I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of the English language. It’s not quite what you might have picked as the world’s lingua franca: spelling in English is game of percentages rather than an exact science, as any teacher versed in phonics will vouch. But for richness, texture, subtlety and expressiveness, it has no equal, despite comparisons with other languages which have, for example, 17 words for snow (when snow constitutes much of your context, you’ll have many words for it – try counting how many variations we have on “rain”). English borrows shamelessly from any other language it encounters; and with a history of various European peoples settling in the British Isles, all bringing their own linguistic heritage with them, we have built up a collection of very specifically defined words where other languages may have one word covering a variety of similar things or concepts.
Equally, a single word in English can have a variety of meanings, often from different derivations. One such word which has caught my eye this week is the word “interest”, and I feel it is worth clarifying the subtle differences between a couple of the possible definitions. It can of course be a hobby or a commercial return on an investment, but these aren’t relevant to the subject at hand. The distinction I would like to draw is between the desire to know about something and the need to know about something. This is a distinction with which a particular International purveyor of News seems to fundamentally struggle, so it bears some elaboration, in particular relating to the phrase “in the public interest”.
This kind of interest is the latter: the need to know something, it being to the benefit of said public to know the thing which they are being told. It is not the former: the desire to know about something, the basic human inquisitiveness which has in part helped us evolve to become homo sapiens, and in equal measure has resulted in the early termination of many a member of that species. This type of interest might also be termed “nosiness”.
I’m sure there are plenty of highly-trained professionals who could make a technically sound legal argument that the public benefits from knowing that the captain of the England football team has been trespassing on his colleague’s carnal territory, or that the mother of a high profile vocalist struggles to maintain a healthy grip on reality. Perhaps it is in my own interest to hear such arguments, because I really struggle to understand in what way humanity benefits from such grotesque violation of dignity. What people wish to keep private is surely in the public interest only if a law is broken or there is some resultant impact on their ability to carry out the duties of their publicly-funded office. I fully support the exposure of relationships which, for example, put into question the impartiality of members of Parliament relating to expenditure from the public purse; but I fail to understand how anyone but the publisher gains from the revelation that soap star A has been achieving physical pleasure with the assistance of sports personality B without the knowledge of either of their partners.
There can surely therefore be no justification for the level of intrusiveness into people’s private lives which the Leveson inquiry has placed under an unforgiving spotlight but which nobody is surprised to hear of. That a sizeable percentage of the general public wants to know sordid celebrity secrets is no more reason to allow their airing than it would be to accept the casual thieving or sexual assault that only the structures of civilised society prevent being perpetrated in far larger numbers. The argument that the public is only being served what it orders, that the demand is somehow to blame for the methods, holds no more water than the suggestion that a minimally-dressed young lady is responsible for physical transgression against her.
What I find really upsetting though is the apparently sudden but very clearly signposted arrival this week of the Sunday edition of the Sun. Foretold only a week earlier by Rupert Murdoch, the unseemly haste of its appearance only serves to confirm that the planning started even before the rollers started on the final edition of the News of the World, never mind the ink drying. The cynical, insincere, token gesture towards accepting responsibility that was the unexpected closure of that title is now entirely undermined; but justified in the eyes of the publishers by the scale of the uptake of the Sun’s extra day, with over three million copies being sold. After all, if “we” really don’t like it, why would “we” be buying it?
I was also disappointed to read in the i paper this week of Charlotte Church’s settlement with News International, as I was hoping at least one claimant would take them to court. I share the editor’s view here: it is easy to cynically applaud her for holding out long enough to maximise the money she’s gained from the case, coloured by some sort of distaste for the low-brow entertainment she peddles, and indeed that is exactly the palette with which News Int would like us to paint our mental images of her. But I would urge you to read the detail more closely as I am sure you will share my revulsion at the real cause of Ms Church choosing to settle: News Int planned to put her mother on the stand, retelling a period of time during which she suffered significant mental health issues, as a strong incentive to Ms Church to settle before it got that far and risked returning her mother to the depths she experienced at that time. I would suggest Ms Church’s decision could not be fairly questioned by anyone, given that context.
I am just hopeful that the further damaging revelations which have emerged this week relating to baulked murder enquiries and illegal payments at the Sun will help continue the general decline in popular opinion of News International to the point where it is no longer socially acceptable to bully anyone, famous or otherwise, in the name of selling newspapers, and the Sun is cancelled due to lack of interest.
We’ve struggled recently to keep our diet interesting, as we’ve fallen back into our regular rut of having only a week’s worth of recipes on the go and eating out or taking out increasingly often. The below is a dish I’ve recently added to the mix to start trying to expand the portfolio again: a similar dish to our primavera risotto, but a refreshingly different take.
Broad bean & dill pilaf (serves 2)
- Knob of butter
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- 75-100g basmati rice, rinsed
- 200g broad beans, rubbery skins removed
- A few stems of dill, chopped
- Handful of chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- 1 pint water
- Crushed clove of garlic
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Pinch of ground allspice
Melt the butter and fry the onions, garlic and allspice in it. Stir in the rice, then add the beans, dill, parsley and seasoning, and add the water. Cover and bring to boil; keep on high heat for 5 minutes, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice cooked. Stir the yoghurt through and serve.