Sunday, March 20, 2011
Farmyard News Exclusive
Peppa Pig and Fifi & the Flowertots are no match for cruise missiles. I don’t know who is more upset with the United Nations: Colonel Gaddafi or Izzy. Her beloved DVDs have been lying beside the television, ejected and rejected, and her demands for “Piggy-Pig” and “She-She” ignored as the drama from Libya unfolds. Our household is now hooked on 24-hour news.
It’s amazing to think that it was only nine weeks ago that Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ejected from power in Tunisia. Remember Hosni Mubarak? Whatever happened to him after he went off to join the tourists by the Red Sea at Sharm-el-Sheikh? Is he still there, taking in a bit of snorkeling and wistfully gazing up at Mount Sinai? Who knows – the story has rolled on.
For the last few weeks, one whirlwind of earth-transforming events has followed another like tornado season in Kansas. It’s turned into the plot of a really bad action movie: “Dateline March 2011 – half of Christchurch has been destroyed; 10,000 people have been drowned in a Japanese Tsunami and the country is threatened with nuclear devastation; meanwhile the United Nations declares war on a deranged tyrant bent on killing his own people”. Not even Bruce Willis would risk his career on that one.
Every new event stretches audience credibility. Last night I dreamt that the supermoon, the biggest full moon for 18 years, was actually on an out-of-control trajectory and heading for a soft landing somewhere near Darlington. It’s almost as believable as some of the television output we’ve been watching over the last fortnight.
In the calm of our rural backwater, Jo and I have our own version of the news – we call it Farmyard News. I am chief reporter, political correspondent, newsreader and I also make the tea. Having worked for the first part of my career in BBC news and later on programmes like Nationwide and Panorama, I love a good breaking story. I think both BBC and Sky are doing a great job, but recently I’ve been running my own exclusive commentary alongside their official output.
It’s actually Jo’s fault. Like many Americans, she has an insatiable curiosity for information, particularly about British history. I, on the other hand, almost failed History O-Level. However, determined not to disappoint her, for the entire 7 years of our relationship I’ve been making stuff up. If we drive by a castle she demands to know who lives there, so I will invent an entire tragic dynasty, complete with wayward son who goes mad, marries a German milkmaid and strangles his parents. She will happily take all this in, but I know one day I’ll get caught out.
Convinced that my brain is a vast repository of useful information, Jo has a tendency to ask me questions during news bulletins. Because I’m too polite to say “Babe, this is the news: how could I possibly know why this man killed his wife?” I try not to let her down. Sometimes I strike lucky.
Like last week. Just after the explosion at the first Fukushima nuclear reactor, some pundit on Sky was worried about Tokyo. “Do you think people in Tokyo are safe?” asked Jo. “Absolutely”, said the Farmyard News anchor confidently, handing over to the weather reporter: “The smoke from the explosion is blowing to the left and the sea is behind: that means the wind is towards the north, so for now Tokyo is safe”. It took Sky News four hours to catch up with me on that one.
All week I’ve tried to be one step ahead of the headlines, but now I’ve given up. I don’t think there’s a pundit on earth who could predict the final act of this Libyan nightmare. I’m sure we’d all be far safer watching Peppa Pig.