Jeremy Murphy – US PR’s “snarkiest publicist” is past caring and hates Woke

“…I just don’t care any more. I just don’t…”

If you are offended by four-letter words, read no further. This is your final warning.

New York based PR man Jeremy Murphy has his first book out.

Its title is: F*ck Off, Chloe: Surviving the OMGs! and FMLs! in Your Media Career.

The publicist’s (and publicists’) publicist claims it  is “America’s most offensive book about media, woke-ism and GoogelSharedZoomDrive”… that it “invites the writer’s inevitable cancellation”… and that “its title is almost as offensive as its contents”…

So, obviously, I had to have a transAtlantic video chat with him at the weekend via Zoom.

(Other equally good or better services are available).

Another warning for over-sensitive Americans: the word ‘humor’ is correctly spelled as ‘humour’ throughout what follows…


“Their parents wanted to be their best friends… which is just weird…”

JOHN: Who or what is Chloe?

JEREMY: Chloe is like a stereotype of Generation Z.

It is a unique species. I’m sure (a lot of) Generation Z are very hard workers. But the Chloes in Generation Z have too much self-esteem; they were raised by parents who liked them too much; their parents wanted to be their best friends, which is just weird; and they’ve been raised on Social Media. 

So anything they say has to have Likes, Comments and Shares. They expect this and have grown up on this. So, when they enter the workforce, that’s where their mind is. They think anything they say should get attention. They are very sensitive and want constant validation. And they are WOKE. So woke. They have these ideals.

They want to know your carbon footprint, your stance on Black Lives Matter, your minority makeup… I’m sorry. Look, you’re lucky to have a job. Why don’t you just do the job?

I’m over 40 and I’ve been in media for 20+ years. Once you’ve worked in media that long, you get a little jaded and you see things as they are. The Chloes come in and they want the corner office on Day One. They have such expectations – and I find great humour in that.

JOHN: Your name is Murphy. Presumably you have Irish ancestors?

JEREMY: Yeah! I think one of the grandparents. Definitely the great grandparents.

JOHN: Do you feel the Irish in you somewhere?

JEREMY: Well, I drink a lot!… But, yeah, I mean, the Irish are firebrands. They don’t mince words. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. There is no passive-aggressive. What they feel, they say. But what I love about the Irish is they say it and then it’s over and you go to the pub and have a pint and you’ll laugh and sing.

JOHN: So is this a definition of you too?

JEREMY: I’ve just reached that age where I just don’t care any more. I just don’t. I don’t have time for grudges. I don’t have time for micro-aggressions or passive-aggressive. I’m pretty honest.

I wrote a book. I own my own firm (360bespoke). There’s nothing you can do to me. You can’t fire me. So I’m gonna put it out there. I’m going to say what everybody else is thinking.

“The outcome was pretty much the title”

JOHN: Bigtime movie producer Julia Phillips dished the dirt on Hollywood in her book You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again and the outcome was pretty much what was said in the title. Are you worried?

JEREMY: I don’t care. I checked with my clients and they thought it was hysterical. There’s nothing anyone can do to me. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. It’s real salty and offends everybody, but I’m hoping that, in that, we all laugh… We are so sensitive right now. Everyone’s looking for something to be outraged about.

JOHN: You were only allowed two uses of the word ‘cunt’ in the book, not your original ten.

JEREMY: Well, that word is not so accepted in America. I have a lot of British friends and I know our ‘bitch’ is your ‘cunt’. I have so many British friends who use it like that and I kind of do and the publisher was Errmmmmmm…. So I had ten instances and I had to lose eight of them.

I had to lose a few things, because it was very very salty. I had a chart: MATCH THE TERRORIST GROUP TO THE PR AGENCY. That had to go. Then I had a list of HOW TO IDENTIFY THE OFFICE CUNT. That got nixed. And I had a whole chapter on body shaming and the publisher said: “Jeremy… Someone has to buy this book.”

JOHN: So you can, to an extent, offend cunts but not fat people?

JEREMY: Yeah.

JOHN: The Chloe problem exists in the US AND the UK?

JEREMY: Yes. We are SO similar. But dealing with the UK is a pleasure. People work at the same speed; you always get a response. Try dealing with the French! 

“Do you really want to be quoted?”

JOHN: What’s wrong with the French?

JEREMY: Well, they don’t like to work! 

JOHN: (LAUGHING) Do you really want to be quoted as saying that?

JEREMY: I WILL! I mean, they’re nice people! I mean, it Italy, they don’t even respond. Oh my God! I’m kind of jealous, because they’re not so obsessed with their jobs. What’s the old adage? WE LIVE TO WORK AND THEY WORK TO LIVE.

JOHN: It helps that the English language is…

AMAZON ALEXA: I don’t have an answer for that.

JOHN: Bloody Hell! That’s my Alexa breaking in. She must have been listening all this while. I didn’t even say “Alexa…”

Errmm…

It’s always said the Americans don’t have a sense of irony and the British do.

JEREMY: Oh, yeah, I mean, we DO have a sense of irony. But your sense of humour is so clever and very ironic. You guys can insult us and we don’t realise. We hear a British accent and we’re like: Ooh! It’s so sophisticated! I think it goes back to being a Colony. We hear that accent and, all of a sudden, you’re better.

JOHN: Surely we might also say something jokingly – and ironically – and Americans might take it seriously?

JEREMY: Exactly. It’s so clever. I love British people.

East? West? Jest publicity is the best publicity

JOHN: You have gone into PR mode.

Is there a difference between East Coast and West Coast? I think maybe New York understands irony, possibly because there’s a lot of Jewish humour in there. And the West Coast doesn’t understand irony at all.

