The Beeston Express: An appreciation.

With the spread of ‘nu-media’ and illiteracy, the once proud newspaper industry is in turmoil, circulations dropping faster than a decapitated hypotensive, its rare to find an ‘old-media’ thriving. An examination of the status quo print media reveals The Express is owned by an idiot of a pornographer, The Mail a  quasi-fascistic hate-sheet,  The Independant so wet its actually printed on polythene now lest you dampen your fingers,  the tabloids sinking deep into celeb-obsessiveness and tits, and the broadsheets desperately trying to nu-media themselves as on-line presences as they haemorrage physical readerships…its tough times for papers. But not for one. And yes, dear readers, its Beeston-based.

No, its not the Evening Post, despite it inching closer to Beeston after its move from Foreman Street (RIP) to Castle Boulevard. No. While it pains me to say it, its an ok paper, and I say that despite its association with the aforementioned Mail (its under the umbrella of the same media group, and thus subject to the same editorial hatred of that newspaper I will not name again as my screen is already flecked in enough spittle). Its just about readable, informative, and provocative enough to excuse the depressing letters page that allows a platform for the rabidly idiotic opinions of its readership -stand up BJ Mann, if using only two limbs is not  beyond your usual knuckle-dragging  capabilities.

Its also featured yours truly over the years, in 1991, dressed in rather fetching drag for reasons I’d rather not go into; in 1992, as I look earenstly from the page and explain, via a journalist who had clearly written her story before meeting me, discussing what it was like to be a first-time voter in that years General Election, and saying, though Im sure I didn’t, crushing the political landscape with my opinion that  ‘a vote not cast is a vote in itself’. At the time, I knew this could not have intentionally been uttered as  at such an idealistic age I was massively polarised: I was so anti-tory and pro-labour I had to be talked out of getting a tattoo of Kinnock etched across my chest, his scalp meeting where my few young and thus sparse ginger chest hairs would have sprouted from his inked head, providing a realistic and 3D image.

From that to now I have been a sporadic addition to the letters page, often under my own name, mostly under pseudonyms (Bobby Grumbles, Vic Doss,  Chappy Banquet), and enjoyed the willingness of the Post to print.  However, this is not local enough, not Beeston enough for me. The NEP is for the whole of Notts. The north of the county dominate the crime pages, a rich seam of pubs, fights, fights in pubs, car crashes, stolen cars, car crashes into pubs, stolen car crashes into pubs, fights caused by cars crashing into pubs, and endless permutations. Oh, and heroin. Lots of heroin. Then there is the poetry column, which Im not being cruel about, so wont implore you to read it, and read it out load, and keep all the urine in your bladder.

The more  supposedly dedicatedly local rags, the Recorder or the Topper, have so lost interest its incredible. Now they are little more than newspapers that somehow got bit by a parasitic  advertising mite that infected and came to take over its host with such rapaciousness that its original purpose is sucked from it entirely, a husk, useless. I would compare this to marriage, except as someone on  the cusp of engagement, will refuse to do. I digress. Its insides have , been hollowed out, yet the exterior still holds: headlines (yet cribbed from the cheaper news agencies), sports pages (written by over enthusiastic enthusiasts of said sports, who comprise 90% of said sports audience). They are spent shells with infected arses, manifested in the sexy phone line ads, where for £2 a minute you can listen to a disinterested wobbly wifey tell you what shes doing with what ever soft fruit shes pretending to be holding; or all out prossie-lines, unless i’m being cynical to believe that the main reasons the muscle-tensed men about town pick out masseurs to treat their afflictions  on a criterion whereby a made up name and a relative newness in town are key factors. Shitty, useless papers. I’m not talking about them, oh no.

Tomorrow, break from your daily routine. Substitute your morning cuppa with a mug of freshly brewed mushroom tea. Spread your toast with a thick layer of that Peyote jam you’ve been saving. Enjoy your Frosties encrusted with sparkles of Angel Dust.  Wash it all down with a couple of pints of steaming absinthe. Lazily open your morning paper. It still wont come as immensely weird, as psychadelically bizarre as our local sheet…the Beeston Express. Dont get me wrong, its not just pages of fractals and prog-rock album covers, though that is a concept Im soon to pitch to some magazine publishers in London next week. Let me attempt to explain. It first appeared as a nervous free-sheet six years ago, a few black and white pages resembling a parish newsletter, and reading as such.

