Dear Mr Coward,
Thank you for your letter which arrived, unsigned and addressed in the kind of childlike scrawl beloved of cinematic blackmailers, in today’s post.
I might have understood had it been a threat, or somebody whistle-blowing but this was just someone unprepared to sign their name.
It might have been a him or a her but we’ll call whoever it is Mr Coward. Not, of course to be confused with Noel whose work, whatever you might think of it, always bore his moniker.
Here is what Mr Coward wrote:
“A couple of years ago Ken Hurst wrote one of his columns for the EDP. It was all about how the new socialist president of France was going to show that there was an alternative to austerity. The sort of austerity which was being carried out in Britain. The sort of austerity which was going to condemn Britain to economic depression. President Hollande, Hurst argued, was going to show that protecting public services and taxing the rich a bit more was a much better course.
“Well, two years on and what’s the picture? Britain is recovering and France is mired in recession. Which all makes Ken Hurst look a bit of a chump.
“Will he write a letter to the EDP acknowledging his error? No. Lefties never apologise.”
And that was it, all on a carefully cut slip of white paper.
Two things Mr Coward.
1. The EDP would not, I’m pretty sure given its current regime, want to contaminate its pages with my leftie views.
2. As I have some sympathy with people who live in a home with a bedroom too many, have seen their State benefits unfairly withdrawn, cannot get proper treatment for their mental illness and have to visit a food bank to survive, while bankers continue to collect obscene bonuses, I have no intention of apologizing.
But you’re right in one respect Mr Coward, lefties may never apologise for their passionately held views but we do have the courage to put our names to our opinions.
Oh! And just to be completely up front, here’s the original that hasn’t yet been expunged from the archive: http://bit.ly/1g30yhc
Dear Mr Coward,
A pome wot I dug out for a column a year or two back; seemed apposite to recall it:
It rained and it rained and rained and rained
The average fall was well maintained
And when the tracks were simply bogs
It started raining cats and dogs
After a drought of half an hour
We had a most refreshing shower
And then the most curious thing of all
A gentle rain began to fall
Next day was also fairly dry
Save for the deluge from the sky
Which wetted the party to the skin
And after that the rain set in.
Ken’s EDP column for 9 October 2008
I like the movies, but driving past the Norwich Guildhall taxi rank on my way to St Andrew’s car park and nearby Cinema City I glanced the few yards down to City Hall with the Bethel Street police station just beyond, and couldn’t help wondering how often councillors and coppers go to the pictures.
Unless they’ve spent the last 25 years on Mars, who hasn’t seen the film that fathered what tinsel town calls the summer blockbuster? Even those who didn’t catch Jaws on its release in 1975 surely cannot have missed one of countless re-runs.
For the benefit of civic leaders and senior policemen who don’t get out much or are too busy civic leading or senior policing to watch much tv, here’s the gist of Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Peter Benchley novel inspired by shark attacks off the shores of New Jersey in 1916.
Beachgoers enjoying sand, sea and swimming at the fictional summer resort of Amity Island are threatened by a great white shark.
Police Chief Brody tries to protect the holidaymakers by closing the beach, only to be overruled by Mayor Vaughn and his town council who want it to remain open to ensure Amity makes its usual profits from the summer tourists.
Old-fashioned fiction like this usually has an evil presence, a goody fighting against it and a baddie – whether selfishly, inadvertently or with the best of misplaced intentions – ignoring or condoning it.
If only we were dealing with the frivolities of old-fashioned fiction rather that the awful reality of the cold bloodied pavement outside Norwich’s one time court and gaol.
Let alone a reality in which officialdom, including our police chief, appears to be queuing up to tell us everything is alright.
The environs of this once proud landmark, the largest medieval city hall “having no real parallel in England”, now bear the permanent and indelible stain of Frank McGarahan’s killing.
History should mark and remember “this tragedy, a vicious wicked murder” on the streets of our city and the irony that it took place next to where the protestant martyr Thomas Bilney was held before being burned as a heretic nearly 500 years ago. We haven’t come far.
So, sorry Det Supt Chris Hobley, it’s simply not good enough to tell us that Norwich is “generally a safe place” nor that “there were patrols across the city centre on the night in question” nor that “the Guildhall area is not traditionally a flashpoint”, nor that “we work very closely with the licensed premises to ensure that the public have a safe evening out in Norwich”.
