It is some time since I tried the experiment of looking at the row of women’s magazines in Smiths, and trying to decide what someone from Mars would deduce about the human female. As I recall, her main characteristics were a fixation on her appearance – in particular, her figure, and whether or not she was good value in bed. Or, perhaps, got good value in bed.
I have just undergone a similar, if involuntary, experiment when a link from Google News presented me with the News of the World’s colourful web site. I think of an archaeologist in, say, the 31st century using this as a clue to the preoccupations of our time.
I am presented with a headline which reads: “Rocker Ritchie’s girl is £1,000-an-hour coke-peddling, trilingual bisexual.” I think that “trilingual” is a reference to her grasp of languages, rather than some esoteric sexual technique. Now the archaeologist and I would share a common ignorance of the identity of Rocker Ritchie, let alone his “hooker” girlfriend, and that would be true of virtually all the names on the page.
All, that is, except Charlotte Church, once a Catholic schoolgirl, who sang something fine called Voice of an Angel. Since then she seem to have had a chequered career. On this occasion it is noted that she “verbally battered her mum at a takeaway after a drunken night out.” I read elsewhere that a fellow show business member, whom she had criticised, referred to her as “voice of a sewer”.
And I think I can tease out the appropriate name from “Flo’s” remark that her new boyfriend, Prince (I suspect neither William nor Harry) “pushes more Buttons in the bedroom than F1 ace Jenson did.”
The camera seems always to be ready – catching for instance a naked male buttock under the headline “Cheeky mates show off Lamps’ Chelsea buns”. Interpret that, as you may – apostrophe and all.
There is little sign of deprivation in these troubled times, unless we are to suppose that the large number of young women photographed can afford no further garments than their underwear. And that would make sense of the emphatic headline DAMNED NATION – polls say broke Brits have lost all hope.
Unfortunately I cannot invite you to share the web page with me. Much has happened to the News of the World since I first drafted my thoughts; and its current web page is very different. Instead I will tell you a story.
In the 19th century, Lord Riddell – then chairman and owner of the News of the World – sent a copy of the newspaper to his friend Frederick Greenwood, then editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. When he asked Greenwood what he had thought of the paper, Greenwood replied: “I looked at it, then I put it in the wastepaper basket. And then I thought ‘if I leave it there the cook may read it. So I burned it’”
‘Twas ever thus..