Oh why cant we read more?

The popular (with Keith Hann and a few members of his extended family) Keith Hann column in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne, appearing nearly every week from February 2006 until September 2015, when it was canned as a vital economy measure to safeguard the Chief Executive of Trinity Mirror’s £1.8 million annual salary and bonus package.

Keith’s monthly column for The Journal‘s award-winning Northern Business Daily section had begun even earlier, in 2004, but the author’s terminal indolence meant that this had become an annual column by 2010.

Happily all Keith’s past columns for The Journal are archived at www.keithhann-whyohwhy.com

Since parting ways with The Journal, Keith has been contributing occasional columns to www.voiceofthenorth.net. They are meant to be weekly, but this has proved difficult to sustain in the absence of both a print deadline and the lure of a fat £50 pay cheque.

The following pages feature some examples of what you have been missing.

My mother was once misled by a relentless TV jingle into visiting Shepherds’ department store, failing to appreciate that the line about ‘the biggest and the best store’ omitted the crucial words ‘in Gateshead’.
10 November 2004

Government thinking on the railways apparently hasn’t advanced one jot since the days of Dr Beeching, when the viability of stations was assessed by the number of tickets they sold rather than by the number of people wanting to go there. A fact which accounts for the large number of bustling British seaside resorts that have no rail connections. And which would, if applied to the Snowdon Mountain Railway, have led inexorably to the closure of the station at the summit.
8 December 2004

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One group was actually commended by their HR supremo for their thoughtful and responsible follow-up to their latest course, until she worked out that their newly formed Sexual Harassment Awareness Group had a rather unfortunate acronym.
12 January 2005

Tragically, I had a long-standing engagement in Northamptonshire on 17 July, which prevented me from joining my fellow Geordie exhibitionists for Spencer Tunick’s latest mass nude ‘installation’. Seismographs flickered as art lovers and connoisseurs of the human form across the globe breathed a huge collective sigh of relief.
3 August 2005

Who says PR is not like Ab Fab? I enjoyed a glorious 24 hours drinking champagne in celebration when Edward Heath died, much to the bemusement of my clients. As one kindly put it: ‘Ted Heath was a fat, rude, single, music-loving Tory, whose life ended in bitterness and failure. You had everything in common.’
7 September 2005

Top executives these days don’t just want the money. They want high profiles because they crave recognition – and not simply in the form of gongs. They now feel they deserve the sort of respect accorded to lifeboatmen and intensive care nurses.
2 November 2005

Wouldn’t it be handy if we all came with a ‘best before’ date stamped on our body, ideally in a place where we could see it without resorting to a mirror?
7 December 2005

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I still shudder when I recall the sixth form party where a girl called Amanda, who was well known to snog anyone, rejected my advances with the immortal line ‘When your friend said you had film star looks, I didn’t think he meant Orson Welles.’
14 February 2006

So we finally get to meet the first horseman of the Apocalypse, and he turns out to be a sneezing duck. How’s that for bathos? I have naturally been as shocked as anyone by the way the bird flu panic has begun to take hold. But at least it hasn’t all been bad news, as I remarked when Keith Harris and Orville were stoned to death by a frightened crowd in Stoke-on-Trent the other night.
7 March 2006

I once suggested to a client in the bus sector that they should re-brand themselves as Slick Transit and hire a receptionist called Gloria Mundy, just for the joy of hearing her answer the telephone.  Unfortunately none of the management had benefited from a classical education, so it fell on rather stony ground.
7 June 2006

Instead of the Government issuing edicts to every airline, why not allow a little consumer choice into the equation?  WhatTheHell airlines could be set up with the unique selling proposition that you could take whatever you liked on board as hand luggage, with the downside that you stood a greater risk of being blown to smithereens mid-flight.  It would be interesting to see how it fared.
22 August 2006

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1984: Who would have dreamt that a book by a socialist writer, intended as an awful warning, could have been mistaken for a blueprint by a nominally Labour Government?
1 May 2007

In the early 1970s, I went tramping around council estates in Benton shoving Tory leaflets through letterboxes. I felt like an antelope delivering Vegetarian Society propaganda to a pride of lions.
2 May 2007

His finest moment was the promotion of regional government, billed as “John Prescott’s Big Idea”, even though you only had to look at the man to know that he had never had a big idea in his life that did not involve pies or secretaries.
12 June 2007

