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Have I Got News For You….? Actually, no.

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It may well be that I have too much time on my hands.  That perhaps the weather prevents me from interacting socially in quite the way I would like and I therefore seek alternative diversions. Reading being one of those. Current affairs, showing an interest, and generally keeping an eye on the world at large being others. Yet I am confused and befuddled with the amount of clap-trap on display in the average daily paper, purporting to be “news” items. In fact, I have seen so many of these today, I am declaring Wednesday 9th May 2012 as the official “Non-News News Day”.

I try to read a broad cross-section of papers most days in order to get a potted view, so to speak, so I cannot be blamed for only having scanned the red-headed handy-size papers such as The Sun where one could, arguably, expect to find a high number of non-news items in a single sitting. Today’s headline gems from that particular receptacle of things we never needed to know scream out:

  • Busty Christina Aguilera boobs on US TV show The Voice (The Sun) – STAR nearly spills out of her ill-fitting frock during duet
  • Nicole Scherzinger nearly falls victim to wardrobe malfunction (The Sun) – SINGER’S cleavage nearly makes a bid for freedom

So you tell me: where is the news in these headlines? Surely if said boobs had ACTUALLY left the fabric instead of nearly leaving then, yes, that would be news. Or if this was a well-researched statement on the state of the dress-making industry and/or the odd shape and sheer pneumacity of a celebrity’s mammary glands (ew) – well, fair enough. But here is actually no news at all since the boobs stayed exactly where they should, the dresses remained intact and the shows went on.

  • Lineker gets her tatt out for a dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – DANIELLE flashes her tattooed ribcage at a posh dinner with Kate and Wills (The Sun)

Same with poor old Mrs Lineker – after all, she didn’t lay on a table and have Wills inscribe the tattoo on to her with a set of heraldic cutlery and a set square, did she? That would have been worth reporting, if you had been there to witness it. So I wonder: Is the headline suggesting that Kate and Wills were shocked, nay, horrified and foaming at the mouth to see such a thing? To be honest, I doubt they even noticed. There is, in fact, no news in this item whatsoever other than Mrs L’s got a tattoo to those who care about such trivia. Perhaps more interesting a headline might have been: “Gary bares unfeasibly large lug-holes at future Queen”? They’re just as noticeable and frankly in my opinion more offensive yet, sadly for Gary, clearly un-newsworthy today. 

Similar inane non-celebrity scoops appear randomly elsewhere on the internet today:

  • Michelle Collins denies reports she’s quitting Coronation Street (Daily TV)

She’s apparently not leaving. She probably never said she would leave. She is still doing what she was doing yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that…..So, no actual news to report there then. Honestly, who cares? 

Via a tenuous “care” link – even the stalwarts of English Rugby are in the non-news today:

  • Care: not drinking in bid for England call – Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care feeling fitter after cutting out alcohol as he looks to get England career back on track. (Telegraph)

I expected better of The Telegraph. Is it really news that Danny hasn’t had a pint for a few weeks and – lo and behold – he feels better for it? The Man-Hog and I abstain regularly yet the local news has never yet felt the need to pick this up. Are we supposed to applaud and say “Well done Danny, clearly this is ground-breaking stuff that you’ve managed not to guzzle down an entire  keg of Harvey’s during May. You’re a true sporting hero.” Such non-news only serves to confuse me, the reader. I have no idea what my response to this nothingness should be.

Sport in general appears to be a veritable tumult of non-news:

  • Blackburn manager Steve Kean says owners Venky’s ” not going anywhere” and he is “not going anywhere” following relegation. (Telegraph)

A classic statement that even I understand, yet clearly non-news of no import whatsoever on the footballing world. Surely the headline should just have read “Nothing happened today at Blackburn today”. At least more honest. Hm?

Business and politics fare no better, if you look. Here’s one I puzzled over earlier:

  • ITV expects summer advertising surge (FT.com)

And? It hasn’t happened yet, so not really news is it? There’s no specific date given for when it will happen, so it is not an announcement of intent or an order confirmation which might conceivably count as news to their profit and loss account and therefore their shareholders. It is….you guessed it….more non-news. Are they hoping their share price will go up simply because they are feeling jolly hopeful about stuff? Ambition should be made of sterner stuffing, shouldn’t it?

In conclusion, there’s a lot to be said for well-researched, factual and informative articles in the papers – articles that explain, stimulate discussion and challenge our opinions. Articles you can beat the kids over the head with to make them view the world as a cornucopia of information and action to be explored and digested. Yet there’s nothing at all to be said about non-news that has no teeth and seemingly no point to it. Just blurb on a page to fill up the white space. Nonsense. Nothing. A bit like this blog but worse. At least I don’t charge you to read it!

Headless Chickens….

