such will be the weight of shredded paper coming out of the back door of Wapping. But don’t ever think it’ll be any different anywhere else.

You can call for heads of the hacks who pay the Old Bill for information, or you can ask why Constable Smellie is betraying the public and releasing private and confidential details. It all stinks to high heaven to everyone, it seems, except Beckie Brooks, Rupert and sonny James Murdoch.

Many who enjoy joined-up writing won’t mourn the passing of the News of The World. A nastier, more racist, more bigoted little organ you’d be hard-pushed to find (unless you happen to be in the High St Kensington area). Doubtless The Sun on Sunday will re-employ some of those hapless buggers who lost their jobs last night, but I suspect the total aggregate cull will be in it’s hundreds. More journos looking for work. Bugger. It’s hard enough out there as it is, without having to compete with even more for that odd shift that occasionally comes up. The world can do without more unemployed scribblers, snappers, subs and subs and artists, especially when all it really needed was one ugly ginger head to roll.

Thank you and Goodbye ? How about No Thank You & Fuck Off.

24 Hours from Ulcer


The train standing at platform 4 is shite

Word has it that the next series of 24 will be filmed in London. Apparently it opens with Jack Bauer boarding a DLR train at Lewisham, heading for the Olympic Stadium. 24 hours later he’s still on it. Jack get’s into a heated argument with a Train Captain (ticket collector, to you and me) over which Zone Stratford is in, and has a difference of opinion with a fat bird who wants the window open. In episode 4 he gets a tad miffed with the bloke sitting next to him who’s iPod is blaring our through his earphones. Ok, it may not be most exciting of series of the popular show, but it’ll be the most realistic. I spent a week on the DLR last Tuesday, at least that’s what it felt like. It has to be the most useless mode of transport, even by London standards. How the fuck they expect to ferry the poor sods who turn up to the 2012 Olympics is beyond me. The sight of Jack Bauer whizzing along at 2 miles an hour, his plans going awry cos there’s no lift service at Pudding Mill Lane is unlikely to give a boost to the ratings.

I say all this, but I’ve never seen a single episode of 24. Neither, come to think of it, have I ever watched Lost or Prison Break, or MadMen, or Heroes or CSI…oh I could go on.Twin Peaks, Hill Street Blues, or Spooks or Thirty Something or Curb Your Enthusiasm. I have tended not to tie myself into any of these long series as I’ve never been confident I’ll be sitting in front of the TV at the same time every week to watch the next episode. There are places which serve beer which tend to be open when these shows are aired and they tend to jump out on me on the way home from work.

I have resisted the temptation to tape them as I’ve never enjoyed the pressure that puts you under. Falling behind for a one or two episodes then trying to watch them the night before the next one is shown on TV is stressful, and all the time your colleagues in the office have water cooler chats about the fantastic ending to last night’s show. Trying to go a whole day or two without hearing what happened in the episode(s) you’ve missed: Now that’s real pressure. (Anyone remember The Likely Lads “England F… ” episode?)

Don't nod off, Stanley, CSI is on in a minute

Pre-digi days there’d be piles of VHS videos under the telly with stuff I’d recorded but never gotten round to watching. Piles of 4-hour tapes (8 hours worth of longplay, if you like the quality of playback to simulate watching tv through a sock) with badly scribbled then crossed out labels, reading LIVE AID, DO NOT ERASE (that one was stolen from out of my car in a pub car park), or HOW THE WEST WAS WON (LP) . Or unlikely combinations of viewing as you filled up any blank tape space you had: ZULU/ENGLAND vrs FRANCE W.CUP SEMI F/O.G.WHITSLE TEST/TUC CONF. 1989. There they’d sit, with their tatty white stickers, clogging up the tv cabinet or the bookshelves, never likely to be removed from the shelf until I needed to tape over them again (always remembering to put some sellotape over that clip in the corner I’d broken off to protect them.)