JEREMY: Yeah. Not at all! Because everything’s about THEM. I HATE dealing with the West Coast.

JOHN: What’s the difference between the East and West Coasts, then?

JEREMY: IQ level…!

JOHN: (LAUGHS)

JEREMY: I think it’s about speed and urgency and getting shit done. In New York, it’s like rat-a-tat-tat. Now-now-now-now-now. We take care of business. There’s no bullshit.

In LA, it’s a little more relationship-based. Hey! Let’s do lunch! and I love you, babe! and You’re the real stars!… I don’t want to say it’s superficial, because Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world and they produce a lot of amazing stuff. 

But the cultures are totally different.

JOHN: Is that because of the weather? You were saying the Italians are more laid-back than the British and the Californians are more laid-back than New York… Compared to Italy and the Mediterranean countries, the weather is shit in Britain… and the weather in New York is not quite as good as it is on the West Coast, so New Yorkers concentrate more.

JEREMY: It could be. I know when New York people move to LA, their skin becomes orange, their hair becomes blond and they don’t eat.

JOHN: Donald Trump is a sort-of New Yorker and he is orange.

JEREMY: He is unique. Maybe more of a Palm Beach person.

JOHN: I read somewhere that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry use American PR people who don’t really understand the British public’s psychology. So the PR advice they give Meghan & Harry is wrong for the UK.

Chloe is like “an international plague”

JEREMY: No. THEY are wrong. They’re horrible. I’m sorry, I think they’re grifters. They’re looking for cash any way they can get it. I think Harry is communicating with us through eye-blinks. I think he’s really got Stockholm Syndrome, like he’s been kidnapped.

JOHN: Well that’s just lost you a potential lucrative Harry PR contract… Why should I buy your book?

JEREMY: I think it’s a funny read. It’s HONEST. I put on paper what people have to deal with and I think it’s maybe cathartic for people. I’ve got great feedback: Oh God! I experience that every day! I do think it will appeal to British people too because Chloe is universal. It’s an international plague.

JOHN: So, a sequel book?

JEREMY: Chloe Doesn’t Have Bandwidth.

JOHN: What?

JEREMY: This is the new thing. When you deal with a PR person or a journalist and they don’t want to deal with you, they say: “I don’t have bandwidth right now…” 

JOHN: What does not having bandwidth mean? The WiFi is going to crash?

JEREMY: Thankyou! It’s like I don’t have the mental capacity, I don’t have time… I don’t know what it means, but everybody says it… It’s the polite way of saying, “Fuck off!”

JOHN: Does ‘bandwidth’ vary between West and East Coast?

JEREMY: Oh, no! Everybody! Everybody! I think it’s an American thing at the moment; I’ve not seen it from anybody in Britain yet.

JOHN: Yet…

JEREMY: I’m going to get in so much trouble for this…

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Filed under Offensive, political correctness, PR

It was twenty years ago today… a heroin addict’s mugging and a broken heart…

Earlier today, I heard some radio station playing the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and its opening lines “It was twenty years ago today…”

I used to half-heartedly keep a diary on my computer. On a whim, I looked up what happened twenty years ago today… I have changed the names of other people and their locations…


Saturday 22nd June 2002 – Edinburgh

Shirley is trying to give up heroin. Her father is trying to give up chocolate.

In the evening, Shirley and I stayed up until 03.00am talking. She told me God gave her help immediately on three occasions she asked for help. She has a water container from which she swigs regularly during the day. I had presumed it contained water; in fact it contains Blue Star cider.

When she lived in Manchester, addicted to heroin, she was mugged by a tall black man and and a small white girl she knew. Without warning, the man kicked her in the chest. She went down on the ground and both started kicking her. She had been mugged five times before so she used her hands and arms to protect a pocket with only £2 in it. They stole that £2 but left her handbag and the other pockets in her jacket untouched – that was where she really kept her money.

(Image by Randy Laybourne via UnSplash)


Then I went back another year in my diary…


Friday 22nd June 2001 – Cambridge/Borehamwood/Clacton-on-Sea

I had lunch with a friend in Cambridge. It was her 16th wedding anniversary and I think she was feeling a little down. 

She told me her son (aged 13) is still being bullied at school. The other week, someone pushed him into a bush. Her daughter (aged 11) says she has decided she is going to marry a rich man, take over her mother’s house, have children early, then her mother can look after them while she goes out and has fun.

“Good luck finding a rich man,” my friend told her daughter.

“You managed,” she told my friend.

“I didn’t know he was going to be rich,” my friend replied. “I thought we were soul mates.”

After lunch, I drove back home to Borehamwood.

As soon as I got through the front door, my mobile rang – It was the matron at my father’s nursing home. My mother and aunt (my father’s sister) had walked in to see him and found him lying back with his mouth open, apparently not breathing (and, as I later found out, his false teeth dropped down from his upper gum) with a spoon in his hand and a bowl of jelly in front of him. My aunt, a former nurse, found he had no pulse.

The nursing home matron was up in the room within about a minute and found he had a strong pulse but, by this time, both my mother and aunt were in tears.

I drove out to Essex from Borehamwood in the early Friday evening rush hour – it took about 2 hours 45 mins instead of the normal 90 minutes – to find my father looking dramatically thinner, I thought: bonier than he had been when I saw him yesterday afternoon. I got there around 1830 by which time my mother and aunt were dry-eyed but still twitchily upset. I drove them back to their homes around 1900 – my mother broke down in my arms – and then I went back to the nursing home where my father was asleep. When I had left, I had told my father:

“I’ll be about half an hour.”