I’ve been reading quite a few articles recently about mums and dads wanting to carve out more “Me” time in their lives to spend doing the things they want to do. I think the concept of time spent on a hobby, sport or other pastime is very important and, for some, literally a lifesaver.

It’s just that right now I’m feeling the opposite. I would dearly love to spend more time with the Man-Hog and the Mini-Pigs. Something that seems impossible to organise. It is not me separating myself off. No. It’s THE SCHEDULE.

Those of you out there with babies and toddlers experiencing the full-on 24/7 that comes with that territory are not aware yet of the subtle shift that begins to seep in at around 9-10 years old. We spend our kids’ formative years teaching them life skills, independence and self-esteem only to have that come and bite us right on the behind about 10 years into Project Parenthood.

With independence and confidence comes exploration and activity. The kids want to do, see, experience and embrace everything they can – in addition to all the activities they already do that we, as their nurturing parents, have arranged. And my local area, for a rural community, is surprisingly comprehensive in its variety of opportunities. So it is not enough that Mini-Pig Boy plays or trains for football three times a week already. Now there is rugby and, today, a vague murmuring of rock-wall climbing Saturday club. Mini-Pig Girl already spends as much time out with friends as she can (pocket-money and catty girl group arguments permitting!). Now she’s playing netball league (albeit at my instigation) and is out two nights a week minimum. She is also looking for Saturday work which will no doubt eat up a further day of the week that I then cannot spend with her. I can’t selfishly stand in the way of her earning her own money. She has Primark and Hollister Co. to support after all. Single-handedly it feels like! Thank goodness for quite hefty teeth braces still present in the mouth – at least boyfriends are not on her personal radar too just yet.

Man-Hog has started going to the gym a few times per week to coincide with the Boy’s football training. Consequently I have a giant toddler in the house again nodding off into his dinner plate and emerging, gravy-stained, to stagger up the stairs for a hose-down and an early night – the gym having sucked the life-force out of him. Between this and his plans to manfully prevent our 400 year-old house crumbling to a dusty heap while the woodworm point and laugh openly, he really is quite busy. I haven’t had Loose Women‘s entire lunchtime episode re-told to me in weeks. I am happy about that, by the way!

Me – well I’ve just come back from a weekend’s race-sailing. Not a weekly occurrence, I grant you, but a hobby that cannot be done within an hour’s session; that requires at least two days to achieve anything useful. I play netball twice a week, every week, and work 12-15 hour days with the commute. I’m not complaining about it, it is just how it is at the moment.

Besides all this, the Man-Hog and I still try to fit in an adult social life. Even more important in a country environment where effort must be made to meet up.

So we have had to devise THE SCHEDULE. A running tote of who will expire from exhaustion first. (My money’s on the Man-Hog – he’s out of practice and likely to fall at the first hurdle.) THE SCHEDULE allows our poor over-taxed neurons to work out who is going to be where and require picking up at what time. It has addresses and driving directions to sports fixtures all over Sussex. It has netball grids of all three teams playing league in Eastbourne each week. It also contained, up until last weekend, the days and times of England’s rugby World Cup journey. Hmph. Those slots have now been filled by domestic tasks and the occasional foray to the supermarket. Shortly, I suspect, it will have the times at which we may pee and sit down. I kid you not.

What THE SCHEDULE does not contain, nor seems willing to factor into its demanding little squares, is any family time. I miss my family. I miss having the Mini-Pigs sitting on my lap watching Thunderbirds on a Sunday morning. I miss sprawling on the floor with the Man-Hog and his Sunday papers munching baked doughnuts from the local village shop with a side order of calorific-guilt – so bad, yet so good. I miss little people bathtimes where many a fun moment was had with a kitchen jug and some silly string. I even miss the “I’m boooorrrreeeedddd!” whines of the recent summer holiday…..I know! Shocker! But at least we were together and bored. I clearly didn’t appreciate that time enough.

I could choose to curtail family activities that stop us spending much time together but I shy away from clipping their wings in these days of computer games, endless TV and potential childhood obesity. I could say no to shopping trips, sleepovers and playdates at weekends, but wouldn’t I just make myself entirely unpopular and the recipient of several gut-shaking door slams? I could cut the labels out of Man-Hog’s jeans so the size doesn’t upset him and force him to the treadmill; but wouldn’t such marital deceit be discovered eventually, inducing a crisis necessitating his dive into the nearest comforting Pot Noodle?

So no, I will not do that, For now, THE SCHEDULE, like a Cyber-Man on a completely incomprehensible episode of Doctor Who, rules the world. I am holding my breath and hoping that, in continuing, I won’t wake up in a few years and regret giving in to it. I hope family time will return, perhaps in a newer and even more fulfilling way, at some later date. Until then, I do have some nice nostalgic photos and a lot of netball trainers to console me.

What about you? Me-time or family-time: how are you making it work?