Frank McGarahan didn’t have a safe evening out. And some of your friendly licensed premises slosh happy hour spirits into the brain dead and morally bankrupt, and push sugar coated alcopops down the throats of underage drinkers like the 14 year old girl being treated in the SOS bus last Saturday night.
I have no answers to any of this; I’ll neither pray for the souls of the perpetrators nor condemn them to the gallows, but like all right thinking people I am deeply perturbed by the events of the night of the 27 and 28 of September.
I think I do know this; it must not be denied nor glossed over so the city can somehow appear cleansed. Even to brand those early Sunday morning hours as Norwich’s night of shame is too hopeful an intimation because it suggests an incident in isolation. It belittles the trauma of the taxi driver set upon for seeking his rightful six pounds fare and the young man gratuitously punched in the face for doing a thug the kindness of responding to a feigned request to tell him the time.
It makes me sad and it makes me sick but I’m more inclined to believe the Norwich security company executive’s: “This kind of thing happens every day of the week.”
Seeking solace in the idea that our city is safer than your city because we only have one murder to your two is to play further into the hands of complacency.
As is harbouring any hope that youth role models from the worlds of wags, fashion models, fogeys and footballers will suddenly desist from reeling, fists flailing, legless and blinded by tungsten flashes onto the covers of a million tacky magazines.
Or believing, as Jon Thaxton said when it was revealed that the two men now facing murder charges had once “had the schoolboy boxing world at their feet”, that “boxing has nothing to do with fighting in the street”. I boxed at school. It teaches you to hurt people and it teaches you what it feels like to knock someone senseless, and that can have everything to do with fighting in the street.
Meanwhile, in another perfectly decent city whose football team we happened to play last Saturday, shoppers goaded a disturbed young man to his suicide. To their jeers, he jumped from a multi-storey car park. They took photos of it all on their mobile phones.
I don’t know where we’re going. Perhaps to the segregated world of a song called Another quiet night in England. Where decent folk are all in their beds; You wake to the smell of burning tyres; Sirens wail and the street’s on fire; And another headline hits the presses; The truth runs in, the news creeps out; People stare if you scream and shout; And another quiet night goes by.
Tags: canaries, NCFC, Norwich city football club
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE EASTERN DAILY PRESS 1 March 2012
Paul Lambert’s Canaries suffered a second humiliating hammer blow on Sunday. Having bowed meekly out of the FA Cup, succumbing on home turf to injury-hit Championship strugglers Leicester City on their previous outing, Norwich registered an unenviable back-to-back loss, this time with yet another Premiership failure.
A 4-0 trouncing at the hands of League One minnows MK Dons back in August saw the ailing Norfolk outfit crash out of the Carling Cup at the first hurdle, so the Carrow Road faithful are now left with only shattered dreams of Wembley and the prospect of a less than bountiful summer harvest of mid table mediocrity.
On Sunday, far from being no county for old men, Norfolk proved to be a happy hunting ground for a Manchester United side fielding players of an age to be Declan Rudd’s dad.
The latest reverse had Norwich returning to the form of barely a month ago when they ran up the white flag at the Stadium of Light, rolled over 3- 0 by a Sunderland side that had so recently ditched its manager Steve Bruce – a one-time Canary defender from the club’s golden age – and had barely been much above the relegation zone all season.
In between times, a far from convincing 2-0 home win against an all but doomed Bolton Wanderers side preceded victory – if victory it can be called – by the narrowest of margins against a naive newly-promoted Swansea – the first Welsh side ever, however briefly, to join the ranks of the Premier League elite.
The latest setback, against a geriatric Manchester United short of their Strepsil-struck talisman Wayne Rooney, leaves the moulting Canaries now languishing in an ignominious eighth place in the Premier League with no chance of rewarding their loyal yellow and green army with a much deserved sortie across the Channel which the Royal Norfolk’s fought so bravely to defend at Dunkirk.
With just a dozen games left in which to redeem themselves, the luckless Canaries sit on a lacklustre single digit count of wins against a motley collection of Premiership stragglers. A meagre five home victories have been notched up against the pre-O’Neill Sunderland, a Swansea side sadly short of any Welsh wizardry, QPR led by subsequently sacked Neil Warnock, a badly crocked Newcastle, and north west ne’er do wells Bolton.