“You’ll be back – and the boatman?” he asked me.

“The boatman?”

“The boatman.”

“Probably.”

When I got back and he was awake, I asked him if he felt hot.

“I really don’t know,” he replied.

My father’s wedding ring was found on the floor below his bed this morning. Because he had lost so much weight, it had slipped off his finger.

(Image by Kelly Sikkema via UnSplash)

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Filed under Crime, Death, Drugs

The English language… It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it…

(Image by Hans-Peter Gauster, via UnSplash)

A large number of these blogs over the years have been interviews or, more precisely, transcriptions of chats with other people. I record everything so that I can make certain I quote the people I talk to exactly.

I type exactly what they say.

Except, of course, there has to be a certain amount of tidying-up of what they say. I have to take out the gaps, stumbles, repetitions, umms and ahhs and errrms and general ramblings of normal speech, because almost no-one ever speaks in fluent sentences.

At college, part of the course I took involved radio production and part involved linguistics.

One afternoon, we were asked to go off in groups of three or four and have a short recorded conversation with each other about anything, then transcribe the exact words which had been spoken.

Three or four of us went off and had an interesting, fluent chat about something-or-other.

But, when the recording was transcribed – writing down every word exactly as spoken – we realised we had not conversed in sensible, coherent or even necessarily meaningful sentences. Our ears and brains had cut out all the crap and what we thought we heard was what the other person INTENDED to say rather than what he/she actually said.

So transcribing interviews is a laborious process. It can take three times as long to transcribe a chat as it took for it to happen. So an hour of chat might take three hours to transcribe even before turning it into something which flows. And then, of course, there is intonation – or even a casual or ironic glances of the eyes. Intonation and unspoken implication can totally change the meaning of what is said.

In the 1960s there was a very late-night BBC TV series which aimed to help people – mostly new immigrants – learn English. It included acted-out scenes. One such sketch took place in a Post Office with a long queue. 

When he eventually reached the counter, the first customer simply asked for “A first class stamp, please…”

The second customer – not a native English speaker, but trying to be very polite – asked for “a first class stamp, PLEASE”… The Post Office person serving him, bristled.

The point being made was that, by emphasising the PLEASE with that particular intonation in that particular situation, instead of being polite, the impression the customer communicated was extreme annoyance at having queued for so long. The sentence was polite. The communicated emotion was confrontational annoyance. The intonation mis-communicated the actual spoken words.

Because transcribing a recorded chat can be time-consuming and very dull, a few years ago, I tried to use speech recognition software, thinking it would type out what was said in real time and I would only have to do some minor tidying-up and re-punctuation of some sections.

It turned out I was being over-optimistic, as the below section of a chat with an anonymous British comedian shows. The eventual edited interview, I think/hope, showed them in their true vocally fluent light.

This is how the speech recognition software transcribed the exact recorded words…


What happened was that was. My most successful show today. And that was me as me whereas before that. I had been. Doing character based. Comedy. And I was. The. One. Who was the most successful. Because I trained for many many years to be an actor. And so I didn’t really want to do stand up. But I did that show with me and it was the most successful. And. I. Think I just felt like I’d plateaued plateaued be. That I didn’t have much else to say.

It’s all out of love with it because it was fantastic but I’ve got. To come back. With something else. I wanted it to be. And I didn’t want to rush into the mix. And I kind of had enough of the whole Edinburgh. Training I’ve done about. Six Edinburgh’s in a row. By that point. You don’t want what you’ve got. Well. You know I did. Six. Shows. Including that one up to 20 as I’d been reading yeah. You know. All. Went. 

Yeah. So you need. Help basically. So I had someone. Who was amazing. Help me out. Did. She was. Just. Like. Those bums on seats. It was the least. Stressful. One. And I just felt that if I didn’t follow I wanted it to be as good. As much. And I just didn’t feel like. It. Felt like I. Felt a bit jaded my head. And. The thought of having another show and doing the same. Circuit. Again straight away. So. This. Year. I just. Might.

I mean I’ve always done. Acting and. That’s. What. I really wanted was. And. I had. Up until that point as. Where. What. I call a mortgage. Job. Which most people. Have. Which was an office job. A horrible office job five. Days a Week. With. You. Know not made to any of my strengths and just to just pay the bills. I started to build. Quite. Happy. And. I thought you know what it’s. Time to move on. So I did.


That might be an extreme case but I think it shows some of the ways real people talk, constructing thoughts as they speak… To an extent, it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it. That’s what gets results.

Conversation – and writing – is about communication and the human brain is designed to spot patterns, so clarity is often in the ear and the brain of the beholder far more than the mouth of the speaker. 

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Filed under Eccentrics, Language

The opening of James Joyce’s novel “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”…

James Joyce in Zurich, 1916

Today, 16th June, is Bloomsday – the day on which James Joyce‘s Ulysses (1922) is set.

Joyce’s earlier novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) was on the syllabus at my school so I had to read it.

And I loved it. 

So, for no reason other than the fact this is Bloomsday – and to be quirky – and as an act of self-indulgence – and the not minor fact it is apparently out of copyright – here is the opening of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man… like all Joyce’s work, best read in your mind in an Irish accent…


The first edition of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, published by B. W. Huebsch in 1916

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo….

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.

O, the wild rose blossoms
On the little green place.

He sang that song. That was his song.

O, the green wothe botheth.

When you wet the bed, first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.

His mother had a nicer smell than his father. She played on the piano the sailor’s hornpipe for him to dance. He danced:

Tralala lala,
Tralala tralaladdy,
Tralala lala,
Tralala lala.

