Positive Negative


Today’s offering is a blatant lift from my old muckers at her majesty’s The Daily Telegraph. These snaps, taken by the very greatest of Britons, should be saved for the country. It’s scandalous that we cannot raise a couple of quid to keep these in the UK.

Back in the day when I was working at the aforementioned DT all of these photos would have been binned and we’d have used whatever Reuters or The PA had. The picture Editor (no names, no pack-drill) would have given the photographer, R.F.Scott, a bollocking and asked “Is this the best you’ve got?” and asked why he didn’t manage to get a blonde bird in the frame. This was back in the late 80s and the early 90s, the birth of myopic photo-journalism. The Back Bench would have hidden them as a 2 column or a thumbnail on the basement of page 19, or “saved” them as a “Sunday for Monday” an old euphamism for never considering them again) .

YOUNG WOMAN WEARS DRESS would have been the front page headline accompanied by a young-ish woman on the red carpet of some awards ceremony wearing a…er…dress. It’s what passes for news nowadays and the DT was the pioneer of such thinking. And they called themselves a “quality” “broadsheet”. Honest. They probably still do.   Whatever they’ll tell you now, they wouldn’t have used these polar pics properly, if at all (some of these butchers and know-nothings are still around and, staggeringly, gainfully employed today — see David Lucas on The Standard). So it’s rather amusing, ironic, even comforting to see the Telegraph come to the rescue of proper photography, years after having been its assailant. (I don’t sound too bitter do I ?)

Please forward this to that rich bloke you know and tell him to give generously. For my part, I am going through The Incumbent’s drawers  in search of hidden treasures.

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The Battle to Save Scott of the Antarctic’s Lost Pictures

Jasper Copping
The Daily Telegraph

Unseen images of Scott of the Antarctic’s doomed final expedition could be lost to the nation after their mystery owner gave Cambridge University until the end of the month to raise £275,000 to buy them.

If the funds are not in place by March 25, the photographic negatives are due to go for auction, where it is expected they will be purchased by a private collector from overseas.

The images were taken towards the end of 1911, as Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s team embarked on its ill-fated trek towards the South Pole, just weeks before it ran into disaster.

The 113 negatives had been thought lost until, more than a century on from the expedition, they have emerged, in private hands. The owner – whose identity has not been disclosed – has approached the Scott Polar Research Institute – part of the University of Cambridge – offering it first refusal.

However, the department has currently only raised about a fifth of the £275,000 purchase price that it must reach before March 25.

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13: Foundering in soft snow. (left to right) Cherry-Garrard, Bowers, Keohane, Crean, Wilson, Beardmore Glacier, 13 December 1911 (Robert Falcon Scott/ Scott Polar Research Institute)

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13: Foundering in soft snow. (left to right) Cherry-Garrard, Bowers, Keohane, Crean, Wilson, Beardmore Glacier, 13 December 1911 (Robert Falcon Scott/ Scott Polar Research Institute)

“The negatives are a key component of the expedition’s material legacy as an object and as a collection in themselves.”

However, the nature of the sale, and the deadline, has raised some eyebrows. John Mann, the Labour MP and a member of the all party parliamentary group on the Polar Regions, suggested it was “unseemly”.

“This is a very important part of our heritage and our history and the British spirit. I would call it living history, as it still inspires people to explore.

“We should do whatever we can to get them into the public domain. If I owned them, I would feel obliged to donate them to the nation. Selling off the nation’s history like this is a bit unseemly.

“There is a national interest here. If it was me, I would rather a plaque to acknowledge the donation.”

If successful, the Institute will display the negatives at its Polar Museum, in Cambridge, where it already holds prints of some of the photographs, as well as the camera on which they were taken. Nine of the negatives, however, have never been seen before.

The photographs were brought for the nation in 2012, when the Institute purchased them for around £750,000 from a London-based book dealer, with help a £704,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The negatives are owned by a separate vendor who has already agreed to extend the deadline once – from March 2 – to allow the institute to apply for grants from organisations.

The owner approached the organisation to offer the items for sale, but has requested that they remain anonymous. It is known not to be a relative of any of the expedition members involved.

Sir Ranulph added: “Unlike a print, of which any number can be made, the negatives are unique and would be a huge asset to the Institute.”

Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Institute, said: “There has been an extraordinarily generous response to the appeal, proving how important Scott remains in the national imagination. Every donation, however small, brings us closer to reaching our goal of £275,000. With this new extension, I am confident we can raise the remaining funds to acquire the negatives.”

The institute itself was founded with money left over from the fund for the widows and orphans of Scott and his four companions, who died on the expedition.

