Saturday, February 28, 2009

The great eight

I’ve just had one of the best 24 hours of my life. I did an afternoon shift at Blockbusters yesterday. It was just me and Richard. That guy is control freak, y’know who he reminds me off?

IAN BEAL from EastEnders. He even looks a bit like Adam Woodyatt (that’s Ian Beal’s name when he’s not being Ian Beal).

Richard effects a certain sanctimonious air. Honestly readers, if I wasn’t a practising Buddhist I’d love to give him a slap. It didn’t matter though, the shop was pretty quiet so I spent most of my time watching free films and eating M&Ms. I guess that’s to be expected in the afternoons – which is probably why Richard took the shift!!!!

On the way back home I was passing the Wheatsheaf pub and I spotted Leigh and Amber in there. I joined them for a few drinks. It was a bit weird at first, what with us being colleagues, but after a couple of pints we really started to hit it off. I must admit, most of the conversation centred on what a jerk Richard is. Leigh calls him Dickard. Sometimes you need a common foe.

I’ve got to admit, even though Leigh didn’t go to university, he’s as sharp as a razor. I guess he went to the school of hard knocks instead. We had such a great night, and I really think I bonded with Amber. I think the three of us might become firm friends. Like the Musketeers.

Leigh rolled up a fat bifter and we had a few tokes. Even Amber. I didn’t think she was that type of girl.

Mum always told me it was the quiets ones I had to watch !! ;-))

Today was even better, I just bummed around for a while in the morning. I called Leigh to see if wanted to have a smoke. But he just said he was busy “y’know what I mean bruv?” he said. I’m pretty sure I heard a girl in the background. That boy is soooooo street.

I killed a few hours playing Pro Evolution Soccer. Gill called a couple of times, but I let it go to ansafone. Treat em mean innit, as Leigh would say.

The day got better, Notts Forest got an away win against Reading.

Then I logged on to check the blog, and things went into overdrive. After losing Steve, Vince and Norks earlier in the week (then getting Steve back). I have gained another follower.

Better still, my new follower is famous!!!!!

None other than David Coleman.

If you've been living on Mars or something, David Coleman is a sport commentator famous for saying particularly stupid things whilst commentating. Here are some of my personal fav 'Coleman Balls' as they're known (he actually said these...!):

1. That's the fastest time ever run - but it's not as fast as the world record.
2. Don't tell those coming in the final result of that fantastic match, but let's just have another look at Italy's winning goal.
3. For those of you watching who do not have television sets, live commentary is on Radio 2.
4. This is a truly international field, no Britons involved.
5. Both of the Villa scorers - Withe and Mortimer - were born in Liverpool as was the Villa manager Ron Saunders who was born in Birkenhead.
6. He's 31 this year - last year he was 30.
7. He won the bronze medal in the 1976 Olympics so he's used to being out in front.
8. We estimate, and this isn't an estimation, that Greta Waltz is 80 seconds behind.
9. Linford Christie's got a habit of pulling it out when it matters most.
10. The late start is due to the time.
11. He's got his hands on his knees and holds his head in despair.
12. He's even smaller in real life than he is on the track.
13. This could be a repeat of what will happen in the European games next week.
14. It's a battle with himself and with the ticking fingers of the clock.
15. Here are some names to look forward to - perhaps in the future.
16. In the Moscow Olympics Lasse Viren came in fifth and ran a champions race.
17. He just can't believe what's not happening to him.
18. One of the great unknown champions because very little is known about him.
19. There'll be only one winner now - in every sense.
20. He is accelerating all the time. The last lap was run in 64 seconds and the one before that in 62.
21. The big Cuban opened his legs and showed his class.
22. (At the velodrome) The front wheel crosses the fininsh line, closely followed by the back wheel.

Classic. Welcome aboard Dave. Please feel free to commment, I'd love to see a few more of your balls!! geddit?!?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is journalism?

The blogosphere has been literally a blaze with the news that Chris Wheal a leading light in the National Union of Journalists went onto another journalist's blog and slagged off blogging, saying it wasn't 'proper' journalism, becasue the blogging journalist had slagged off the NUJ.

It got me thinking. If blogging isn't journalism, then what is? Is it newspapers? Is it Sian and Bill on the BBC in the morning? Or Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight?

Is it newsbabe Sunta on XFM?

Yesterday, I revealed that journalism isn't just news. Sometimes it's features too. So clearly journalism also includes magazines. Now that opens up a whole new segment. Magazines come in all shapes and sizes. Well, actually most magazines are roughly A4 size. But they certainly come in a myriad of subjects matters.

You've only got to step inside the doors of your nearest newsagent or even WH Smith to realise that you can buy a magazine on pretty much any subjects you fancy. From fishing to photography and everything in between. And if your eyes wander north, you'll soon see just how much in between there really is!!! ;-))

Is it TV Quick?

Then you've got the whole issue of people like the people I mentioned earlier. 'Proper' journalists who write blogs. Are they simply taking a brief haitus from their chosen career in order to blog or are they still journalists? I take the view that if you're doing this career nine to five, you're doing it wrong. So these guys are still journalists. Ergo, blogging is journalism.

You need an analytical mind to be a journalist. Something Mr Whear clearly lacks. Perhaps that's why he joined the NUJ!

Food for thought.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lucky Number S(t)even

I think most of us would agree that the best bit in the first Star Wars film (by which, of course, I mean 1977’s Episode IV, A New Hope, starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and not that Phantom Menace nonsense. None of the sacrilegious prequel trilogies count as proper Star Wars films on this blog, kk??!!) is when, right near the end, Han Solo reappears piloting the Millennium Falcon through the trenches of the Death Star. He blows a TIE Fighter away, and then radios Luke to let him know he’s got his back until Luke – without the aid of his targeting computer – lets fly the proton torpedo that destroys the Empire’s prize weapon.

(Note: the X-Wing’s proton torpedo shouldn’t be confused with the photon torpedo, which is the principal weapon of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek. Just imagine if there was a film featuring both sets of characters, though, that would be amazing. What would the Jedi make of the Vulcans? Lol!!!!)

Anyway, until this point in the movie, through the clever emotional manipulation of George Lucas, we’ve been left feeling abandoned by Han, who has taken the money and run. But when he reappears we all feel a surge of joy and we know it’s going to be ok, because Luke and Han are a team.