Uncle Charles and Dante clapped. They were older than his father and mother but uncle Charles was older than Dante.

Dante had two brushes in her press. The brush with the maroon velvet back was for Michael Davitt and the brush with the green velvet back was for Parnell. Dante gave him a cachou every time he brought her a piece of tissue paper.

The Vances lived in number seven. They had a different father and mother. They were Eileen’s father and mother. When they were grown up he was going to marry Eileen. He hid under the table. His mother said:

—O, Stephen will apologise.

Dante said:

—O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes.—

Pull out his eyes,
Apologise,
Apologise,
Pull out his eyes.

Apologise,
Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes,
Apologise.

The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the footballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of the players and his eyes were weak and watery. Rody Kickham was not like that: he would be captain of the third line all the fellows said.

Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink. Rody Kickham had greaves in his number and a hamper in the refectory. Nasty Roche had big hands. He called the Friday pudding dog-in-the-blanket. And one day he had asked:

—What is your name?

Stephen had answered: Stephen Dedalus.

Then Nasty Roche had said:

—What kind of a name is that?

And when Stephen had not been able to answer Nasty Roche had asked:

—What is your father?

Stephen had answered:

—A gentleman.

Then Nasty Roche had asked:

—Is he a magistrate?

He crept about from point to point on the fringe of his line, making little runs now and then. But his hands were bluish with cold. He kept his hands in the side pockets of his belted grey suit. That was a belt round his pocket. And belt was also to give a fellow a belt. One day a fellow said to Cantwell:

—I’d give you such a belt in a second.

Cantwell had answered:

—Go and fight your match. Give Cecil Thunder a belt. I’d like to see you. He’d give you a toe in the rump for yourself.

That was not a nice expression. His mother had told him not to speak with the rough boys in the college. Nice mother! The first day in the hall of the castle when she had said goodbye she had put up her veil double to her nose to kiss him: and her nose and eyes were red. But he had pretended not to see that she was going to cry. She was a nice mother but she was not so nice when she cried. And his father had given him two five-shilling pieces for pocket money. And his father had told him if he wanted anything to write home to him and, whatever he did, never to peach on a fellow. Then at the door of the castle the rector had shaken hands with his father and mother, his soutane fluttering in the breeze, and the car had driven off with his father and mother on it. They had cried to him from the car, waving their hands:

—Goodbye, Stephen, goodbye!

—Goodbye, Stephen, goodbye!


…and here is Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy from the climax of Ulysses

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Filed under Books, Ireland, Writing

British newspapers… a novel tale of devious deals, phone hacking and death

The Lion of Fleet Street is a novel about a British tabloid newspaper reporter – one of the ‘big beasts’ of Fleet Street – the centre of the newspaper business at the turn of the century.

It is written by Patrick Symes. He worked as a freelance reporter for national newspapers, radio and television for forty years, specialising in sport. He also ran a news agency covering news and sport throughout the South of England.

So he knows the inside stories.

He has written (as  Pat Symes) 12 non-fiction books about international sportsmen.

The Lion of Fleet Street is his first novel.


JOHN: You’ve written factual books before. Why a novel now?

PATRICK: I just wanted to see if I could do it. I got to a stage in my career where I was winding down. I had sold the news agency and I did a wee stint as a lecturer in Journalism at Solent University in Southampton which was also coming to an end… and I was having cancer treatment.

I was fit and happy and looking forward to my dotage and then suddenly I discovered I had prostate cancer and then kidney cancer. I’ve had one kidney removed. Then the cancer moved to the lungs, which is where it is now. I’ve got a few nodules there.

JOHN: And, at the moment…?

PATRICK: I’ve had numerous scans. I’m never going to beat it; the tumours are there. But it can be contained and coped-with, I hope. So you just plod on in those sort of circumstances.

I had started a book. I don’t even know why. But I thought: Well, I’ll continue it.

JOHN: Why this plot?

PATRICK: One of the good things about journalism is you meet so many people and come across so many incidents and you store them away. I got this idea based on, I think, the funeral of one of the ‘big beasts’ in Fleet Street. I remember that time – the turn of the century – quite vividly. 

It was a massive turning point in the world of the media and how news was disseminated.

Most of my career, if I was covering a football match, I would have to pick up a phone and dictate the report to a copy typist. That was also the way these ‘big beasts’ in Fleet Street operated too; they had these huge, inflated reputations because theirs was the only conduit for news. 

But suddenly there was a twist and a change and the internet came in, though it wasn’t much good to begin with. I remember thinking: Well this is never going to catch on.

Now, of course, we all live by it every day.

It wasn’t just that, of course. Radio and television were becoming more sophisticated and news was being blasted at us all day long.

JOHN: How were radio and TV becoming more sophisticated in news coverage?

PATRICK: It was more instant. TV had taken over the role of newspapers. There was regional television, regional radio stations with quite sophisticated news production. During the day we would know instantly if the Prime Minister resigned. There was no point newspapers printing that as ‘news’ the next day. 

I think I got the tail end of Fleet Street in its pomp. And there was more money around.

“I think I got the tail end of Fleet Street in its pomp…”

News (in newspapers) has become softer now; it has to be very showbiz orientated.

Many of the ‘big beasts’ took hefty pay-offs and disappeared off to their gardens,; one or two others – like my man in the novel – stayed but didn’t really know how to adapt. Their salaries were quite large. New, younger, management came in with new, fresh ideas and decided that the old type of journalism was largely redundant. 

My man, with redundancy hanging over him, teams up with a phone tapper – although many of the journalists of that time did it themselves. He comes up with a couple of stories that give him a front page lead and he seems to be restoring his reputation, but redundancy is still very much hanging over him.

