The flogging of Diana’s memory and more Brexit bother…

HERE I sit with headlines piled about my feet. Diana is dead but lives on. Brexit is pulling the cabinet apart, although over my left shoulder health secretary Jeremy Hunt has just heckled John Humprhys in the kitchen, saying that he doesn’t recognise the stories being told in the newspapers.

The BBC isn’t broadcasting from our kitchen – it is rather small in there – but the radio is on; the radio is always on in the morning.

Twenty years may have rattled by, each carriage on the train packed with joy and misery, but here we are again in Diana-land. Those inky sheets cannot shake off their obsession with the Princess of Wales.

The nation’s favourite dead royal is back on the front pages, in the anniversary month of her death and one week after her sons spoke about their mother in an ITV documentary.

For previously explained reasons, I didn’t tune in. It would be wrong to say that I never watch docs about the royals, although I prefer the royals to be long dead and woven into history.

In wishing to pay tribute to their mother, William and Harry seem to have revived the never-ending royal soap. Royal sources say this is all the result of the “ill advised” strategy by the boys to talk about their mother. (Royal sources? A harassed press officer, the Queen in a ratty moment – who knows?).

You can see why they wanted to, but now the whole shabby shebang has rolled back into our life. On the front of today’s Mail, Diana is shown front and back in a skimpy dress with the words: “Dress Diana feared William would think was too sexy” – followed by “Her style legacy: dazzling 8-page pullout.”

Pull out and throw away would be my reaction should I have been foolish enough to buy a copy, but it takes all sorts.

Much of the rest of the page is taken up with a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge and the headline: “Solemn Kate’s tributes to heroes of Passchendaele.”

Clearly, Kate couldn’t be anything other than quietly dignified on such an occasion, but the differences between her and her departed mother-in-law are telling. Kate seems a modern female role model, cast from the same bland mould as the dull diet princesses and endless pretty simpering celebrities who are nothing much to celebrate. You suspect that Diana was more fun, and more trouble, but perhaps that helps to explain the lack of a happy ending.

This week’s stale furore concerns a Channel 4 documentary planned for Sunday, in which Diana will be heard talking about her sex life with Prince Charles. To maintain a fine tradition, I won’t be watching. Anyway, do we need to know – and, prod me if I fall asleep over the laptop, but didn’t we know all that already?

You can’t help feeling that some newspapers would have folded years ago if Diana’s beguiling ghost hadn’t been there to prop them up. And, yes, Great Aunt Express, we are looking at you.

The Telegraph reports that foreign secretary Boris Johnson and trade secretary Liam Fox appear to have been kept in the dark – and “out of the loop” – over an announcement that EU citizens will be permitted to come to the UN during a transition period of up to three years.

In the dark and out of the loop – the best place for that pair. Isn’t there an unused cupboard in the cabinet room in which they could be confined loop-less for the foreseeable future?

Sadly, the foreseeable is all too easy to foresee: more endless bickering as we shuffle up to the Brexit cliff edge and then shuffle back again, muttering: “Oh, shit!”

And more reheated tripe about Diana, but there you go.

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A few thoughts on Charlie Gard…

 

IF something terrible happened, how would you react? A simple question with many depths. I started thinking about this when the story of Charlie Gard first came into view.

The 11-month-old baby died yesterday, a week short of his first birthday, after being unknowingly at the heart of a legal battle between his parents and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Charlie had an extremely rare genetic condition that caused him to suffer from progressive brain damage and muscle weakness, and in medical terms his outlook was dire.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, who became entangled in a long and bitter legal dispute with the children’s hospital, yesterday paid tribute to their “beautiful boy”. It is worth pausing at this moment to acknowledge that this couple have been through a hellish grind. As glimpsed through the news lens, their suffering has been on show, physically so in the case of Connie Yates, the pain etched so deep on her face there seems to be nothing there but pain.

This couple fought to save their baby; they fought against what seemed to them to be an unfeeling institution that denied their stricken baby boy a chance. They mustered the tools of the age – social media and the daily headlines – to their cause and did everything they could to give their son a better outlook.

