Friday 26 August 2005
Miles Kington: There's nothing silly about the silly season
On holiday, you don't know what's going on. At first it's worrying, but then you realise you don't care
Q. Lost a bit of weight.
Q. Looking a lot older, too.
A. Thanks a lot.
Q. Been away?
Q. Had a nice time?
A. Yes, thanks.
Q. But you're back now?
A. Yes, I'm back and raring to go.
Q. Go where?
A. Away. On another holiday.
A. Yes. I need a holiday. I'm exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. I'm totally knackered.
A. Because of being on holiday, of course.
Q. Didn't you relax, then?
A. That's not the point. You might relax along the way, but most of a holiday involves grim effort. All that booking, and driving, and flying, and being ill abroad, and worrying about money ... Running a holiday is like a small-scale military operation. Getting the troops there. Keeping them happy. Keeping them out of trouble. Getting them back again. Knackering.
Q. I see. So getting back to work is a bit of a rest cure?
A. Yes. Well, it would be, except that it's the silly season, of course.
Q. Silly season?
A. July, August, September. In the papers. Silly season. No important news. All silly stories.
Q. Oh, yes, I remember. It's because Parliament is in recess, isn't it? And the Prime Minister is on holiday? So all the people who make the news are away, so no news gets made?
A. That used to be the theory.
Q. Isn't it any more?
A. No. Not since I came back from holiday.
Q. What's happened since you got back from holiday?
A. I've been thinking.
Q. Good God.
A. When people are on holiday, even news people, you are generally somewhere where you can't get English newspapers or understand the TV news, so you get out of touch. You don't know what's going on. To begin with, it's dead worrying, but suddenly one day you realise that it doesn't matter and you don't care. You don't care! You realise for once that it doesn't matter a damn that you don't know what Bush has said or who is dead or who won or lost anything or got the Olympics in 2012 or anything!
Q. I see.
A. And then you come back to work, and for a while you still don't care. For a month at least, till you are sucked back into the system. Which means that during that month, the papers and radio and TV news are manned by people who have just come back from their hols and can't see the point of any of this. So they just report the silly stories.
Q. So what you are saying, if I'm getting you, is that the silly season is not caused by the absence of news or newsworthy people - it's caused by a temporary aberration on the part of journalists?
A. No. By a temporary sanity on the part of journalists.
Q. Right. And so because they suddenly see that none of it really matters, they start giving undue weight to non-stories like - like what?
A. The Piano Man.
A. Michael Buerk.
A. Bird flu.
Q. Right - no, hold on! You can't say that that's a non-story! This flu is a real killer!
A. Yes, but it hasn't got here yet. It's only a scare story so far. All scare stories are silly season stories. Ken Clarke.
A. Ken Clarke for Tory leader. Silly silly silly season story. Any story with the words "dream ticket" in it is a silly story.
A. Disappearing jazz singer.
Q. She turned up, didn't she?
A. Disappearing jazz singer who hadn't even disappeared.
Q. Right. I get the idea.
A. British Airways catering ...
Q. Right! I get the idea!
Q. Why don't you leave me in peace? Why don't you just go away and write a piece about it?
A. I believe I might. Yes, perhaps I will.
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