Kelvin MacKenzie, when editor of the Sun, famously sacked the paper’s astrologer in a letter beginning “As you will have foreseen…”
26 June 2007

Can it be a pure coincidence that, when Britain was at the apogee of its power, our leaders rarely left the country? It has been downhill all the way since they got into the habit of flying.
10 July 2007

Those who wish to despoil the open, rolling uplands of Northumberland with wind farms have precisely the same mindset as those who burst into the great mediaeval cathedrals intent on smashing their stained glass, whitewashing over their wall paintings and decapitating their icons.
30 October 2007

What are the two most depressing words in the English language? I reckon it’s a toss-up between “awards dinner” and “office party”.
12 December 2007

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A Whitehall planner apparently once asked Alnwick District Council to provide details of its inhabitants, broken down by age and sex, and received the reply: “Nearly all of them.”
9 January 2008

From the miners’ strike of the 1980s through to the more recent scenes of pro-hunting toffs being clubbed like Canadian seals in Parliament Square, the police in this country seem to have developed from public servants into an occupying army.
8 April 2008

In my own trade, “cutting edge” public relations firms now like to use the “iconic” words “thought leadership” to describe what they are peddling: same product, different packaging, higher price.
22 April 2008

I remember explaining to a girlfriend that I simply could not feel properly involved in things I was no good at. She swiftly asserted that she could name something at which I was completely useless, but in which I was very interested indeed. I blustered at cross purposes for some time before she revealed that she was referring to opera, not the bedroom.
2 September 2008

Our current situation can be likened to taking a hiking tour of Colorado in dense fog. The fact that we can feel nothing immediately in front of us could mean that our next step will plunge us 5,000ft into the Grand Canyon. Or it could just indicate that the end of our state-of-the-art carbon fibre walking pole has dropped off.
30 September 2008

Can it be a pure coincidence that, as weddings have become ever more elaborate and expensive, marriages have grown progressively less likely to endure?
2 December 2008

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When I started working in the City 30 years ago, every banker I knew was happily sozzled by 2p.m. and spent the afternoon snoozing at his desk. Keep them sober, send them to the gym instead of the pub and they come up with sub-prime lending and the credit crunch. There must surely be a lesson there somewhere.
24 March 2009

A huge gulf has developed in this country between us ordinary mugs (OMs) and the small elite who band together as People Like Us (PLUs). Bad things do not happen to PLUs.
14 April 2009

This Government has racked up more debt than the cumulative total managed by every previous British administration in the 315 years since the Bank of England was founded. Or, to put it another way, the combined efforts of New Labour and the Fred Goodwin school of banking have cost the British taxpayer more than Louis XIV, George Washington, Napoleon, the mad Mahdi, Kruger, the Kaiser, Hitler and Hirohito put together.
28 April 2009

Months later, she asked what had first attracted me to her and I explained that it was simply that her first email had been so very funny. “But didn’t you notice?” she said. “I just copied all your own lines off your website and repeated them back to you.”
1 May 2009

It was the birthing aspect of my plan that seemed to excite the most outrage, particularly among feminists of a certain age. I particularly enjoyed their reaction to my wife’s well-rehearsed reply: “To be fair, I wouldn’t be present at the birth either, if I didn’t have to be.”
23 June 2009

When I went to university I could have said, like Neil Kinnock, that I was the first member of my family in a thousand generations to do so; though unlike him I am well-educated enough to know that this is mainly because universities did not exist for around the first 975 generations in question.
1 December 2009

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It is head-bangingly frustrating that so much political discourse is devoted to correcting the entirely predictable results of previous Government initiatives. You massively liberalise the licensing laws, then discover that you have a problem with binge drinking. Well, blow me down.
2 February 2010

Clinical depression: claiming that I am offensively ignorant of the subject, as one angry correspondent to Voice of the North did last week, is a bit like accusing the Duke of Edinburgh of not knowing the first thing about tactlessness.
16 March 2010

“What are the chances,” I asked, when I had finally recovered the power of speech “Of this boyfriend of yours kicking the door down and finding me here in your bed?” “Absolutely none at all,” she replied, “You can put your mind at rest on that score. He’s got a key!”
13 July 2010

The Government’s Big Idea is that GPs are the linchpin of the NHS and should basically run everything. Well, Coco the Clown may well be the linchpin of the circus, but that does not mean we should take his advice on how to erect the big top.
31 August 2010