They raised £1.3m through 80,000 crowd-funded donations, there were petitions, a Facebook site called Charlie’s Army – and there were tweets from the Pope and Donald Trump. When the parents appeared before the cameras, looking defiant, angry, distraught, crowds gathered and people chanted emotive but essentially foolish slogans such as “Save Charlie Gard” – foolish because they weren’t contributing anything other than expressing their sorrow, and then turning that sorrow into a weapon against the system, against the experts.

A long line of judges ruled that Charlie should be allowed to die, saying that was in his best interests because of his suffering and because he was beyond being cured – and ruled also that proposed experimental treatment in the United States was “futile”.

In their warped way of thinking about our health service, some US commentators said Charlie’s plight was the result of our state-run national health service – that he was, in effect, condemned by socialism.

That was dismissed as “nonsensical” by Mr Justice Francis, one of the judges who considered the case after Great Ormond Street Hospital said the only option for Charlie was to turn off his life-support system. This could only be done with the parents’ consent, something they had no intention of granting, which was how this tragic case ended up in the courts.

So angry did the social media mob become on Charlie Gard’s behalf that staff at the children’s hospital even received death threats. Charlie’s parents condemned those who made the threats – threats caused by their actions, which was one of many thorny aspects to this case. Naturally they didn’t want anyone to harm doctors, but the way they portrayed medical staff as the villains of the piece had the unintended consequence of vilifying the very people who dedicate their lives to saving children. Or trying to save children, as not all stricken children can be saved.

Perhaps that is what lay at the heart of this cruel case. Parents will do everything for their children, and that’s what Charlie Gard’s parents did – everything within their grasp, while also holding onto hopes that were not within their grasp.

To answer the question at the top of this blog, not all people would react as Charlie’s parents did in making their fight so public. They clearly felt they had no choice, but one result of turning your private sorrow over to public ownership is that in a sense you lose control – to the point when the mouthy president of the US is tweeting about your private sorrows.

Such painful exposure will not suit everyone, but presumably Charlie’s parents felt they had no choice, although watching from the dispassionate distance, it was possible to wonder if they sometimes thought they had unleashed something that could no longer be controlled. This, naturally, is supposition because how can you know?

Charlie Gard certainly became public property in ways that must have been both uplifting and just hopelessly sad, too. He features in today’s newspapers, as you would expect, as in a sense the media had taken ownership of his short life.

The Mail introduces its story – “Rest In Peace, Charlie” – with the words: “His battle for survival captured hearts around the world.” I find that notion troubling, as this baby didn’t battle but was kept alive by life-support systems while a legal battle raged around him.

I find all the public emoting that occurs nowadays rather difficult, too, but will readily confess to shedding sometimes a private tear.

I honestly have no notion of the rights and wrongs of this case, other than to say that you don’t create a media story without paying the price in ways you might not have expected.

American chicken won’t be on my menu…

Ah, who can resist an American delicacy? KFC anyone – that’s Kentucky Fried Chlorine, if case you’re wondering.

Dr Liam Fox – the less than Fantastic Mr Fox – thinks we should all pipe down about this chlorinated chicken business. As the Brexit-besotted trade secretary, Fox accuses the media of being obsessed with concerns about chlorine-washed chicken being sold in Britain – “Americans have been eating it perfectly safely for years.” Oh yeah? Well, they can go on eating the vile stuff for years to come, so long as they don’t expect us to stomach the it.

This enthusiasm for chemically douched chicken put Fox at odds with the new environment secretary Michael Gove, who says there will be no loosening of “any environmental standards whatsoever”. Thank heavens for that Gove man – not a common sentiment around these parts, or in any parts where normal human beings congregate, but there you go. You look for friends where you can find them when chlorinated chickens come home to roost.

In case you’re wondering why Americans spray their chickens in chlorine, it’s because it kills bacteria on the meat after slaughter to risk contamination from the bird’s digestive tract. This is said to allow less strict slaughtering rules, and is banned in the EU.

Donald Trump – that chlorine-washed president – accused the EU of being “very protectionist with the US – STOP!” He said that in a tweet, as always, because that’s what he does for speaking.

