Nipper and I have been running around like mad things this week. Nipper’s been running head long into things, falling down and shaking off the blows to the head like a pro boxer, while I’ve been rolling with the punches delivered by my current projects which include; witchy goings on in London, publicising the problems journalists have with ‘diarrhoea’ and one man’s insane bid to be the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River.
Let’s deal with the ‘diarrhoea’ issue first. With the help of Hold The Front Page, I put out a survey to national and regional journalists, testing them on their spelling and asking which words they’d simplify if they had the chance. Top of the pops; Diarrhoea. It gets most hacks in trouble. The coverage from the ensuing story saw The Society on radio and in print again, and the story made the top ten most discussed stories of the day on the web.
The publicity was aimed to bring awareness of The Spelling Society’s 102nd AGM, which was held last Saturday in the hallowed halls of Birkbeck College. I wanted to generate press interest in the Society and perhaps encourage new people to attend the AGM.
London, April 24th 2010. The day before the marathon and the hottest day of the year so far. Pedestrians smiled at each other, the City was transformed. It was a wonderful day for an AGM.
Birkbeck College, a place of love and learning, populated by foreign students and....granny's in pop socks and slippers? Was I imagining it or did I hear the pop-sock, slipper wearing octogenarian in the lobby of the College asking for the 'spelling society'? I'm not sure, but she was deceptively nimble on her feet as she sped past me nearly knocking me over with her shopping trolley on wheels. I must have been imagining it - I knew all the members of the Spelling Society, and I didn’t recognise this lady. I stared after her as she dragged her shopping basket towards the lifts.
A new member perhaps? Brought in by the diarrhoea hoo-ha?
I carried on loitering in the lobby playing the guessing game; 'is that The Times journalist?'. I’d managed to book Joanna Sugden, education reporter from The Times, to come and speak to us about The Times Spelling Bee, and I needed to find her quick as the meeting was about to start.
After a dizzying few trips up and down in the elevator, I found Joanna in the corridor outside the meeting room. I poked my head around the door, and yes, there in front of me; the lady from the lobby. Her shopping trolley carefully stowed by the door.
Joanna Sugden’s presentation on the Bee was entertaining and heartfelt. It detailed how she struggled to spell and how she was scared that last year's Spelling Bee would 'out' her in The Times office as the only one who couldn't spell. But, how over the ensuing weeks, this 'shame' she felt, also propelled her to learn how to spell correctly. She told the members gathered that she now knew how to spell.
Joanna threw it open for Q&A. That's when the mystery guest, minus her shopping trolley, jumped to her pop-socked feet and began a ten minute rant on the state of spelling in the UK. At one point I’ll admit to being a little scared as to where this was going as she advanced towards us bellowing; 'YOU'LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP I'M DEAF AND CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING!!!!!' She leaned over our table and continued to inform Joanna of how her sister knew how to spell and how she'd never caught her out in the 80 years they'd been writing notes to each other. And this was all due to them being taught correctly when they were young. Jack, our experienced Chair, tried several times to interject and to calm her, but being deaf she decided she could quite legitimately cock a 'deaf-un'.
In the end I stepped in; 'Thank you very much for your thoughts on how spelling should be taught, but perhaps it would benefit us to hear a little more of what the Times plan re spelling this year.'
'OH, I CAN'T TALK TO YOU LOT. YOU DON'T LISTEN! I'VE GOT A BOOK HERE AND I WANT TO SELL IT IT'S ONLY £10 AND IT WILL TELL YOU HOW TO SPELL'.
Jack; 'How many copies do you have my dear?'
Jack: 'May I offer to buy them all here and now?'
Jack: ' May I offer to buy them all here and now?'
:'I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME.'
Jack: 'There's one condition though ....that you sit down and we continue with the meeting'
: 'I KNOW YOU - YOU DID THIS LAST TIME, AND I WON'T BE SILENCED'.
‘Last time?’ Surely I can’t have missed this firebrand ‘last time’. Then it dawned on me. I missed the 101st AGM last year, coming as it did just three weeks after the birth of Nipper.
The 102nd AGM of The Spelling Society continued apace after Joanna’s presentation. We all enjoyed a friendly lunch in the foyer, swapping stories of the year gone by and vowing to make a further splash in the press in the coming year.
Witchy goings on were afoot on Monday. I’d tracked down a Green Witch who lived in the not-so-green and verdant Camden Town. I should explain; I have a thing for witches and living by the moon. It’s something our forefathers did and it served them pretty well. They’d sow their seeds at a certain time of the lunar calendar and reap the rewards at harvest.
My Camden witch, although tattooed and a regular clairvoyant on Psychic TV, is a devotee of living by the moon. After a vegetarian fry up (apparently when the moon’s in Mercury it’s ok to fur up your arteries) we headed for the Lock and a chat on camera about everything lunar-y.