Mock if you will, but there's much to learn from 'Hello!'

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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HAPPY birthday, Hello! magazine! 500 issues young, and still as radiant and life-affirming as ever.

I would imagine that a good many readers of this newspaper, being of a "radical" (dread word!) disposition will be turning their noses up at this notable anniversary, or even laughing into the sleeves of their filthy, moth-eaten, real-ale-sodden "polo-necks" in that sneery manner so prevalent among the young, "trendy" and otherwise disaffiliated.

But the rest of us - decent men and women, of good cheer and sound finances - will celebrate the triumph of a positive, happy, family outlook over the dank and dreary turn of mind that is interested only in marital discord, sexual unpleasantness, industrial action, business failure, off-putting diseases involving every type of farmyard animal, noisy popstars in garish hues, innuendo, "irony" (dread word!) and fresh outbreaks of this, that and the other. How much more refreshing, at the end of a long, hard day, to snuggle up with a 14-page colour pullout depicting the glamorous high- society marriage of a second cousin of the King of Spain to a leading Portuguese chiropodist.

I speak, of course, as an old friend of the magazine. "Britain's Leading Man of Letters Wallace Arnold Welcomes Hello! To His Country House Estate And Guides Us Through His Magnificent Collection of Busts" read the headline in issue 117. A generous, warm-hearted piece ensued - which is not to say one didn't have to remain on one's toes through the course of some first-class, up-to-the-minute, challenging questions. "Wallace, you are now the firm favourite author of all the senior members of the Royal Family, and in a recent poll of the landed gentry your recent illustrated history, 'Bravo, MLud!: The Wit of the Titled' was named 'Number One Bedside Read' by over 73 per cent of all those who responded," began one question, "How do you cope with the undoubted pressure of being so popular among those whom you most admire?"

I suppose the cynical among you might now be wondering how an inky scrivener like my own good self managed to earn himself a treasured full-colour photospread in a magazine more usually associated with Hollywood, royalty and the gogglebox. Here I must make a confession. The full title of that excellent piece was, to be absolutely accurate, "Britain's Leading Man of Letters Wallace Arnold and the Cast of TV's Baywatch Welcome Hello! to His Country House Estate and Guide Us Through Their Magnificent Collection of Busts." The editor had, alas, insisted to my publisher that this was the only way someone of my undoubted gravitas would merit inclusion.

But after this initial hiccup, I have fast become a regular, my most recent appearance being across eight pages in issue number 478 ("Three Old Friends - Wallace Arnold, Roy Strong and Anthea-Love-Rat Victim Della Bovey - Enjoy the Slopes at Verbier"). But enough of me! My point in penning this essay is to argue that a greater spirit of generosity and optimism should prevail in ALL our newsreaders and magazines, not only in this acknowledged market-leader.

Away with the peevish and the disgruntled! Granta magazine, for instance: what a long-faced bunch their editorial staff must be! Unlike Hello!, their photographers have obviously never heard of the word "cheese", let alone been tempted to employ it! Instead, they picture the dishevelled and ungainly, all scowling miserably at the camera, often beneath titles such as "Paper Bag 7" or the ubiquitous "Untitled" - to indicate, presumably, that the tramp depicted is neither a Knight nor a Peer of the Realm, something only too obvious to the rest of us!!

Not that this very newspaper has done much of which to be proud. If I were editor - and there has been plenty of toing-and-froing at the top recently, though with yours truly still holding fast - I would retitle it "Independent on Sunday!" and reposition it in the market-place as a happy, forward-looking newspaper for all the family.

Agreed, one has a duty to report even the gloomier world news, but one also has a duty to do so with panache. In the blueprint for survival I have just delivered to the editor, I mention possible positive headlines such as "Earth to Welcome Meteorite in Thirty Years!" "Tornado Tours Florida: Fresh Breezes Abound!" "Cars Play Piggy-Back As Motorway Welcomes Fog!" "Titanic Latest: Quite a Few Survived!" But will they listen? I doubt it. Instead, we will be issued with the normal bulletins of cars crashing, wars raging and rows flaring. Incidentally, it is some weeks since the Queen Mum has been pictured looking bubblier than ever following a successful operation. Surely someone could arrange something in that area asap?