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MEAT, MEDIA and MOTORS August 17, 2009

Posted by markswill in Cars and Bikes, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.

Ruminations in my last blog (Feeling Sheepish) on the degree of self-revelation tolerable within the medium weakly concluded that it really depends who one’s audience is. Then again, that same scribble drew responses from two correspondents who claimed that their “lives had been changed” by columns I wrote in various motorcycle mags back in the ‘70s, columns which were considerably more self-indulgent than any bloggery I’ve broadcast thus far, so who’s to know what’s acceptable these days?

Which is a convenient if not plausible excuse for once again touching on the state of my health which whilst somewhat improved, has also found me on four occasions this past week in healthcare waiting rooms. Which in themselves were convenient excuses for picking up magazines that one wouldn’t normally read as I waited for blood tests, x-rays and yet another locum I’d never met before to contradict the conclusions of the previous unknown locum. With their relentless tales of infidelity, obesity and z-list sleb nonsense,  Chat, Pick-Me-Up, New etc. are morbidly fascinating but during one such medical interlude I came across a copy of Land, the journal of the Country Landowners Assoc.

THE MATTER OF THE MEAT     Now I’ve had some considerable truck with the CLA over the years, representing as they do the remnants of our landed gentry with all the barely contained feudal arrogance that this implies, not least as a member of my Local Access Forum where they are disproportionately represented and, as such, ever keen to stop anyone using unsurfaced rights of way who isn’t on horseback or off to do a spot of shooting in a 4×4. Anyway, with much the same perverse curiosity as I scanned low-rent womens’s mags, I waded through Land until I got to the inevitable last page opinion piece by one Caroline Cranbrook OBE who actually had something sensible to say about the threat to local abattoirs.

Not a very sexy subject I know, but one that’s crucial to local communities being served by local producers and the consequent reduction in food miles, something I touched on in June’s Dropping the Shopping. Back in the early 1990s the cost of meeting EU meat hygiene legislation put hundreds of small abattoirs, and often the butchers who owned them, out of business and the subsequent cost of transporting animals to distant slaughterhouses had a deleterious economic effect on the trade and, many would say, the quality of its meat.

As Cranbrook recalled, the government were persuaded to change the charging system for hygiene inspectors to monitor abattoirs, thus providing a lifeline for many of the smaller ones. But the annual cost of doing so has now risen to almost £100million and pressure from the exchequer to reduce this below £75million by 2010 will inevitably result in further closures. And that will push up prices at local butchers and reduce the choice of locally raised meats, something the CLA is once again campaigning to avoid and so, albeit begrudgingly I find myself supporting them.

TWITTERING ON           Someone else whose opinion I often take issue with is Janet Street-Porter. As the (ex-) wife of a good friend I used to know Janet a little and like her a lot, but in later life she’s used her media clout to shrilly oppose much I hold dear, including my right to ride (perfectly legal) motorcycles on (perfectly legal) unsurfaced rural rights of way. I, on the other hand, for many years used my considerably inferior media influence to try and counter such selfish, ill-informed bigotry – a fight I’ve now abandoned due to the myopia and infighting within the organisations who gave collective voice to such protests.

But for once I must now sheepishly concur with La Street-Porter who in today’s Sindie lambasted Twitter far more incisively than I ever could. Opining that  “Twitter works for the middle class, the middle-aged and wannabe trendies because it lets them feel part of a  big happening club, when in fact all they are doing is exchanging mindlessness,” she later added that it “panders to all that is shallow and narcissistic in our society”. Bemoaning the growing tendency for politicians, august institutions and, heaven forefend, even the meeja to embrace this dumbed-down means of communication, she concludes that “we’re so keen to stop talking and writing in sentences, and are swapping having real conversations for knee-jerk reactions.”

Will this growing tidal wave of Twittering subside and turn out to be a passing phase just as it seems Swine Flu now has ? Not according to my web-designer friend who advises me that the fastest way to increase the readership of this blog is to open up a Twitter account. Oh dearie me.

AN ELECTRICAL STORM    And knee-jerk reaction got me much personal grief this past week as I wrestled with a wiring problem in my beloved Lancia Gamma. Classic car fans will know that Italian electrics are infamously mercurial and having by-passed some dodgy junction terminals to improve the headlighting from unacceptably murky to tolerably dim a few weeks ago, illumination of the sidelights and instrument panel suddenly ceased. Attempts to pin-point the cause led me to dismantle the dashboard, remove said panel and replace it with a spare I happened to have, none of which did the trick and involved a lot of cursing, cut fingers and lost screws. Of course I should’ve listened to my Gamma guru who’d told me I should simply replace the column switch which, being Italian, is notoriously failure-prone but which (a) involves first removing the steering wheel (involving two strong people) and (b) requires finding a replacement unit for a car whose manufacturer abandoned it as a lost cause 30 years ago. And so for just a fleeting moment the government’s car scrappage scheme seemed like a very good idea as, I suppose, did self-revelation, Europe-wide meat hygiene standards and, indeed, Twitter.

