He’s a Gover, not a fighter

Yesterday, the rather wonderful Tracey Macleod wrote in the Guardian about the experience of working with Michael Gove on the early 1990s Channel 4 satire show A Stab in the Dark. Understandably, it was traumatic. Hell, it was harrowing enough being a viewer, watching agog as nearly every line failed to get any sort of reaction from the audience. It was one of those shows where the best bit was the scenery. To this day, I can still whistle it.

Although then just an obscure Pob-faced hack, Gove was already a chilling presence. The assured manner with which this baby halibut delivered absolutely terrible material indicated a man who was capable of anything, little of it good. Self-written too, and I think it’s decent of him to take the blame.

If A Stab in the Dark was TW3 for the 1990s, Gove fancied himself as the Bernard Levin of the exercise. It’s something of a surprise that nobody got up from the audience to lamp Gove. The trouble was that, while Levin could be a terrible reactionary old crosspatch, he was a genuinely funny writer. Admittedly the format didn’t let anyone involved shine, not least the splendid David Baddiel, whose career thankfully wasn’t affected permanently.

There has been precious little of Gove’s TV career available for public consumption. Until now. I am happy to present all of Michael Gove’s contributions to what one of his fellow presenters described as “easily the worst thing” she had done in her whole career. Sit back and gawp as a man aiming to become Prime Minister delivers zingers and bofforoonies (© D Paradine Frost) about hardcore animal pornography.

Michael Gove – A Stab in the Dark part 1 by lfbarfe

Michael Gove – A Stab in the Dark part 2 by lfbarfe

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The Late Payment Directive

One of the more annoying aspects of the freelance life is the slow-paying client. Fortunately, the law provides freelances with the tools to get the debts paid, in the form of the EU Late Payment Directive, which has been inplace in the UK since 2013. Under the terms of the directive, 60 days after fulfilment of contract, the debt becomes late and the creditor is entitled to charge reasonable costs and interest (at the Bank of England base rate plus 8%) on the debt.

Now, there’s a bit in the bumf that needs explaining. It tells you to work out the interest on the following basis.

Debt x interest rate x number of days late / 365.

What it should say is to express the interest rate as a decimal – 0.085 not 8.5. I didn’t realise this until an accountant friend pointed it out.

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I have heard you wish to walk me through your garden

The publicity surrounding Penguin’s new series of humorous Ladybird books has provoked an odd reaction from artist Miriam Elia, whose limited edition Ladybird spoof We Go To The Gallery was withdrawn from sale last year after complaints from the publisher.

First she put a spoof cover on her website for a ‘Dung Beetle’ book entitled ‘We sue an artist (and then rip off her idea)’. Then she wrote a passive-aggressive piece for the Guardian stating that Penguin “were right to threaten me with legal action…[and] to call my work morally bankrupt (which it is)”.

The publisher has not ripped off her idea. Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, the authors of the new books, included a selection of Ladybird parodies in Historic Framley, a comedy book published by Penguin in 2003.

Secondly, Penguin never sued Elia and no formal action was begun. The publisher gave her a month to sell enough copies of her book to cover her costs and asked for an undertaking that any surplus copies would be destroyed. Elia’s mistakes were to use the Ladybird colophon and collages of original Ladybird copyright material without permission.

At the time, the Guardian reported her as saying that Penguin had “been sympathetic and open to negotiation”, quoting her directly saying “they do understand” and “there’s no malice”. A far cry from the accusations of “corporate vandalism” she’s now levelling.

Meanwhile, Elia was recently selling “limited edition” signed prints of the ‘We sue an artist’ cover for £180. Unfortunately, the print once again uses Ladybird copyright material without permission, this time an illustration from 1970’s Learning With Mother: Book Two.

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When dealing with cold callers can be quite fun

Today, I had another cold caller. The audio clip accompanying this post shows that I have some form when it comes to dealing with these poor sods. I didn’t have a chance to record today’s encounter, but I’ve transcribed it to the best of my recollection. Throughout the call, both I and the person on the other end were quite clearly struggling not to laugh.