The thing about protectionism is that the word ‘protect’ is in there. If the EU wishes to protect us from chicken dunked in chlorine, then good on them. And if Britain comes to regrettable deals with the dodgy deal maker, we may find that Europe won’t accept our food.

Well, I’m not going to be buying any chlorinated chicken. It’s bad enough seeking through the shelves for free-range chicken, never mind checking the bird hasn’t flown in from American on a cloud of chemicals.

America allows all sorts of regrettable practices, including injecting synthetic growth hormones under the skin of beef cattle and high levels of antibiotics.

They can keep their rotten chicken; they can keep their rotten hooligan of a president, with his distracting blizzard of tweets and stupid remarks. I will carry on looking for free-range chicken from Britain. Importing chickens all the way from the US is bonkers anyway on environmental terms, isn’t it?

So US chicken won’t be on my menu.

 

In a clean jam about electric cars…

CARS have become political since we exchanged the valiant old wagon for something newer last September. We didn’t pick a diesel car as I am a high-minded sort of a person. Oh, hang on, we didn’t choose diesel thanks to my wife saying: “You can’t possibly get one of those filthy things.”

Plenty of people do drive diesels, but they won’t be doing so after 2040 – and petrol cars will be banished then, too, according to a government strategy being announced today. And hybrid cars, too, if they have a petrol engine.

The future is all-electric. This sounds like a good thing, even if the announcement is being made by environment secretary Michael Gove, a man who is as trustworthy as the brakes on an old Mini.

The upside to this plan is that we have more than 20 years to see the switch to electric cars; the downside is that air can in effect remain dirty in the interim.

Britain’s plan is in line with that already announced by France, and comes after Volvo said it was switching to electric-only cars – a smart move by the Swedes, even if the electric windows never worked in our old car.

I have yet to drive an electric car, but people say they are fun. The biggest problem lies in what is known as range anxiety – whether the batteries will get you home. A similar worry addresses me if I go out on a long run, and end up shuffling home with depleted batteries.

Most of the newspapers this morning print front-page headlines about the end of petrol and diesel cars, with the Mail – a highly polluting newspaper, which always leaves nasty fumes in its wake – opting for: “War on diesels getting dirty.” The Times has the more straightforward: “Diesel car ban to cut pollution.”

In theory, there aren’t many downsides to the switch to electric, and I’d have one now if they were cheap enough and went far enough before needing to be plugged in.

But it will be a challenge, in terms of electricity supply and generation, especially if everyone wants to charge their cars at the same time; and in building the network of big plugs, or whatever they are. There is also the matter of any pollution emitted in producing the electricity, but at least the potentially deadly fumes move away from our roads.

An irony in all this is that the Government was forced to act in part by EU rules – just as we prepare to reverse over that cliff called Brexit. Damn interfering Europe telling us that we can’t rot patriotic British lungs whenever we want. The dreaded Europe making us clean up our act and behave responsibly – maybe the European Union isn’t such a bad idea after all, Michael. Gove, remember, was the loudest Brexit megaphone when it came to the pre-match shouting of mendacious slogans.

Incidentally, Gove’s old friend Donald Trump is being hymned by the front page of the Daily Express this morning under the headline: “Trump trade joy for Britain.” A smaller headline reads: “President promises big and exciting deal.”

Dear old Aunty Express still doesn’t understand that Trump is a liar and a Lothario who says that to all the gullible old girls.

But an electric future sounds good to me, so long as we buy in plenty of fuses and remember where we’ve put them.

My grandmother’s record of daily life, including my arrival…

SHE died a long time ago now, but here she is again, signing in at the start of her diary for 1956: Doris E Taylor, 60 Monk Road, Bishopston, Bristol – Tel. no 41045.

We are staying with my mother and she has brought out a carrier bag full of diaries written by her mother. These diaries do not threaten Samuel Pepys but they are interesting none the less.

“Pat said we should throw them away,” says my mother, Margaret, referring to her sister. But she didn’t and here they are.

Here is a typical entry, for Saturday, January 14: “Jim and Stan went to a children’s party at Will’s. Win came to tea. Pat and Ken stayed in and played cards.”