Scarcely creditable draws were earned – if earned is not too strong a word – against Merseyside Cinderellas, David Moyes’ cash-strapped Everton; a woeful Wolverhampton Wanderers; Al Fayed’s flakey Fulham and a Chelsea that for all their bling and bluster were never likely to shake off the £50 million shackle that is Fernando Torres.
Away from home, even the never less than 2000-strong Y’Army, have so far been unable to lift a squad rotating so often as to vanish up its own diamond formation to more than a meagre four wins from 13.
As for Sunday’s 1-2 reversal, it was a game of two halves; both of them United’s. The Manc’s goals came one in each of them. The first, in only the seventh minute of the first half saw the 5′ 7″ Paul Scholes, 37 and lately returned from retirement, sly-ed behind Fox, 28, to head the ball beyond John Ruddy, 25. The second came as a knackered Norwich gave way to 38 year-old Ryan Giggs’ left foot putting in its 900th appearance for United in time, like his own advancing years, added on.
The filling in the sandwich between the goals had Bradley Johnson yellow carded for a challenge on Nani, who apparently has fresher breath than Joey Barton, and Grant Holt failing to do enough to secure an England second XI place against Holland last night. His 12 yard strike in the 84th minute was neutered by profligacy as he spurned the opportunity to draw level from a Surman cross in the 26th minute and again in the 34th, this time from a transparently brilliant ball supplied by the sometimes fragile but mostly glassy Pilkington. Elsewhere, Ruddy saved red faces, Zak hacked and Simeon did the simple things well. Naughton (sounds like Norton) camped in the home side’s half, Wes blew a hooley until he ran out of wind while Aaron, descended from Abraham, Wilbraham failed to deliver a golden calf. Ward, often handy in an emergency, was tentative and it has to be said that the jury’s out on Drury who I suspect, if it wasn’t for an extra R, might be suffering from too much sex and drugs and rock and roll.
As a disgruntled crowd shuffled its way home in the failing Sunday afternoon light, the managers summed things up.
“Yous were the better side today,” said Sir Alex. “No, yous were,” patronised his countryman and apparently heir apparent, Paul Lambert, adding: “But we’re not safe yet.”
“No, you are most definitely not,” offered up Lee Dixon, aged nearly 48 and probably now too old to make a comeback, on Match of the Day 2 that evening.
One day – when we’re a Man U, Liverpool or Arsenal or, like Man City and Chelsea, get bought by an oil-rich Sheikh or a Russian oligarch – they’ll write about us like that. Then we will have made it in what they call the world’s best league.
Originally published April 2012
Cornelius Horan. Ring a bell? No, I thought not. How about Emily Davison? Maybe. Erica Roe? Definitely. It would be easy to go on. The history of protest and the disruption of sporting events is long and, yes, I am going to opine, illustrious.
Whether the acts be perpetrated for self aggrandisement and five minutes of fame or as a last desperate act of dangerous foolishness undertaken in an attempt to be heard when all else has failed, I’m all for them.
Even rebels in drink and without, to my knowledge, a particular cause, make me smile.
The streakers, for example. Australian Michael O’Brien is reckoned to have started the fashion in 1974 when he chose the England v France rugby international to, err, show off. A copper’s helmet – now evidently in the Twickenham museum – was deployed to save his modesty on capture.
It took bookshop sales assistant Erica Roe eight years to redress the gender balance, tripping her topless 40 inch ampleness across the Twickers turf in 1982. A little digging informs me that the now 55 year old is an organic sweet potato farmer in Portugal. Very fitting.
When I come to think about it, I’m pretty much in favour of all sorts of protest but the hijacking of a snobbery-ridden sporting event in the cause of defeating elitism cooks up the perfect storm. And so we come to Saturday’s University Boat Race and Trenton Oldfield; following in the very best traditions of, well, making a bloody nuisance of yourself for a more sober purpose.
Maybe following in the footsteps of Cornelius Horan, the Irish priest who emerged from the crowd lining the marathon at the 2004 Olympics to barge the eventual bronze medal winner Vanderlei De Lima off the course to warn of the second coming. He had form mind you, having, just a year earlier, made a dash across the track at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone wearing a kilt and waving a Read the Bible banner. His exploits cost him a couple of month’s jail time, deportation and a defrocking but book sales boomed.