In desperation, he listens in to a police tape – this was at the time of the Milly Dowler murder

A certain person is going to be arrested, but my protagonist mis-hears it

When his story appears on the front page of his tabloid, the Sunday Argus, it becomes obvious fairly soon afterwards that his story naming the wrong man had been obtained by illegal means. My protagonist’s life is in ruins but he finds another story which involves… There was a hotel in Eastbourne, near Beachy Head which specialised in giving a ‘last night of luxury’ for would-be suicides.

JOHN: This was real?

PATRICK: I don’t know. Beachy Head is a very spooky place. The wind whistles there and there are all these crosses on the edge of the cliff where people have jumped…

JOHN: Really?

PATRICK: Yeah.

JOHN: You went there?

“Beachy Head is a very spooky place. The wind whistles there… where people have jumped…”

PATRICK: Yes. And I was standing there minding my own business, taking in the atmosphere when two people from a church vigilante group came up to me and said: “Can we help you?”

I said: “Why do you think I need help?”

They said: “Number one, you haven’t got a camera. Number two, you’re standing there with your hands in your pockets, deep in thought… If there’s anything we can do to help you…”

JOHN: So you said “I’m a journalist”… and they said “Jump”…?

PATRICK: (LAUGHS) 

JOHN: All first novels are autobiographical, so…

PATRICK: Phone tapping WAS rampant throughout Fleet Street at that time. It was so easy. They were all expected to do it – on the tabloids anyway – and some fairly prominent people in the newspaper industry of that time got away with it. News International are still paying off victims of that nigh on 20 years later.

JOHN: Have you an idea for your next novel?

PATRICK: I went to a school that had part-boarders and there was a very encouraging English teacher there. He got sacked because he was fiddling around with some of the boy boarders.

He became an actor. His name was Roland McLeod.

He never rose to any great prominence, but he was in Worzel Gummidge and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and The Goodies and so on. He tended to play the bank manager or something similar in sitcoms.

He suddenly got the gig of his life when he appeared in Coronation Street – a 6-month or  a year’s contract – and there was a big, big build-up when he was going to propose to Emily Bishop (one of the central characters). A huge build-up. It was in all the papers.

Eileen Derbyshire (as Emily Bishop) and Roland McLeod (as Bernard Morton) in Coronation Street

I didn’t know he was in Coronation Street at first, but you couldn’t avoid it. I mentioned his background to some colleagues in the office and they said: “You ought to put that up to the News of the World. They’d love that!”

Walking behind the newsdesk at the time, by coincidence, was a guy who heard the words Ryde School and he said: “Oh! I went there! I was a boarder and I had ‘difficulties’ with teachers.” So it suddenly became a revenge mission for him and it took me over, really.

I thought: Well, he didn’t do ME any harm…

So it was a real crisis of conscience for a day or two but, in the end, greed overcame my conscience and I rang the News of the World and, of course, they loved it.

I went back to my parents’ house to see if they had any school reports signed by him, which they had. It became a front page lead in the News of the World, I’m afraid to say.

I was well-remunerated, as you can imagine.

The News of the World found him on the day before publication, boarding a plane at Luton Airport. They tapped him on the shoulder and said “Roland McLeod… It’s the News of the World” and he said “I’ve been waiting for this for 30 years”.

It was an astonishing admission when you think about it. 

JOHN: What happened on Coronation Street? Did they pull him as a character?”

PATRICK: I think his role was finished anyway; he had proposed to Emily Bishop and she had said No.

He still got bits and pieces of work afterwards, so I didn’t feel that bad about it. I could justify it by saying to myself that, in many respects, he…

JOHN: …got his comeuppance.

PATRICK: Yes. He did deserve it. 

JOHN: Kiddy fiddling is serious stuff…

PATRICK: Once the News of the World revealed it, he had a speech ready and he said something along the lines of “Homosexuality is a curse. It’s not what I wanted to be.” He tried to justify himself. He had a prepared statement.

JOHN: Over your 40 years in the business, you must have encountered lots of stories which never got published… Did you think of putting them into the novel or future novels?

PATRICK: Little bits and pieces. You knew about people who were on the fiddle. There were stories which suddenly ‘died’; they just didn’t appear.

JOHN: I mean, Jimmy Savile. There would have had to be real, solid, cast-iron evidence to print a story while he was alive.

PATRICK: Yes and he, too, gets a mention in the book. Every newspaper tried to nail him at one stage or another. But they never had solid proof and, if he thought they were getting too close, he would always say: “Well, I’m a national treasure. I’ve raised £50 million through my charity walks and things. Do you want people to know you stopped me doing those?”

… Some of Pat(rick) Symes’ sports books…

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How and why children are embarrassed by their eternally immature parents…

The currently immature cover for my Apple MacBook…

I have a creative chum with a good sense of humour. 

Last week, her 11-year-old daughter told her reprovingly – though still affectionately – “You have such an immature sense of humour…” 

Or she might just have said: “Mum, you are so immature…”

At my age, memories, reality and imagined conversations have a tendency to overlap. 

And why not? Does it matter, really?

What ROUGHLY happened in the past is usually, pretty much, good enough.

But my point is…

Throughout my life, I have always tried to stay immature. I think it can be a positive quality. And I think, like most appallingly old people, I feel I am only around 26 years old inside. Other age fantasies are available and it seems I am fantasising younger than most.

A week ago, I got a pitch from a PR company claiming:

“Despite legal adulthood starting at 18, new research has found that the average Brit doesn’t consider themselves a grown up until they pass 30… 95% of Brits believe that it’s important to embrace your ‘inner child’.”