There is good reason to think that our current financial hole would be considerably shallower if there had been more people around who could remember that property and other financial bubbles always burst one day, and that the proper reaction to any claim to have abolished boom and bust is hollow laughter followed by a robust swipe with a blunt instrument.
5 October 2010

I was shown what was supposedly an X-ray of my dog’s chest, but it could just as easily have been a black and white Luftwaffe aerial photo of French defences along the Maginot Line.
16 November 2010

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However annoying a media report may be, the surest way to maximise awareness of it is to make a formal complaint, which will ensure repetition of the original story and bring it to the notice of a far wider audience than it attracted first time around.
24 May 2011

If there is anyone out there – whether in your family or among your friends and neighbours – that you really admire, respect or even love, and you have never let them know, take a tip from me. Tell them today. Because tomorrow may turn out to be too late.
19 July 2011

The only one of life’s conventional ceremonies that I can just about bear is a decent funeral, not least because no one has yet suggested that it might be a good idea for the congregation to mill around for a couple of hours while a professional photographer takes pictures of the deceased.
30 August 2011

We might as well all stop worrying about our shrinking pension funds and start ticking off achievements from the list of 50 things to do before we die. Or in my case, five things, four of which will almost certainly be ruled out by my inability to secure the willing participation of a lingerie model suitably qualified by her ownership of a main line steam locomotive.
18 October 2011

The members of the EU are like passengers on a bus trip who have been lured aboard by wildly different prospectuses. There are 26 passengers who think they are off to Disneyworld, and one anticipating an agreeable ramble around the grounds of some National Trust property followed by a nice afternoon tea.
13 December 2011

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I still shudder at the memory of a colleague who made it his mission one year to see just how many corporate results announcements he could begin with the words “This has been a watershed year for your company.”
27 March 2012

Elected mayors were a half-baked idea that no one seemed capable of explaining coherently, let alone selling to an electorate that clearly had other issues much closer to its heart. I await with keen interest a protest march chanting: “What do we want? More highly paid elected politicians! When do we want them? Now!”
8 May 2012

In its attitude to its liturgy, the Church resembles a stately home owner who feels so embarrassed by his riches that he is moved to store all the Old Masters in a basement, whitewash the walls and put up some polystyrene tiles to hide the frescoes on the ceiling.
3 July 2012

The Border terrier is obedient, and will always do exactly what you ask it, so long as it happens to coincide with whatever it was planning to do anyway at the time.
4 September 2012

My younger son Jamie, now a strapping six months old, clearly remembers some infinitely superior previous existence, to judge by the despairing look he gave us when he first opened his eyes, and which he has been repeating several times a day ever since. This clearly conveys: “Oh God, it’s not still you lot, is it?”
11 September 2012

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What’s the difference? A financial adviser tells you how to lose all your own money. A financial PR adviser helps public companies to explain how they have lost all the shareholders’ money.
12 March 2013

Life is a continuous process of risk assessment and it is important never to lose sight of the important fact that even those who never drink or smoke, and subsist entirely on organically grown lettuce leaves, still die eventually. Quite possibly of boredom.
11 June 2013

When Churchill visited Cambridge during the war, it is said that he was bearded by a woman angry because the college grounds had not been turned over to vegetable production. “Madam,” the great man replied. “Those lawns are what we are fighting for.”
13 August 2013

Everyone seems to agree that social mobility is a good thing, but we focus only on increasing the opportunities to move upwards. Though since we can’t all be dukes or plutocrats, this is clearly only possible if other people are simultaneously moving in the opposite direction.
27 August 2013

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is the prime achievement of my life to date. Producing a child who appears to be a weird amalgam of me, Sebastian Vettel and Gok Wan.
12 November 2013

If people who are motivated purely by greed and fear can attain even more stratospheric bonuses by bending the rules, you can be sure as day follows night that they will bend the rules. So increase the fear element by making doubly sure they will be caught and punished if they do so.
19 November 2013

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Receiving a lecture about financial prudence from Labour is a bit like buying a half in the pub and being treated to a dreadful, slurred warning about the dangers of alcoholism from the cross-eyed, broken-veined drunk in the soiled trousers slumped in the corner.
26 March 2014

The late Sir John Mortimer encapsulated the position of many people like me very well when he described himself as “an atheist for Christ”.