Anyway, this is kind of how I felt when follower Steve, originally the third person to take an interest in all things Newsdesk, reappeared as my seventh follower yesterday, having left the day before along with Mark Nork And Vince.

I was trying to keep pretty upbeat after the guys decided to quit following me, but it wasn’t easy. It made me think of how much it would have hurt Jesus when people decided that Christianity wasn’t for them and they were going home. Like the end of the 1960s, when all the acid wore off and people realised the party was over. It was all about uppers and downers now kids, because the 1970s had arrived! Not that I’m saying I’m like Jesus, or that Christianity is like a drug, although that’s what Karl Marx said. If Christianity was a drug, though, what would it be?

So it was a bit of a blow. But then Steve Came Back (but he didn’t bring my colour TV or my bag of sensi or my record collection of Bob Marley, or my 2CV. Ha ha ha. Spot the Paco Banton/UB40 reference??! ; - ) Lol!!!! ) and it made me feel a lot better. So big shout out to you Steve!!

And as for the other two, well that’s fine. Like I said, I’ll stick with them. But if they choose not to come back, I’ll be ok. Like my mate Greg told me the first time I got dumped when I was 16: “There’s plenty more Norks out there mate.”


He wasn’t wrong, even if I do say so myself. He he he.

Anyway, you’ll notice it’s been a while since I’ve posted any new bits of journalism. That’s because I’ve discovered that journalism isn’t all about news!! No indeed, readers, sometimes it can be about… “Features”. These tend to be more touchy-feely and are longer, more exploratory and more, well, easy to write by the looks of things. You don’t actually need anything other than an idea. So, while I’m going to keep the news on the go, I’m also about to branch out into features…

Keep ‘em peeled…

ND out!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Six as a parrot

It seems like only yesterday that I gained my first ever follower. On January 25th Jennifer Walker-Shannon tied her colours to the Barry Newsdesk flagpole and I was jubilant. Over time the number of followers grew, from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow (as my second ever follower and knitting enthusiast Donnac1968 would say ).

Today though, is a grim day in the life of Barry Newsdesk. Because, as with trading on the stock exchange, things can go down as well as up. Where once there were nine, there now stand six. Steve, Vince and Jack Nork have all, quite inexplicably, stopped following yours truly.

What’s wrong guys? Was it something I wrote? My last post was massively upbeat about Christianity, so maybe those guys are just Satanists. Like Jesus though I will turn the other cheek, I’m still going to be following their blogs and I urge you to do likewise. Some of the insight you’ll see will change your world.

I won’t lie to you though. Losing followers is like losing limbs. Well, maybe not limbs, but fingers or toes, something that it’s really nice to have but wouldn’t stop you leading a normal life. Maybe an ear or an eyebrow. Put it this way, it’s like losing a part of yourself that would still mean you didn’t qualify for the Paralympics.

Maybe this is how Jesus felt when Judas Priest snitched on him.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Christians

It’s Sunday today and traditionally that’s the day Mum goes to church. As I write these words she is almost certainly wishing Rev Smyth well and congratulating him on yet another wonderful service.

You’ve got to take your hat off to the Christians. When it comes to religions, Buddhism aside, Christianity is almost certainly the nicest. The take home message of Christianity is that you should be nice to people and expect others to be nice to you, and even if they aren’t you should (and I quote Jesus Himself) “turn the other cheek”.

Christianity is the most popular religion on the planet. I think that’s probably because it appeals to something deep within us all. Even if you mess up and do nasty things, at the end of the day God will let you off and St Peter will let you into Heaven.

It wasn’t always the case that Christianity was so popular, of course. Before Jesus was born 2009 years ago, in a manger no crib for a bed, no one had even heard of Christianity. Jesus Himself was actually a Jew, although He said a few things back then that upset his fellow Jews and so they persuaded the Romans put to Him to death. Even then, He still found time to let the Jews off, “forgive them father, they don’t know what they’re doing,” He said.

I don’t know about you readers, I would have been absolutely bloody fuming!!!

I’m pretty sure the Old Testament God would have smited the Romans and the Jews, but He didn’t, He just turned the other cheek. I think it’s fair to say that passive resistance was invented by Jesus and not by Gandhi as so many people believe.

Maybe if Gandhi had come up with something new there would be millions of Gandhians roaming the earth wearing loin cloths and what not.

For years after Jesus died, Christians were persecuted by the Romans. Which seems odd. I doubt whether Zeus et al were really that worried about some guys who was basically a hippie.

Another reasons that I think Christianity is so popular is because there’s something for everyone. It’s pretty flexible in terms of rules. For that benefit, we have King Henry VIII to thank. Henry used to be a Roman Catholic.

That’s right readers, Roman Catholic!

After all those years feeding Christians to lions in the name of entertainment, the Romans had a change of heart it seems. Ironically, Roman Catholics make up the largest segment of the Christians.

The Roman Catholics have got some pretty strict rules on how you should be a Christian. But King Henry VIII decided he didn’t fancy playing by the rules. I guess that’s what happens when you’re the King. I mean, you’ve only got to look at what happened to Elvis to see that sometimes a little bit of power is a dangerous thing.

Anyway, Henry wanted to ditch his Spanish wife Catherine of Aragon. But according to the Pope (even to this day this guys basically heads up Catholicism), Henry would not be allowed to do this. Well, this was like a red rag to a bull, it was basically like telling Elvis he couldn’t have any more burgers.

Henry set up the Church of England. This is basically an off-shoot of Catholicism that lets its practitioners pretty much do what they like. Henry even chopped a couple of his wives heads off. Even though Rev Smyth is part of the CofE I doubt he would condone that sort of behaviour.

I like the Christians, they’re friendly, flexible and pretty much keep themselves to themselves. Jesus was famously protective of His Mum, which can only be a good thing. He gave us Christmas, undoubtedly the best of the public holidays, and Easter which not only gets us a Bank Holiday Monday, but also Friday off too. Not to mention the gorgeous chocolate eggs!

I also enjoy the music of The Christians, I’m not talking about all the hymns (although Cat Steven's Morning Has Broken is lovely), I’m talking about the late 1980s Liverpool-based pop band formed by brothers Russell and Garry Christian.