Not much has changed now that I’ve gone all hi-tech and TiVo-fied. I’ve got 30 hours of stuff to watch stored on my TV’s hard drive, plus the whole of the last series of In The Thick of It, (which is the exception that proves my rule as I did make it home to watch all of those.). 30 hours worth! That’s 14 movies. I’ll never get round to watching them, cos every day something else is released so I go onto Amazon and buy that, then something else is shown on TV one night which I’ll record , never watch that either and the backlog just gets longer and longer.

Did I remember to Videoplus the snooker?

But having said all that I find myself believing, and saying “I have nothing to watch”. How come? Well, a couple of years ago the Incumbent, bless her, bought me (us) the box set of The West Wing. We devoured it, were obsessed. We lived The West Wing, we breathed The West Wing, we ate West Wing sandwiches. We quite liked it. What’s more, we could watch it at our own pace. One a week. One a month. Eight in a day. As many we wanted to watch WHENEVER we wanted to watch them. Being a good few years since the show ended on TV, there were no colleagues in the office discussing last night’s episode. It was sensational telly and we didn’t want it to end. Then it did. Bugger.

So what to watch now ? I had this collection of films I’d taped and had never watched, but I couldn’t be arsed to see them now. There was this show which everyone was talking about called The Wire. “Oh I can’t believe you don’t watch it, Mike” they would say. “You’d really like it Mike”.
“Listen” said I, ” I’ll tell YOU what I like and what I don’t, thankyouverymuch”. I dug my heels in, I refused to join their gang. Two months after the last episode of the last series finished, we bought the box set of the whole 5 seasons.

I'll tell you something, bro, I haven't understood a fucking thing you've said in 3 seasons

Fuck me. What a show. It was and is the best thing ever to be made for telly. Sensational. All-day-long sessions watching Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Omar Little and the rest were completely compelling. I just wanted there to be another 5 seasons. But there wasn’t. So, after that had finished I conned Mrs B into watching Band of Brothers with me (I’d seen it before, but I could watch in on a loop), telling her it wasn’t about war but about people. To my surprise she now thinks THAT’S the best show ever made. I’ll never work em out. Finally, this January we started on the Sopranos box set. That’s a bloody good watch too, and another that no-one can believe I’d never seen before. Oh well, I have now, alright? so shuddup!

Now there’s a vacuum, a void in my viewing schedule. The Pacific (Band of Brothers with palm trees) is launched on Sky Movies soon. I won’t be watching, for all the reason’s stated above (and I don’t have Sky Movies). I shall pre-order the whole set from Amazon and try to survive til then. But I will need something to get my teeth into while I wait. It’ll probably be MadMen, it won’t be Lost. Maybe Kiefer Sutherland armed only with an Oystercard, stuck on a train at Deptford Bridge is my only option. Unless I watch The Wire again. Or Phoenix Nights. Or World at War, or…

Return to Stratford, please

The Eyes Have It


I went for an eye test this morning.
I sat nervously in the opticians waiting room (well, in a conspicuous space in an open plan shop in Canary Wharf), clutching a piece of paper tightly. I had booked my appointment online, and by registering with them, the company offered me a 50% discount on eye tests and 10% off glasses. WooHoo!! Trouble is at no stage did they actually announce how much an eye test was. What was I going to pay half of? £10? £50? A HUNDRED ??? I didn’t know but it didn’t matter that much anyway. My eyes had not been what they were for some time, and I wanted that put right.

“Ah hello Mr Bealing, do come in” said a cheery man in the examination room. “My name is Kalpesh, how do you do ? Is this the first time you’ve had an examination with us?”
“er…yes” I replied, sweating in the way I do when under the pressure of a perfectly innocent question asked by a very polite man.
“Ok, and when was that last time you had your eyes tested?”
“Oh about 1989 I would think.”

My mind wandered off:
I remembered booking myself in for an appointment at the old Greenwich Hospital for a test, for reasons now lost in the mists of time. Two young-ish blokes put silly glasses on me, asked me to look at numbers, letters and things and finally shone several bright lights into each of my eyes before pronouncing me to have perfect vision. I thanked them, stood up and attempted to find my way out of the room. However, the previously administered lightshow was still blurring my vision and I missed the doorway by a good three feet. Smack!. I fumbled about and found the opening, the sound of optometrist’s laughter following me out into the corridor.