  • 16-29 yr olds believe you’re officially a grown up at age 24 
  • 30-44 yr olds believe you’re officially a grown up at age 30 
  • 45-49 yr olds believe you’re officially a grown up at age 33 
  • 60+yr olds believe you’re officially a grown up at age 36

…and, according to the research, “more than a quarter of us aren’t sure we will ever grow up!”

The PR pitch was for the biscuit Jammie Dodgers (other biscuits are available) which apparently is currently “encouraging shoppers to #WitnessTheMischief through its latest (so far unseen by me) campaign”.

Jammie Dodgers marketing pitch is attempting to  target the ‘young at heart’…

The research commissioned by Jammie Dodgers also found that more than a third of adults (36%) felt they are less mature than their own children and that, far less surprisingly, “of the adults surveyed who have children, over half (56%) have been told that they’re embarrassing parents.”

The survey claimed a definitive list of signs that you are embarrassing your kids includes “watching cartoons (39%), licking the bowl when baking (34%), finding farts funny (24%), getting excited when you’re having chips for tea (23%) and eating your favourite biccie in your own special way, like taking it apart and eating the filling first (34%).”

The last, I suspect, may not be entirely unrelated to Jammie Dodgers’ sponsorship. The one about getting especially excited ahead of chip consumption just mystifies me.

The research also claims that 42% of ‘adults’ insist that millennials will NEVER grow up the way their parents’ generation did – though surely all generations believe that. More than one in ten (13%) admit they still don’t feel like a grownup, with 34% admitting they feel jealous of friends and family who seem to ‘have their lives together’.

The most cited signs of being a ‘grown up’ are:

  • having children (52%)
  • making a will (41%)
  • having savings (34%)
  • having a mortgage (32%)
  • getting married (30%)
  • knowing about politics (26%)
  • hosting a dinner party (21%)
  • reading the Sunday papers (16%)

Each to his own, I say, though there are some people I might not want to live with:

The nation’s Top 10 favourite ‘pranks’ are, apparently:

  1. Jumping out at someone and shouting Boo!
  2. Using an extra or different remote to sneakily change the TV channel
  3. Prank calling a mate
  4. Scaring someone with fake insects or snakes
  5. Whoopee cushions
  6. Replacing family photos with famous people
  7. Removing batteries from devices
  8. Putting clingfilm over the toilet seat
  9. Telling your children the WiFi is down when it isn’t 
  10. Changing the clocks 

Hell, it seems, really IS other people.

Meanwhile, on Twitter…

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Cult creative performer/painter The Iceman turns children’s book author…

Anthony Irvine – The Iceman – appears occasionally in this blog.

I first auditioned his stage act – melting blocks of ice – in 1987.

In a later incarnation – AIM – he added painting to his creative output. Some of his fine art can be bought from the Saatchi Art website.

For example, a painting of his first ice block – Crazy Larry’s Painting – is currently on offer at a bargain price of £4,280.

And now Anthony has become an author…


JOHN: So you are now an author as well as a performer and painter…

ANTHONY: I have a literary background. When I was a young man, I studied literature at a very ancient institution.

JOHN: Bedlam?

Debbie’s fantastical adventures with Antarctic animals…

ANTHONY: It’s a children’s book called Lockdown Melter.

JOHN: And you presumably wrote it during the Covid block-down…

ANTHONY: Yes. I thought of everybody suffering. It’s a fantasy where a young child – Debbie – is frustrated with the situation and escapes with the aid of Lappy, a polar bear – a small polar bear – who she meets in her bedroom and she goes on this adventure to Antarctica.

To facilitate this adventure, Lappy instructs her to get some ice cubes from the fridge freezer. The ice cubes are put on her head and there’s a magical transformation and she goes on this journey.

The idea is that Antarctica is a pristine, beautiful, relatively-undamaged place that we can all go to; the animals are in harmony and, in the story, the penguin says…

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… As I wrote it, I thought: This is an amazing parallel to my Iceman stage act. It retains an ice theme. In a sense, I melt blocks of ice to achieve purification. Similarly, Debbie is finding something away from this world really – saṃsāra and all that.

JOHN: Saṃsāra ?

Anthony Irvine – his self portrait…

ANTHONY: The Buddhist concept of suffering. Do you chant?

JOHN: Not as far as I know.

ANTHONY: Lockdown Melter was a very simple story but I quite liked it, so I approached a publisher, Olympia, who have an imprint called Bumblebee who have published it.

JOHN: Well, if you write a good children’s story that doesn’t date – it’s a fantasy – it’ll sell forever and internationally.

ANTHONY: You can get it from WH Smith, Foyles, Browns Books, the Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, the lot…

JOHN: You should tell Waterstones you will do a signing of the book AND melt a block of ice the same time. That should get people in. Does JK Rowling melt blocks of ice in a bookshop? No. She’s just not trying hard enough.

ANTHONY: Perhaps I should go Banksy-style and sell a book that melts. You know his picture that shredded itself? 

JOHN: Yes. The water from your melted book might be worth a fortune.

ANTHONY: Is it technically possible?

JOHN: I dunno. You are The Iceman. Why become an author?

ANTHONY: I used to tell stories to my young son and I guess I’d always had the thought I might write a children’s story. It is really for young children. The idea is young children could read it themselves or parents could read it to them; it’s more like a picture book. So then I realised I had to get the pictures.

The illustrator is actually Greek: Sofia Stefanis Pons. She did some nice – I think dramatic – illustrations. My pictures were declined as being too ‘rough’. But hers are great.