Terry Christian is another famous northerner with the Holy surname.

I’ve not finished my research into religion, but I have to say Christianity is among my favs.

Nice one JC!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reality cheque

There comes a time in every man's life when he has to face up to his responsibilities. Well, there comes a time in every heterosexual man's life at any rate. The gays seem to get away with a lifetime of parties and promiscuity. Sometimes, I wish I was gay. I have a lot of friends that way inclined and they always seem so happy. I suppose that's why they were dubbed gay.

Sadly, I am one of the many men in this world who is not gay. So I must face up to the reality that my girlfriend will at some stage want to move in and 'settle down'.

Jeesh readers, I hate that expression. 'Settle down'. It's so middle aged, middle class and middle England. I'm so weary of conforming to society's norms. Even though I was a salesman at the time, I went on an anarchist rally a few years ago to protest against capitalism. Those guys seem to have it really nailed.

I've been reluctant to settle down. I love Gill, of course i do. But I look what happened to my dear old Mum when she settled down with Dad. Well, they had me and brought me up in Lincoln, so it wasn't all bad. But after that things went down hill. I love my Mum, and even though I'm not gay, I'm more than willing to express that love in tears. I've not told you about Dad have I? Maybe one day I will.

Maybe if they hadn't settled down then they'd still be together now. It's worth thinking about, as I said to Gill when we were talking about it the other day.

As I explained to her, I'm not interested in playing the field, of course I'm not. I believe in one man one woman - one vision, as it were (Freddy Mercury was gay, too. That's why the band were called Queen! But was he happy? Not if you listen to some of his lyrics. Although that one about the bicycles its pretty chirpy. Great band, though - and not in spite of Freddie being gay, but because of it!). No it's just I like my own space. I don't know, we'll have to talk about it some more.

I was going to see if Amber wanted to come around and watch The Passion by famous anti-semite Mel Gibson as part of my continuing research on religion. I'm not sure Gill would even bother watching such a film, she prefers romcoms. But Blockbusters is barely covering the mortgage, and I can't keep getting Mum to bail me out, she's not the Bank of England and I'm not RBS.

Gill pointed out that her moving in might help ease the burden financially. And I think she has a point. Maybe I should get a lodger. I wonder where Amber lives. We seem to get on really well, and would make great house share buddies. She's probably not even the type who'd worry about the fact there's no lock on the bathroom door.

Maybe I'll drop Mum a line and see what she thinks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nine lives

Apologies for the lack of recent posts readers. I've had a stinking cold. I'm pretty sure I caught it off Gill. It doesn't matter though, I'm as fit as a fiddle with an iron constitution to match. Now I know just how my cats Matthew and Steven must feel, becasue like them, I've nine lives!!!

Actually, I've got nine followers really. It's not as though they sold me their souls ;-)....or did they??

My new follower Marek Lenarcik, is yet another inhabitant of the Emerald Isle and also a fellow journalist. He doesn't post much, but what he does post is of high calibre. His CV makes for impressive reading. I'd say I have much to learn from Marek.

Marek Lenarcik? I hear you enquire. That doesn't sounds very Irish.

Well, readers, that's becasue Marek appears to be of Polish extract. Like Mr Sheen. Only kidding. Bit of furniture cleansing humour for you there.

Marek has got real pedigree in the world of journalism and covers some massively weighty subjects. His blog seems to be one big long 'what I did on my holidays' ramble though. However, there are some excellent photos from around the world.

I'm so glad that Marek has tied his colours to the Newsdesk mast, I was thinking of getting some building work done and with his heritage, I bet he's got a fair few decent contacts.

KK guyz, I think I need a Lemsip, I'm missing shifts at Blockbusters. Mind, being ill did mean I got to take my PES team Notts Forest to consecutive league titles so it's not been a complete waste of time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

“Fuck you” Fuck You, Penguin

Sometimes journalists have campaigns against stuff. That’s when they ride into town on a steed called Sanctimony. I’m not about to impose my views on the world. I’m just not that arrogant.

Sometimes though, you’ve got to speak up about things.

Like the majority of Britons I am an animal lover. You’ve only got to look at how well fed my cats Matthew and Steven are, and even here on the Internet the work I did to help find Mrs Bradley’s dog Raffles clearly demonstrates my love for our fellow earthbeings.

That’s why I have decided to rail against Fuck You, Penguin. The blog is insanely popular and yet all it does is peddle animal hate.

If I posted pictures of muslims and then said nasty things about them, people would RIGHTLY get offended and, indeed, I could get locked up.

I could say “it’s only a joke” or that I’m being ‘ironic’ or ‘satirical’.

But if I started talking about the Irish in derogatory terms I would RIGHTLY get kneecapped (just ask my followers Mark and Molly).

So I say “fuck you, Fuck You, Penguin”. All your doing is trying to flog tee-shirts via a cheap gag. You’re a one gag wonder. When I was a nipper I used to find Russ Abbott’s character C.U. Jimmy hilarious. But I grew up. There’s nothing funny about hate.

Sorry readers, I was getting a little bit carried away there. I got a lovely response from Sam at Peta by the way. I have posted it below:

Hi Barry,

Glad you liked our topless girls – they did seem to go down well with the press – surprise surprise! :-)

Thank you so much for getting I touch – I’m sorry to hear about your redundancy – it’s such a terrible time at the moment.

I haven’t heard about this FUP blog, but will definitely take a look now and let you know what we think.

You should def go veg too! :-)

I’ll be in touch,

Sam x


It’s Valentines Day today of course, Gill wants me to take her out. There’s a new vegetarian place on the high street. We had a long ‘talk’ the other day. I think she’s angling to move in. It’d certainly help me makes ends meet until the journalism starts paying.

Speaking of which, I’m not sure I should even go out. I think I might take a shift at Blockbusters. Richard called, apparently Leigh’s gran is very ill and I think Amber will be working too.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Press relations

Not everything you read in the papers is NEWS! This might come as a shock to you, but a lot of what you read and, indeed, see Bill and Sian saying on the BBC (of all places) is actually generated by press officers.

Press officers operate in the shadows of media, they work on behalf of companies. Or ‘clients’ as they’re often called in the trade. These companies or ‘clients’ need to promote their wares. Using the press in order to promote their wares amounts, pretty much, to free publicity.