Often an entry will mention the weather – with days being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and illnesses are mentioned often too, with colds detailed or trouble with bowels mentioned, too. But Doris and Jim seem to have a busy social life. Plays are seen often and tea is eaten – “Margaret and Jeff came to tea.” That’s my parents, long since divorced, but here they are again, young and going to tea.

I flick through the small pages of the Charles Letts Diary – “With the compliments of British Visqueen Ltd., Manufacturers of Polythene Film” – and arrive at Friday, October 5. The entry for this day reads: “Julian born at 2 o’clock in the morning, 6lb 9ozs.”

At that time in the wider world, not that long after the last war, nerves were shredding in the build-up to the Suez Crisis. Nowhere in Doris’s diary will you find a mention of anything outside of her world, and that is oddly comforting.

Instead she welcomes her first grandchild. The day after my arrival, Doris writes: “Went to see Margaret. Seemed very well. Then on to the social with Jeff. He stayed the night.”

My mother was still in hospital, confined to recover from the efforts of producing me, as happened back then. On Saturday, October 13, Doris writes: “Jim and I went to the Old Theatre to see The Rebel Queen. Very good but wordy.”

Tuesday, October 16 reads: “Margaret home today.” The following day reads as follows: “Went over to Hartcliff to see baby Julian. He’s lovely.”

Hartfcliff is an area of Bristol and we lived in a flat on top of a Co-op. Somewhere there is a picture of me aged about two on a tiny bike on the paved roof area above that flat.

We moved from that flat to a house in Long Mead Avenue, a walk away from Monk Road. Move forward to 1960 when the family calamity happened. My brother, Alistair, has been born and we are sharing an upstairs bedroom. Although I do not remember this, I climbed on his cot to reach the window.

The entry for Sunday, July 10 reads: “Julian fell out of bedroom window. Fractured skull and had stitches. Very worried about Julian.”

At the time of the accident, Pat was about to give birth, and on the Friday the entry reads: “Pat had Timothy, 7lbs 14ozs (Forceps). Went to see Pat with Ken.”

The next day, a Saturday, Doris writes: “To see Julian, looked better.” The rest of that entry is difficult to read, but I think it says: “To Clevedon in Jones’ car. Went back to theirs to have fish and chip supper.”

Tuesday October 19 reads: “To see Julian/Pat.” Doris had to do a double hospital dash by the sounds of it, to see her wounded grandson and her daughter and new baby.

Thursday, July 12 reads: “Julian home.”

Memory can be a mixture of what you can recall and things you have been told. I can’t remember being in the room with my baby brother or falling out of the window, which had been painted shut apparently. I can’t remember standing up in the garden, bloodied head and all, and reaching the doorbell.

But I can remember having a bath in the hospital and then coming home – on July 12, as I now discover – to be given a cake with zoo animals rooted in the icing. I think it was made by a neighbour.

I was three years old and that is a long way down time’s tunnel now, but it is interesting to see what life was like then for Doris and her family.

Saturday, July 13: “To Steers’ to play Scrabble. Rainy day.”

My mother tells me something I never knew. Before she was born, her mother Doris had a job on a newspaper, the Brentwood Gazette, Essex, in around 1930 – a good job, she thinks, possibly on the printing side. A newspaper connection that is new to me.

Apologies to William and Harry, but I won’t be watching…

HERE’S what I won’t be doing at 9pm today – watching Diana: Our Mother, Her Life and Legacy on ITV. Documentaries about the royals have never been my thing, and besides the edited highlights on the BBC news last night were more than sufficient for this royal-weary observer.

It is fair enough that William and Harry – or the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, as they now are – should wish to talk about Diana, Princess of Wales, and recall the mother they loved.

Fair enough that they should remember her as the “best mother ever” who “brought a breath of fresh air to everything she did”. Fair enough that they should chuckle over how she once surprised the 12 or 13-year-old William by inviting three models to meet him at home, leaving him tongue-tied and blushing (bit weird that, but there you go, mothers can be embarrassing at times).

Fair enough that these lost boys turned to men should, as Harry says in the film, have heard their mother’s motto: “You can be as naughty as you want – just don’t get caught”.