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1. WTK - August 17, 2009

A few short comments:
—We eat manufactured synthetic food in the US and thus have limited Mad Cow disease to our politicians.
—Our politicians, led by Mr. Obama will shortly have the US more heavily regulated EU-like than EU. Fascinating. We all wanted to be French potato farmers.
—The Whitehouse and Obama Machine are one of the most frequent twits on Twitter, “…all they are doing is exchanging mindlessness”, as noted above.
You can probably tell that I am well-pleased with the State of Affairs.

2. Martin Craig - August 17, 2009

I may be wrong, but JSP was behind ‘Network 7’ wasn’t she? The programme that started an educational topic for kids in the style of Blue Peter & then skidded to a stop mid-sentence with a BORING!!! caption. For years after that, every time we tried to interest our kids in anything other than break dance we got “Ur, BO-RING!!”

So if my memory’s correct, she set the dumbing-down ball rolling on UK tv and practically INVENTED Twitter, so why is she attacking it? She too must have had a life-changing experience, like Germaine Greer who having screwed everything that moved now lectures the rest of us on the benefits of celibacy.

markswill - August 17, 2009

You may be right about Network 7 being a neatly forgotten component of JS-P’s chequered career, but I can’t believe she’d be so hypocritical as you suggest re. Twitter. Mind you, she is a columnist and we all know how two-faced they can be.

3. Paul N. Blezard - August 18, 2009

Interesting stuff as ever Mark.
I too have mixed feelings about JS-P.
On the negative side, I too loathe her outrageous outpourings against trail riding. I’ve also always found her mangled vowels deeply unattractive (never better lampooned than by Pamela Stephenson on Not The Nine O’clock News….(give me Geordie or Scouse any day).
On the plus side, I have to admire her positive attitude to divorce: “As far as I’m concerned I’ve had four successful marriages”.
I also confess that I took great pleasure when she got a lesson in walking from the round-the-world girl whose legs are about six inches shorter but with whom La Porter struggled to keep up, despite having legs like a giraffe……

markswill - August 20, 2009

And at the risk of personal insult, not only the legs of a giraffe, but also the teeth…

4. Pete - August 18, 2009

Twitter works for the middle class, the middle-aged and wannabe trendies….

Hmmm, so there’s Janet who is definitely middle-aged but is she also middle class? I’m always curious at which point one stops being working class and ascends to the middle. Having a working class background but a decent education and ambition, is that enough? JS-P’s income is certainly not that of yer average blue collar worker but she seems to align herself with her roots rather than her current position, thus giving herself the platform to opine about the weedy middle classes. As an East End boy myself I occasionally mull the issue over but then I haven’t had the media wages to catapult me far beyond my roots. Perhaps it is just a matter of perception. My carpet-layer neighbour in London told me that he’d never lived next door to yuppies like myself and me missus, although at the time I was a motorcycle courier (albeit with an Arts education).

Ms Porter has also never been trendy in herself, her looks and accent being fairly unfashionable, although she has worked in fields that allowed her to tap into trends in such a way that she appeared to be a prime mover. Undoubtedly she is shrewd and sharp, and consequently I’m surprised that she has missed some of the less vacuous aspects of Twitter. It has uses for business and is also becoming a powerful voice for political dissent or comment (witness the recent hubbub from Iran). Personally I think it is a mistake to write it off – as an evolving platform for expression it perhaps hasn’t yet established itself as a vehicle for all, and it is probably the middle-aged who will be the last to grasp its potential. We’ll see. After all, there were many who scorned the whole blogging idea, and look where we are now… (not that I’m pointing the finger by the way!).

John L. - April 18, 2014

I was a despatch rider at Network 7.JSP had me sacked mainly because I failed to understand her lingo,being an Irishman.She once told me to collect 2 bagels,I thought she said bibles!

paulblez - April 21, 2014

Better late than never, John L! I’m glad you commented though because it prompted me to re-read Mark’s original blog and all the comments, all of which I’d forgotten about including 2 of my own! Nearly 5 years on, Twitter shows no sign of going away, quite the contrary, although I remain steadfast in avoiding it. Now I have an iPhone I can send & receive emails on it, but I mostly avoid that too, but I have become a 2-thumb texter! The recent horse and lack-of-lamb meat scandals also put a new perspective on Mark’s abattoir comments.
Getting back to JS-P, your bagel/bible story made me smile because, thanks to the good offices of Robert Elms’ prog on BBC Radio London I know that bagels were originally called beigles, pronounced with an ‘I’ like idle and bible, as their German/Jewish/Yiddish roots would dictate. Of course, with her trademark vowel-mangling JS-P’s pronunciation of bagel would probably have sounded more like ‘beigel’ even if she thought she was saying ‘bay-gl’. A more charitable commentator than me might opine that she was saying ‘beigel’ on purpose as, apparently, some die-hard traditionalists still do. As Robert Elms is wont to say, ‘beigels will be beigels’. PNB
PS It was a long time before I realised that that the very word ‘Yiddish’ is just a corruption of the German word Jüdisch, meaning, simply, ‘Jewish’. And of course the Yiddish language is very much German-based and totally different from Hebrew. (Just as ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ is also a dialect of German, or ‘Deutsch’.)

