What do journalists have in common
with grandchildren
They both love stories 

I rediscovered the power of story-telling the other day. All it took was an afternoon with a fractious three-year-old.

We look after Oliver, our grandson, two days a week, partly to save on crippling nursery costs but also to get to know him.

He doesn’t know It yet, but he is going to be a heartbreaker with those dimples and that winsome smile. But he is spookily intuitive too, so perhaps he does know it.

He plays women, young and old, with the practised ease of Nigel Kennedy sawing away at a Stradivarius.

I have a little video on my phone of Ollie demonstrating to an old lady how the soles of his shoes light up. He is stamping his feet to activate the lights and the woman is hooting with laughter on her seafront bench, utterly charmed.

Ollie has reached that difficult stage between dependent toddler and harum-scarum “big boy”. His fourth birthday is just around the corner and, in his head, afternoon naps are for wimps. He hasn’t the slightest need of one.

But of course, he does. As the day wears on, he tires visibly and the impish charm begins to fray.

I watched this happening the other day and suggested that we could go upstairs and lie on the bed, where I would read him a story. “We don’t have to sleep, we’ll just rest.”

I was surprised when he agreed. But we lay down and I read him Snore, by Michael Rosen. It is the simplest story: A dog’s snoring wakes up all the farm animals who, one by one, try to silence the mutt.

They fail and he sleeps through, still snoring, until morning, by which time he is ready for action and the other animals are so tired, all they can do is… snore.

He listened, rapt, and I spun it out for as long as I could. I moo’d and baa’d and oinked but eventually I ran out of road.

“What now, Grandpa?”

I didn’t want to break the mood, so thinking fast, I said: “I’ll tell you a story I used to tell your Daddy.”

Rummaging in the memory box, I came up with one from 40 years ago about a little mouse, now coincidentally called Ollie, who saves a grumpy boss from his blazing factory.

Two more followed and by the time we had reached the end, his father was at the door to collect him. Mission accomplished – and I even got to lie down.

The episode explains why we call newspaper reports stories. It is because we want to elevate them above the mundane relaying of facts to the reader.

We try to make them adventures, mysteries, fables, cautionary tales. I have a friend, still in newspapers, who calls them tales and even yarns.

Having grandchildren reminds me of how much journalists – and particularly sub-editors on a morning paper – miss out on family life. It’s a rewarding job, well paid, occasionally exciting and it inspires great camaraderie.

But I know few subs who enjoyed as much time with their children as they – and especially their wives – would have liked.


We seem to be in the midst of an epidemic of sex crime.

Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, 63, Artistic Director of the Old Vic from 2003 to 2015, is accused of grabbing a man’s penis “like a cobra”, backstage at a London theatre.

Spacey, who won his Oscar for American Beauty and came out as gay in 2017, denies seven charges of sexual assault, three of indecent assault, one  of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent and one of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity. His trial continues.

Chris Pincher, 53, MP for Tamworth, resigned as Deputy Chief Whip after drunkenly groping men at the Carlton Club. His behaviour may trigger a by-election, the fifth that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing.

Tesco boss John Allan, 74, stepped down after allegations that he touched women’s bottoms. He denied the claims but admitted that he had apologised for telling a woman that her dress suited her figure. He quit, he said, because the claims risked “becoming a distraction” to the company.

Crispin Odey, 64, manager of a hedge fund handling $4.4 billion of assets, faced claims by 16 women of sexual assault and harassment, some dating back 25 years. Odey denied the claims but the turmoil they caused threatened to bring down the firm he founded and he was forced out.

Now we learn that a top BBC presenter is accused of paying a teenager thousands of pounds for sexually explicit pictures. The presenter has been suspended and both the corporation and the Met are investigating.

Well, at least we know it is not Frank Bough, who snorted cocaine and bedded prostitutes – indeed, anything with a pulse – during his time as an avuncular, sweater-loving BBC front man. Bough is dead.

Some of this behaviour is vile and some trivial. All of it is unacceptable. In years gone by, some of it would barely have been criminal.

But it has always gone on. I have even been a victim (well, nearly).

I remember crossing Piccadilly in Manchester in 1974 or ‘75, heading for a bus home after a long night in the Ancoats Lubyanka and an even longer night in the Crusader Club next door, when a man fell into step beside me.

I didn’t engage, possibly because I had lost the power of speech, but he congratulated me for keeping myself in shape and patted my stomach. Then his hand moved down to my waistband.

I drew back a bunch of fives to teleport him, Dr Who style, into the middle of next week and he scarpered, with a little yelp of “Okay! Okay!”

Women have had to put up with sexual harassment since Adam and Eve. Not any more. They are fighting back – with slightly more subtlety than I did – and good luck to them.

The point is, attitudes have changed, for the better. Remember when we thought drinking beer in a fug of cigarette smoke was a good night out? Or a man driving home from the pub utterly blootered was met with an indulgent shrug?

Monsters like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, both sexual predators, got away with it for years because their bosses turned a blind eye.

But there’s no hiding place for sex pests any more. It is doing Plod’s crime statistics no good at all.


The Daily Drone reports Kelvin MacKenzie’s assertion that Rupert Murdoch has given News UK executives until Christmas to get TalkTV right or he will close it down. I’ve always thought the launch odd, makeshift and half-hearted.

TalkRadio I understand. It is my favourite station with brilliant presenters such as my old Express colleagues Mike Graham and Julia Hartley-Brewer. And it is a much-needed antidote to the wokery of the BBC.

But during the day it is just a radio show that you can watch on the telly. It might as well be YouTube. I assume the idea is that by putting the show out on a TV channel they can charge higher advertising rates.

Not until the evening shift comes on does it begin to resemble proper television. And even then, despite having top quality journalists such as Piers Morgan – whom Murdoch personally hired on a £50 million three-year deal to include a book and columns for his newspapers – the channel fails to sparkle.

Murdoch’s not one to throw good money after bad. I agree with Kelvin. By January it will be faded out.