And, what’s more, it’s better than advertising, because people are credulous and tend to believe stuff they’re told or they read in a paper.

The relationship between journalists and press officers can be fractious. Because often so-called press release or ‘pitches’ are wide of the mark in terms of interest for the journalist’s readership.

But sometimes the press officer hits the nail right bang smack on the head and EVERYONE wins. The company trying to promote itself wins, the press officer wins, the journalist wins and finally the READERS (that’s you and me folks) win. This morning, for example, I received a UK FIRST!!!! It landed right in my Twitter box (@Barrynewsdesk).

Here’s what it said: “@Lisa Tse sweetmandarin. Hi Barry, Hope u r well. Would u like to feature us as the FIRST UK chinese restaurant 2use twitter 4 business. see press release”

You're damn right I would @Lisa Tse.

It’s news readers, believe you me. A Chinese restaurant in Manchester is using the social media phenomenon to promote itself.

“I put aside my common sense (and time) and signed up. 400 followers and 200 tweets later, I’m hooked and I wear my heart on my sleeve,” said the restaurant owner in her carefully crafted press release.

Next time I’m in Manchester I might pop in and check it out. I’ll drop them a line first though, after this blog post I expect the Royal Treatment.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that we journalists have it easy, we just sit around waiting for press releases to drop into our inboxes and then write about the things that offer up the best opportunity for a slap up feast!!!! ;-)

Sometimes though, when the journalist smells the scent of an exciting lead, he or she takes a proactive approach and actually contacts the press officer direct.

Yesterday, for example, I decided that I’d stay true to my earlier words. I dropped Sam Glover a media officer at PETA a line to ask for his views on Fuck You, Penguin and also to ask how the credit crunch is affecting them. This current economic client could have a damaging and lasting effect on animal welfare. As a journalist it’s good to ask both open and closed questions.

Here’s what I sent:

Dear Sam

Let me introduce myself. I'm Barry, a freelance journalist, it's a new career path for me (after 15 glorious and successful years in sales I was made redundant), so I'm kinda finding my way around a bit.

I have a couple of questions for you. First, how is the credit crunch affecting you guys? Second, are you aware of F*ck You, Penguin?

FUP is a blog. The blogger posts a picture of a cute looking animal, then spends a couple of paragraphs of abuse. It seems like a strange message to be sending out into the world. However, it is massively popular. As a new blogger myself, I've been following FUP to see how one builds a massive following.

You can see my blog here:

If you have time, I suggest taking a look at FUP ( - I'd been keen to get your views up on my blog.

I am considering becoming a vegetarian. I don't know if that'll swing you in my favour.

All the best


ps. I have added your blog to the list of blogs that I follow and I will be urging my followers to do likewise.

pps. that stunt with the topless activists was a touch of genius!


You might have noticed me write ENDS before. It’s just a trick of the journalism trade. It’s a bit like that advert dot you used to get in the corner of your telly before the adverts started.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Super Eight

I am literally over the moon readers. Isn’t life amazing? Just when was at my lowest ebb, Citizen Journalism pays me back in rewards that money simply cannot buy. As Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones figured when she listened to Jamie O’Neil doing the classic Eric Carmen, number, I thought I was “all by myself”. But no.

I’ve got another follower. It’s been six days since my last new additions (Mark, Karen and Vince). Six whole days! If legends are to be believed, that’s how long it took God to create the world. That’s nearly a week!!

Incidentally, I was AMAZED when I find out that Renee Zellweger is American. Her English accent is absolutely spot on. Just goes to show you readers, you should never judge a book by its covers. When I told Gill that Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones reminded me of her, she got offended. Can you believe it? Women.

Speaking of women, my new follower, Molly, is also a woman. I’ve been Mollycuddled (virtually ;-)). And like my other follower Mark, she is from Ireland. I’d love to go to Ireland one day, I hear it’s lovely. Mind, I cannot stand Guinness and so the locals might be offended. Maybe if I get enough followers from Ireland I’ll be able to go and visit them one day?

From her picture you might think that Molly looks a little young for blogging, but she's actually 34. On her profile page Molly lists her occupation as “girlfriend”. Jeesh readers, I wonder how it pays?

Only kidding ;-) Judging from her fabulous blog, The Molly Blog, I doubt that Molly really is a prostitute. Although, if she were, there would be nothing wrong with that. It’s the oldest profession in the world. I think Gordon Brown should probably legalise brothels. Maybe I should write a piece about it and send it to the Metro?

On Molly’s blog she claims to have been “chasing rainbows since 1974”. Perhaps she hopes to find a leprechaun with a pot of gold?

She’s got ten followers. Nice work.

Gaining followers makes me really happy. It is better than sex and way better than money. It’s like crack, or craic as Molly and Mark might say. I’ve been thinking of various strategies for gaining new followers readers. Unlike crack (or sex), you can’t just nip off to Coldharbour Lane and buy followers from bloke in a hoody. I’ve been watching Fuck You, Penguin to see if I can pick up some tips, he’s nearly broken through the 4000 followers mark. It’s mental, all he does is pick a picture of a cute looking animal and then say nasty things about it.

I wonder what PETA would have to say about it? Maybe I’ll drop them a line.

KK readers, gotta go. I hear the Shreddies calling and I quite fancy a few games of Pro Evo before Gill gets here. She wants to “talk”.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A dog’s life

Had a bit of a down day today, readers. I started out full of pith and vinegar, as my old Gran used to say. I realised that I was getting behind on my journalism and so I decided it was time to write that Dog Theft story. I had wanted to do a bit more research but, what with Blockbusters, my religious quest and normal life stuff like cooking, cleaning, eating, PES and Gill, I realised I just didn’t have the time.

Besides, I figured I had the meat of the story. I had Mrs Bradley and Raffles as the victims, I had the faceless bureaucracy of the Metropolitan police force representing a cold and uncaring society and I had my role as neighbour, which would have to double up with my role as writer. Granted, it wasn’t yet epidemic but even an epidemic has to begin with one crime. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, runs the ancient Chinese proverb, and a spate of dog thefts is no different, as I’m sure Confucius would tell us, were the great man still dispensing wisdom today.