Cold caller: Can I speak to Sir David Clark, please?
Me: Speaking.
Cold caller: I’m calling to conduct a short survey. It won’t take more than a minute. Is that OK?
Me: Fire away.
Cold caller: Are you in employment or retired?
Me: I own most of Poland.
Cold caller: Thank you. And what are your earnings? £0-20,000? £20-40,000? £40-70,000? Over £70,000.
Me: Over £70,000. Owning a country is quite lucrative.
Cold caller: Do you own any property?
Me: Just a country.
Cold caller: Do you have any life insurance?
Me: Owning Poland has been sufficient insulation against most things, I’ve found.
Cold caller: Do you have a pension scheme?
Me: Yes. Owning Poland.
Cold caller: Would you be interested in any investments around £5,000?
Me: What countries have you got? What can I get for five grand?
Cold caller: Just to check, is your postcode still GL11…
Me: No, it’s P-O-L-A-N-D. Poland.
Cold caller: Thank you. Would you be interested in a free pension review?
Me: No thank you. Must get back. Poland needs me.
Cold caller: Thank you.

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Pink oboe concerto

Smart work, Little Brown. The Michael Bloch biography of Jeremy Thorpe is out on 18 December. Thorpe co-operated with Bloch on the condition that the book would never appear in Thorpe’s lifetime. It’s been ready for ages, and appeared in the catalogue by mistake 15 years ago. Well, I say mistake. I have a feeling that someone at Little Brown had been tipped off that Thorpe wasn’t long for this world, and having met the cadaverous old spiv myself around that time, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

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Pedantophiles of the world unite

I know you should never read Amazon reviews of your books, but I gave way to temptation. The latest review reads as follows:

“I learned quite a bit I didn’t know before but the validity of much of it has to be called into question by the author’s description of Les’s time in the army.

He states that Dawson played the piano for the officers mess on ‘Cambrai Day’ because it was such an important day for a tank regiment like the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and that it is celebrated by all tank regiments.

Sorry to inform you Mr Barfe but the Queen’s Dragoon Guards are not, and never have been a tank regiment. They’re an armoured cavalry unit, which means that they were trotting along on horses during the Battle of Cambrai and didn’t switch to tanks until circa 1939, that of course was before the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards and the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) amalgamated in 1959 to form the Queen’s Dragoon Guards. You could’ve found that out on Wikipedia.

Only the Royal Tank Regiment celebrate Cambrai Day – because they’re a ‘tank regiment’.”

I’ve just consulted both my book and Dawson’s own first volume of autobiography, because it’s been a while. At no point do I refer to the ‘Queen’s Dragoon Guards’. I refer, correctly, to the ‘Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards)’. Also, at no point do I call them a ‘tank regiment’, even though, by my reviewer’s admission, they started using tanks in 1939. I merely refer to Cambrai Day marking the anniversary of the first use of tanks in battle. In fact, show, don’t tell. Here are the relevant passages, as they appear in the book.

“After the six-week training period, Dawson went to Dale
Barracks near Chester to join the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards)
as a trooper…One day, at a loose end, he sat at a mess piano
and began to pick out tunes by ear. Soon he was proficient enough to
entertain his associates. The talent came into its own on Cambrai Day,
celebrated in tank regiments on 20 November each year to mark the
Battle of Cambrai in 1917, the first time that tanks were used seriously
in warfare. It was Cambrai Day 1950 when Dawson was hauled into the
officers’ mess at Fallingbostel and instructed to play drinking songs
for the officers. His playing passed muster and ‘from then on…life
became quite tolerable’.”


Honestly, if you’re going to be a pissy fucking pedant, at least get the fucking thing right.

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Surprise, surprise. The “dynamic, expressive and informed personalities, writers and commentators” being approached to contribute to Dom Joly’s shit new Menshn, Runaview, are being asked to provide their expertise and insight without recompense. This despite the fact that Runaview claims to be investing “over £100k in marketing”.

joly_runaviewThis was challenged expertly on Twitter by music writer Joe Muggs, who had been approached to contribute. Joly responded rather in the manner of an ugly bloke spurned by an attractive woman, declaring that he never fancied her anyway. He then went on to suggest that Muggs was “obsessed” for asking some perfectly reasonable questions.

