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There’s no such thing as a . . .

22 Feb

CHIEF reporter Big Bernard is shuffling papers rather seriously as he prepares for afternoon conference. Everyone files into the Editor’s office and sits down. The Editor looks around and everyone looks back.

Editor: “Bernard. You got a splash for us?”

Big Bernard: “Boss. I have a splash for you. And it’s a good one. And it’s just this moment come together.”

Editor: “Let’s hear it then.”

Big Bernard: “In a nutshell, we’ve learned through a Freedom of Information request that the chairman of the local health authority has run up an expenses bill of £5,000 in restaurant costs over the past year – £600 of that blown on one night for him and his mates in a posh restaurant just before Christmas.”

Editor: “Whoa . . . How do we stand with this – legally?”

Big Bernard: “It’s all in the public domain. But it’s our Freedom of Information request so we have it all to ourselves. It’s exclusive.”

Editor: “Go on then.”

Big Bernard: “The £600 was spent in one night at The Pink Trees Hotel, which is somewhere between York and Leeds. We’ve got a picture of it, so we could use that on the front page.”

Editor: “And this was just before Christmas, you say?”

Big Bernard: “Correct.”

Editor: “Do the expenses say who else was at the meal?”

Big Bernard: “No. Why?”

Editor: “Because I think I might have been there.”

Moment’s silence.

Big Bernard: “Wow. It’s a plush spot. What did you have?”

Editor: “Can’t remember. But it was good. And I think someone paid my taxi home.”

Big Bernard: “Oh. Where does that leave us?”

Editor: “Dunno. Shall we go away and think about it and reconvene in half an hour?”

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In the soup

28 Nov

MRS Strop is reading page proofs for the features desk and discovers that the Editor has branched out into writing restaurant reviews now that the NOB’s long-standing reviewer has been made redundant.

“Fack me. That’s all we need. Being told where to eat by a bloke from bladdy Scunthorpe.”

She expands immediately, all rings turned to full gas and lids rattling.

“Don’t these fackin executives get paid enough without fackin free meals? Fer fack’s sake. Is there no fackin justice?”

Apparently not. The Leek Man recounts a tale from the past that puts into perspective the subject matter we are dealing with and shores up Mrs Strop’s towering outrage. The Editor was at a banquet for local dignitaries one night several years ago and turned to the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, who was sitting next to him, to complain that his tomato soup was cold. Mrs Strop’s eyes widen into complete circles, like the ends of baked bean tins.

“No . . .” she gasps. “Not gazpacho?”

“Gazpacho,” Leek Man confirms, reassuringly.

“Fer fack’s sake.”

Big Bernard is listening on the newsdesk. “That’s a good tale,” he says from behind his computer screen. “What’s he been eating this time?”

Mrs Strop picks up the proof, which had been tossed petulantly across the desk. “Jesus fackin Christ. Fackin chicken tikka masala. I suppose that’s exotic for fackin Scunthorpe.”