More seriously and a good bit more historically significant, there’s suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. Emily, you will recall, threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. She ran onto the track as George V’s horse Anmer approached, trying to tie a suffragette flag to the bridle before being trampled, unseating the jockey and felling the horse in the process. She died of her injuries four days later.
Davison’s action and cause may not have much in common with the antics of Mr Oldfield on Saturday, but some aspects do bear comparison.
Oldfield is the political activist who swam into the path of the Oxford and Cambridge boats a couple of miles into the 158th race. Wearing a full wet suit and a big smile, he coolly dove under the flashing blades of the rowing eights, risking, like Davison, life and limb and causing the suspension and restart of the race. So no real harm done.
Not that you would have thought so to read and listen to the righteous indignation of the race’s commentators and connections.
The reactions of Davison’s detractors were summed up by The Times of the time. It was, wrote the Thunderer, “A deed of the kind, we need hardly say, that is not likely to increase the popularity of any cause with the ordinary public.”
More jeering than cheering also greeted Oldfield’s dip in the toxic Thames. But with agitating against elitism as his cause, he couldn’t have hoped for a more fittingly pompous condemnation than the one tweeted by Oxford Boat Club president Karl Hudspith. “My team went through seven months of hell, this was the culmination of our careers and you took it from us.” Really? Do give us a break Mr Hudspith, this race hardly boasts a history of courageous endeavour by the current crop of run of the mill undergraduate athletes does it? As for the culmination of your careers, I shouldn’t fret too much, the City will still be paying bumper bonuses when you move into your version of the real world of Champagne, smoked salmon and Henley summers. Elitism, the very subject of Trenton Oldfield’s protest, awaits you with open arms.
Personally, I can’t think of a more appropriate cause for our present times than the defeat of the kind of elitism that so dominates the birth, upbringing, education and behaviour of those who rule the political roost. I’m not entirely convinced by privately educated Oldfield’s credentials to lead the charge but you can’t have it all.
As for disrupting sporting events, I’m tempted to ask why not? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the wholesale interruption of the London Olympics, although security measures that will be enlisted to defend against darker threats and the shadow of Munich in 1972 will militate against that.
Given that peaceful camping out for months on end seemed to be pretty ineffectual and street riots socially unacceptable, grabbing a bit of tv time by joining in the fun and games played by a few rowing and rugger chaps of a Saturday seems reasonably unreasonable.
Originally posted January 2012 as part of my Eastern Daily Press column reviewing the Oscar nominations:
Don’t ask why I went. Perhaps we all have to face our demons. This is one film I sincerely hope doesn’t win a thing. Not that, subject apart, it’s a particularly bad film; just that it would be a shame for Thatcher to be celebrated in any way at all. I’ve got my own definition of the hagiopic (the biography of a saint, venerated, or divine figure) genre being claimed for this biography of the Blessed Margaret.
The Iron Lady has been criticised for spending too much time on the demented one in her luxurious Belgravia bolt hole and not enough on the history of her terrible reign.
Sure, the film errs towards venerating the victor of great British battles with bolshie bin men, militant miners, dying hunger strikers and arrogant Argies.
That said, briefly glimpsed re-enactments of her nation-dividing, chav-creating, war-mongering fanaticism were plenty enough to remind anyone with a modicum of humanity of her destructive 11 years atop the greasy political pole.
From its milk-snatching opening to poll tax and power protests and the cowardly death blows dealt the Belgrano my only wish was for the soaring soundtrack to switch to the Ding Dong Wicked Witch song from The Wizard of Oz.
Talking of which, I hear some of her fans are calling for a state funeral when her time comes. A Viking funeral to warm her up for where she’s going would be more appropriate.
Where there is discord let us bring harmony be buggered.
This material is protected by copyright Ken Hurst 2012
Tags: regional accents, regional dialect
It’s 35 years since I first walked innocently into the maelstrom of opinions that surround regional dialects and accents in these parts. A colleague from Norfolk – let’s call him John – was the newly elected chairman of the East Anglian branch of a national editorial association to which I belonged, a role he saw as an opportunity to spread broad Norfolk wherever he went. Roger, another colleague, but from Essex in the outer reaches of greater East Anglia, was his vice chairman, an upwardly mobile estuary English sort of a man.