Meanwhile, the splendid Dawn Foster had posted a screengrab of the email sent by Runaview to potential contributors, adding only the caption “This looks terrible”. Runaview’s response was to instruct her to delete the tweet, telephoning her at work (she is deputy features editor of Inside Housing magazine) when she refused to do so.

The Runaview media pack makes for an interesting read. It suggests that the site will work on a “similar model to Facebook, Twitter and givemesport.com”. Well yes, I’m always lumping them together as the three biggest hitters in the online world. Runaview will rely on “Facebook and Twitter marketing predominantly”. Anyone can market themselves or their products on Facebook and Twitter for nowt. So, if all the marketing’s happening on Facebook and Twitter, where’s that 100 large going?

The site aims to exploit a hitherto unnoticed “gap in the market”. Apparently, there is “no website which is similar in nature and totally unique”, and Runaview promises “sensationalism mixed with high quality content from society’s elite”. The first part of that is meaningless (“totally unique”?), the second part means it’ll be shite.

runaview_mediapack1The media pack , including postings under the names of Paul Merton, Will Self, David Mitchell, Ricky Gervais, Jeremy Clarkson, George Galloway and Jo Brand. Meanwhile, another page poses the question “Why use Runaview?”, and provides the answer “Seeing how celebrities/influential people feel about the latest issues on a regular basis”, alongside pictures of Jeremy Clarkson, Frankie Boyle, Kirsty Young, Jack Whitehall and Joly. So, the implication seems to be that all of these major figures (and Joly) are running with Runaview. Are they? Really? Do they know?

So, who’s behind Joly’s folly? Some received the initial email from ‘Dominic Spencer’, the project’s ‘creative director’. Others have received an identically-worded email from ‘Jamie runaview_media2Spencer’, whose job title is ‘head of music’. ‘Jamie Spencer’ has also communicated with potential contributors wearing the hat of ‘head of science and tech’. Who says men can’t multi-task? I wonder if ‘Jamie’ and ‘Dominic’ are related?

Apart from Joly, the only other verifiable name I can find linked to this risible venture is that of Daniel Yossman, director of Westminster Publications, the firm responsible for The Parliamentary Review. I asked my man in Westminster if he’d heard of Yossman, and he replied no, and added that he “didn’t even know Parliamentary Review was still going”.

runaviewSo, this is Runaview, or, as its woefully crap logo seems to say, ‘Runavkew’. I’m guessing from all of this that ITV has not commissioned another series of Fool Britannia.

UPDATE – Wednesday 15/10/2014, 13.34

A chum has alerted me, in my Twitter exile, to this billet doux from Joly. So, on the basis of “1 meeting”, Joly was willing to lend his image to this venture. A publicity photograph was taken, presumably at this “1 meeting”, where Joly posed with the godawful Runaview logo. Then, joly_runaview_disembarkationwhen asked about Runaview’s recruitment tactics, Joly defended with vigour people he hardly knew and an email he says he didn’t until after it was sent out. Odd. I tend not to go in to bat for anyone unless I know them quite well, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Joly is “no longer involved” with Runaview. Oh well, at least they’ve still got David Mitchell, Will Self and Jeremy Clarkson.

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Creepy creep creeps

I’m not on Twitter at the moment, having decided to take October off in aid of a very worthy cause, but I’ve been alerted to this communication from erstwhile Culture Clubber Boy George.

bg_emSeeing it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of the creepiest things a celebrity has ever done, which was when O’Dowd “falsely imprison[ed] a male escort by handcuffing him to a wall and beat…him with a metal chain”, receiving a 15-month jail sentence for doing so.

Actually, by describing it as ‘creepy’, I’m letting O’Dowd, who once famously claimed to prefer a cup of tea to sex, off lightly. As such, I’m not sure this sort of endorsement helps Miliband in the slightest.

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