There are different narratives going on here, and the one in which two young men try to reclaim their mother for themselves is only one strand of the story. Harry – or maybe William, I wasn’t paying full attention – may well reveal that her smile could reach across the room, or whatever form of words are used in the documentary. But that motherly smile couldn’t reach across the world. For she was a mother much absent at the time.

It seems reasonable to argue that those lost little boys we saw on the news were semi-abandoned by their mother, who was off having an affair in Paris when she died in a crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel while the car she was in was being pursued by paparazzi.

This morning’s newspapers mine the documentary for snippets and stories, with the Daily Mail offering on its front page: “Harry and Wills hadn’t seen their mother for a MONTH before her death.”

Judgemental as ever, but the Mail has a point if this is true. Most mothers I know would not go more than a day or so without seeing their boys, who were 12 and 15 at the time.

William and Harry may well wish to remember their mother by talking to ITV journalists, but their mother stepped away from them to live the high life. The other narrative of this story is one of abandonment and doing what you want – being as naughty as you like until you get caught in a car crash.

On August 31, it will be 20 years since Diana died; 20 years since our youngest woke us up on the morning after we returned from holiday, complaining that the usual programmes weren’t on the television “because the Queen died”; 20 years since I rang the office too late to offer my services, the ‘special edition’ already having been done; 20 years since the royal family wobbled, only to find queenly stability again.

Documentaries about the royals usually buy in plenty of soft soap, and any wider perspective is lost in the bubbles. That’s why I won’t be watching tonight: an aversion royal soap. Anyway, Nicholas Witchell is on hand usually on the BBC news to do a solemn summary, while conveying the expression of a man confined to the seventh circle of hell and condemned forever to pass on empty platitudes about the royal family.

As William and Kate’s visit to Poland has just shown, the royals do sterling duty in papering over embarrassing cracks, in that case helping Poland to forget inconvenient truths from the war. And the flag-waving newspapers are always on side to polish up the story, especially when young Prince George can be coaxed to supply a shy smile.

So much guff is written about the royals, isn’t it? And now my guff for the day has reached its end.

Channel 4 moving to York? Ah, if only…

YORK could be the new home for Channel 4 “if city leaders get their way”, according to a report in my old newspaper. There was wisdom in choosing those six words as local politicians are unlikely to get their way.

The broadcaster could be on the move as the Tory manifesto decided against privatising Channel 4, but instead offered a house swap: stay publicly funded but move out of London.

As we have seen this week, the government enjoys bossing broadcasters. With the BBC, it was enforced revelation of salaries paid to star names; with Channel 4 the government has looked at the title of its property show Location, Location, Location, and decided that the broadcaster should move, move, move.

As a proud resident of York, I’d love to see Channel 4 relocate to York Central, the brownfield site behind the station. This is what councillor leader David Carr is “pushing hard for”, according to the Press (never heard of the man, but then I am out of touch).

Good luck to him, but York’s chances are not high. Birmingham is thought to be the frontrunner if this move, which is being resisted by Channel 4, ever happens. Manchester has a strong case thanks to the thriving Media City – which, to be clear, is in Salford and not Manchester, something which can cause local prickliness.

Other cities in the running include Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool, while the Bristol Post reported last month that “Bristol could be the new home of Channel 4”.

According to the Metro Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, “I would say Bristol is leading the way – we are at the forefront of this.”

So perhaps David Carr will not get his way. The smart money is on Birmingham because the new mayor there, former John Lewis boss Andy Street, was quickest off the block in offering to put up Kirsty and Phil while they sought a new home for Channel 4.

Moving broadcasters out of London is far from a bad thing, but only if it happens for good reasons and not as ideological punishment from a government that seems to dislike publicly funded broadcasters. Channel 4 isn’t what it was, but the station has preserved some of its original quirkiness and bolshie spirit, and Channel 4 News is often the one to watch, with Jon Snow being a sort of patron saint of news.

As for York, the city’s links to Channel 4 are not the strongest. That bloke from Brookside was murdered here – in a spin-off from the soap, called Damon and Debbie. Come Dine With Me has been here a few times, I believe, and Location, Location, Location was reported in May to be filming an episode based in the city.