Anyway, back to this morning. The test began with me looking into a machine, which at shotgun speed blew bullets of compressed air into my eyes.
“This is to test the pressure in your eyes” Kalpesh informed me.
“It bloody hurts” I informed I him back.
“You want a tissue?” he asked, noticing my eyes streaming
“No, no, I’m fine thanks”, said I, not wanting to betray my wussiness.
Several more machines were sat at, including (as an ‘optional extra’) one which took a photo of the inside of my eyes, and Kalpesh announced he was done. He jotted down a few notes, stood up and said, “Right! Now the examination can begin”
“Well what was that, then ?” I asked
“That was just a few measurements I needed to take before starting”
So, in truth, he’d made me cry even before the test had started. Wonderful. To soften the blow, Kalpesh let me know that with the discount, the cost of the exam AND the optional extra retina photo would be 19 quid. Even I could afford that. “Lead on MacDuff.”

We moved to another, darker room. Vaguely familiar silly glasses were donned, different bits of plastic were slid into place, I looked left, right, up and down. Then came the lights again. Dirty great laser beams, more befitting of Dr. No than Vision Express honed into view and were concentrated on first my right, then my left peeper. As each beam pulsed into the back of my eyes, buckets of tears flowed out of the front.
“Would you like a tissue? “ Kalpesh again asked.
“No, no. I’m fine thanks” I said, manfully. My eyes may have been on the way out but there was nothing wrong with my stiff upper lip.

I read with my right eye, peered through the blurred mist of my left, I read letters, looked at shapes and scanned text. It soon became obvious that my eyes couldn’t do what I needed them to do all on their own, and that I would indeed need specs. Oh bugger! Or rather, Old Bugger !

Out into the daylight once more, I was handed over to Kalpesh’s colleague, Amrit. Here was another cheery fellow (what is it about opticians??? I might apply). Amrit took me through the cost of the exam and told me how, if it was my wish, we could proceed with ordering my glasses.
“Oh fuck it!” I proclaimed “We may as well get it over with. Lets do it.”.

We walked to the wall of glasses where we paused. “Now”, said Amrit “how do I put this politely?…. you have a rather wide … er “
“I’ve got a big fat head” I interjected, helping the poor bloke out
“Ah yes!” he gasped in embarrassment “thank goodness, you knew”
“Not a problem , Amrit, I was born with it.”

We spent the next stage of our time together choosing frames together. Romantic it wasn’t. Illuminating it was. I had imagined, whenever I’d given it the tiniest of thought, that if I wore Buddy Holly glasses I’d look like, well, like Buddy Holly, or Elvis Costello at the very least. No such luck. I looked like an old, fat Nobby Stiles. A mutant Harry Palmer. A poor man’s John Mcririck.

Some frames made me look like my dad, some like my mum. This was not how it was supposed to be. This was yet another rusty old nail on my worm-riddled old coffin. I couldn’t possibly be that old. It’s a short limp from here to being tapped on the shoulder by the Grim Reaper, getting a Wish You Were Here card from the other side, my Logan’s Run crystal turning to black, or the Great Umpire going upstairs for a referral.

But, hey, I know I’m old. That is, after all, all I go on about, week-in week-out. So I plumped. I plumped for a pair of not-too-retro, not-too-trendy (according to Amrit) frames which not only was I comfortable wearing, but also didn’t go ping when I tried to slide them over my ears. If I’m gonna have to wear them I want them to be comfy. So me and my newest and bestest of pals went to the checkout desk.

“So when can I pick them up?” I wondered
“They should be ready in a couple of hours” Amrit said matter-of-factly.
“Well I can’t do that, I’ll pop in on my way home tonight”
“Not a problem Mr Bealing, we’re open til seven”
“Perfect, I shall be here at half six”.
“Ok, Mr Bealing, so with the test, the lenses and the frames that comes to £347.20”

pause

“Could I trouble you for a tissue please, Amrit ?”.

.