Dear Angus Roxburgh

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The Independent Online
You may not know this, but every time you appear on The Nine O'Clock News the following conversation occurs in our house.

"Why doesn't he put a hat on?"

"He never wears a hat."

"But he's in Moscow. Look at the guy, he's practically freezing to death. He should put a hat on. Everyone else has got a hat on."

"Yes, but they've only got fur hats in Russia."

"So?"

"He can't wear a fur hat, can he?"

"Why not?"

"He works for the BBC."

"But they all wear fur hats in Russia."

"That's right, but he can't. It would upset the viewers at home."

"But they've just shown all those people being beaten up by the police!"

"Yes, but the viewers would get more angry about the fur."

"Well, why doesn't he get a different kind of hat?"

"Because that would offend the Russians ... "

And so on.

You see, Angus, it's very hard to concentrate on what you are saying when there are icicles developing on the end of your nose. I always imagine crowds of Muscovites standing behind the camera placing bets on whether you'll survive to the end of the broadcast.

So what's the problem? Do you think you're going to be accused of going native? OK, the idea of fur hats is distasteful in this day and age, but there's always fake fur. Next time you come home, go to an army surplus store and you'll be able to pick up a nice trapper's hat for a fiver, with flaps to pull down over your frozen ears. Or maybe one of those nice Russian tank commanders could lend you his cap, just while you make your report.

I've got a feeling that maybe you are trying to introduce a bit of reality into your reports, by bringing a sense of the ice-blasted Russian steppes into our living-rooms. This is all very well-meaning of you, but, to tell the truth, we don't want it. The weather here is bad enough as it is, without you adding to it. The Nine O'Clock News isn't supposed to send a chilling shiver through us. It's supposed to make us feel glad that the kind of thing you're telling us about could never happen here, isn't it?

I'm surprised the BBC hasn't been inundated with hats sent in by concerned viewers. I can picture great crateloads being shipped out to you during the winter months. Every kind of hat imaginable, and you'd still probably refuse to wear any of them. If you're not careful, they're likely to have a hat appeal on Blue Peter.

I suspect this refusal to wear hats is just an extension of the "mad dogs and Englishmen" syndrome. Not only do they go out in the midday sun, but they also refuse to wear hats in Russia. Unless, of course, you are a Scotsman. In which case I recommend a deerstalker.

MAGNUS MILLS

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