Debbie meets Lappy for the first time… illustration by Sofia Stefanis Pons…

JOHN: So do you have an idea for a second book?

ANTHONY: Yes. I like the innocence of Lockdown Melter.

When I was a child, I was very unhappy at one point and I built an arch with stiff cushions. I went through the arch and discovered I was happy. So the Lockdown Melter idea is simple but it is like going somewhere and attaining awareness. It’s the same principle.

Debbie goes on a journey. She meets animals who are nice to her and she finds the Antarctic world all very beautiful and something happens at the end which I can’t give away. But I think the idea of the story is the idea that human beings – the human race – need help and in this story it’s the penguin who gives that help.

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… Next time I think Debbie might go to the Sahara.

JOHN: Difficult to work ice blocks into that story.

ANTHONY: An ice block could bring irrigation to the Sahara… I think if this first book is successful I WILL continue with the writing idea.

Anthony Irvine’s educational Thespian Follies, coming soon

I have already written 13 little plays for drama classes in schools. That book is due to be published soon. It’s called Thespian Follies.

It’s an educational resource; I’m going quite mainstream, aren’t I?

Ice blocks were my life and still are my life to some extent but I feel I have to do a bit more. My next ambition is to write a Channel 4 type series: a bit like The Outlaws but based on car rental. When I was in debt at one point, I did a job at Hertz car hire, cleaning cars and taking them out to the Army and so on: that’s a ready-made situation comedy.

JOHN: You could call it Hertz of Darkness.

ANTHONY: I was thinking of calling it Hurts… That’s my next project.

Maybe writing will displace painting in time, but at the moment my main activity is still painting. I’m trying to sell Bill Bailey a painting; I’m playing tennis with his accountant this afternoon.

I sold a painting to Mark Thomas at the Electric Palace in Bridport recently. He was on tour and I hadn’t seen him for about 40 years. He gave me his book and I sold him a painting in which he appears.

JOHN: You are a born entrepreneur. JK Rowling will have to start learning how to melt blocks of ice…

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PR, lateral thinking, political porn and Channel 5 TV’s new Tractor World…

A tractor attracter…

Even if you are on painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs for a sore spine/hip/leg/ankle… when you get an email from an unknown person called Xander with the heading TRACTORS: BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST – as I did three days ago – you tend to open it immediately.

Tractors are currently amusingly sexy in the UK because, a couple of weeks ago, MP Neil Parish had to resign after he was ‘outed’ for watching porn on his mobile phone in the House of Commons chamber. He said he had been looking at a tractor website and, accidentally, he had then found himself watching a porn site.

The email I got was a PR pitch plugging a new Channel 5 series (starting tonight) called Tractor World

Increasingly prestigious as my blog may be, I am surely not the first choice for publicising a TV farming series about tractors.

I thought: Either this is a wild mistake or it is an admirable piece of lateral thinking – Because of the Neil Parish MP link, you might as well pitch a tractor story to what is sometimes called a comedy blog.

So I asked Xander (Alexander Ross), co-founder of Percy & Warren – a PR agency specialising in the film, TV & entertainment industry – why he had sent me the email…


Xander and I talked about tractor PR via WhatsApp…

JOHN: Why did you contact me?

XANDER: We go to databases to put together relevant lists of people and you filtered through on Comedy and TV. 

JOHN: You contacted me, presumably, because of the Neil Parish tractor porn story.

XANDER: Yeah, we were chatting about Tractor World and thinking maybe we could do a slide show of people and tractors with a romantic Barry White song over the top of it. That might be a little too on-the-nose, but quite fun. You’ve got to jump on an opportunity when it presents itself and it just so happens now that a documentary series on tractors is coming out like a couple of weeks after the MP story.

JOHN: The producers, RawCut Television, didn’t mind you being lighthearted about their serious documentary series?

XANDER: We spoke about it and they wanted something that could make them laugh as well. It was actually a hard brief, but…

JOHN: A hard brief?

XANDER: Well, it’s a lot harder to make somebody laugh than it is to make them cringe.

A lot of the (serious) shows that come out on Channel 5 have got that sort of popular edge to them:. You take something that’s not about the London metropolitan elite or whatever but is for a more dispersed crowd – not your office worker living in the suburbs of London.

Actually, Tractor World HAS been quite a fun one to work on. If you get something like Star Wars or whatever, you’re turning down opportunities of coverage whereas, with something like this, you have to find a way to publicise it that is a little bit different or maybe even a little bit tongue-in-cheek.

For Channel 4, we do Devon and Cornwall, which has been a huge ratings success for the channel. It’s massively popular: a wholesome, kindhearted sort of programme.

JOHN: I know nothing about agriculture or tractors or muck-spreading techniques. Why should I watch a TV series about tractors?

XANDER: If you like things like Clarkson’s Farm and you’re interested in finding out about other lifestyle worlds… Good documentaries are the ones that make you interested about something in which you have no expertise. So, if you can find something that’s nice and warmhearted and has a bit of fun to it, I think you’re onto a good bet with that.

Tractors – always a sexy subject…

JOHN: I once stumbled on a BBC documentary series about the history of British motorway service stations. I have no idea how it got commissioned, but it was fascinating. It was amazing. Who knows? Maybe, in advertiser talk, tractors are now ‘sexy’ too… A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian was a bestselling book only a few years ago.

XANDER: As I say, we’re working on Devon and Cornwall at the moment. We’ve also been working recently on The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge with Sandi Toksvig – another Channel 4 show. It’s about making miniature houses and stuff like that. Shows like The Great British Bake Off do very well at the moment. People like nice and warmhearted and a bit of fun.

