Saturday, 22 November 2008

In the News, Sergeant, Ross & Woolies

News reports do not usually inspire me to make entries in my journal but this week has been exceptional and there have been three events that I think are worth commenting upon.

John Sergeant resigned from Strictly Come Dancing and there has got to be more to that story than the BBC are letting on. Sergeant was a hero and his growing status and power were putting the show at risk of being taken over by the people who pay the license fee and the BBC simply could not allow that to happen and I subscribe to the view that he was pushed out. With his erudite wit and amiable persona he was becoming a bigger star than Bruce Forsyth, which wasn’t difficult given the aged impresarios increasingly embarrassing failure to deliver his lines or his jokes, and he was making the self-important judges look ridiculous. It is a real shame because this year Strictly Come Dancing was the best yet but after the Sergeant withdrawal it is hardly worth turning the TV on to watch it.

The Sergeant issue was important because it was a part of a broader British revolt of the people who know what they want against the people who think that they know what they want (if you know what I mean). It was a beautifully choreograhed act of viewer disobedience that has put the BBC and the judges firmy in their place. Strictly Come Dancing is supposed to be a Saturday night entertainment show not the Royal Ballet or Tchaikovsky so when the public said "let's show them where they can shove their culture, rules, skill, art, taste and beauty" then the BBC should have listened to what we were saying.

But the BBC don’t listen because it is an arrogant dinosaur with little regard for the viewing public, which brings me to the next news item that has irritated me this week. The BBC have investigated the Jonathan Ross/ Russell Brand scandal and have decided that Ross can keep his £6m a year contract. Why don’t they consult us before making these decisions because most of us, I’m sure, would be delighted to see the back of this overpaid, self opinioned, deeply offensive and talentless prick. To put this obscene salary into some sort of perspective it takes the license fee of nearly sixty thousand homes in the UK to pay it.

And it isn’t the first time that he has overstepped the mark and got away with it. When Conservative party leader David Cameron appeared on the show, Ross began a line of questioning relating to ex-Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, culminating in the question 'Did you or did you not have a wank thinking of Margaret Thatcher?' Now, I don’t like Margaret Thatcher but that is outrageous and not even the slightest bit funny. What is almost unbelievable is that the grossly overrated Ross was publically defended by the BBC but thankfully at least repeat showings of the interview have been banned.

In 2006, Ross was criticised when he made a tasteless joke against Heather Mills, soon after she and Paul McCartney announced they were to divorce. He called her a liar and that he ‘wouldn't be surprised if we found out she's actually got two legs’. I don’t think we want that man on our TV screens and it is the duty of the BBC to listen to us all.

I could go on because I find Ross to be completely rancid and objectionable but I couldn’t express my views nearly so articulately as one man who left his comment on the BBC news web site:


A beautifully crafted comment I thought and delivered so perfectly that it simply cannot be improved upon.

My final news item was the story that Woolworth’s is struggling to make ends meet and may be about to disappear from our High Streets and this has made me both nostalgic and sad. When I was a boy I used to catch the Midland Red R66 bus into town with my friends every Saturday morning. We would go to the cinema or to the swimming baths and would always finish our trip with half an hour or so in the town centre shops and this always included a visit to Woolies!

In the 1960s the shop was still called F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd and in Rugby it was a big store, with entrances in both Sheep Street and High Street and it had two large floors and an escalator. It sold practically everything and at around this time of year you could do all of your Christmas shopping in one visit. That is shopping at its absolute best! It was modernised in the 1970s and became simply Woolworth.

Woolworths was bright and cheerful and was always busy and best of all it was cheap. It had distinctive wooden floors and it was very red and it sold lots of own brand items that in the 1960s no one was quite so snobbish about buying. It was much busier than Marks and Spencers or Boots and it was a fun place to shop. Woolies suffered badly from shoplifting I seem to remember because with so many diverse items on display it was easy to nick things instead of paying for them. I remember my pal David Newman stealing an Alf Garnett LP of Second World War songs, I don’t know why he did it, he didn’t even have a record player and he gave it to me! The boys of Rugby School (where Britain’s finest young men were being educated) were banned from using Woolworth’s not because as an issue of class but because they used to thieve so much that the management of the store had to bar them from entry.

It will be a shame if Woolies goes under or gets taken over and disappears from our town centres. Next year it will be a hundred years old in the UK (the first store was opened in Liverpool in 1909) and the High Street just won’t be the same without it. I don’t do a lot of shopping myself and I haven’t been to Rugby town centre since 2003 but I can still remember the town before it was pedestrianised and a lot of the shops that have gone, the International Stores, MacFisheries, Overs the bookshop, Berwicks the record store and Timothy Whites, the chemists. The closure of F.W. Woolworth and Co. Ltd. will be a very sad day. But it will never be forgotten and if anyone is interested this is a very good web site,

1 comment:

Andy said...

I well remember Woolies in the old days. The distinctive wooden floors, the counters with the glass edges around them and you are right it was always F.W.Woolworth @Co in those days. Do you remember there own label products they were called Winfield as that was Frank Woolworths middle name. My late mother could remember ther sales slogan 'nothing over 6d'.Sadly I suppose there possible demise is an inevitable sign of changing times althouugh there are plenty of £ shops doing a roaring trade so maybe they should go back to there roots, noticed they were selling £500 computers the other day which seems to go very much against the original Woolworts philosophy.