5. markswill - August 18, 2009

Pete is right about the blurred edges of class demarcation, but in my experience JS-P pandered to the proletariat whilst enjoying the cultural and economic largesse of the middle-class meeja which she operated so effectively in. As for the alleged benefits of Twitter, I’m afraid I disagree with him and remain aligned with La Street-Porter’s views.

Twitter may well be used by politicos and pressure groups with admirable aims, but that doesn’t make it credible or alter the fact that it lacks intellectual depth, panders to and encourages short attention spans and generally reeks of vacuous trend-following. As for blogs, well I’ll admit having my own mixed feelings about using this medium, but in the absence of any paid writing work these days – arguably a negative consequence of digital media’s effect on print’n’paper – it at least enables me to keep my hand in. Along with many others of my generation, I might say!

6. Jeff Stone - August 18, 2009

Yes, I don’t very often agree with JSP, but on Twitter I feel myself agreeing with her, but not too comfortably. A sort of ‘is it me, or is it them?’ situation. It’s like text-speak, I understand it, it even makes me smile sometimes, but is it right, is it just progress? If it improves understanding and gets people talking that’s better than a poor speller keeping quiet out of fear of a certain PNB correcting them! Twitter’s probably got its place, but at the moment it’s attracting too much dross. Give it a year or two and we’ll wonder what the objection could have been!

7. markswill - August 18, 2009

Not sure if I agree with you about the creeping acceptance of these new comms media, Jeff: although I’m probably in a minority, I loathe texting and do so only under duress. I’d never actually instigate a text exchange: what wrong with make a call and having a nice conversation, however brief?

8. FrankW - August 19, 2009

At the risk of incurring more seething from MSW, I dislike the phone more than I dislike most things. Folk call me when I’m busy, so I don’t answer and forget to call back. If I do pick up, they inevitably want something from me, even if it’s only a decision, and if my age-rotted brain is struggling with biznizcarp or somesuch then I defer the decision … and then forget to call back, thus making them cross, cos they think I’m being deliberately horrid when in fact I’m just old and, as I say, carp. Increasingly.

I txt when I’m out on the bike, mainly so that I can read it without having to wrestle off a helmet to listen to the answearing service. And then I fail to txt back, of course, as is only right.

Email is the answer. No-one really believes that their mail has got through, so they’re unoffended by my non-reply. Bliss…

Mark; I’ll txt you Weds am next about dinner, OK?

markswill - August 20, 2009

Promises, promises (about dinner, that is). Otherwise Frank’s well-known phone phobia is a complete re-herring as far as my ruminations were/are concerned, but I rather think he won’t be satisfied until the world returns to semaphore as the primary means of interpersonal communication.

9. Pete - August 19, 2009

Well, it wasn’t so much the politicos I was thinking of, more the individual voices reporting their experiences from within a turbulent nation. I do really sympathise with the notion of shortening attention spans though and still resolutely spell out words on the occasions when I’m return texting my kids on a mobile, and even correct my spllg. But maybe we’re the dinosaurs and size really isn’t everything. Maybe learning to express an idea in 140 characters is a haiku-like exercise. Of course I’m playing Devil’s advocate here. I have no idea if Twitter will have lasting value but I do remember my parents mocking the 2-3 minute pop song and the music hasn’t died yet (well not all of it anyway).

10. Paul N. Blezard - August 19, 2009

Just a quick word about texting. (I know very little about Twitter, or indeed ‘tweeting’.)
I’ve been texting since I first got a mobile phone ten years ago, but I only learned to used predictive text in the last year. It makes one hell of a difference to the speed at which one can text, and it actually cuts down the number of abbreviations that I use, because the phone is so clever at guessing the right word in full. However, you DO have to learn how to use it and you MUST create your own vocabulary of words that you frequently use which are not in the standard dictionary.
I have recently had to return to using an old Nokia which is literally held together with Sellotape because I brilliant lost my all-singing, all-dancing Sony Ericsson in Brno and have reverted to non-predictive text and it’s been a good reminder of how slow and tedious it is. I have absolutely no qualms about using any abbreviations whatsoever when texting because, as a touch typist, I find it slow anyway. I wouldn’t dream of using txtspk for emails, although I do use abbreviations such as IIRC, IMHO etc.
All kids should be taught to touch type in primary school (while they are learning how to spell and write with correct grammar, obviously). Talking of which, there was a hilarious piece in the Daily Mail yesterday (sent to me via the internet, I didn’t buy it!) about the sterling fellow who has been putting the possessive apostrophe in his local street sign (St John’s Close, IIRC). The funniest thing was all the readers who wrote unwittingly illiterate responses on the website saying what a hero he was to correct these appalling sloppy standards…Well worth a look.See here:
‘Punctuation hero’ branded a vandal for inserting apostrophes on street signs | Mail Online
L8rs, doods.

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