To expand my portfolio of lucrative sinecures I have applied to be editor of ‘Times 2’, the trashy supplement introduced by The Times in 2005. The role is clearly a nominal one. I imagine its duties are confined to one short daily meeting at which the production team confirms that a) there are 20 pages ready to print, and b) they are all filled with something. Certainly no editing takes place- a red pencil would last the incumbent a lifetime. Take the following paragraph plucked at random from today’s tripe:
‘In his column Piers Morgan informs Kim Kardashian that since she is 35 her muff has, basically, passed its sell-by date. Addressing her directly, Morgan explained to Kardashian that she needed to put her clothes back on, and that the time had come to hand the baton on to the next generation of women who want to show their vaginas on the internet.’
With so much to criticise where shall we start... perhaps with the 'basically' at the end of the first line. Is it an unnecessary cliché, that should have been red-lined? Or could it be a crucial insert to stress that Kardashian's muff is decrepit in some essential sense- not just some greying tangled pubes? I wonder. And what of the breathtakingly superfluous ‘on’ that follows ‘hand the baton’? What sort of...
Connoisseurs of Literary Humour the World Over: Hang on there. That’s Caitlin Moran you’re slagging off.
CoLHtWO: Caitlin Moran, award winning journalist and a fine strap of an Irish girl, Tubby Shaw. You should be ashamed of yourself slagging off a lovely Irish lass like that just to make a cheap point.
Myself: Yes, of course, you’re right. Most unfair. I was carried away.
CoLHtWO: How do you know that the superfluous ‘on’ after 'handing the baton' was hers and was left in by a lazy slattern of an editor? How do you know it wasn’t added in by the editor? Hey?
Myself, contrite and remorseful: True.
CoLHtWO: So what are you going to do about it?
Myself, after a pause: How about this...
Beautiful journalist Caitlin Moran waits at the coffee machine for her cappuccino to froth. She is oblivious to the cooing crowd of acolytes who surround her. She is pensive, withdrawn. Her journalistic ethic is threatened by Morag Hilsten, the strong-willed and capricious new editor of Times 2. Since its inception in 2011, each paragraph of Caitlin’s ‘Celebrity Watch’ has been agonisingly crafted by her to form, syllabically, a reverse ‘droighneach’, the Irish verse form practiced by the Morans of Neath from time immemorial. Of course, the effect is unappreciated by her colleagues and her hordes of hasty careless readers. All bar that one special reader to whom her work is devoted. He will notice. His eye will see beneath the tawdry content of her prose its syllabic poeticism. He alone will…
Whhaaa, whhaa, whaaa, a strident claxon sounds over the public address system at Times HQ. ‘Miss Moran to the editor’s office’ orders the harsh metallic tones she feared. Gulping nervously she leaves her cappuccino to its fate and walks head down to Hilsten’s office.
‘Ah, Moran,’ says the brutish illiterate control-freak behind the expansive teak desk, ‘this copy of yours.’
‘Yes?’ Caitlin awaits the worst with proud defiance in the attitude of her queenly head.
‘Shouldn’t there be an ‘on’ here after ‘baton’?’
‘Er.. not necessarily, Miss Hilston.’
‘Well readers might think the baton is being passed back, mightn’t they?’
‘The phrase is an idiom from the sphere of athletics, Miss Hilton, and the racers in a relay only ever pass the baton to the next runner; they never hand it back to an earlier one.’
‘Yes, well, you might know that and I might know that but the readers might not know, so we’ll have an ‘on’ there thank you.’
‘Yes Miss Hilston.’
‘And where you say ‘the next generation who want to show their vaginas on the internet’, shouldn’t that be the next generation ‘of women’? After all, men don’t have vaginas.’
‘Well, Miss Hilston, that’s the point.’
‘Men don’t have vaginas, so the ‘of women’ can be taken as read.’
‘Yes, well, you might know that and I might know that but the readers might not know, so we’ll have an ‘of women’ there thank you.’
‘Yes Miss Hilston.’
Sobbing inconsolable Caitlin sits hunched over her Mac, an emulsion of tears and mascara staining its keyboard. Her anxious colleagues are grouped in whispers at the coffee machine. She…
CoLHTWO: OK that’s enough.
Myself: Are you sure? I could go on for pages yet.
CoLHTWO: No we’re sure.
Myself: Right-ho. But if you change your mind…