Archive for the 'Celebrities' Category

The funny side of farming

I managed to hold it together until the stereo started blaring out “Where’s your sausage gone?” to the tune of ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’.

It was at that point – stood outside Downing Street in front of a 16ft, shiny, hovering sausage – that I collapsed onto the floor in hysterical laughter.


You have to hand it to the pig industry – they certainly have a sense of humour.

At a time when producers are leaving the industry in droves thanks to spiralling input costs and appalling returns from retailers and processors, they went for comedy to make a very serious point.

At least, I hope they were trying to be funny.

Anyway, it certainly succeeded in being one of my more surreal days as a journalist. When I was at university learning the finer points of media law so I’d be able to bring down governments without getting done for libel, I thought I could only dream of being shouted at by Christine Hamilton for not wearing any gloves on a freezing day in March. Or asking the chief executive of the British Pig Executive in all seriousness how big his sausage was.

Much like the country’s pig producers, if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry…


Sausage signings

Tomorrow I’m going to be spending seven hours in central London with a load of pig farmers, an ex-Atomic Kitten, an ice-skating Gladiator, a 15ft sausage and a load of marker pens.

Giant sausage
I am a serious journalist… I am a serious journalist…. I am a serious journalist….

Jay Rayner would be impressed.


The day I met a proper journalist

Had I not chosen a career path which had taken me down a bizarre route into a niche avenue of journalism, I would have like to have become a proper writer on a national newspaper. Like John Pilger, perhaps. Or Jay Rayner.

Y’know, Jay Rayner. The one who’s the stunt double for Marco Pierre White on those Knorr stockcube adverts?

You must know him – he’s that restaurant critic with over 17,000 followers on Twitter, the Observer column and his own slot on the One Show at 7 o’clock on Fridays?

The Jewish one who didn’t go to Oxbridge and lives in Brixton?

Jay Rayner
Yes, that’s him.

Anyway, it turns out Jay is in Birmingham to speak at the NFU conference today. Hopefully he’ll whip up the audience into a frenzy over his views on organics, food security and the (lack of) meaningful policy changes the coalition government’s made to enhance  UK agriculture since it came to power. Or he might just give us some anecdotes of when he met the president. Or the pope. Or whoever it was.

Pig-tail pulling aside, I actually had quite an interesting chat with Jay in the NFU conference bar last night. Once I’d got past his insults, it was nice to see there’s someone with a national media profile who actually understands and supports British agriculture.

It’s even better that he’s a proper journalist, with a real notebook and everything. Fingers crossed he takes good notes and feels inclined to share his thoughts with more people in the real world.


So close…

When I was eight we did a class project at school on Canada. It largely entailed making a totem pole out of cereal packets and shoe boxes and learning that a moose and a mousse were two different things, but as part of the project our teacher got in touch with a school in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario and arranged pen pals for everyone in the class.

I can still remember sitting cross-legged on the assembly hall floor as the first batch of letters were handed out,  and particularly how envious everyone was of my letter. It had been written at Christmas time, so my correspondent had written each alternate word with a red and green Biro. But what was more impressive was her festive letter was written in an elegant, joined-up script. We had been allowed to exchange pencils for Berol handwriting pens only weeks earlier and had just been taught how to join up letters (don’t ask me how I remember this rubbish, I wish I could remember useful stuff this well), so my friends and I were in awe of this Canadian girl, who was obviously much cleverer and cooler than we were.

Soppy childhood reminiscing aside, my pen pal, Nicole, and I sent each other snail mail every couple of months or so for about ten years (until we discovered emails and Facebook). To me, Canada was such a distant country that I never thought I’d ever get to go to see where Nicole lived. That’s why this street sign, and my last couple of days of my trip, have been special:

street sign

Yep, I went to my pen pal’s house today. The only flaw is she’s buggered off to Costa Rica for the summer to go surfing and learn Spanish.

It’s not as unfortunate as it sounds – I had known she wasn’t going to be there, but I went along anyway and had a smashing time with her mum, Lise. She took me around the town and into the country and showed me the landmarks and places where Nicole hung out as a kiddie-wink. I’d always known she lived close to the beach (I used to think she was so exotic because she always wrote about going kayaking), but I never imagined she would live quite so nearby. It was kind of surreal watching the amazing  sunset over Lake Niagara knowing Nicole had no doubt hung out there countless times. I assume I have pollution from Toronto to thank for the funky colour of the sun….

Anyway, it really meant a lot to go there, and I hope I can go back some day (or maybe to even to Costa Rica, eh Nicole?!) to finally meet her. xo.


Being Wurzelised

I have to admit, I was a little sad this week when U2 had to pull out of Glastonbury cos Bono’s back’s giving him gyp. Like Jet, Bono, Th’Edge and the gang are a guilty musical pleasure of mine, and I was disappointed I wouldn’t get to see them again.