23 April 2014

Somehow I imagine that the first intelligible sound a caveman heard, after he had found himself a dryish cleft in the rock, was a neighbour sucking through his teeth, pointing out some glaring defect and grunting “What idiot done that?”
25 June 2014

For the rest of us, sharing an island with the Scots is a bit like sharing a house with a particularly graceless teenager. We try to do our best for them, but all we hear in return is moans of “It’s not fair” and “You’ve ruined my life”.
30 July 2014

Whenever I feel depressed about my current job, which is most days, I can at least pause to reflect, “It could be worse, you could be doing PR for UKIP or the Keystone Cops.”
17 December 2014

LinkedIn delivers regular endorsements of skills you haven’t got from people you have barely heard of, plus valuable reminders to congratulate contacts on the anniversaries of taking up jobs from which they have long since been sacked.
24 December 2014

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It would be no fairer to stigmatise all sufferers from depression as potential murderers than to blame all Muslims for the actions of their lunatic fringe in ISIS, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda.
1 April 2015

If the Tories really wanted to destroy the NHS don’t you think they might have done it by now, given that they have been in power for 40 out of the 67 years it has been in existence?
13 May 2015

Whenever I make the mistake of thinking I am at risk of screwing up something important, I remember a valuable saying of my mother’s: “It will all be the same in a hundred years’ time.”
20 May 2015

I regularly read middle class mummy bloggers priding themselves on never giving little Tristram and Jemima frozen food, because it is “full of E-numbers and nasty additives” when that is the one thing it is not. Freezing obviates the need to add the preservatives that stop fresh prepared food from killing you.
1 July 2015

What does public relations have in common with speaking French, swimming and making love? Simply that I have a perfectly sound theoretical knowledge of how to do all of the above, but struggle to put it into practice.
29 July 2015

Revolutions rarely occur when people are cruelly oppressed, but when the oppressor lifts their yoke. Similarly, mass migrations are not undertaken by those with no money, but by those with smartphones to see the better life available in the West, and enough cash to pay people smugglers to get them here.
9 September 2015

My second weekly column appeared on February 14 2006 and was unoriginally entitled “Be my Valentine”. It prompted an attractive young woman to e-mail me and initiate and intriguing if short-lived relationship. That alone might be considered a pretty good return on 700 casually dashed off words, but a later column actually found me a wife, and led to the totally unexpected arrival of two intermittently delightful children.
16 September 2015

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For decades, the railways had seemed like a once great but now enfeebled army in retreat, limping into history with their superannuated cavalry and rusty muskets as the road lobby surged forward with their tanks and tactical nuclear missiles.
22 March 2016

I’ve devoted much of my life to thinking through “what can possibly go wrong?” to eliminate unnecessary risk factors, though to judge by the newspaper deaths columns the biggest single danger is being surrounded by your family, as so many people seem to slip away under these conditions.
19 April 2016

I wonder where the reputation of Gandhi would stand today if, instead of pursuing the goal of Indian independence, he had devoted his life to orchestrating economic studies demonstrating how many lakhs of rupees his fellow countrymen might be out of pocket were they not under the beneficent rule of the British Raj.
26 May 2016

It would surely take a heart of stone not to laugh at Mr Cameron squirming on the hook where he has wilfully impaled himself in the interests of “party management”. After all, if it would be utterly suicidal to leave the EU, as his Remain campaign constantly implies, what sort of irresponsible halfwit would ever put it to the public as an option in the first place?
14 June 2016

We are not helped by the fact that the Government evidently did not mean what it said in the £9m propaganda brochure it sent to all households at the start of the campaign: “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.” Which we now learn actually meant: “The Government will arrogantly assume that you will abide by its advice and make no contingency plans whatsoever to initiate the process of withdrawal from the EU should you make that choice.”
28 June 2016

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We welcome feedback from our readers, if we have any. Please e-mail your views to opinionatedgit@nullkeithhann.com, bearing in mind that use of the more obvious Anglo-Saxon epithets will result in your considered views ending up in the oblivion of our spam mailbox.

If you are the editor of a newspaper, big circulation glossy periodical, school magazine (girls’ schools preferred) or parish newsletter, and would like a similarly outspoken contribution from Keith Hann, please e-mail details of your requirements to thisisyourbigbreakatlast@nullkeithhann.com


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