Tom Hodgkinson: Bore them round the campfire? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves


Related Topics

As a hack myself, I ought not to be surprised if I myself become the victim of hackery. But last week I was royally stitched-up and for a moment, I confess, I had a sense of humour failure.

It was over ukuleles. My new book The Ukulele Handbook is coming out and, being a self-promoting media whore who also needs to earn a living, I am keen to publicise this excellent manual (co-written with Gavin Pretor-Pinney, £14.99, Bloomsbury).

Having already written about it here, I emailed the editor of another Sunday supplement about the book. "How fabulous!" she replied. "Would deffo like to do something on this." I was commissioned to write 10 tips and facts about the ukulele. A jolly young woman at the paper was deputised to write a piece to run alongside mine and she emailed me to ask for a couple of contacts. This was all going rather well, I thought.

When the thrilling Sunday of publication arrived, I asked my co-author whether he had seen the piece. I could hardly wait to see it myself. A joyous celebration of the humble ukulele! Yes, he wrote to me in an email. It's out. And he sent me the headline: "Please Make it Stop: it's loved by smug hipsters and twee dads. Has the ukulele become the most irritating instrument ever?"

It got worse. My own top tips box, which I had considered a masterpiece of wit, was graced with the headline: "Bore Them Round the Campfire". And the ukulele, they said, is loved by men going through their midlife crisis. Ouch. I had thought I was just a fun-loving cheerful spreader of joy.

To make matters worse, in the same issue, the mag ran a fawning interview with the rich, vain dress designer Tom Ford, who boasted first that he had not had botox for 18 months and then that he exulted in selling overpriced dresses to the super-wealthy of the world. And he's supposed to be some sort of role model? Jeez. "I bet if I had a multimillion-pound advertising budget like him they wouldn't laugh at me," I reflected.

I went to bed in a rage. How would I take my revenge? "That was a really mean-spirited piece," I would tell them in an email. "You ought to be ashamed of yourselves." Or maybe I should write a letter to the editor. "Sir, your correspondent's article on the ukulele made an effort to be waggish, but succeeded only in embarrassing her and your paper with its witless clichés." No, too pompous. "How does it feel to destroy someone's career and livelihood as a career move?" Too desperate.

The next morning I decided it was best ignored. Who cares, I said to myself, without huge conviction. I felt like Derek Zoolander, who, when stitched up in a cover story for Time magazine with the headline "A Model Idiot", responds to the journalist behind the piece: "Lucky for me that no one reads your little Time magazine, or whatever it's called."

Anyway, if I must write a book about the ukulele, I have to expect some ribbing. Mocking the uke, after all, has been a time-honoured sport since the beginning. PG Wodehouse mocked the uke when he got Bertie Wooster playing one. Jeeves actually quits Bertie's service in protest, and Sir Roderick Glossop fumes: "For weeks, it appears, you have been making life hell for all your neighbours with some hideous musical instrument."

A wag on the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1927: "They say that for many years no one knew who invented the ukulele. At last the offender, conscience-stricken, surrendered himself to the authorities and was duly hanged." In an episode of Roseanne, 1960s uke star Tiny Tim makes a guest appearance and duly has his instrument smashed up by John Goodman. "That happens a lot!" says Tim. Even in 1886, when the uke had only just arrived in Hawaii, it had its enemies: a newspaper columnist in that year described it as a "hideous small Portuguese instrument".

I imagine that a higher-up told the young hack to be snide. She would have agreed as a career move. And anyway, I did something similar when I was young: I wrote a story about comedians at open-mic nights, and interviewed one regular performer. I don't suppose he was very amused when he opened the paper and saw the headline: "Is this Britain's unfunniest comedian?"

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager / Sales - UK New Business

£24000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

MBDA UK Ltd: Mission Planning and Control Solutions Systems Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? A pro-act...

MBDA UK Ltd: System Design Capability

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? The small...

Recruitment Genius: Time Served Fabricator / Welders - Immediate Start

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Under the current rate of progress, the UK will only reduce its carbon emissions by 21- 23 per cent between 2013 and 2025  

The Government's cosy relationship with big energy companies is killing thousands of people

Zachary Boren

Not only is Liz Kendall a shy Tory, but her words are also likely to appeal to racists

Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific