Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear Diary

Inspired by the Michael Palin 1980-1988 chronicles I received for Christmas, a desire to rescue my handwriting from ruin after years of typing and the fact that Asda had day-to-view diaries for £1, I've been keeping a journal this year. I wondered whether I'd be able to keep it up, but 11 days into the 3rd month of the year, I can report with some pride that I haven't missed a day yet. Sometimes I forget to jot down my thoughts (such as they are) at the end of the day, and have to play catch up, but I've managed to fill every page so far. Most of the contents seem mundane and humdrum now, but in time, I suspect they'll acquire a greater level of interest, particularly the bits about sharing my living and work space with a small, inquisitive, very funny child. Even if they don't acquire any interest, the regular practice has improved my scribble immeasurably, and gives my small fleet of fountain pens an outing other than writing shopping lists on the backs of envelopes or drawing splotchy moustaches and antennae on Z-list celebrities in the paper. I know that a blog's a form of diary, but are there any other analogue diarists out there?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sense amid the senseless

Anyone who wishes to venture an opinion either way on the Jon Venables situation should read and digest this superb blog post by a social worker. This Guardian comment piece by Simon Jenkins is worth a look too, as is Brian Masters' contribution to the debate in the Telegraph. Everything else I have seen in the mainstream media has been fit only for cutting into squares and hanging from a nail in the outside privy. If I've missed any other intelligent contributions to the debate, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mike Giggler writes

I've just had a text message from Terry Venables saying that he's Eddie Calvert, the man with the golden trumpet. At least I think that's what it said. The spelling was atrocious. Anyway, let's go round and attack his house. Throw paint at it, I say. Cherry pink and apple blossom white. That's the way.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Special Kay (slight return)

The contemporary reporting of the John Kay case is oddly muted. The Times carried a news in brief paragraph on 12 September 1977, stating that Sun chief reporter Kay was to stand trial for the murder of his wife, but that's it as far as the nation's journal of record goes. For a bit more background, we must turn to page 4 of the Guardian of 13 December 1977, and a report headlined "'Torment' of reporter who killed wife".

The Grauniad reports Kay's QC Daniel Hollis as saying that "Mr Kay was cracking up at the prospect of taking over as the Sun's industrial editor - a job he did not feel able to hold down". Kay himself claimed to be "taken over by voices. I seemed possessed. It was an utter nightmare".

Then the report comes to the details of what happened on the night in question. Having despatched his Japanese wife Harue in a swift and efficient manner "by strangling and drowning her", Kay then "tried repeatedly to kill himself". The paragraph listing Kay's attempts bears repeating in full:

"He slashed his wrists with razor blades but did not inflict serious injury; he flung himself head first out of a window, but a plastic dustbin broke his fall; he tried to gas himself but an automatic lighting device on the cooker prevented him; he tried to hang himself with flex but could not get into the right position; and then he drove to a bridge over the Stevenage bypass but found it was too low to fling himself over. In his final attempt he drove his car into the back of a parked car at 80 mph, but 'miraculously' survived with relatively minor injuries."

Sober, sensitive reporting, as you'd expect from the 1977-vintage Guardian. Can you imagine how The Sun would have reported this case, had it not involved a valued member of the paper's own staff? Do I hear the word 'loony'? Meanwhile, I'm wondering if the creators of Viz read this report and remembered it when creating the hapless Suicidal Syd?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Special Kay

The Sun's coverage of the Jon Venables situation is the embodiment of all that's worst about modern journalism. In the right situation, bumping into the boundaries of acceptability and legality can be a valuable safeguard of free speech and freedom of information, as it can bring out into the open details that the public not only have a right to know, but, as citizens, should know. This isn't that situation. We're looking at simple bloodlust - an eye for an eye. Already, idiots on Facebook are claiming to know Venables' new identity and getting other idiots to pass it on. With any luck, they'll soon have experience of incarceration themselves, as it's impossible to see such an act as anything other than incitement to violence.

Meanwhile, The Sun's coverage is being overseen by the paper's chief reporter John Kay. The same John Kay who, in 1977, drowned his Japanese wife Harue in the bath of their Barnet home before attempting to gas himself. Driven mad by the pressure of work as the paper's industrial correspondent, he could see no other way out for himself or his wife, who had been cut off by her family for marrying a westerner. He was convicted of manslaughter with diminished responsibility, and, on his release from Friern Barnet mental hospital, was welcomed back by his employer. The problem for me isn't that Kay killed his wife. I'm happy to accept that he was temporarily deranged. I've been temporarily deranged too, and it's a dark place to inhabit. The problem is that The Sun showed a greater degree of enlightenment and understanding when one of its own transgressed than it would ever have done in any other circumstances. Imagine the reporting of a similar case where the killer was AN Other.

There's also the question of whether Denise Fergus realises that the man to whom she is pouring out her feelings about the killers of her son is a convicted killer himself?