Chicken Telly

My laptop’s on.  I’ve chucked another log on the stove.

Outside on the windowsill two chickens dibble amongst their feathers, pause, press against the window, extend their necks and stare in, pecking at spots of dirt on the glass.

Tap. tap, tap, tap…

My inbox proffers a couple of press trip invitations.  Both are vaguely diverting and would make engaging copy.  However, I’m overcome by inertia.  The prospect of hauling my arse half-way around the world, spending five or so days researching and the same writing, effectively oiling the cogs of a corporate marketing machine, does not appeal.  In more practical terms it’s likely any writing fees would be eroded by out-of-pocket expenses and be rendered mostly irrelevant by the time they’re paid.  More immediately, I’d be jetlagged, my bank balance would be bumping around twenty quid, and my wife would claim not to know me, again.

Chicken Telly
Helga, Boudica and Petra

That’s not to say I’m tired of travel.  There are places I’d do almost anything, short of elective amputation of a limb, to experience and write about.  However, I need to solve the financial equation such that X remains a positive integer.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

More broadly, newspapers and magazines continue apace to abdicate responsibility for paying travel journalists.  Travel writing is seen by editors and others as a dilettante pastime rather than a profession – a source of free holidays.  Even worse, travel copy is becoming synonymous with marketing.

On the page differentiating between editorial and advertising used to be straightforward.  Fact Box information provided by the writer offered recommendations, handy hints or a disclosure of facilitation (free flight, free hotel, free tour etc…)  Paid ads surrounded features.  These days it’s not so clear. Editorial publishing schedules are determined by advertisers – it’s commercially expedient.  Back channel kick backs can govern who receives a Fact Box mention, sometimes to the detriment of readers.  In the case of digital media and blogs in particular there’s often no attempt at editorial balance – 100% 21st century marketing.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

The digital democratisation of publishing driven by the internet has made everyone a writer.  As a result we surf around in a cut-and-paste sea of lies, half truths and wishful thinking.  Instead of being information rich we’re weighed down by a poverty of facts.  This isn’t limited to travel.  ‘Fake News’ is everywhere, occupying airtime, that not reserved for product placement, billboards not destined for advertising or column inches not screaming PR.

If you’re expecting a great reveal, an answer or a call to action heralding a renaissance in ‘real’ travel journalism I’m sorry to disappoint.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

Perhaps we should all be more like chickens.

Chim Chim Cher-ee

Hearth and Home
Hearth and Home

Yesterday saw chimney sweep Jeff’s annual visit.  At 62 and a former Coldstream Guardsman with an army pension, Jeff’s once taught fighting man’s physique had in retirement inflated to that of a leaden balloon, leaving him awkward and wheezing at the least exertion.  Say what you like about Dick Van Dyke’s accent, his fancy footwork would have left Jeff asystolic.  Still, as Jeff struggled, red-faced to shove brushes up the chimney and displace a year’s worth of our soot he seemed content enough.  ‘I can live off the land you know.  On camp in Germany I always got in with the waldmeister.  Some of the other blokes had no time for them but I always kept them sweet with a bottle of scotch.  One old fellow turned up, ‘ankommen’ he says, and in his truck was a wild boar.  Me and the lads strung it up in a tree and butchered it there and then.  Beautiful it was when we roasted it.  The officers’ mess wanted some, we told ’em ‘Get away.’ Jeff was in his element recounting stories from three tours of duty, occasionally diluting his stream of North East vernacular by a perfectly enunciated German word or phrase.  ‘So are you busy Jeff?’ I enquired.  ‘I could work 12 days a week if I wanted, but the wife just says ‘You calm down Jeff!’ And she’s right, I don’t want to be the richest man in the cemetery.  I do three days now.  If I do any more the tax man takes the lot anyhow.’

I paid Jeff £45 for his hour’s work and considered soot removal as a more dependable source of  income.  I wondered if being an associate chimney sweep would scupper my prospective BGTW membership application?

Have a good week…

Today’s website has to be Dick Van Dyke –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEDLruki33I&NR=1