Outraged of Hebden Bridge

Darwin

Sexy, not sexist.

Last night, I dreamt that I caught the end of a piece on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, in which some feminist was spouting bollocks about Charles Darwin. As opposed to spouting bollocks about men in general, I mean. I decided to write a letter to put them straight. But then I woke up.

Letters to Radio 4… Even in my dreams, I am hopelessly middle-class.

Gravitas and dignity

Did you watch BBC Children in Need on Friday night? No, me neither. I avoid it on medical grounds: I have a very low hilarity threshold. Seeing some bunch of no-mark celebrities I have never heard of put on drag to perform some famous pop song that I have also never heard of might just be the side-split which tips me over the edge. It's the same with those people who dress up in bear costumes and accost you in shopping precincts: I might just have to attack the next one I see, purely in self-defence.

It seems to me that what BBC Children in Need lacks is gravitas. Gravitas and dignity. Gravitas and dignity, as exemplified by Archduke Stephen, Palatine of Hungary (1817–1867):

Archduke Stephen

Palatine Stephen of Hungary (L) and Archduchess Hermine of Austria (R).

You wouldn't catch Archduke Stephen dressing up like Freddie Mercury—uncanny resemblance notwithstanding—to make a dreadful spoof video of the Queen classic Lady O'Gaga. You wouldn't catch the Palatine of Hungary wearing a pirate costume and demanding money with menace and a bucket outside Aldi—no matter how worthy the cause. No. Archduke Stephen would have had none of that nonsense: he was far too busy governing Bohemia.

If you want my opinion, I think it's way beyond time that the BBC put that yellow bear out to stud and went up-market. Up the Auntie, so to speak. It seems to me that they could do far worse than adopt Archduke Stephen as a role model. It's time the British public rediscovered dignitas. Dignitas and gravity.

Inconsistency

The above BBC headline is completely correct: it is a myth that antibiotics can cure most coughs and colds, and that myth is rife.

But can you imagine the BBC publishing the following headline?

Myth of homeopathic efficacy still rife

No, me neither. The second headline is equally correct, but the BBC seems scared to say so. Instead, they remain neutral, saying stuff like:

  • Supporters believe homeopathy helps relieve a range of minor ailments from bruising to insomnia
  • But critics say it is no better than sugar pills and people only get better because they believe the treatment will work - the so-called placebo effect

There are scientifically valid ways of testing medical efficacy. Antibiotics fail these tests for most coughs and colds. Homeopathy fails these tests for all medical conditions. But the BBC, bizarrely and irresponsibly, seems only prepared to report quite categorically the former.

Oh, and in case you were wondering which other 'minor ailments' homeopathy's supporters claim that it can treat (not just 'relieve'), well, for a start, there is malaria and aids.

Weapon of choice

My dad has what can only be described as an unhealthy paranoia about the BBC. He thinks they're the spawn of Satan.

Like all the best paranoias and conspiracy theories, Dad's has a small toe-hold in reality. There certainly is a Southern England bias at the BBC, which is reflected in its news coverage and even its weather forecasts. But Dad seems to believe that every single BBC presenter or continuity announcer who pronounces their A's long was personally selected by the Director General to promote the corporation's Cockney Agenda.

Dad's fixation with the BBC began in the summer of 1982 during the Falklands War. Every evening, the Newsnight programme would wheel on some recently retired British general and get him to talk military tactics. Dad was convinced this was tantamount to treason. "The Argentinan Embassy will be noting all this down!" he would shout at Peter Snow.

In fact, Dad did have a point: I clearly remember how, during the early days of the war, when one Argentinian bomb hit a British warship but failed to explode, the BBC displayed a helpful graphic showing how the bomb should have been dropped. Next thing our lads in the South Atlantic knew, that was exactly how the bombs were being dropped—with far greater effect.

Ever since then, Dad has been convinced that the BBC's not particularly well-hidden agenda is to undermine British society and betray us to our enemies. He is, for example, the only person I know who believes that the Hutton Enquiry wasn't a shameless stitch-up, totally exhonorated the Blair government, and showed up the BBC and its Cockney Director General for what they really were.

This Tuesday, Dad's BBC paranoia finally tipped him over the edge. My parents and I were watching the comedy quiz show QI, when Stephen Fry asked a question along the lines of, "Why might it be dangerous to have a ship-load of pistachio nuts?" The answer, it turned out, was that large masses of pistachio nuts are prone to spontaneous combustion and can sometimes explode.

"There they go again!" Dad shouted at the telly. "Giving away information of use to terrorists!"

Mum and I thought we were going to die. We were laughing so much, we couldn't breath.

"I hardly think the pistachio nut is going to be the weapon of choice for a terrorist!" I gasped at Dad, still trying to work out out how to get my lungs to take in air.

Dad was adamant: "Mark my words, you'll be watching the news one day soon, saying 'Norm predicted that!'"

Feeding the masses

BBC: BBC Trust commissions news review

The BBC's governing body is to review the corporation's coverage of news across the UK following devolution…

BBC trustee Richard Tate said the devolution of powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had presented "new challenges" for the corporation.

That's all well and good for those parts of the UK which have devolved government, but what about the rest of us?

It's a matter of continuing irritation to those of living beyond the M25 just how little news coverage we receive in so-called national news broadcasts. The BBC's dismissive attitude to those of us living north of Epping Forest—those odd chaps who pronounce their A's short and live on tripe and whippets—is nicely illustrated by the role of North of England Correspondent. Note the singular: the BBC thinks it proportionate to dedicate as many correspondents to the whole of the North of England as it does to a handful of German toffs down the Palace who pronounce their A's long.

I live in the biggest county in England: Yorkshire. I can't remember the last time I heard national BBC News coverage of anything that happened in this county. What's that you say? Yorkshire is four counties. I stand corrected. Well, our neighbours in North Yorkshire live in the biggest county in England, and I still can't remember the last time I heard national BBC News coverage of anything that happened in that county.

But perhaps that's because national news bulletins are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I gave up on national BBC TV and Radio news coverage years ago, and now totally rely on RSS feeds for my news coverage. I have a really nifty feed which delivers any news stories which mention Hebden Bridge direct to my desktop, and another for stories which mention Charles Darwin. Oh, and I also have (at the last count) 157 other news feeds, all of which are relevent to me. If Stense gets mentioned in the arty-farty press, I pick up on the story almost immediately (and totally freak her out by sending her a link—I suspect she thinks I'm stalking her). If someone links to Gruts or comments on one of my photos on Flickr or publishes the latest edition of a podcast I like, I am informed automagically. It's like having my own very, very personal newspaper.

So, if you haven't got into RSS feeds yet, why not give them a go? Hell, there's even one for Gruts. All you need is an RSS Reader (I use and recommend Google Reader), and the world is your oyster in a nutshell.

Gaa! The the cat's out of the bag! Now you know how it is that I am so incredibly well informed.