I dialed 999 and demanded that I be through to the police. I spoke to them about Raffles, and I didn’t hold back. I told them I was a freelance journalist and that an anonymous tipster had informed me of their lack of interest in this serious case of theft. I told them it was supposed to be their duty to protect and serve, but the officer told me that was the motto of the American police. One point for him in the pedantry stakes, I suppose. But the moral victory was mine. He took down Mrs Bradley’s details and promised to look into it.

I toyed with the idea of nipping round to see Mrs Bradley for a few extra quotes but I was scheduled for an afternoon shift at Blockbusters and I really believe there’s no time like the present. Carpe Diem – that’s my motto! So I sat down at the iBook and crafted the following:

No Leads in Dog Thefts

Police have been unable to throw any light on the recent spate of pedigree dog thefts in the South West London area. Victims of these cruel canine kidnappings have been left with the sense that their suffering is not important enough to warrant the Met’s attention.
One victim, whose prize Bernese Mountain Dog, Raffles, was stolen from her front garden, described the police response as ‘apathetic’. When the Metro spoke to the Met, this claim was rejected, although the officer who took the call was able to offer no information on the case. It didn’t even seem to be on record.
One possible reason for this could be that the police don’t want to see their crime figures inflated. A stolen dog represents a crime; a missing dog does not.
As anyone who has ever marveled at the pristine specimens on Crufts will know, pedigree dogs are very expensive. Puppies can cost up to £300 and the money spent on their upkeep runs into the thousands, when you take vet bills and food into the equation. While pet owners can take out special insurance, this can never repay the sentimental value of the bond one strikes with Man’s Best Friend if something bad happens to them.
Relationships between the police and the public are often strained, with victim’s rights groups increasingly vocal. If the Met doesn’t get its nose to the trail in this case, it could end up in the doghouse.


I was really pleased with this story readers, as it had a pun in the title, doggy allusions in the conclusion and some nice alliteration in the opening paragraph. The whole piece was punchy and read exactly like something you’d see in the Metro, so I sent it to them along with an invoice for £247. I think £1 per word is more than fair.

Realising I was running late for work, I grabbed my stuff and headed out the door to be met with a big shock. What did I see, readers? A police car parked outside Mrs Bradley’s house! Not only that, there were two policemen talking to Mrs Bradley!! And not only that, either: One of the policemen was petting Raffles!!! Mrs Bradley’s missing dog!!!! Because I didn’t want to interfere I hid round the corner and watched until the police had left and then ran up to Mrs Bradley. I enquired about Raffles and she told me he hadn’t been stolen after all, he’d just wondered off. He’d come back the same day at teatime, I just hadn’t noticed.

I asked her about the police and their apathy and she said she didn’t even remember saying that to my Mum!

I had a Yoko Ono moment, have you heard of those? As in I went Oh No!! It’s got nothing to do with splitting up the Beatles. I couldn’t believe I’d just emailed the Metro with the story and none of it was true! I’d only just begun may career and I was in danger of having something published that wasn’t factually accurate. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was now really late, I would have been in a right state. The only solace I could find was that it was Richard’s day off and at least he wouldn’t catch me being un retard, as the French say.

Or so I thought. The paranoid little Hitler turned up just to make sure we were all there and, of course, I wasn’t. He gave me a dressing down in front of the others, and I’m pretty sure Amber and Leigh were laughing at me. I felt like pointing out to him that Nottingham Trent University was originally supposed to be named the City University of Nottingham upon Trent, and that suited him just perfectly, but I kept my cool because I need the money.

After he was gone I tried to make chit chat with the others. But Leigh had a stream of friends who came in, all giving him those fancy handshakes, although none of them rented any DVDs, or even bought some sweets. And when I asked Amber if she had any performances scheduled, because I’d be interested to come and see one, she said it would be too weird, what with us working together.

What the hell’s with these people, readers?

Not a good day chez Newsdesk. :-(((

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Well readers I finally made it into the movie business!!

Only kidding ;-) I did my first shift at Blockbusters last night, it’s just to make ends meet until the journalism starts paying off. I did a six-hour evening shift and man I’ve got to take my hat off to the full timers, it’s really exhausting standing up for that long.

I’ve got to tell you readers it feels good to know that I’ve got some money coming in at last. I was starting to get a little worried. Ever since that fiasco with the redundancy package and my bloodsucking lawyers I’ve been tightening my belt. But I treated myself to a nice bottle red last night and take away curry.

Vegetable biryani. Mmmmmm.

My co-workers are an eclectic bunch and I can already tell that they respect my seniority. There’s Leigh (which is actually pronounced Lee! I know, it’s crazy isn’t it?) he’s mid-20s I’d guess and falls into the demographic that my Dad used to call, The Great Unwashed. My Dad was a bastard readers, I’ve not told you about my Dad, maybe one day I will.

I refuse to judge books by their covers, and that’s something you should probably take on board next time you’re in a Blockbusters (not that we’re moving back in time to become an old fashioned book library. Blockbusters is backing Blu Ray, which shows just how forward thinking we are).

Leigh was born and raised here in South London and has what can only be described as a faux Caribbean dialect, he peppers his sentences with the word “innit”. I must say, being a man of words I find this an abomination. That said, he seems to have a heart of gold, and I’ve never seen anyone in such demand!!! His mobile phone was practically clamped to his ear. I think he must know EVERYONE in Croydon. What a character!!

The store manager is a chap called Richard. He’s not short on confidence, I suppose you need that in order to rise so swiftly to the top. He’s a recent business studies graduate, he said he studied at Nottingham, but when pressed revealed it was actually Nottingham Trent University, which is a former polytechnic (I should explain to my American readers, and some of the younger readers from the UK, polytechnics were where people who didn't pass their A levels went). Richard seems to really know his stuff though. I do find him a tad arrogant, but I have to say I certainly see a lot of myself in him. Mind you, he didn’t react quite as I’d have imagined he would when I told him so.

Finally, there's Amber. Like me, she’s only really using Blockbusters as a stop gap measure. She’s an aspiring artist, who specialises in dance!!! She didn’t really say that much, she’s not that kind of girl. This is going to sound weird readers, but in many ways she reminded me of Mum. I love my Mum, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Generous and kind, thoughtful and thought provoking. She’s a vegetarian. Amber, not Mum. Jeesh, Mum probably thinks vegetarians are all lesbians.

