WITHIN DAYS of Joan's magical polemic, meanwhile, the Mail itself showed a startling lack of manners to a writer appearing on the identical page. The author of a piece celebrating gratuitous rudeness (is there an irony there? Can't decide) is given the byline Clement Freud. If it's the same chap - and from the picture of a rheumy-eyed old porker next to a bloodhound and a tin of Pedigree Chum, you have to like the odds - surely everyone knows that he is Sir Clement, and routinely refuses to speak to those who fail to address him by that title. What a lovely man he is, though, and just in tribute to the sweetness of his nature, just this once I decline to pose my ritual question to Richard Dawkins (if as you geneticists insist, it's all in the genes, how the hell did we get from Sigmund to Sir Clement in two generations?).
THERE IS nothing worse than families falling out, of course, so it's with the utmost reluctance that I rebuke Channel 4 supremo Kevin Lygo, my cousin by marriage (whom I have never met). Hats off for the magnificent coverage of the Ashes - I'm especially taken with the impeccable technical analysis of Simon Hughes, whom I assume Sky will snap up when they take over Test rights next summer - but what is going on with the highlights? Scheduling them so close to the end of play is absurd, and giving them only half an hour -20 minutes, in fact, without the two title sequences and the sodding adverts - is preposterous given the concentration of dramatic moments in this breathtaking series. Why chuck away such a priceless commodity? Tear your schedules up, Kevin, give the highlights a full hour, and put them on at 10pm when godfearing folk can relish them properly over drink or soft drugs. And do it in time for the fourth Test, please, or I will have no choice but to have words on the matter with your stepmother-in-law (my aunt William). And you wouldn't want that.
THANKS FOR all (both, to be pedantic) your emails regarding the year-on-year slump in Radio Five Live's audience. Simon Jenkins (not that great columnist, I suspect; but you see where the Clement Freud confusion can slip in) agrees that the collapse of almost six per cent may have less to do with the official line (an uncompetitive Premiership) than the endless phone-in debates apparently targeted directly at the educationally subnormal. As for another correspondent's remarks about Nicky Campbell, I remind you of my pledge to co-presenter Shelagh Fogarty not to tease Nicky - and bless him, he's just as thick-skinned as my friend Huw Edwards - until the autumn.
FOR ALL its failings, though, you must warm to Radio Five's policy of positive discrimination when it comes to employing holiday relief for the Rev Simon Mayo. A certain Phill Williams deserves a hero's reception when he finally says "Tata" (quite the catchphrase) to remaining listeners, and returns to the macramé pot plant weaving class at the care home. As for Richard Bacon, who has made the traditional progression for a top Five Live current affairs man to Top of the Pops, he mustn't agonise over enticing portly rockers The Magic Numbers to walk out of the studio by appearing to call them "fat". An easy mistake any serious professional might have made, and let's breathe a sigh of relief that Richard wasn't so much as born during the heyday of the late Mama Cass.
DOES ANYONE know how you go about getting yourself a media professorship? I know there's a form to fill in, but I can't find the right cereal packet in either Tesco or Budgens.
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