But perhaps I should get behind this move: maybe there might be a job in it for late middle-aged men who hang around on ledges. Then again…

Alex Jones is paid how much?

IS THAT the sound of me swallowing my words and chewing the cud of what I wrote yesterday? Not exactly – but I did address the matter of the big reveal before the figures were released, after which all I could think was: “Alex Jones gets paid how much?”

Money rarely brings out the best in us, and my point about this being an act of malicious meddling on the government’s part still stands – even if the salaries are an eye-watering distraction.

Proof of the malice involved can be seen splashed across almost every newspaper this morning, as just about the lot of them give the BBC a kicking. Partly this is due to the disparity in pay between male and female presenters, and this gender pay gap is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the BBC and must be resolved. Yet beyond that, the government organised this spot of pay ‘transparency’ as a hostile act against the BBC, knowing exactly what the reaction would be – and delighting in the damage caused.

But still, Alex Jones is paid £450,000 for simpering away onTthe One Show. A friend’s comment on the blog yesterday ran as follows: “In general you are right, but I object very strongly to Jeremy Vine getting paid at all.”

Nicely put – and isn’t that the problem with this reveal? We can all go hunting for those we like and dislike. A cool £600,000 or so for John Hymphrys presenting the Today programme seems excessive, while around half that for Eddie Mair doesn’t seem so bad – but only because Mair is, to me, a true radio star.

£2.2 million for Chris Evans is beyond comprehension, as is the man himself if you ask me, but there you go. As for Derek Thompson earning up to £400,000 for playing Charlie in a hospital drama, well the drinks are going to be on him at the next Casualty party. How is one actor worth so much while other and better actors are not? It’s a mystery.

All of this is interesting to the public while not being of genuine public interest: it doesn’t get us anywhere apart from envy corner, and anyway don’t Ant and Dec earn £3 million a year from ITV?

On the same day that these high BBC salaries were revealed, it was reported that back pay for those who provide overnight care for vulnerable elderly people could be as high as £400 million ­– further proof that the jobs that really matter are paid the least.

BBC pay reveal is malicious meddling…

DO I care what the BBC’s star performers are paid? Not much – all of them are paid mountains more than most of us. Anyway, this enforced revelation is a government-sponsored bit of sabotage.

Originally, David Cameron insisted that the Corporation should have to reveal the pay of on-air talent paid more than £450,000 – “As I said to Sam, does anybody even get out of the four-poster for less than that?”

Theresa May, back in the days when she was a new broom and her bristles had yet to sag, insisted that this figure be dropped to £150,000 – bringing in many more of the familiar faces who pass on the news or entertain us on the BBC.

Later today, the BBC’s annual report will reveal the annual salaries of the presenters who earn above that level – said to be around 100.

The BBC-phobic newspapers are loving this, with the Daily Mail trampling its steel-capped Hush Puppies all over the story – “Pay panic at the BBC” and “Meltdown as dossier names 100 staff on more than the PM”.

I don’t expect that Paul Dacre of the Mail will be putting his payslip on the front page either. And this whole anti-Beeb exercise has come about because Call Me Moneybags Dave caved into pressure from the Mail for such a revelation. And all because the Mail loves nothing better than hating the BBC (witness some hysterical wetting of the Mail Y-fronts about having a female Doctor Who).

According to a quick Google, Dacre was reported to have taken home £1.5 million in 2016, just in case you were wondering.

What exercised the insanely irritable Dacre is that the Prime Minister earns £143,462 a year. And in curtain-twitching Mail-land, that ‘proves’ that BBC presenters are paid too much. No, it doesn’t. It suggests that the prime minister isn’t paid nearly enough. Not that I think Theresa should get a pay rise. The No 10 job is relatively poorly paid for PR reasons: no PM would dare ask for more. Anyway, ex-prime ministers usually go on to earn a packet on the speaking circuit. The last one was privately loaded and the present one is married to money. Few of them go short.