I didn’t reveal that I’m a Citizen Journalist, I figure I’ll lie low and do some research in cognito. It’s a bit like being a corporate spy really. I did chat about religion though. Leigh said he supposes he must be a Christian, Richard is an atheist (typical!) and Amber, a Humanist.

Like I say readers, an eclectic bunch.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Peace be with you

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do this religion thing chronologically readers. Now I've started looking into it, I don’t actually know which religions came first. I know, for example, that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are really ancient; they go all the way back to old testament times. But whether or not one came before another I’m not really sure. Even Wikipedia doesn’t seem clear.

So let’s have a look at Islam now, which is a religion that’s been getting a lot of press in recent years, not all of it good. The way it gets portrayed on the news and in television programmes, you might be forgiven for thinking that Islam is an angry religion, concerned mostly with blowing stuff up. But if you’re like me you’ll want to investigate it for yourself first, and not just dismiss it as a lot of bad tempered men from the middle east. Look beneath the surface of most things and you’ll find surprises. Did you know, for example, that there are a lot of Muslims in Africa?

Think of Islam and you might picture the men from America who all wear bow ties and glasses. Or you might think of Abu Hamza, who’s a radical cleric with one eye, a beard and hooks for hands (he sounds more like a pirate than a man of religion! Yaaarrrrrr! I’m Cap’n Hamza and you can walk the plank me hearties!!!! Lol.). Or you might think of Cat Stevens.

Once a great pop star, with a string of hits to his credit, including Matthew and Son, Moon Shadow and Morning has Broken, which is a bit like a hymn, Cat’s not dead, as many people believe. He’s just changed his name because he’s now a Muslim. These days he goes by the name Yusuf Islam. He liked the religion so much, he named himself after it! I guess back in the day he must have really liked his cat, too.

This seems to be one of the central pillars of the Muslim faith; if you want to take it up you have to change your name. Perhaps they do this because they want to deter time wasters, the kind of people who don’t take Islam seriously enough. It’s a bit like those Japanese gangsters – or are they Chinese, I can’t remember – who have to cut off their little finger in order to join the gang. You’ve really got to want to be in that gang, I guess.

Same deal with Islam. Think about it: if I had to change my name, I’d have to tell the bank, my mobile phone carrier, the doctor’s, the dentist, even the vet who looks after my cats, Matthew and Steven. And their surname is the same as mine on the forms, so they’d have to change their name too. Though thinking about it maybe Steven already has muslim tendencies.

Joining Islam is clearly not something to be taken lightly. Some people say: what’s in a name? But it’s part of who you are, you can’t just go around changing it willy nilly. Mind you, there are lots of people who don’t use their real names. I used to work with someone who’s called Joe. But he’s really called Rodney, he just didn’t like the sound of Rodney. Neither, apparently, did UK Hip Hop Gangsta Superstar Roots Manuva, whose real name is also Rodney!

A name change can work, though. I think we’d all agree that a certain legendary pugilist sounds better as Muhammad Ali than he did as Cassius Clay. On the other hand, Cat Stevens is a much better pop singer name than Yusuf Islam. Sorry, Yusuf, but it is. And Rodney Manuva? I don’t think that would be a very good name for rapster, would it!

So before I can decide whether I want to join the Muslims (which can also be spelled ‘Moslems’) I have to decide whether I want to change my name. I wonder what my Mum would say if I went home and told her I’d changed my name to Mr Islam??!!! She’d probably head straight for the sherry! Lol.

Even if I did want to change my name, say to Mohammad like the great Ali, I’d have to figure out how to spell it. There are 14 different variants apparently, and it’s the second most popular boy’s name in Britain, according to The Times Online, the website of the Times newspaper. And given that non-Muslims, or the Infidels, which is their technical term for us lot, generally don’t name their boys Mohammad – however it’s spelled – that means there are lots of Muslims in this country, and we all have to get along together whether we’re infidels or not!

I’m finding this research really helpful in terms of how I see my fellow man. But, back to the matter in hand, or in hook, if you’re reading this Cap’n Hamza!!

Apart from the naming issue, Islam seems to be similar in many ways to Christianity, itself not unlike Voodoo, as we’ve discussed. Muslims believe in God and God had a prophet called, you guessed it: Mohammad. That name has been popular for some time, clearly. They have a holy book called the Koran, which I think might be written backwards, which is unusual and exotic, to say the least!

Islam is closely associated with Arabs and the Middle East, although not all Arabs are Muslim and, as we’ve seen, not all Muslims are Arabs. When I was a nipper in the 1970s, grown ups used to call us kids cheeky little Arabs. But thankfully political correctness has put a stop to that!

One other thing that’s worth noting about Islam is that a lot of Muslims don’t seem overly fond of the Jews. Sadly there are huge tensions in the Middle East, as anyone who watches the news will know only too well. The problem appears to be Jerusalem, which is an important city for Muslims, Christians and Jews, so they’re all a bit territorial. Generally, though, the Christians just seem to get on with things, it’s the Muslims and the Jews that do the scrapping.

“Don’t even go there!” I hear you cry! But we journalists mustn’t shy away from contentious issues, our job is to report the truth, and shed light where once there was darkness.

Here’s another thing about Islam that I personally once found a bit annoying: There are very strict rules about prayers. You have to pray several times a day at specific hours and you have to do it on a mat that’s pointing towards Mecca, which is a holy city in Saudi Arabia, and not the bingo hall in Tooting! So you have to be facing East when you pray over here. Once I had a taxi booked to pick me up from the Airport and he didn’t turn up. When I called later to complain I was told that the driver had to stop on his way to the airport to get out and say his prayers. And that made him really late. Now I’m all for tolerance, I really am, but I booked a taxi. They should have sent an atheist and let the Muslim guy work in the controller’s office on a swivel chair so he could turn to face Mecca at a moment’s notice. Some people just don’t have a problem solving mentality, I guess.

So, I don’t think I’m going to go for Islam. No offence to any Muslims, but I want to keep my name as it is and, while I respect the faith, which is clearly ancient and culturally important, the strict prayer regime wouldn’t fit with my hectic journalistic lifestyle. It’s been great finding out about it, though, and next time I walk by the Mosque, I’ll give them all a wave.

