Paddington Bear: the reality

Paddington-Bear

Londoners faced more rush hour chaos last night when a wild animal, believed to be a species of south american bear, was found at Paddington Station’s left luggage office.  The station was closed for more than two hours – between 4.30 and 6.30pm – whilst the British Transport Police and RSPCA inspectors dealt with the situation.

Jonathan Brown, 13, a pupil at Eton College, told the Standard:

‘It was, like, really weird? The bear was, like, sitting on a suitcase eating sandwiches it must have, like, stolen from somewhere’

A spokesman for the RSPCA said:

‘It is hard to imagine the sheer irresponsibility of someone deliberately leaving a potentially dangerous wild animal at a busy railway station.  Bears may look cute and cuddly but they are powerful and unpredictable animals and this could have been a life-threatening situation’.

British Transport Police are appealing for the owners of the bear to come forwards.

A spokesman for Network Rail said:

‘We would urge any of our customers travelling with animals to ensure that they are secure and under control at all times.’

The station was reopened after the bear was put down by a police marksman who had been called to the scene.

Mark Kermode Hatchet Job!

I’m reading Mark Kermode’s latest book ‘Hatchet Job’ at the moment.  I really like Kermode’s film reviews which are lucid, well-informed and well thought-out, even when I strongly disagree with them (for example, he liked the Gary Oldman/Benedict Cumberbatch ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ which I thought was mediocre and missed the point of the source material) and I make a point of listening to his Friday afternoon BBC 5live film review show with Simon Mayo which is always thoroughly entertaining.

But blimey his books need editing!  This is the second of them I’ve tried to read and golly it’s hard work.  He really needs someone to tell him that long-form writing is not just an excuse for drivelling, blather and padding, but an opportunity to set out thoughtful ideas and opinions of real depth.  If he reviewed a film as flabbily edited as this, he would rightly rubbish it.  Ironically, it’s a rumination on the roles and responsibilities of the film critic.

I’ll blog again if I manage to finish it but if you’re really desperate to see what I’m on about, you can buy it here

Updated to add:

Nope, I’ve given up on this: it’s unreadably discursive.  The lovely Mrs Weale had a go last night too, but cast it aside after fifteen minutes with a disgruntled – though elegant – snort.

Christmas is Coming!

Image

So if you’re stuck for a last minute present for that special person you want to really impress, you could do worse than delving into the Adrian Weale back catalogue:

Howzabout the ‘Arrse Guide to the British Army’ by my very close friend Major Des Astor?  It’s an hilarious, knockabout guide to what the British Army is all about in the 21st century which will teach you everything you need to know about bulling boots, walting with confidence, naked bars and skiffing.  It’s a perfect Christmas present for anyone with the remotest interest in the military,  humour and la conditione humaine.

The Arrse Guide to the British Army

The Arrse Guide to the British Army – Kindle Edition

If you aren’t worried about hilarious military antics and anecdotes, you might prefer a bit of practical help in getting yourself fit for the long year ahead, in which case I recommend ‘Fighting Fit’.  More than 100,000 satisfied customers can’t be wrong!

Fighting Fit

And finally, if you know someone who needs a serious historical blockbuster, then look no further than ‘The SS: A New History’.

The SS: A New History

The SS: A New History – Kindle Edition

Harmless Drudgery

I’ve finally – and no doubt to my agent’s delight – finished revising my old fitness book ‘Fighting Fit’ for an ebook edition.  We’re hoping to get it online in the next month or so in time for the Christmas rush.

If you can’t wait that long, Orion produced a new print edition a couple of months back (with a new cover design, no less) which Amazon will happily sell you:

It’s a hard knock life, uh huh!

My day rate...

My day rate…

My friend Guy Walters wrote a ‘pulpit’ for the Literary Review – Britain’s least up-its-own-arse literary magazine – this month, pointing out how there is a strange assumption throughout some sections of the culture-media nexus that people who write books don’t actually need to be paid (it’s online here:  http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/walters_07_13.php).

Here’s another example:  I was phoned on Monday by a TV producer for an independent company that has a commission from Channel 5 to produce a 1 hour documentary on an aspect of the Third Reich about which I happen to know quite a lot.  He wanted to know if I was prepared to appear on the film, setting the subject in context and talking about some of the key characters.

I do quite a lot of this kind of thing so I was happy to agree to it.  We then got on to the mechanics of the filming.  His idea was that I would fly out to Germany for a day for the shoot, which – again – I was happy to do: it gets me out of the office, apart from anything else.

It was at this point that he used a phrase which I must have heard two dozen times in the twenty years I’ve been writing non-fiction:  ‘Of course, we’ll make sure your book gets a mention’.  For those who are unfamiliar with TV producer code this means ‘we’re not planning to pay you anything’.

I pointed this out, told him my day-rate and there were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence.

‘We’re not really allowed to pay interviewees anything’, he ventured, ‘because it seems like we’re just paying them to say what we want them to say’.

This is rubbish:  I do quite a lot of this kind of stuff and I am routinely paid for it.  We talked for a few more minutes and we closed with the producer telling me he would try to work out what they could pay me and would ‘get back to me’.  I haven’t heard from him since and I have no doubt he’s been phoning round trying to find someone to do the gig for free.

The point, as Guy Walters makes clear in his Literary Review article, is that if you ask a lawyer or a doctor to give you an expert opinion, you expect to pay them for it.  So why not a writer?

The excuse is always that by appearing on TV, we’re getting a marvellous opportunity to promote our work, and that we writers should be grateful for that.  In reality, if 10 people buy a copy of the paperback of my history of the SS on the back of an appearance on a documentary – and I doubt it would be many more than that – it’s going to make me about a fiver.  It doesn’t stack up.

So, like Guy, I’m not doing any more freebies without a damned good reason.  It’s a precarious enough career unless you’re J K Rowling and frankly we all need to minimise days when we don’t earn anything.