The negatives, taken between September to December 1911, are a record of Scott’s earliest attempts at photography through to his later images of his team on their journey towards the pole.

Scott’s ship, Terra Nova, had left Cardiff in June 1910, and travelled to the Antarctic via South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Following a period of preparatory work, as well scientific research – and aware of a rival bid by Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen – Scott started out for the Pole in late October 1911.

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13: Ponies on the march, Great Ice Barrier, 2 December 1911 (Robert Falcon Scott/ Scott Polar Research Institute)

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13: Ponies on the march, Great Ice Barrier, 2 December 1911 (Robert Falcon Scott/ Scott Polar Research Institute)

His team was equipped with mechanical sledges, ponies and dogs. However, the sledges and ponies could not cope with the conditions and the expedition carried on without them, through appalling weather and increasingly tough terrain.

Around half of the negatives chronicle this period, until December 22, when the dog teams were sent back, taking the negatives with them.

By January 1912, only five of the team remained: Scott, Edward Wilson, Lawrence “Titus” Oates, Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans.

They reached the pole on 17 January 1912 to discover that Amundsen had beaten them by 33 days. They set off on the 930 mile return journey, but ran into exceptionally bad weather and sledging conditions.

Evans was the first to die, on February 17. Oates followed on 16 March – walking out of the tent in a blizzard as he knew he was holding up his companions. Scott himself died with Bowers and Wilson in late March 1912, laid up by a blizzard 11 miles short of a pre-arranged supply depot.

During the last days, Scott kept up his journal, wrote twelve letters to friends, family, and next of kin and left a message for the public explaining his reasons for the failure of the expedition.

Eight months later, a search party found the ten and the bodies and Scott’s diary. The bodies were buried under the tent, with a cairn of ice and snow to mark the spot. News of the deaths did not reach Britain until early 1913.

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She’ll Be Right, Mate


This, like many of the things read on this website, is a true story: When I was but a nipper (we’re talking in the days of black & white) the bloke who taught me cricket at school (Graham Walder, if you must know), when asked about the impending Ashes series said: “If England bat first and score 738 for 4 declared, then bowl Australia out for 39 and 41, it has been a bloody great game.”

Mr Walder said those words to me in 1978, at a time when we were actually bloody good at cricket (and thankfully, when the Aussies were bloody awful.) And that, pretty much, was how we were brought up to eye the Aussies: They must be beaten at all costs, and when (or normally if) you have them down, put your foot on their throat and keep pressing.

I’m here to tell you that there were many years in my youth and young adulthood when that wasn’t the case. It was Australia who held the whip hand and the Poms who were complete and utter rubbish. A rabble. A bunch of Galahs, you might say. It was a dark, dark time for those of us who followed the game and who had to painfully acknowledge that the colonials were actually in the ascendency. It hurt.

Things have gone full circle, and it’s now The Motherland who are supreme rulers – winning three of the last four competitions. And don’t we love it ? When Michael Vaughan‘s 2005 side first beat…scratch that… TROUNCED the touring Australians, the much-loved English press wasted no time, missed no opportunity and showed no mercy in their reporting of the hapless Aussies. An English victory hadn’t happened for many a long year and the press (and some bloggers) set about their task with vengeful gusto.

And the sport of laughing at the colonials has spread to the Olympic Games.

If there was a 100m Aussie-Bashing competition, “Team GB” would secure a 1-2-3, taking all medals. It’s difficult to open a paper, browse a news site or turn on a TV Channel without someone squealing with delight at the poor performance of the Guys and Gals in Green and Gold. Led, of course, by The Daily Mail and Seb’s own news outlet, T’BBC, the cries of “What’s Happened to the Aussies?” is louder than a Brit crowd cheering Jess Ennis.

Things get worse. If there’s one country Australians hate losing to it’ll be Britain. Unless its New Zealand. Even the Kiwis are doing better than their Tasman neighbours. At time of writing the All Blacks have 3 golds to the Aussies’ 2. This hasn’t gone down well. When New Zealand reached 10th place in the medals table, official Australian Olympic broadcaster Channel 9 reportedly wiped New Zealand off their top 10 Olympic medal table TV on national television, showing only the top 9.

Jeez, mate.

And it’s not just the British Press – the Aussies own have been having a go.

Why don’t we have papers over here like that ? Oh, right, we do.