JOHN: Your company mostly does glamorous media-type things – a master class with film producer Jeremy Thomas, the return of BBC Three to terrestrial TV…

XANDER: Yes. We were born out of the pandemic in July 2020. We were a company that sprang out of another company – Franklin Rae PR – that expanded into loads of different areas.

They had been a film and TV specialist for about 20-odd years and had moved into architecture, financial technology and stuff like that. I was heading up the (media) division, but when we were pitching for new business, people would say we were too generalist.

So we asked the CEO if we could spin it off into a separate company. We did that in July 2020 and we’ve just gone from strength to strength, very much with an international outlook… Clients in Finland, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Canada, the US; done stuff in Brazil; done a little bit with Japan, although Japan can take a lot longer than other countries.

JOHN: Why?

XANDER: Just that decisions are taken a lot more slowly. You get moved through hierarchies. You have to establish trust with one person, then move on to establish trust with the next person. Eventually you reach the decision-maker and then they decide Yes or No. It just takes a longer time to go through all those networks, but it’s worth it.

JOHN: What’s the most bizarre and interesting account you’ve worked on?

XANDER: I worked on a show a few years back called The Penis Extension Clinic

JOHN: Who did you approach to get PR for that?

XANDER: Oh, you go straight to the tabloids for that sort of stuff.

JOHN: Presumably for Tractor World, you have been going for the agricultural community.

XANDER: Yes, Farming Life and so on. Agribusiness. It’s in Farmers World today, but it’s also in the Daily Telegraph.

JOHN: What’s the Telegraph’s angle?

XANDER: They’ve said it’s something for Neil Parish to watch.

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Two painful dreams but no surrealism

In a recent, rather self-indulgent blog, I lamented the fact that I don’t have surreal dreams. Mine are relentlessly and disappointingly realistic.

For almost all my life up until I went into hospital in 2020, I only very very rarely was aware of any dreams. I think this was because I went very quickly into deep sleep, then woke up very slowly in the morning.

I only remembered dreams – and only very rarely – if I was suddenly woken up from a very deep sleep and happened to be in mid-dream.

For the last couple of years, I have been waking up throughout the night. I go to sleep, wake up after two hours dehydrated in my mouth, drink some water, go back to sleep… then wake up dehydrated in my mouth every hour throughout the night. So I think I never really go into a deep sleep.

Last night, I was in a lot of searing pain – at the base of the spine, in my left hip and down the outside of my left leg. But I did manage to get fairly long patches of sleep which meant that, when I woke up, for the first time in a couple of months or so I actually remembered my dreams.

Last night, there were two narrative dreams coming and going throughout the night.

In one, I drove to a small, isolated English village in the middle of nowhere up a narrow back lane, where they were celebrating some sort of pagan festival. Not in any Hammer Horror way…  just because it was a tradition in their village.

They were generally very amiable people though a shopkeeper ignored me when I was trying to pay six pence for a giant Aero chocolate bar. He kept interacting instead with sundry people connected with the set-up of the pagan festival.

I had arrived at the small village in a bright red Toyota Corolla car I used to own. It was a very vivid red in my dream whereas all the other colours – of the people, the village, the vegetation, the sky – everything – were muted, dull browns and greens and greys etc. It looked as if it was dusk the whole time in the village; but the Toyota was bright red.

In the other dream, I was finishing up at work in some large hall and a group of four men dressed in blue came in and started performing their variety act which involved leaping about, singing, dancing and generally trying to be visual and entertaining.

They just arrived unannounced and were auditioning for me on their own whim. I had never seen them before. They were auditioning for some TV show. They didn’t announce themselves when they arrived and, when they finished, they just left without talking to me.

Later, they came back and there were more of them – about seven or eight – men and women – and I was suggesting to them that the act possibly wouldn’t work on television because sometimes acts which work well live (and are therefore viewed in 3D) don’t work in 2D on a TV screen. 

They took it all very well, it seemed.

Both the village dream and the variety act dream progressed in chronological narrative chunks throughout the night. 

I would be having the dream, wake up, go back to sleep and the dream would carry on narratively progressing.

So at least I am again having dreams which I remember, which must mean I am getting into deeper sleep which is welcome, though I could do without the pain.

Sadly, I am still not getting any truly surreal dreams; they are all relentlessly realistic – very physically and visually detailed.

Like many dreams, this blog has no satisfactory ending.

Life is a bitch.

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Amazon’s Alexa is a psychopathic killer. Apple’s Siri is a New Age Californian…

A few weeks ago, I was in a charity shop with my eternally-un-named friend. 

A glass head was being used to display headwear.

I took a liking to it as a slightly surreal objet bizarre.

I asked the shop assistant if it was for sale.

He said, “No.”

Unknown to me, my eternally-un-named friend later found a similar glass head online and bought it for me.

She very kindly gave it to me the other day. 

I was a bit uncertain where to put it in my living room for the maximum aesthetic impact of its pointless splendour and, on a whim, asked my seldom-used Alexa electronic assistant: 

“Alexa, where should I put the head?”

This was the answer I got:

“Place the head in the freezer…”

Afterwards, I asked the same question to Apple’s arguably more sophisticated Siri assistant: 

“Hey, Siri, where should I put the head?”

“I’m not sure I understand,” was her first response.

But, when I asked again:

“Hey, Siri, where should I put the head?”

… she had second thoughts.

And her answer, as befits Apple’s more caring Californian image, included a suggestion of the “Best direction to sleep, according to Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra.”

Eventually, I decided by myself, without electronic advice.

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