Shaken and Stirred by the Sunday Papers

When I was a teenager, I flirted briefly with the idea of becoming a journalist. Also with becoming a musician. I haven’t regretted my decision not to take up either. Before bankers and estate agents, journalists were pretty reviled. As a teen and well into my twenties, I used to think being well read in the newspaper department meant you were well informed, with a good grasp of what was going on in the world. The older, more cynical and increasingly world-weary me soon realised that wasn’t true.

The first time I was actually in a story which was reported in the papers and on TV (the Brixton Riots in 1981), I came to see that what I watched on the BBC and read about in The Times was often very far away from the truth I was living. My logical brain followed this up with “ah, if this reporting isn’t true, then perhaps I can’t trust anything else I am learning from the media”.

In fairness, I feel I should report that the reverse is also true. I occasionally think I know the truth of a story involving people I am or have been close to, and then something is revealed in the papers which illustrates that the artifice I had bought was in fact a sham. A little personal research reveals my naivete; I can still be disillusioned. Shame.

So now I believe that a quick whip round the Sunday papers leaves me knowing what they want me to know, not necessarily the truth. And “the news” frequently leaves me shaken. And stirred.

On Sundays, I favour the Mail on Sunday and I also buy The Sunday Times for a leisurely read during the week.   The front end of the Mail attempts to whip me up to a frenzy of envy against those who they consider have more than I do and are up to no good with it. Politicians. Celebrities. Great British Institutions.   I don’t really bother with most of this as to be honest with you, as a non-voter, I don’t care much or think other peoples’ business is any o fmy own. I feel remote from everything printed on those pages.

Yesterday the story which fell into this category was Stella, last year’s lovely Apprentice winner, saying that she was ignored by Lord Sugar and surprise, suprise, there isn’t really a job at the end of the series. I didn’t bother to read it as I like both parties (to the extent that The Apprentice allows me to come to know them) and one such article means nothing to me now. All I know having read the overview of the story is just that. Some reality TV participant is dissatisfied with the whole experience. Again, shame.

But the back pages of the financial sections do often inflame me. Yesterday I read that my £300k house might be worth only £200k in 20 years’ time according to a new book about to be published demonstrating that the British economy which I have taken 40 years to get to know, is not going to perform in any way I’ve ever seen before during the rest of my life. I fear that may be true. Note use of the verb in that sentence. One of my conspiracy theorist friends would say fear is exactly where the establishment wants us to dwell, which is why I gave up the papers and telly in the Nineties in the first place. No time for the distraction and no time for the negativity, especially since I had already decided most of it isn’t true. Perhaps its not such a good thing that my gap year has afforded me the free time to become reacquainted with both?

We do live in a society which loves to knock. Last week I watched a documentary/opinion-type programme which sought to encourage me to believe that Tony Blair was inappropriately mixing politics with his own financial gain, in order to become the richest former PM this country has ever known. Whilst he may be doing that, do I care? Should I care? If the foreign governments paying him millions for his influence are keen to continue doing that, there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.

Also, I’m not particularly concerned about him enriching himself, especially when being PM is so poorly paid, relatively speaking. There have been a couple of tax years in the last decade where I have earned more than the Prime Minister and I work entirely alone, from home. That can’t be right, can it? And the Chancellor is paid even less than the PM.  Thank Heavens people don’t go into politics for the cash, however the expenses scandal made it look.

So what did I learn yesterday in my customary quick whip round the Sundays, apart from the doom and gloom in the back pages?   The fun’s in the middle. I find I prefer the men’s magazine which has Piers Morgan and Chris Evans in it, to the women’s mag which is all about fashion, yawn. I did find an article in the women’s mag this week which I could email to a client as blog fodder, about wives becoming workhorses, a piece about role reversals when it comes to breadwinners.  I was disappointed to hear that Chris Evans has fallen off the wagon as he set out a few weeks back with such high hopes. I couldn’t fault his logic or his new plan though.

My horoscope was spot on yesterday: Taurus, If you dream of a totally different lifestyle in a totally different place, then now is the time to stop dreaming and start doing. With Mercury, planet of ideas, linked to Neptune, planet of imagination, you can decide what you want most out of life and then make it happen. Stonking! This is exactly what I propose to be spending these next few weeks doing so thanks for the timely nudge of encouragement. Again, in the interests of fairness, it must be reported that when my horoscopes don’t “fit”, I just ignore them! Good strategy for the rest of the paper too, frankly.

The piece I tore out of The Sunday Times magazine to read and enjoy again was an article by Matt Rudd about lottery winners entitled “Not Exactly Life-Changing, Is it…”.   I loved this piece and read it aloud to my Sunday companion. It’s full of lovely human stories of the folk who have won upwards of £1.7m.   The consensus seemed to be that a million isnt all that much, a sentiment with which I agree wholeheartedly and put forth quite assertively during the recently weeklong schedule of Red or Black, or Ant or Dec as I christened it: “A million isnt enough to give up your day job, Muppets!”

These lottery winners had, by and large, given up their day jobs but not all of them, not the Darlington greengrocer who still gets up at 3 a.m. because he likes the peace in the world at that time of day. The lucky winners often buy a car, a big American style fridge and upgrade the telly but not much more. Matt Rudd’s theory was that they weren’t spending enough and part of me agrees with him. I also agree with the lucky winners. It was uplifting satisfying to discover that most ordinary people are content enough with their lives that they don’t change all that much. None of them had bought a yacht though a couple of them had enjoyed their own Pretty Woman moment when contemplating expensive purchases and been found wanting by lofty salesmen who simply lost the sale. Never judge a lottery winner by its cover.

This was a timely piece after it was revealed a Brit won £101m on the Euro Millions on Friday night. Yee ha and good luck to them! I do propose to change my life quite a lot with my millions and not because I am discontent, quite the reverse. As my horoscope says, I have been contempating a different lifestyle in a different place for a very long time and I shall use my dosh to make it happen. I thought my gap year was going to be 2011 but it appears that it will now be 2012 and I am busy burning my bridges so that I am ready.

And Matt Rudd will be pleased to hear that I am going to splurge and spend. I won’t become the new Viv Nicholson, famous for her intention to “spend, spend, spend” until she had nothing left to show for it and found herself back in the poorhouse. But I will be renting a yacht at the very least. Now and again. Perhaps for Christmas fortnight?

Apart from anything else, if the imminent Armageddon predicted by the Sundays every week is nigh and you can’t afford to put your money in the increasingly shady and shaky banks, you might as well go out with a bang, right?

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