In the pool there was not a single Aussie individual Gold medal, just a relay win. In 2008 they’d come home with a tucker bag-full of ’em. Some Aussie journos have suggested their athletes lack conviction. You might say that it would be a first for there to be an Aussie without a conviction, but you would be being cruel and historically incorrect.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph decided to combine both Aussie and Kiwi medal totals , calling the new state ‘Aus Zealand’ which ranked ninth in the medals table, still behind Kazakhstan but above the likes of Belarus and Cuba.

Things will improve for our cousins. They are sure to win gold through hurdler and leading lemon-sucker Sally Pearson (unless, that is her face splits asunder should she break into a smile). Perhaps she’s nervous. Perhaps she just isn’t Michelle Jennecke. We can’t all be, love.

With the British medal total looking to break all records (which, after all is what is supposed to happen when you host the games) other nations are seeking explanations, looking for excuses. Aussie press are moaning about the huge Lottery Fund-led cash insertion to Team GB. Quite right. That’s how we felt when you lot were useless in the 70s and decided to inject wads of cash into all sports and set up academies. We learned what to do from you lot.

The French are insinuating that the wheels on our bikes are somehow illegal, as we hide them away after every cycle race. Well of course we do. If history has taught us anything, it’s not to share our secrets with you lot or the Yanks. Churchill had to pawn our best stuff and secrets to save the nation, without so much as a “Thanks, Bud”. We don’t have to do that any more.

US coaches questioned the validity of a great win by a Chinese 15 year old swimmer, Ye Shiwen, querying how one so young could win so well without the use of stimulants. Oddly when their 15-year-old Katie Ledecky produced the second fastest 800 metres freestyle in history to take gold the silence was…er…golden. It won’t be long before Mo Farah will be accused of something by someone, I’m quite sure.

The wheels (legal wheels) seem to be coming off the British Gold Dispenser as Athletes go crook, runners under-perform or even fail to turn up. But that’s ok. We’ve won lots. You lot have a couple. Go on, help yourself, mate. We don’t want to be greedy. And we’re uncomfortable being so good anyway.

By four years time in Rio it will all be very different. Normal service will resume. You’ll remember how to swim, and we’ll remember how to lose, or at least beat you and apologise for doing so – promising it won’t happen again. But I think we can finally dispense with the tag of Whinging Pom, don’t you ?

No Wukkers.

Aussie Gloom over Gold Medal Drought

Sir, The Gentlemen of the Press are Here


The British, or to be more precise, the British Press, or to be more precise, the English Press don’t like Sepp Blatter, though they’re not exactly alone on that one. They think he takes bungs, fixes elections, is anti-English. Fresh from the “row” about whether the English football team could wear poppies on Remembrance Sunday, and following his insightful views on women’s football (“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could have tighter shorts.”), match fixing (“I could understand it if it had happened in Africa, but not in Italy.”) and homosexuals (“I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”) there has been a torrent of outraged copy spewing out of Fleet Street regarding Blatter’s latest decree. The head of FIFA has opined that racism on the pitch should be forgotten with a handshake after the match. A ridiculous opinion indeed, but what a godsend for the hacks of the press ? Immediately headlines such as “Now Beckham and Cameron slam Sepp Blatter over racism in football” (Daily Mail) and Blatter Must Go” (The Sun) have ploughed into nasty Sepp in exactly the way they…er…didn’t attack John Terry when he was filmed calling Anton Ferdinand a f**king black c*nt”.

Exactly the same organs demanding the hated Blatter’s resignation are the ones not calling for Terry to go:  “Terry vows to clear his name in race storm” (Daily Mail) and “Terry is Gagging for Action with England” (Sun). That’s telling him ! Strong stuff, indeed.  The Blatter affair has saved the tabloids from having to chastise the serial-shagging Terry and focus their sights on nasty foreigner Sepp. There’s something quite ironic the Mail labeling someone a racist. But that’s another yarn for another day.

This latest case of double standards pales into insignificance compared to the coverage of the official inquiry into the workings of the press. When not attacking Johnny Foreigner, there’s nothing journalists like better than writing about other journalists. Journos think we, (or rather you) are, like them, equally infatuated with journalism and stories about it. This obsession with their own trade and fellow hacks more often than not supersedes any other story that may drop on their desks. And nothing, NOTHING excites a hack more than when other hacks are deemed to be up Shitestraße, a condition currently afflicting my old colleagues at News International. You may have noticed the absolute glee with which other media outlets have been reporting the phone hacking scandal.  The Guardian clearly has an axe to grind with the Murdoch press and are loving every second of the coverage. The BBC are visibly beside themselves. But they all should be very careful, I reckon.

