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Faking it for real

As Donald “I’m really great, everybody says so” Trump is so fond of pointing out, there is a lot of fake news around nowadays. Honest. Your friends at Facebook think so too, and have recently been publishing their top tips for spotting false news – by placing them as ads in newspapers. Considering they came in for considerable criticism themselves, that’s like shouting “Squirrel!” and pointing at a tree whilst you hastily kick away the prize begonias you just trampled.

To help you make sense of this (and because I’m a caring person), I thought I’d run you through their suggestions and help to explain them for you. I know. I’m lovely.

1. Be sceptical of headlines

READING THIS ARTICLE WILL IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE!!! And explain that catchy headlines, or stuff all in capitals might be a bit iffy.

2. Look closely at the URL

You can find out more about this at if you want to understand how phony web addresses are a sure sign of dodgyness.

3. Investigate the source

Recent posts

Fifty, not (quite) out

“You’re only as old as you feel” goes the saying. Well, I feel really old – and here’s a significant birthday to prove it. By the time you read this, I will have passed beyond the threshold. In an instant, I’ll have gone from under, to over, 50. I know that’s hard to believe from my youthful good looks, but that photo of me at the top was actually taken just after they invented cameras. I look more like a badly crumpled Father Christmas on Boxing Day now.

Turning fifty is remarkably similar to your hamster dying. You feel sad, lost, bereft and angry. “Why?” you yell, whilst waving your fist impotently at the sky. “Why has Hammy McHamsterface gone?! I should have paid him more attention! We should have had more fun! All those years – wasted!”

Like mourning Hammy (RIP), it isn’t something that your friends and family can help with much. They don’t share your sense of loss and bewilderment. They won’t tell you that you’re over-reacting to your face, but you know they’re thinking it. They…

A fridge too far

I had a lovely holiday - thanks for asking. No I didn’t being any rock back. But the de-stress started with an unscheduled defrost. We were really looking forward to our break. A relaxing seven days of walking, eating cakes, drinking cappuccinos, eating cakes, mooching around shops and eating cakes. Did I mention the cakes?

A short hop to the Yorkshire Dales meant no middle-of-the-night alarm call to struggle through the dark and hang around at an airport. No “who’s got the passports?!” moments. No wondering why people are drinking at breakfast time whilst you’re looking at a pile of Toblerone.

We had coffee in bed, then after a leisurely shower I went downstairs for breakfast. Devouring my cereal, something seemed odd. The flakes and milk tasted fine, but something was... different. It was very quiet, too.

On putting the milk back in the fridge, the penny dropped. The fridge wasn’t fridgey any more. It was room temperature. As were the contents. The freezer section was still icy, but…

Are you still writing that... what was it again? A blog?

Great gosh almighty - I've been a newspaper columnist for five years. Shut. The. Door. It's five whole, actual, year type things since my first outing sullied the pages of the North West Evening Mail, preceded by the "Finalist becomes columnist" piece you see here (exceptionally poorly scanned - I was obviously over-excited and/or over-caffeinated). I'm not actually that colour, honest.

A rambling, nonsensical brain-dump of weirdness, it's interesting how, in those early days, I was already writing in exactly the same way I have continued.

Strangely, column number 255 appeared on their website today (a day ahead of the print edition) which is a nice, unintentional, anniversary marker. Spoiler alert: It's about our fridge-freezer breaking down. I know - cutting-edge, hyper-topical, journalism, eh?

On a less celebratory note, visits to this blog (where it all began, of course) reached a low point in April not seen since November 2010. I guess I need to write…

Bananarama un-splits & a marafine example

Proving the world isn’t as gloomy and miserable and I tend to make it by appearing in a room, there were two happy and positive stories that caught my jaded attention this week. For those whose age can be neatly categorised with the prefix “Middle”, the name Bananarama conjures up happy, youthful, memories of the toppermost of the poppermost of 1980’s girl bands.

With ten top ten singles, the trio danced their way (questionably) through the decade, with such cheery pop confections as ‘Cruel Summer’, ‘Love in the First Degree’ and the deeply complex and sesquipedalian ‘Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)’.

Well, guess what? Keren, Sara and Siobhan are back together and going on their first tour. Ever. Records sold = 40 million. Number of gigs = zero (to date). True, a line-up of the band without Fahey did hit the road, but this will be the original trio’s first live outings. Heading out on a 15 date tour later this year, its clear people still love the Nanas – their website crashed…

General election – Vote for me!

Theresa May has called a snap general election for June 8th. Please vote for me – I’ll tell you whatever you want to hear (it worked for Donald Trump). I’m a safe pair of hands, and will cut through the red tape and in-party bickering by running everything myself. I mean, how hard can it be? Sure, I’ll be busy, but there are quite a few jobs in government that seem pretty undefined a best.

Lord Privy Seal? No idea. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? Aren’t other towns allowed one? And what do they do anyway? Is it something to do with that song “Pass the Duchy?”

The Grumpy Party will be a voice for the disenfranchised (once I’ve worked out what ‘disenfranchised’ actually means). I’ve got a great slogan already for the campaign: “Vote Grenville – Grumpy is terrific!”, or, if you’re pushed for space, you can abbreviate that to “Grenville – GIT”. Catchy, no?

If that isn’t convincing enough, let’s move on to my policies, which I’ve hastily scribbled on a toilet roll I borrowed from th…

All hail the stupendous PR fail

If you work in the Public Relations departments of Pepsi or United Airlines, it really hasn’t been the best start to the month. United Airlines got lots of free publicity on Tuesday, but not in a good way. After mobile phone footage showing security staff dragging a passenger from one of their flights emerged, the American airline company had an opportunity to try and minimise reputational damage.

They could simply have immediately said “We’re really sorry. We’ve launched a full investigation into this shocking incident and will make sure we let you know the findings, and take steps to ensure this can never reoccur.”

Instead, they didn’t say anything for quite a number of hours (allowing social media users to turn it into a stupendously damaging story), then their CEO released a statement saying “It was an upsetting event to all of us here at United”. The only apology was for having to “Re-accommodate” customers (which is an interestingly obtuse way of saying “We overbooked this flig…