When I was 12, I lost a fiver. In truth, I didn’t know whether it was lost or stolen but the distinction felt important. “Lost” put the blame squarely at the feet of my own carelessness. “Stolen” exonerated me from any blame. I decided it had been stolen. But then the anger came. How dare someone steal a fiver from me? What right did they have? It was my fiver. Last month, I lost £7,250. Or was it stolen? That depends on how you look at it. Had I been careless? Again, that depends on how you look at it. I’m one of an unknown number of freelance journalists currently owed thousands of pounds by The Pool, an online platform launched in March 2015 aimed at “women who are too busy to browse”, which went into administration last Friday, making 24 staff redundant. Founded by Sam Baker, a former editor of Red and Cosmopolitan, and Lauren Laverne, the presenter and current host of Desert Island Discs, the site was heralded as a new and … [Read more...] about How The Pool got out of its depth, according to a former columnist
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When I was five years old, my parents arranged for a local photographer in Maidstone to take a portrait picture of their beloved son. A tall gentleman arrived at our home in Bower Mount Road and photographs were duly taken of your correspondent perched on the sofa in our family sitting room. But my mother wanted some more natural snapshots of little Robert playing with his toy trains on the floor. In those days, expensive photographers not only turned up with tripods and huge black cameras. They also ‘colourised’ their completed photographic prints – and thus sent back the finished product after painting, with water colours, little Robert’s blond hair, pink cheeks, blue pullover and brown sandals. I was outraged to discover, however, they had muddled the livery of my train set. My fine green-painted London and North Eastern Railway steam loco and trucks had been changed to red. A miniature Great Western loco also appeared in red when it was in reality grey. In … [Read more...] about Documentaries are taking liberties with historical truth – so can we trust them?
There’s an old saw that journalists write the first draft of history. I used to think this was true. If the journalists of the First World War wrote fiction from the generals’ chateaux, the reporters of 1939-45 were different. They were at Dunkirk and watched the Battle of Britain. They landed on D-Day. Even the Russians had journalists on their front lines. Read Vasily Grossman’s accounts of the battles of Stalingrad and Berlin. As a schoolboy, I used to listen to my BBC recording of Richard Dimbleby in a Lancaster bomber in 1943, approaching the Hamburg firestorm. “A great white basin of light in the sky,” he called it. Or read Richard Hillary’s The Last Enemy. Here he is, his face terribly burnt in his crashing Spitfire during the Battle of Britain, going to the rescue of a dying woman and her child in the London Blitz: “It was her feet that we saw first, and … now we worked with a sort of frenzy, like prospectors, at the … [Read more...] about Why journalists should be haunted by history
It took until the penultimate day of my Costa Rican adventure before I witnessed what passes for a Tico having a tantrum. Crawling at a snail’s pace in a long line of traffic behind a trucker who refused to move aside, my softly-spoken driver calmly said: “This lorry should pull over – it’s not very nice to make us all wait.” He sighed gently, before adding: “I’m sorry for losing my temper.” I chuckled about it then, and again 48 hours later when - enjoying the sun on a bank holiday bike ride back in Blighty - a red-faced van driver, forced to pause momentarily before overtaking me, screamed out the window: “Get out of the ****ing way!” Welcome home. The only thing Costa Rica shouts about, as I discovered during my fortnight there, is its easy-going ethos. “Pura vida”, which translates as “pure life”, is the national motto, and you’ll find it plastered on countless posters and holiday … [Read more...] about On holiday in the world’s happiest country
Here's to Steve Lansdown. The Bristol City owner continues to invest in the south west bringing jobs, regeneration and community benefits, now up to the tune of something like £132m all in according to one online financial expert. Bristol Sport isn't for everyone and to some the umbrella organisation has seen the football club relinquish part of its soul, with long-term employees dispensed with, a swathe of commercial appointments in-house, over commercialism and the removal of fan-liaison devices. But the recent financial accounts for Bristol City show that all revenue streams are heading in the right direction. The billionaire owner could argue that things are going right off the pitch as they are on it. Currently the Robins look well placed to at least match last season in the Championship and possibly surpass that 11th-placed finish. If they do, that would make it six years of progress up the English leagues with the club having found a working formula. Alas, the Robins flew … [Read more...] about How City finances will impact Lee Johnson in January