One can only assume that the thus-far unquestioned members of the press have nothing to hide. Either that or they realise that Inspector Knacker is taking so long over the News of the World and associates, that by the time the law gets round to them the shredders will have been doing overtime and their friendly private eyes will have been shooed out the back door, taking a large wad of cash with them. All evidence of naughtiness will be long gone by the time the rozzers arrive at their door.

Wherever I worked, there was always a deeply held belief in the mantra “there but for the grace of god go I”. The Mail put in the wrong picture ? Poor sods – someone’s due for a kicking. Headline in The Times got a typo in it? Jesus, someone’s for it. We just knew that, sooner or later we’d drop a clanger and it would be our turn to be hauled over the coals. There was always a bunch of annoying hacks giggling about and reveling in the misfortune and the mistakes of other rags, but us photo bods knew better than to behave like that. We’d been there too often to carp.

But the recent events at the NoW are not the result of honest mistakes, no matter what Herr Flick says. This isn’t a case of mistakenly putting a pic of a boy from the wrong school in the paper (guilty as charged- Eton instead of Harrow) or putting a photo in upside down (property page – also guilty, your honour) or accidentally being pissed most afternoons (Happy Days. Oh fuck it, ok, I’d like 173 other offences taken into account). No we’re talking serious, intentionally-undertaken crimes here. As much as we’d like to think that this sort of behaviour was confined to Fortress Wapping, I think we all know that that’s unlikely. If I was the rest of Fleet St, I’d treat the phone hacking story with due reverence and respect. These things have a nasty habit of turning around and biting you on the arse, just when you’re gloating about them.

It only surprises me that all this seems to have come as a shock to most people. How the hell did they think the tabloids (and those pretending not to be tabloids) got their information from ? Through honest journalism ? Concerned readers offering exclusives to those nice gentlemen of the press ? Above-the-table briefings by policemen to reporters?

What will hang Fleet St is the same that has kept the UK tabs thriving for so many years: The ability (thru piles of cash) and the willingness (thru the unique competitiveness of the Street) to work outside the law to obtain ‘scoops’. The Scews was not the most read rag in the world for no reason. It delivered all the tawdry and ugly stories that the British public craved after. Whether the public demand for such shite is reason enough to go get these stories is a moot point. However, they spent fortunes hunting down these yarns, keeping them from the notebooks of their competitors, out-bidding anyone else that showed an interest. So many competing national papers in one small county propagates such a frenzied pursuit of higher readership figures.

The sort of pressures between titles, almost unique to London’s papers, made it almost inevitable that one day they’d go too far in their quest for the best story. What “too far” actually meant was open for debate for a long time. Apparently, if you happened to be successful and obtained celebrity through your work, reporters sneaking around your bins and eavesdropping on your private conversations was truly shocking, but frightfully readable, and understandable.  Gordon Taylor, (“that’s rotten, got any more?”) Elton John (“awful! what else ?”), Hugh Grant (“terrible! love it”). Then the manure hit the air-conditioning system. The Milly Dowler episode clearly was “too far”. Even the well-kept coppers, some of whom passed on vital info to the newspaper,  now displayed the sort of outrage and indignation a guilty party will often show. The mucky business was rife. Everyone knew it, but somehow no-one now admits they did.

A while back I was asked for a colleague’s mobile phone number. This colleague was a reporter who happened to be vaguely connected to someone famous who happened to be in the news at the time. The reporter who asked me for this number had gotten my number from a friend. I gave him a “fuck right off” for his trouble. This reporter was not working for the News of the World. He must have been another “lone rogue reporter” (there’s a lot of them about). I don’t know why he wanted the number. I just had a good idea why he wanted it. He was (and still is) a dodgy, slimy cvnt. I wasn’t playing his game.

Not that I am suggesting that the Mail, Mirror, Express, Guardian etc etc have anything to worry about. This is clearly only an issue which needs to be addressed over at Wapping and Wapping alone.

Nowhere else.

At all.

There’s nothing new here. You’d think that this distaste for and distrust of the press was a new thing. Don’t be fooled. In 1959 Peter Sellers, in “The Goons” episode The Scarlet Capsule had the line:

“Sir, the gentlemen of the press are here. I tried to hold ’em back, but they burst through by putting money in me hands”.

It could have been written yesterday.

…and there’s more…

Back in 1987 Jim Hacker was certainly under no illusions about the newspapers of London – or at least who they were read by.

.

