A pony tale

23 Dec

ANIMATED conversation on the newsdesk between Big Bernard, the chief reporter, and Jeremy Bamford-Sandys, a floppy-haired young reporter in a tight suit.

Bib Bernard: “Jeremy. Jezzer. A quick word about this picture story you filed this morning. There are a few things that need ironing out but the main thing I want to address is the core subject matter. You okay with that?”

Jeremy: “Yes.”

Big Bernard: “Right. Let me read you your intro. Celebrated local artist and former colliery mining engineer John Johns presented retiring union lodge secretary William Ashworth with one of his pictures last night at the Bradlethorpe Miners Welfare Hall. The picture, a work done in oils and painted from memory by Mr Johns, is entitled The Pit Pong and depicts a horse pulling a wagon in the now-closed Bradlethorpe colliery. Now you tell me what’s wrong with that.”

Jeremy: “I don’t know. Is there a split infinitive in the first sentence?”

Big Bernard: “Jezzer, I don’t even know what a split fuckin’ infinitive is. I’ll give you a clue. It’s in the title of the painting – The Pit Pong. What’s a Pit Pong?”

Jeremy: “I’ll be quite honest, I don’t know. That’s what the union called it in their press release. I just thought it was some obscure industrial-era term or something.”

Big Bernard: “Let’s look at the photograph and see if it gives us a clue. Ah, yes. Here we have a little horse-like animal with four legs and blinkers, pulling a fucking great tub of black stuff that my historical knowledge leads me to conclude is coal. Now what do we call a little horse-like animal that used to work in coal mines? Is it a pit PONG, or is it a pit PONY? Because I think it is a pit PONY.”

Jeremy: “But the press release said pit PONG.”

Big Bernard: “Perhaps that’s because someone’s finger slipped while typing it, and the G being adjacent to the Y on the keyboard, they mistakenly typed PONG instead of PONY. It’s not slick city fuckin’ PR types with gobs full of plums and pink arses we’re dealing with here, Jeremy. It’s retired miners with a pint of ale next to a 1980s Amstrad word-processor with a sticky keyboard covered in fag ash and whippets fighting under the table while they cough their guts up. They make mistakes. Do you not think it’s part of your job to eradicate those mistakes rather than duplicate them? Jezzer?”

Jeremy: “S’pose so. Undoubtedly.”

Big Bernard: “Right, Jezzer. Get back to your desk and fucking eradicate.”

And so is another glaring and potentially embarrassing error struck from the raw copy of a young reporter, ensuring tomorrow’s edition of the Nitherley Observer and Bugle is a word-perfect monument to professional journalism and upholds the high standards the readers have come to expect. Big Bernard has done his job with precision and panache. He has achieved a result.

There remains, though, the miniscule though niggling worry that the animal Mr Johns painted was a particularly flatulent beast and was known to all who toiled in the extensive ramifications of Bradlethorpe colliery as the Pit Pong.

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