Yet over the years it has galvanised and grown, its confidence a factor in it getting a regular column from Nick Palmer MP, our Man in the House and as regular readers will know, a Lovely Bloke. It also features a seemingly cowardly Attenborough-based, psedonym-donned columnist called the Free Ranger; an A-Z of Acupuncture, evidently a huge concern in Beeston. It was at the time of the original draft of this article, up to ‘V’, and my original notes I predicted that ‘X’ would be ‘X marks the spot’, but no, the latest edition jumped straight to ‘Y’. The reason? ‘The only X I could think of was Xenophobia.’ Make your own punchmark punchline. ‘Z’ will hopefully be ‘ZZZZZZZZZ’, or how sticking needles into your flesh can induce a state of sleep, but not in the way our cousins in Mansfield prefer.

The News sections are always informative, authorative and thorough; yet oddly detached of agenda. It would be unfair to expect anything but this, as it proudly displays its editorial policy proudly in each edition, zealously stating  its independance. This dismissal of the conceit that has kept our proudly partisan national print media fizzing along for years is replaced by a resolutely idiosyncratic take on reportage, and its utterly charming in its antiquity. A report on garden furniture going missing begins ‘As summer finally establishes itself, it has been reported that people are finding that items left on driveways and front gardens are going missing’. Stylistically, its anarchic, anachronistic and is so thoroughly lovely. Its old school, unsensational journalism, and I am a little bit in love with it. It has the feel of overheard gossip from a mildly erudite neighbour, free of sensationalism and agenda.

I’m a long-time fan of satirical cartoonist, from the pithy simplicity of Matt, the psychotic madness of Steve Bell or the terrifying grotesques of Gerald Scarfe, so it is with pride I can now move on to ‘The Beekeeper’. An anonymous (well, its not, but it miht as well be cos Im buggered if I can read his signature), its an evergreen, two framed masterpiece of minimalism that maps the crazy adventures of the ‘Beekeeper’, our seemingly nose-ringed, Roger de Coursey look-alike who louchly lounges on a stone bench in the town centre pretending that we do have an aparistic history, and his various exploits. As he is an inanimate stone protaganist, these should be greatly limited. Nope. Over the years the amorous Beeman has courted and won over ‘Hope’. the statue in Broadgate Park, fought dragons, conjured up dragons, triggered a debate about racism and been visited by Captain Kirk and Mr Spock, although they were renamed ‘Sock’ and ‘Willliam’, and they said…no, I can’t do it justice. Things settled down in the last edition where Beeman got annoyed with the rain so went into Cafe Nero for a coffee. Phew.

Every edition is liberally yet inconsistently sprinkled with the odd, the issue I examined as I planned this article (i lost my notebook for a fortnight, ok?) featuring a set of perfect examples as it implored you to join a barbershop harmonic singing group; a ultra-prosaic crossword where one of the clues invites you to name an anti depressant also known as Fluoxetine (6), an unwitty witty wittecism from Bernard Shaw, an apropos of nothing quote from an ancient church bulletin, and a piece on a five year old Beestonian’smeeting with Carl Froch: “He wasn’t as big as I thought boxer would be. He was just like me”, which sparked a bidding war between Don King and Tony Warren for rights of the ‘Midget Mauler’.

I must confess a rather shameful moment, however. When setting up this website, I contacted the Beeston Express in what can only be described as a ‘tired and emotional’ state declaring I was en route to becoming the Benign Dictator of Beesonia, and would like to have have them in board as my voicepiece to the masses, a Pravda for my new Republic…sensibly, they never replied.

But no hard feelings. I still stand by my opinion that in these homogenous times in print media, for a relief from the cynacity and predictability of the daily papers, the 25p you spend on the fortnightly Beeston Express is money very well spent. Its a flickering candle of greatness in our over-illumiated mass media. Even if they haven’t yet got round to giving me a job.