Over 20 years later, comedians Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt updated it. Not much has changed. Apart from the addition to the list of The Independent and the fact that the Express and the Star are now recognised as newspapers – if that is the right word:
The Times is read by the people who run the country.
The Telegraph is read by the people think they run the country.
The Guardian is read by the people who have run the country for the past 12 years and realised they’re blown it.
The Independent is read by people who got to the newsagents after they’d run out of The Guardian and The Times.
The Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.
The Express is read by Marcus Brigstocke to wind himself up.
The Mirror is read by the people who vote for the people who read the Guardian and have now blown it.
The Sun is read people who’ll vote for people who’ll run the country to suit the people who read the Financial Times while somehow convincing themselves that those people will give a toss about the people who buy The Sun the moment the election’s over.
And The Star is read very … slowly … with your lips moving.

Rugger Bugger


Now then, Guys and Gals: Here’s my favourite Daily Mail story of the week. Just goes to show how lucky I have been:

Burly rugby player has a stroke after freak gym accident… wakes up gay and becomes a hairdresser

When 19-stone rugby player Chris Birch suffered a stroke during a freak training accident, his family feared it would be a life-changing injury.

Yet while his recovery certainly brought about a transformation, it seems to have been in a way no one could have expected.
For when he regained consciousness, the 26-year-old – who was engaged to his girlfriend – claimed he had become gay.

Mr Birch’s astonishing change saw him break up with his fiancée, ditch his job in a bank to retrain as a hairdresser and lose eight stone in weight.
Before the accident Mr Birch, of Ystrad Mynach, South Wales, had spent his weekends watching sport and drinking with his mates.He has now moved in with his  19-year-old boyfriend.


The now ex-rugby player, a flanker with his local amateur reserve side, had been attempting a back flip in front of friends on a field when he fell down a grass bank, breaking his neck and suffering the stroke.…..

(continues…but I can’t be arsed to print anymore)

Poor, poor sod. He goes through all that pain and sorrow, those long uncomfortable nights in hospital, the operations and the bed-baths.  Then he wakes up and he’s still Welsh.

Breaks your heart.


I’m All Wrong, Jack


I read with interest that they’re going to let cyclists travel the wrong way up a one-way street. Brilliant! I have enough problems crossing the road and avoid being mowed down by these bastards as it is, never mind getting rammed up the arse by one of them cos I was looking the wrong way. No, I’m not gonna start again, I have nothing more to add to what’s gone before (see previous rants) . Suffice to say I am considering buying a Renault and may be Piquet-ing myself across the road should I see any of the lycra fascists peddling towards me against the traffic. I’m not sure if Lewisham council employs a safety car, perhaps they can buy one out of the cash from all the parking tickets they dish out around Blackheath. Hurrumph.

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I don’t know why I am surprised at this news as I have the feeling I’ve been looking the wrong way at life in general for some time. It’s all gone a bit how’s yer father, hasn’t it?: The Tories, if and when they get in, are gonna make massive defence cuts, while the Labour Party are attacking the BBC and wanting to “cut it down to size”. How are we supposed to know who to vote for (or indeed if)? Gordon’s been trying to please all sides for two years now and managed to please no-one. Osbourne enrages his natural allied voters by dropping schemes for aircraft carriers and fighters, while Bob Ainsworth (yes, isn’t he?) wants more nukes.

Under this supposedly socialist (small ‘s’) government, nothing is built without private money sticking it’s snout in, the poorest are still getting a kicking by the tax man and Gordon Brown courts big business and tabloid newspapers for their support next election (small ‘chance’). I was once at a press awards ceremony when the then Chancellor Gordon appeared, live by satellite, to laud praise on Paul Dacre, the editor of The Daily Mail. That’s The Editor of The Daily Mail. I felt distinctly bilious, it nearly put me off my champagne and canapes. The writing was on the wall there-and-then. Blair had already wooed The Sun and here was his McHenchman cuddling up the The Mail. Stone me.

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Time was when you knew who was who and where you stood. Tories cut taxes to save their rich mates, Labour upped the rate to pay for schools, health and a cheese sandwich and a warm bottle of light ale for any passing Trades Unionist. Unelected Peers were given seats in Tory Governments, while the honest working man rose up through the (elected) ranks to become a lowly, humble, under-paid Labour MP. What now?:Baroness Mandelson even ran the country for a brief period this summer with four fewer votes than Hamid Karzai raised in Afghanistan (none).
Back in the day public spending soared under a Labour administration and those of us on the right (or is it left) side-of-the-tracks were happy to pay more for the common good. Tories would hack away at the Welfare State and sod anyone who couldn’t afford private hospitals or education. They defended and invested in the military and weaponry and invaded anyone who so much as look at us in a funny way, while Labour cut the Services budget, were the party of Ban The Bomb…and invaded anyone who so much as looked at us in a funny way.

And bikes rode the correct way up the street.

During the war….