Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Recently I confessed to a newfound desire to be paid money for writing more than just website copy. I understand I’m not alone in this. Therefore I’m guessing I’m also not alone in occasionally dipping into certain broadsheet weekend supplements, reading the columns therein and groaning, closing my eyes, shaking my head and uttering the words, ‘Why? Why? What kind of world do we live in where a respected publication actually pays good money to blithering imbeciles for this kind of inane, soulless garbage?’

I won’t mention any names, but frankly, pick one at random. They’re all crap. So I decided to write something and send it in to the Observer. After all, I have nothing to lose but my dignity. I decided to write something about the hot weather, as - at least until this morning - it seemed appropriate. Here it is – it’s a small piece just to show them what I’m capable of:

This hot weather is ruining my life. I'm a greasy factor-50 carping mess. Attila the Sunny. Indeed, however much people start prancing around in hideous citrus clothing, Britain is not happy in the sun. No country is - extreme sustained heat just seems to make people soporific and slow or foul-tempered and bonkers.

On the bright side, if readers want a surefire way of getting out of all the boring barbecues they're bound to be invited to, they can borrow my thoughts on sorting out the Middle East: 'They should stop looking for WMDs and start putting in air conditioning.' Imbecilic? Yes. Racist? No - it's weatherist. But the invitations will dry up before you can say 'hosepipe ban'.

What do you think? Oh. Oh dear. Really? You thought it was poorly written to the point of embarrassing? It actually made your skin crawl? You don’t really know why I wrote it and what I was trying to say? You thought it was uninsightful, reactionary, inaccurate, hackneyed and bordering on offensively pointless? You think I’ve got more chance of waking up in an Abu Ghraib-style pile of Jessica Albas than I have of getting that bilge published in the Observer?

Well, OK then, I’ll come clean. In truth, I absolutely agree with you, except of course for your last point. The words in question were actually written by Barbara Ellen and published in last Sunday’s Observer magazine.

I think they’re rotten words, and they really do make me despair. Often I read stuff like this and I find myself thinking, ‘I could do better than that’. This time I actually found myself thinking. ‘Amanda Platell could do better than that’. So you see the level to which we’ve descended. The tragedy is that if I really had written those words, I would probably have neither the sense nor the decency to give my brain the bullet it so richly deserves. Do I exaggerate? Do I really? Three words: Attila the Sunny.

Oh, Barbara.

Just as youth is wasted on the young, and wealth and success are wasted on the rich and successful, so it seems that broadsheet glossy columns are wasted on the arse-clenchingly inane.

For shame, the Observer. For shame.

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Swineshead said...

She's bad enough but have you tried reading more than a sentence by Polly Vernon? Got further than five of Euan Ferguson's words?

Even Philip French writes a load of old shit.

Glamourpuss said...

Concur absolutely - they're all a bunch of talentless cunts. In fact, we were just having the same discussion over at Bill's place.


Rhodri Marsden said...

As someone who has to write a column every week, I feel I should meekly point out that writers are human, and occasionally they wake up and realise that they simply don't having anything to say. But they can't just call in and say "sorry, can't think of owt this week".

I mean, it would be great if they could. And it would be great if editors sent shit columns back to you and said "sorry, this is supremely fucking facile, so we've got the cleaner to write about his holiday in Bruges instead." But they have to fill the space, and we've been commissioned to fill it.

I'd like to think that I haven't ever submitted complete horseshit, but some weeks are better than others. Even such top-notch wits as Charlie Brooker have off days. (And when he does, man, does he get savaged by the charmless bastards on the Guardian website.)

It's possible that Barbara Ellen is shit every week, of course, but I wouldn't know, because I don't read anything glossy.

La Bête said...

Hey, Swineshead, yeah, I think they were both on the list of people I wasn't mentioning.

And Zoe Williams was actually at the top of that list, Puss.

Hi, Rhodri. I reckon that if a columnist writes three naff columns, then they should be fired. Unless of course the non-naff ones are particularly spectacular, and more than make up for the dross. It should be like any other job, and if you fail to do it well, it should be given to someone who can do it better. And Barbara Ellen is shit every week. She should be sweeping the streets. In Kabul. You really don't real anything glossy? Is this a medical condition? If so, what is it called?

Clare Sudbery said...

One of the most annoying things about this is that a common mistake made by writers is to read a publication, think to themselves "I could do better than that" and accordingly send them something for consideration. But what they miss is that magazines and newspapers have house styles. And if they publish crap, that's because they think their readers like it. And if you want to be published by them, you need to write the same kind of crap - otherwise they'll just reject it as "not for us".

Anonymous said...

So...did you or did you not actually send in anything? You didn't answer that question and now the suspense is killing me and I'll have to open a bottle of wine...again!

Michael said...

"they're all a bunch of talentless cunts"

I'll second that sentiment.
Moses wept!

patroclus said...

Still, at least they got rid of Euan whatsisname, whose column was always unreadable.

(Oh, I just noticed Swineshead already said that.)

I wouldn't mind so much if they didn't insist on ridiculing and pouring scorn on bloggers the whole time. There's very little difference between an entertaining blog post and an entertaining 'lifestyle' column (or between a bad blog post and a bad lifestyle column), and I hope one day they might concede this fact.

Anonymous said...

Hi "La Bete". Well as you will see having only just come across your blog today (as a brand new blogger myself) I have stopped a while longer to read a few more of your previous posts. I found this one about the absolute rubbish written by Barbara Ellen hilarious!

Yeah, I'm a wannabe writer as well, ain't all of us bloggers?

I know my blog is really early days, but hopefully the direction of it will become clear after a few more entries.

La Bête said...

Clare, yeah, I do see that, but I guess I just can’t believe that any of their readers do really like it. Because I am their target audience I reckon… but maybe I’m not. Thinking about it, I’m probably not. You’re probably right. Bah.

Penelope, no I didn’t really send anything in. I was pretending in order to be mean about Barbara.

Michael, don’t talk to me about Moses. What a slacker.

Indeed, Patroclus. I think the main difference is that most bloggers are doing it because they feel driven and many columnists are doing it because it’s their job and they have to do it to pay the rent. I suspect many of them feel as dispassionate about their job as I do about mine. It don’t seem right somehow.

Hi “goodbyetoallfat”! Nice to meet you and good luck with everything you’re trying to achieve. I reckon if you want it badly enough, you can do it. I really do.