The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: St Martyn the Good

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MIGHT I add my two ha'porth to the Good News saga. I have known and admired Mr Martyn Lewis for quite some time now, ever since first sighting him behind the hat-check counter at The Savoy Grill. He seemed to me then, and still seems to me now, an engaging, cheerful sort of fellow, deferential yet seldom obsequious, well-groomed and with immaculate fingernails.

Of course, over the years many - if not all - of our 1eading television newscasters have been discovered working behind the hat-check counters at some of our most illustrious hotels and restaurants. The counter itself, situated just above waist-height and neatly framed, serves as a perfect replica of the television newsdesk. This means that senior figures in the various television hierarchies, such as myself, are able, at a glance, to audition junior newscasters before nipping in for a restorative luncheon.

Sir Alastair Burnet started life behind the hat-check counter of Simpson's-In-The-Strand, while the big break for Peter Sissons came during his residency at what was the old Mirabelle. But I suppose it is The Savoy that really stands as the great training-

ground for television newsmen - Sir Robin Day's celebrated jocular cut-and-thrust with world statesmen owed much to his 10- year stint as the little man with the warm towels and the clothes-brush in the Savoy's Gentlemen's lavatories - and it is The Savoy, once again, which must take the bow for first spotting the potential of the great Martyn Lewis.

It is to the happy, smiling face of Martyn that I turn on this merry spring morn. Heaven knows whether any of you read our sister paper, the Independent, but I couldn't help but notice in a recent edition a delightfully trenchant piece by Martyn, entitled 'Not my idea of good news'.

At first glance, I thought it might be another of Martyn's delicious paeans to 'Pussy cats in the news' or perhaps 'Ten handy tips on poking at your desk-top computer as the lights go down'. But no] It was a much-needed and long-overdue assault on those tales of gloom and despondency - oft-delivered with hangdog expressions] - that are the very meat-and-two-veg of television news. Let's be more positive, saith Martyn, let's have more Good News for a change]

Hurrah and Amen, say I] Too often, the unashamed miseryguts who set the news agenda come up with this sort of thing:

Bong] Thousands die]

Bong] Thousands more die]

Bong] Tens of thousands expected to die before too long]

Bong] And we'll all be dead in a hundred years time]

Bong] We'll be bringing you the news of the most up-to-date deaths as and when they occur]

How very noble it is, then, of Martyn to call a halt to such glumness. Very well, he says, there may be a fair amount of beastly news around, but let's do our utmost to emphasise the positive. 'It is time,' he writes, 'for television news journalists to grasp their Excalibur.' Of course - and I am not one to gossip - Martyn has been grasping his own Excalibur since first he sat behind his very own news desk: this perhaps accounts for that perky little smile of his.

With our happiness in mind, Martyn has been scanning the cheery goings-on in the world for the last few months, and he has come up with a dummy 'Happy News', designed to warm the cockles of even the most lachrymose citizen. With no little pride, and Martyn's express permission, I unveil his dummy news here for the very first time:

Bong] Quite a few more in jobs than out of jobs]

Bong] Chancellor Lamont enjoys delicious lunch before announcing smallish trade deficit.

Bong] Bosnia: Turnip harvest 'not at all bad' say experts.

Bong] Civil war not expected in Home Counties]

Bong] Britain gains Good Effort Medal in Winter Olympics]

Bong] Leading newscaster Martyn Lewis, TV's 'Mr Smile', put forward for OBE] A blueprint for the future? Let us hope so.