After today though, I’ve discovered a way to completely fill that gaping hole in the festival line-up left by Ireland’s second-favourite sons (Westlife being first, obviously). Just look who I’ve spent the day with:


That’s right, only the bloomin’ Wurzels. I’m a fully-fledged groupie now – I figure now I’ve seen Tommy Banner in a vest and been invited to go backstage at their Glasto show I can call myself that, anyway.

I won’t spoil what they said because the full interview’s going in Farmers Weekly in a few weeks – there’s a cracking video of them for the website too – but they were such nice chaps (I’m assuming the moment where Pete seemed to compare me to a bovine was an accidental blip…).

They’ve got another album of covers coming out next month to tie in with their festival appearance – my head DJ hasn’t stopped playing their version of Kaiser Chief’s ‘Ruby’ out of my head since I heard it.

I think it’s only right that I take Mr Business, Mr Arable and Miss Machinery to their festival set so they can get it stuck in their heads too. I’m kind like that.


Fishy way for the media to make dosh

Gob of the Wash is in London at the moment for the Chelsea Flower Show, so we’ve been going out to play in the evenings to take advantage of his escape from Lincolnshire.

We both have a fairly silly sense of humour, so last night we went to Leicester Square to watch Richard Herring record his podcast.

He says he started it because he wanted more creative control and liked the fact the internet was ‘do it yourself’ (in reality I reckon it’s cos he wants to swear like a trooper without getting shouted at by the TV bosses). The podcast’s free to download, but he charges a tenner to watch the recording, which covers the costs of the theatre and reportedly leaves him with a wage of about £84 for the show.

It’s an idea which interests me as a media geek and Matthew as a third of farming’s intermittent podcast troupe, Pure Tilth.

We often chat about how to make new media profitable – he tried but didn’t succeed in getting sponsorship for his audio shows, while trying to get financial backing for videos and podcasts at Farmers Weekly is something I think about a fair bit.

Compared with some of the publications within our publishing group, FW has to work harder to convince companies to get behind our online stuff. Offer advertisers space in the magazine though, and they bite our hands off.

I often wonder whether it’s because we haven’t yet hit on a format that really appeals to the imaginations of farming advertisers, or if agriculture’s a bit late to catch on, preferring the traditional, tried-and-tested methods of the past.

Continue reading “Fishy way for the media to make dosh” »


Some badger to love

Brian May’s back.

Fan’s of my last post on the hirsute, badger-loving rocker’s anti-cull campaign will be distraught to know I haven’t got any quality puns this time. Sorry, Steve.

I have, however, got this brilliant photo of the Queen guitarist having a debate with some Welsh dairy farmers about how best to tackle bovine TB:

Stephen James, Brian May and Michael Sharratt small

Just look at it. There are so many aspects of it that make it such a wonder to behold: the barnet, obviously; the jumper on the chap on the right (Organic Farmers and Growers’ efforts have nothing on this, hey?); the hand gesture of the guy on the left (is he demonstrating how he’d throttle a badger, or is he showing Bri how he usually dances to Radio Ga Ga?).

My favourite element though is the photo of the girl on the Welsh dresser. How on earth did Brian manage to coordinate his outfit like that? Scary.


Bad(ger) hair day

I love it when celebs get involved with farming issues.

Sometimes I’m impressed that they’re having a go at trying to get people interested in food and the way its produced. I mean, just look at the great work of Nell McAndrew, or Cheggars perhaps…

Ok, I lie. I usually get incredibly wound up that they’ve got the wrong end of the stick, they’ve over-simplified things, or they’ve just made the industry feel cringe-worthy. I mean, really – what were Westlife thinking?

Anyway, aged rocker Brian May’s squeezed his farming hat over his frizzy hair this week to stick his two pence-worth in over plans to cull badgers in Wales. He reckons the Welsh Assembly Government’s plans to carry out a targeted cull in a bid to eradicate bovine TB is ‘genocide’.

Not knowing when to stop (perhaps Freddie taught him something about that), he went on to liken the plans to killing ginger-haired people in a bid to rid the world of smallpox. Excellent analogy, Bri.

I’d been trying for a few hours to rack my brain for a pun about Queen, Brian’s barnet or badgers to end on. Being a bit short on inspiration I gave Gob of the Wash a call on my way to FW Towers. He claims his mind’s solely on daffodil harvesting at the mo and that’s the reason why this was the best he could come up with:


Perhaps he’s not the only one who should stick to the day job…


Sleb Watch II

So I was only stood next to crazy crooner Lady Ga Ga at Heathrow airport.

I know, impressive, hey? Well, it might have been  had I actually noticed her – I just gawped at the paparrazzi trying to work out what kind of cameras they had without thinking about what they were actually there to take photos of.

I hadn’t even got the excuse of not recognising her in her civvies – according to the more observant members of the NufScho group, she was dressed as a wasp.

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