Newsdesk out!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I know today is traditionally a day of rest, but my mind won’t stop racing when it comes to the great religion debate, I just had to post my latest discoveries. This must have been how Charles Darwin felt when he got back home from his trip on the Beagle.

Incidentally, a Beagle is literally a Hound Dog. I wonder if Elvis was really singing about a Beagle.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I should grapple with religion. According to infamous atheist Richard Dawkins, Man is predisposed to ‘believe’. Ironically, he thinks we have evolved needing the comforting belief in a higher power to help explain the unexplainable. I think it’s fair to say he debunks religion on the grounds that it is man-made self-believe.


If Dawkins had spent just a few minutes looking at Wikipedia and actually doing some research, he’d soon discover that there are so many religions out there it would be literally impossible to make them all up. I bet Christmas dinner round at the Dawkins’ place is a bag of fun.

I have decided to carry out a chronological journey through religion. If Charles Darwin et al are to be believed then Africa is the cradle of life, and you don’t have to do any research to realise that before the Europeans imposed Christianity on the locals, Voodoo was almost certainly the incumbent faith and as such is clearly the oldest religion in the world.

Voodoo is very much like Christianity, which must have made the missionaries jobs all the easier. Every village would have had a Witch Doctor. These guys were essentially the local vicars and carried out all the hatchings, matchings and dispatchings (as Rev. Smyth used to say).

As with Christianity, there are a good number of rituals in Voodoo.

When Jimi Hendrix wrote a song about a Voodoo Child he could well have been singing about Jesus.

Incidentally, readers, I have discovered an amazing new site on the Internet. It’s called YouTube (wtf??). It’s got literally hundreds of funny videos and songs. It’s not really much use to a Citizen Journalist. But if you don’t watch out, you can spend hours on there ‘surfing’.

Anyway, back to Voodoo. Another similarity it has with Christianity is that it is divided into a plethora of subsets. For instance, if I decided I was a believer, I could be a Buddhist Haitian Voodooer.

How did Voodoo get all the way from Africa to Haiti? I hear you ask. Slaves readers. But that, as they say, is a whole separate issue that I might have to come back to another time.

I’ve left the most famous thing about Voodoo until last. The Voodoo Doll is NOT A TOY! It was made most famous in the James Bond film Live & Let Die starring English rose Jayne Seamour. The doll represents a chosen enemy (in the case of James Bond’s Live & Let Die, it represented James Bond), by sticking needles into the doll (James Bond) you can inflict extreme pain on your enemy. You can buy them on Amazon.

KK readers, I’ve got to go and have some Shreddies now, I think Hollyoaks is about to start and Gill’s coming around later with some breakfast.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Amazing discovery!!!!

Well, readers, I can’t quite believe what I’ve found. Have you heard of Wikipedia? I’ve just come across it and, my God, it’s got every bit of information you could possibly need to research an article of journalism.

Now, I know as well as any good journalist that a bulging contacts book is everything. And, clearly, compiling just such a book is right up there on my to-do list. But that takes time, and time and tide wait for no hack. So in the meanwhile, I’m going to spend a few hours each day on Wikipedia getting facts about things I want to write stories about.

For instance, this morning I’ve been researching for an article about dog theft. Mrs Bradley, my neighbour, had her dog stolen. It was a Bernese Mountain Dog. According to Wikipedia, it turns out that both the St Bernard and the Rottweiler are descended from this dog. Well the same breed, not Mrs Bradley’s dog Raffles obviously.

It’s especially useful in my ongoing attempts to discover whether or not I believe in God. I hadn’t realised quite what I was taking on here. I mean, it could take weeks to come to a conclusion on this. As regular readers will know, I am a practising Buddhist. But am I an agnostic Buddhist, an atheist Buddhist, a monotheist Buddhist, pantheist Buddhist, Hindu Buddhist, Muslim Buddhist, or like a lot of people I know a Christian Buddhist? And if I’m Christian Buddhist, for example, am I Baptist Christian Buddhist? And if I am, am I new Baptist or old? Phew!

Anyway, I’m going to read all about them on my new favourite website: Wikipedia!

But please don’t go shouting about this site to everyone, KK? I’m trying to ‘steal a march’ on other aspiring journalists, apart from Notts County's Gav Strachan, of course, and I need you to keep this to yourself.

Peace be upon you (that’s what I’ll be saying if I decide I’m a Muslim!!!).

Friday, February 6, 2009

The magnificent seven

Seven is a magical number. The Japanese believe it to be lucky, there were seven samurai, after all.

Manchester United, arguably the most famous football team on the planet, bestow the 7 shirt upon their star performer: George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo all made their mark in the 7 shirt.

There are seven deadly sins.

It’s a prime number, which means it is only divisible by one and itself. So it seems highly appropriate that yours truly has now got seven followers.


It seems like only yesterday that my good friend from California, Jennifer Walker-Shannon, became my first follower. Swiftly followed (excuse the pun) by Donnac1968 and Steve.

However, it really was only yesterday that the number of followers swelled to over twice its size.

Mark Stanley from the Emerald Isle has joined the fold. He’s the marketing manager for a very worthy not-for-profit organisation called Citywise which was set up to run education, sporting and personal development programmes. I can really empathise with Mark, sometimes it feels as though my career in journalism is a not-for-profit venture! Gerry Adams recently visited Citywise. As a journalist I’d love to pose a few questions to him. I’d have to tread carefully though, you get the impression he could be a bit touchy.

Karen Snyder became by second female Stateside follower. Her excellent blog, Tales From The Social Media Front line, is very high brow. Karen describes herself as a "Social Media Ninja". I’m sure she could show me a few social media moves. Her favourite music is UB40. She seems to have painted herself into an unusual corner there readers! Red, Red Wine. A classic.

Karen also follows a blog called Fuck You, Penguin which has over 3700 followers. WOW. I’ve decided to follow that one to see how it’s done. All of a sudden my magnificent seven is starting to look a trifle under-whelming. No offence followers – as Donnac1968 says, from small acorns do mighty oaks grow, hopefully!