Roger didn’t have much time for John, being particularly critical of what he regarded as the intellectual denigration of the region every time – which was often – John Boy laid on his strongly accented dialect with a trowel when contributing the East Anglian perspective to any given national debate.
“The last thing our under-represented backwater of a region needs is the village idiot offering up retrograde opinions, jabbering in a language no-one can understand and leaving the impression that we’re all like that,” just about summed up Roger’s rather harsh judgment.
I warrant that the natural reaction around here – or maybe around anywhere – will be to empathise with John Boy. There he was, single handedly holding back a rising tide of homogeneity, thus endearing himself to the hundreds or maybe thousands of you who worship all things traditionally Norfolk, laud those who champion them and argue like billio – as dozens of you have done with incomprehensible passion in the lively correspondence adorning the EDP’s letters pages – about whether it’s boy, boh, bor or old partner.
But for the sake of balance, should we not consider Roger’s viewpoint?
You see, regional dialects and accents (and yes, I know there’s another argument to be had about differentiating the two but let’s not get into semantics) are a bit yesterday aren’t they? Curiosities that, their preservationist fans contend, add colour and glorious diversity where there would otherwise exist only similitude.
Or, I’ll contend, a barrier that is often deliberately applied to encourage insularity and exclude outsiders. Who, after all, hasn’t heard the apocryphal story of the Welsh corner shop wherein all the customers are happily gossiping in English until an Englishman enters, upon which the shoppers instantly revert to their native Welsh.
Despite what sometimes seems an almost universal love of nostalgia, the day of regional dialects is largely done. They continue to exist only as leftovers of isolation and all that is in the long term unsustainable about limited horizons and a geographically restricted gene pool.
Far from being constrained by economic hardship, unprecedented modern day opportunities for travel and betterment will only be enhanced by the mobility that is once again and increasingly necessary to secure gainful and satisfying employment. Even a century or more ago, my own grandparents left their fast disappearing occupations as colonel’s coachman and below stairs cook in search of pavements of gold down south. Fellow travellers resettled in the capital would recognise Nan’s twang and together they would go on to reminisce about the remnants of Dereham’s mutual acquaintances or Yarmouth’s golden holiday sands. But, thank goodness, no vestiges of accent survived even to my mother’s generation, let alone to me whose return to the county of pioneering ancestors who refused to be stick-in-the-muds was entirely serendipitous.
Now, after more than three decades here, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I am on Roger’s side; that speaking broad Norfolk is bad for us. We should give it up, and the sooner the better. Regional speech and, worse, writing, serve only to accentuate narrow social, economic and educational horizons that constrain ambition, opportunity and the ability to engage fully with the wider world.
Notwithstanding a determined effort by the BBC to overturn its historic bias towards the even more awful and thankfully even closer to oblivion plum- in-the-mouth aristo-speak by seeking out token Geordies to demonstrate its revisionist policy of employing linguistic diversity, a stigma of parochial and ill educated unworldliness sticks obstinately to those unable or unwilling to properly speak and spell the Queen’s English.
That apart, there’s also the question of whether or not dialects/accents are, in any case, acoustically attractive accoutrements to the English language. In this, you might say, beauty is in the ear of the beholder but that is not quite so.
Most of us try to avoid talking to people in telephone call centres at all, but when we do, consumer research expresses a marked preference for listening to those who speak modern English as she should be spoken. A Scottish accent comes next in the popularity stakes, then Geordie, Yorkshire and Welsh.
Least appealing accents are Scouse, Brummy, West Country, Cockney and Mancunian.
Norfolk doesn’t feature. Must be something to do with isolation.
Let us therefore leave mangled language to the anthropologists, the collectors of curiosities, students of linguistics, hobbyists and members of the awkward squad opposed to pretty much anything progressive. When it has gone we shouldn’t mourn but celebrate its going as an indication that our region has matured into a more open-minded place known for looking forward rather than harking back. We may then have a little less colourful confusion in our lives but will be better taught, better thought of and better understood.
This material is protected by copyright Ken Hurst 2012.