This BBC pay reveal has been introduced in the name of transparency, and yet many windows will still be netted. We will know how much the likes of Fiona Bruce, Graham Norton, Gary Lineker, John Humphrys and Laura Kuenssberg earn, but we won’t know how much their competitors earn at ITV, Channel 4 or Sky.

The picture is further muddied because some BBC faces are employed through third-party production companies, and their salaries won’t be revealed.

You might think that rival broadcasters would welcome this spot of BBC bashing, but Channel 4 and Channel 5 – ah, the unexplored Button Called Five – have criticised the idea. ITV’s programmes chief, Kevin Lygo, called the proposal a “mean-spirited, nosey way of looking at things” – and that sounds about right to me.

Salary comparisons only bring out the worst in us, with wallet envy guaranteed. People who like a certain broadcaster will probably say, “Oh, well – he’s worth it.” While those who dislike a broadcaster will complain that they shouldn’t possibly be paid such a fortune – with the much put-upon Kuenssberg being a likely target here.

This isn’t transparency but malicious meddling. The only place where transparency will throw a shaming light is on the different wages paid to men and woman doing the same or similar jobs, with only a third of those paid above £150,000 being women.

Sadly, the BBC bashers behind this pay reveal will not be happy until the Corporation has been dragged out of existence.

 

The Italian who arrived in the smallest car…

THIS guest appears a little eccentric. He is smallish, black-bearded and Italian. His English is good, but he talks quickly and his conversation rushes out on an exasperated sigh.

All sorts arrive and then go, blending to a blur, but I think this guest will stay in the mind longer than some.

He is from close to Naples. “Near to Mount Vesuvius,” he says, wiping his forehead.

He is hot and tired, but who can blame him. He pulls his tiny white car in from the road, then bustles back in and reverses, so that he is facing the right way to leave. The front of the car is bashed in a bit.

“A crazy driver in France,” he says, holding an imaginary steering  in a crazy driver mime. “Pulled right out in front of me. But maybe I was a bit distracted, too.”

That car was sound enough to drive, and drive it he has. All the way from Naples to the Orkneys. In a Fiat 600 – a car with an engine fit for a lawnmower.

He has just come from the Lakes and drove up Honister Pass to visit the slate mine. “I like it very much,” he says. “My car less so.”

Hadrian’s Wall – he had a look at that too. “I nearly drove all the way to what’s it called? Ah, Newcastle.”

He removes two bags from the car boot, looks at one as if wondering why it is there, shakes his head and puts it back in.

My wife overhears the rapid burst of conversation, words flying out in an overheated rush, and goes to sit in the garden.

Our Italian guest talks as I show him the room, and talks as I back down the stairs. Then he goes for a shower and I join my wife in the garden.

A little later, he wanders into the kitchen where I am cooking. He tells me that he teaches Spanish. “I speak six languages,” he says. The others are Russian, English, French and German – and fast Italian, too.

He tells me he lived in Russia for two years. “But I came back because of mother,” he says.

When he leaves our house in his minuscule white car with the dented front, he will head for the Channel Tunnel, then drive through France. He has always wanted to see the Palaeolithic cave paintings at Lascaux, but these are not exactly on his way home. “South west France,” he says with a sigh. “But I have a friend in Turin and he may be able to help me.”

He mocks up a phone with his hand. I can’t see how Turin helps but decide not to ask.

Later I Google ‘Naples to York’ and discover that his journey home ­– not including ancient cave paintings – is 1,483 miles. His two-week holiday from school will have seen him drive those 3,000 miles – plus another 1,000 or so for the Orkney excursion.

Amusingly, the ‘Naples to York’ inquiry brings up the route… “Head south on Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi towards Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi…” I give up after that.

Has anyone ever driven so far in such a small car in their school holiday? No way of telling.

Now it is morning and I can hear our guest in the shower. I shall stop typing now and brace myself for the whirlwind.

Post-breakfast footnote:

V has now gone, whirling on his way. Over breakfast he was chatty, passionate, said he loved his job and hated the politics of his country, and wondered in despair why Britain was leaving the EU. “You belong in Europe,” he said. “You are an important country.” Then he got back into that tiny car and buzzed off on his way.