I’ve not posted for ages, but that’s not because I’ve slipped into the semi-hibernation that this time of the year makes so attractive. Blessed would it be to put on a few layers of fat, wrap a duvet round me and retire to the airing cupboard until mid-March, but alas. There is work to be done.
The Film Club at Cafe Roya has been going great, with Beestonians The Turrell Brothers putting on a great show last Monday. We even got a sneak preview of their latest short, and it’s astonishing: part sci-fi, part kitchen sink realism, part Freudian head-messer. They should have it online soon once they finesse a couple of bits: I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
(If you’re wondering why I seem oddly lop-sided, it’s nothing to do with wine -well, maybe a little- but more to do with ripping a ligament in my knee a few days back and being on crutches for sometime. Huge cheers for the NHS for fixing me up and not laughing when I explained how I did it. I was chasing a dog. No more needs to be known).
If you are up for hosting a night, wherever a filmmaker or just a buff, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try and get you in sometime in 2014. We have one last night, this coming Monday 16th, with a special night curated by professional writer and former NME journo Grahame Caveney, who’ll be hosting a selection of shorts with a William Burroughs theme/influence etc, followed by a showing of the Gus Van Sant classic Drugstore Cowboy. Grahame is an authority on the terrifying, fascinating Burroughs, to the extent he wrote his biography
Tickets available for just £7.50 (includes a meal courtesy of the divine culinary skills of Roya) on the door, reserve now by sending an email to the address above.
The White Lion / Daily Mail scandal drags on. It’s finally gone to the PCC for consideration, after a process of such evasion, slipperiness and downright desperation I’m aghast: even from the standpoint that The Mail embodies everything that is wrong with this country and Paul Dacre could cause even the most ardent pacifist to set him alight before putting the blaze out with a cricket bat, even from knowing that they are awful, awful people, I’m shocked.
To recap: Natalie Rocha gave birth to Estella Rose in the flat above the pub she runs with husband Sergio, after paramedics were stuck in tramworks. I popped down to get some pics and a brief interview, as did the Nottingham Post’s Alex Britton, and we both ran a feel-good piece, his in print, mine on our Facebook page, which duly went on to become our most liked ever post.
Should have been a happy ending right there. But no. I visited Sergio a couple of weeks later, and he was clearly upset. Not with us, it transpired, but by the Daily Mail. He showed me the article: it had taken a chunk of The Nottingham Post’s article, and then added a load of quotes that were clearly not Sergio talking.
One of these was that Natalie and Sergio had named their baby after Stella Artois, their ‘best-selling’ lager. This was evidently bollocks, as the Rochas had chose the name for their first daughter before they ever took up pub-management. Their tiny daughter didn’t even get to a fortnight old before The Daily Mail decided to lie about her.
They also don’t stock Stella. More to the point, they can’t sell Stella. The tie they have with their brewery forbids this, and if they were to stock it they would be in breach of contract and could therefore lose their business. Sergio has had to explain to his area manager that the article was fabricated, and he had never sold Stella. It’s a disgrace he’s been forced into this situation.
I asked Sergio if he’d like me to take up his case and see if we could get it before the Press Complaints Commission, and after sending the relevant letters of consent to the PCC, a complaint was made.
The Mail reacted by at first claiming that Sergio had said everything attributed to him, but they would be willing to remove the quotes we’d identified as fabricated. The Rochas and I felt this was inadequate for a number of reasons. While the article was online, it would be making money for The Mail. It didn’t admit it was wrong. Nobody was taking responsibility for printing lies: thus, they had carte blanche to do it again.
So we rejected this settlement and asked for a full apology and retraction. The Mail’s deputy managing editor then wrote to us saying they’d remove the article in full and send a letter expressing regret for the article. Not apologising and admitting they were wrong, but regret for the article getting out of hand.
Imagine if that logic applied to a crime story that the Daily Mail covered. Say a -lets pick a typical subject for The Mail – Bulgarian immigrant had been caught fiddling his benefits. When caught and tried, the judge decided that it was ok, all was forgiven because the Bulgarian had expressed regret at being caught, not of abusing the system. Imagine the apoplexy that would scream out of the front page. The schreeching ire and wrathful hate that would spurt from their comment pages.
So we said no. ‘We appreciate The Mail’s strong and admirable stance on holding those in the wrong responsible for their actions, thus reject the settlement’.
That pissed them off, and so they went for a bit of racism to wriggle off the hook. The whole problem, they explained, could be due to just a silly misunderstanding. The reporter claimed that Sergio had spoken in ‘broken English’ during their conversation, so maybe things had got confused.
Sergio does speak English with an accent. His spoken English however is perfectly intelligible, clear, and easy to understand. Yet, in The Mail’s eyes, it’s not his first language so he must be one of those dreadful foreigners, those dishonest swarthy types, coming over here to lie to our journalists. Uck.
The telephone conversation Sergio reports he had with the man from The Mail doesn’t bear out any understanding. The reporter constantly tried to make him agree with the quotes he was inventing ‘So you named your baby after Stella, didn’t you?’ – each time Sergio explained this was not the case, again and again, until out of frustration he explained he had a business to run and felt intimidated, and hung up.
But the Mail stand by their story, sending me pictures of the reporters shorthand scrawled notepads with transcripts, refusing our requests to remove the article while the issue progresses, generally doing everything possible to make the process difficult in the hope we’ll get tired and back off.
We’re not backing off. This morning I received notice from the PCC that due to our refusal to accept any settlement from the Mail, we would be going to a full consideration by the PCC. I’ll keep you informed of the progress, as glacial as that might be.
Here’s my latest piece for The Post: it’s on why libraries need professionals, not well-meaning volunteers, staffing and stacking the shelves. No pub managers were hurt in the production of this article. Sad to see the bloke who gave me a break at The Post when he asked me to cover his column, the Anglophilic Floridian Erik Petersen, hang up his HB and notepad and head back over to the States, leaving Nottingham writing a poorer place. He reckoned I looked like a ‘manic Gary Oldman’, loved his ale and embraced the joys of cricket more thoroughly than any other lover of that most meditative of sports. He also had a delicious turn of phrase…treat yourself with a plunder through his archive, starting with this superb skewering.
A quick mention to the wonderfully creative and super-enthusiastic Honey Bee is hosting a massive Festive Craft Fair (with a vintage twist, apparently) at The Pearson Centre, just off Wollaton Road this Saturday. It should be a corking event, with a free gift bag for the first attendees, cake (and lunchtime grub), activities for kids and an opportunity to pickup a huge swathe of those Chrimbo gifts you’ve been panicking about getting and nearly got seduced to get them from Tesco. it should be a good day full of talent and crafty wonder, get on down. More details here.
This will be final post I write while still in my thirties. But worry not, tomorrow I turn 40 and life begins / bits drop off and wilt, depending on who you ask. I’ve enjoyed my thirties incredibly, especially the last few years when I decided to write about this place. I reach 40 a happy man, albeit with a slight limp and a fetish for natural textiles. Orwell* said that at by 50 ‘everyone has the face they deserve’. I have ten years and one day to be extremely nice to people and hit my second half century looking a bit less like a gurning Gary Oldman. To celebrate, I’m having a few drinks tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the While Lion,Middle Street, from 7.30pm. We’ll have music from the superb Phil Langran Band, and a chance to see me get all emotional when I allow myself my yearly tot of brandy.
*Orwell didn’t actually make it to fifty, so he definitely didn’t get the face HE deserved…