Next up is Vince another American. I think it’s fair to say he’s a serial follower. Vince currently follows over 170 different blogs. You’ve got to admire the Americans’ work ethic. When he’s not following blogs Vince is a copywriter. So, hopefully he’s be able to pick me up on my typos. I should also add that Vince has 69 followers of his own.

Last, but by no means least, is Jack Nork. Jack is yet another American. He’s got three blogs on the go. Like I say, you’ve got to admire the Americans’ work ethic. I don’t know if Jack is aware, but his surname might well raise a few smiles back in my hometown Lincoln, as another word for tits is norks. No offence.

I’ve got to go now readers. I’ve got an interview for a new evening job at Blockbusters, just to make ends meet before my journalism starts covering costs.

See ya :-)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

There definitely IS a God?!!!

Well, I just don’t know what to think. One minute you’ve got buses driving around with slogans on them saying there might not be a God. Then, before you know it, up pop the Christians, using the same mass transport vehicles to proclaim that there is definitely a God. What’s a hack to do?

I know journalists are supposed to be wary of editorialising, but I think I really need to come down on one side or the other on this debate. It’s what they call a divisive issue, and I’m not going to sit on the fence. But in order to figure out which side I’m on, I needed to know whether or not I believe in God.

As my fellow aspiring journalist Gavin Strachan said in a recent post on his excellent blog: “Wow, I really am getting deep.”

Figuring out whether or not you believe in God isn’t easy. On the one hand, the fact that mankind has progressed so far that it has invented blogging on the internet, allowing me to tell you that I’m trying to figure out whether or not I believe in God seems like a hell of a thing to happen by accident. Then again, if God really existed, he would have given Stone Age Man the internet, surely. Although I think that Stone Age Man worshipped the sun, so perhaps God withheld the internet because He was wrathful.

It’s the wrathful God that I’m not sure about. Did He send AIDS, and all the hurricanes and tsunamis, the volcanoes and the wars and the aeroplane disasters? Why would a God let bad things happen? I think that’s really the big question, the one that I’d like to put to God Himself, if I were given the job of interviewing Him for that section in Metro.

These would be my ten questions to God:

1. Who are Your parents?
2. Do You feel bad about the wars fought in Your name?
3. Why didn’t You stop Hitler?
4. Of all the religions run in Your name, which would You be most willing to abolish?
5. Can You stop global warming?
6. When sportsmen and women on opposing teams make the sign of the cross before a game, how do You decide which one to help?
7. Is the old testament actually true?
8. Are you a leg God or a breast God? You created them both, after all… (You’ve got to have some light relief, even in serious debates!!!)
9. What five humans would You have to dinner if You could have any five humans to dinner?
10. Which creature do You most regret creating? (I bet it would be the wasp!!!)

This is an interesting way of looking at the question of faith, because it highlights some common problems that Science has with God. Like, how did he come into existence? It must be really hard being a theologian. Jeez, right now I don’t feel like I’m really getting anywhere with this. I think I might call my Mum. She’s a church going lady. That reminds me, I got a massive electricity bill this morning.

There’ll be more on this later, readers, so keep your eyes open.

Newsdesk out!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snow balls

It seems as though I am getting nowhere with my journalism. So far, I’ve completed two assignments and, followers aside, received scant reward.

Still, I’m no quitter. Using the inspiration of a recent comment made by my good friend Steve, I decided to take something of national importance and spin a new yarn.

I’ll be employing an old trick of the journalist trade readers. Journalists who follow stories sometimes only ever really add one or two new details right at the beginning, then simply cut and paste in a bunch of old flannel to “pad it out a bit”. Then when a sub-editor comes to cut the copy, they can simply delete from the bottom safe in the knowledge that they’re not cutting something essential from the piece.

Sexual discrimination is snow joke

You would think that the people of this country had never seen snow given the almost blanket coverage that the recent dump gained in the media. To paraphrase the much-maligned Labour spin doctor Jo Moore, yesterday would have been a good day to bury bad news.
One piece of news that slipped the nation’s consciousness yesterday was the rampant culture of sexism raging endemic among today’s disaffected youth. Recently completed research in one South London borough demonstrated that the vast majority of snow-based sculptures remain male.
These so-called Snowmen out-number their female counterparts in the nation’s capital by over nine to one. Yet Gordon Brown and his cronies sit by idly to one side and do nothing!!!
Packing snow is formed when regular powder snow comes near its melting point and becomes moist and compactible. This allows for the construction of large balls of snow by simply rolling a ball of snow until it grows the desired size. Attempting to make a snowman out of powdered snow is extremely difficult since it will not stick to itself. And if packing snow is not rolled into snowballs before it freezes, it will form an unusable denser form of powdered snow called crust.
In Europe and North America, most snowmen are usually built with three spheres which contain the head, torso, and lower body. Thus the best time to build a snowman is usually in the next warmest afternoon directly following a snowfall with a sufficient amount of snow.
The common trend is to then dress the snowman, usually with rocks, coal, wood sticks, and vegetables. Carrots or cherries are often used for the nose, as are sticks for arms and stones for eyes (traditionally lumps of coal, no longer commonly available). Some people like to dress their snowmen in clothing (scarves, jackets, hats). Dressing a snowman in clothing insulates the snowman by keeping out the heat, which means a longer life for the snowman. However, some may prefer not to risk leaving supplies out doors where they could easily be stolen if someone were so maliciously inclined. Also, snowmen usually melt quite quickly on a hot day, which could cause clothing to become stuck under melting ice if not removed promptly.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yet ANOTHER follower!!!!

I thought this weekend was going to be a complete write-off after receiving the kick in the teeth that was my redundancy package.

But no.

Indeed, not even the sight of a further invoice from my bloodsucking lawyer managed to ruin my weekend. Because, I have yet another follower!!!


Steves blog has got seven followers. He’s no respecter of the apostrophe, but I won’t hold that against him, he seems like a nice fella. He also follows my good friend Donnac1968.

I might not be rich financially, but I’m rich in so many other ways dear readers.

Steve says: “This is a very clever and funny blog! I look forward to reading more on your adventures as you thrive to become a journo.”

Thanks mate. Much appreciated. Although, I fail to see what’s so funny about Christian bus drivers and sexual harassment.

I was going to go out and do some more research today. But the bus service in London has been cancelled today because of the snow.

Maybe it’s divine retribution.