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Intimations of Immortality

THE FISH AND CHIP PAPER OF FOREVERMORE
 
JOURNALISTS have a dubious reputation – there’s no doubting it.

But a spectrum of such exist  - those who are writer/journalists with more than half a brain cell writing for the quality press, the reflective outlets and associated blogs; those regional hacks and reporters who churn out the necessary regurgitations of the PR machine of the private and public sector and the 'still, sad music of humanity' as Wordsworth had it, and who occasionally reflect on such; and the rest who wallow in the mires of the tabloid press and its salacious happenings.

But don’t deride any of them – as the Everyman of the press world, hacks from the quality press to the gutter press are actually just the mere reflective avatars of society. Occasionally the goldfish in the murky pool arises.

I started out in 1989 when newspapers were still king and the web was unheard of. My heroes were Clive James, Alan Whicker (!) and Alan Bennet and Melvyn Bragg, and the lesser known ‘writers’ of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the acerbic and wondrously incisive Times food critic Jonathan Meades, who claimed to have put on an ounce for every restaurant he visited over fifteen years in the job.

Then something happened. People began switching on the web both at home and at work and a new revolution was born.

Newspaper journalists always used to refer to editorial as being news today, tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.

Certainly my grandfather and father [demi-Hercules to me at ten going on 40] were so poor growing up in the Hunslet area of Leeds in the 1940s and 50s that they used to substitute what would have been today’s cushioned velvet-like papier de toilette of choice with the slightly more robust torn-up squares of the Yorkshire Evening News on a hook in the outside toilet.

To those who know or knew them, they've come a long way since, but newspapers certainly made a big impression in the family in those days.

So much so that a visit to the doctor for a mal de derriere would often prompt a delay. When my grandfather asked if there was anything wrong as he bent forward, btm akimbo, the doctor would often reportedly reply: “No, I’m just reading yesterday’s horoscope.”

Newspapers were never destined to be items of latrinate liberation right from the start, - although it is open to debate -  but have often ended up as the detritus of the everyday.

Many a time in the early 1990s I would merrily walk away with cod and chips wrapped in newsprint for two and unwrap a battered sausage for my wife to be, to which she would often remark with some delight that her portion was sheathed with one of my bylines.

I’ve not had fish and chips for a while – nor in fact mushy peas - but the last time I looked, the cod headline of the day wasn’t wrapped around the haddock and extras.

Rather than being the fish and chip paper of tomorrow, thanks to the library like archive of the online, today’s news has become more the piscatorial packaging of forevermore.

News which appears on the web, instead of disappearing down the same metaphoric gutter from which it came, now floats in the cyber space of eternity.

At last, a little like those movies which persist in the DVD hereafter – journalists are seeing their work float around the net – be it at times a cybersewer -  for perpetuity.

Forever the yesterday’s news men and women, today and tomorrow, journalists can at last glimpse what Wordsworth saw as Intimations of Immortality……or perhaps Intimations of Immorality?
In the days before she died, Marilyn Monroe, who herself knew the immortal nature of film, famously wrote a telegram declining a party invitation from Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, with the enigmatic lines: 'I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demanded was our right to twinkle.'
Newspapers might not have the magnitude they once had, but perhaps at least, their writers and journalists and photographers - often all bravado nebulosity around a sensitive singularity - might just shine on. 

MH

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