Newspaper offices waste quite a lot of paper. So, in fact, do newspapers, as yesterday's splendid pine tree becomes (depending on your point of view) today's finely crafted chronicle of our times, or semi-literate showbiz goss, and tomorrow's guinea-pig toilet.
They like flights, too – indeed they have entire sections devoted to jetting round the world, and not just to report on wars, or elections, or famines, or corruption, but on luxury holidays in the Caribbean, or spas in the Seychelles, or massages in the Maldives. It's disgusting. It's really disgusting. I'm going to complain to the editor. In fact, I think I'll take him to tribunal.
There are other things I could mention, too. Women, for example. Newspapers like pictures of women. In this one, they usually have their clothes on, but not, frankly, always that many. I think the women could have more clothes. They don't need to wear burkas, or hijab. They don't need to wear long frocks, like the Amish, or wigs and funny 1980s cardies like the Hasidic Jews, but something feminine and modest. A Laura Ashley blouse, perhaps, and a nice skirt from Monsoon. I think Cheryl Cole and Angela Merkel would both look lovely in a nice skirt from Monsoon. And it would show that we respect them, and our female readers – and me.
And while we're at it, what's with the gloom? Why do we have to write about people dying, and starving, and killing, and embezzling, and fiddling elections, and fiddling expenses, and abusing, and being abused, and generally being miserable? Can't we, you know, ac-cent-tchu-uate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative? Can't we write stories about people who've been happily married for 40 years, who have held on to their jobs, which they enjoy, and who go on nice holidays where they don't get food poisoning or drown?
You see, I'm a feminine feminist environmentalist positive thinker, and my beliefs are very important to me – so important that you could regard them as a philosophy, a religion, even, and I think that by disregarding my beliefs (my religion!) my employer is discriminating against me. It's not enough that my employer should let me believe what I like. He should believe it, too. He should change his behaviour. He should change his newspaper.
This, apparently, is the view of Tim Nicholson, the "head of sustainability" (whatever that might be) of one of Britain's biggest property firms, who was very, very, very cross when his boss did things like tell a colleague to get on a plane, when he shouldn't, because flying when you shouldn't is very bad. It's not against the law, but it's naughty. And people shouldn't be naughty. Tender-hearted Tim (the kind of man, one assumes, who has ten different bins in his kitchen and gives his children lovely wooden toys for Christmas), was made redundant last July, and went weeping to his lawyers. Now a Mr Justice Michael Burton has ruled that his beliefs about climate change qualify as a philosophy or a religion and are therefore subject to the laws applying to religious discrimination. Yes, he has. He really has.
So, cheer up, everyone! The floodgates are open. And it's all about you. Vegetarian offended by your colleague's bacon sarnie? Bring on the lawyers! Feminist, who thinks that girl in advertising's skirt is just a little bit too short? Bring on the lawyers! Fundamentalist Muslim who doesn't like being told what to do by a woman? Well, gosh, that one's a tiny bit complicated.
Nicholson, by the way, now works for a charity promoting greener healthcare. I'm sure he's much happier. I'm sure his former bosses are too.
Anything you can do, she can do better
If you want a night of pure, unmitigated, unadulterated joy, go and see Annie Get Your Gun. From that first glimpse of four pianos in front of the stage, and four check-shirted piano players, it's heaven.
Jane Horrocks is a scrawny, grubby, bird-like version of Annie Oakley, the white-trash sharpshooter who became America's first female superstar. Julian Ovenden is a smoulderingly seductive, but strangely loveable, version of Frank Butler, the Irish sharpshooter she falls in love with. Transposed, in this Young Vic production, from the Wild West frontiers of the 1880s to a post-Depression America of desperate-for-glamour showbiz and diners, it's a riotous, witty, exuberant celebration of the highs and lows of the American dream.
It's also a delicious (and slightly depressing) reminder that some things don't change. Oakley and Butler take part in a shooting competition that she wins. She falls in love with him and he, in spite of the blow to his pride, and declaration that the kind of woman he'll fall in love with will "wear satin ... and smell like cologne", is gradually won over. Humiliated by her growing success, however, he retreats. It's only when she deliberately loses to him that he finally lets her fall into his arms.
In the real-life version, actually, Annie starts off as Frank's assistant, but they later swap roles. And, apparently, stay happily married. Now that's what I call revolutionary.
Some truths about the 'average' soldier
I'm not a big fan of chain letters, but I was extremely moved by one I was sent by a friend last week with the title "the average British soldier". The average British soldier, it said, is a "well-built lad", who's "not particularly keen on hard work", but would "rather be grafting in Afghanistan than unemployed in the UK". He "recently left comprehensive school where he was probably an average student" and "has trouble spelling, so letter-writing is a pain". He can, however, "save your life or take it, because that is his job".
He "feels every bugle note of The Last Post vibrate through his body while standing rigidly to attention" and "asks nothing from us except our respect". "We may not like what he does," it continues, "but sometimes he doesn't like it either – he just has to do it."
I thought of this when I read of the death, in Afghanistan, of Staff-Sergeant Olaf Schmid, a bomb disposal expert in the Royal Logistics Corps. S/Sgt Schmid had saved literally hundreds of lives. He was, clearly, very far from average. He was, in fact, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Thomson, "better than the best of the best". But actually, when it comes to risking your life, every day, and your future, and your brain, and your limbs, there's no such thing as average. And Derbyshire libraries wanted to ban poppy sales. Shame on them.Reuse content