Tuesday 29 October 2013

The St Jude's Day storm ... about bad language and a tie

The St Jude’s Day storm broke out in the Hann household with full force yesterday morning, though it had nothing to do with the weather.

Instead it was over my elder son Charlie’s return to school after the half term break and his switch to a “winter uniform” including a crisp white shirt and a smartly striped tie. This was in place of the monogrammed polo shirt he had been happily wearing since he started school last month.

A very grumpy boy (can't think where he gets it from)

For me, his new clothes brought back fond memories of my own garb at Akhurst Boys’ Preparatory School in Jesmond 55 years ago. The only real difference being that his outfit is blue, whereas mine was in a shade of dark brown specified in terms now so politically incorrect that I cannot even hint at them in a family newspaper.

Charlie, however, took violent exception to his tie. Not as an act of youthful rebellion against convention, but because it was a “totally rubbish” clip-on tie, not “a proper tie like Daddy’s”.

The key difference here is that I don’t think Akhurst’s occasional spells away from our desks for unenergetic bursts of “rhythmics” and Scottish country dancing ever required us to take our ties off after Mummy had put them on for us in the morning. Whereas Charlie and his classmates regularly change into PE kit, and the prospect of helping 20-odd four-year-olds back into proper neckties must seem rather daunting for their teachers.

Charlie had already shown encouraging signs of harbouring old-fashioned tastes two years ago, when we bought him a well-cut miniature suit to wear at a wedding, and he refused point blank to be seen wearing it in public unless we also got him a smart spotted silk handkerchief to sport in his top pocket.

At least I need have no worries about finding a suitable inheritor for the gold watch and chain handed down to me from my great-grandfather William Hann, who was born in Whittingham in 1836. This conveniently allows me to focus all my energies on worrying about whether I will ever work again as the current TV series about Iceland continues to unfold.

There does not seem to be a lot of obvious upside in being the PR adviser during what is already widely cited as a textbook PR disaster: Horsegate.

I have been unkindly described by one reviewer as “looking like a Werther’s Original granddad”, on which the only consolation I received was the e-mail from a friend pointing out that they could have substituted “Operation Yewtree suspect” with equal accuracy.

Given that I spent the best part of a year toning down my usual robust vocabulary because of the presence of cameras, it seemed ironic that I spent Saturday lunchtime in the Joiners’ Arms at Newton-by-the-Sea being lectured by my 88-year-old aunt about my “dreadful” language.

I do hope she heeded my strong advice not to tune in last night, when I quoted some irate people who had achieved simply dizzying new heights of colourful invective.

Perhaps I may yet carve out a niche as an author and lecturer on PR and how not to do it. After all, someone who is consistently wrong is as useful a guide to any subject as a person who is always right. The value of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats in our national life lies precisely in our ability to find out what they are saying on any issue, so that we may then confidently assert the opposite.

One consolation if I do find myself unemployed, in the wake of this TV exposure of my professional limitations, is that my wife has finally conceded that Low Newton’s beach is her “favourite in the whole world” and she would not mind living nearby.

I suppose we might just about be able to afford a small caravan.

What’s more, I strongly suspect that the children at the local primary school don’t wear “totally rubbish” clip-on ties, though this may well be because they don’t wear ties of any sort.

And the way Charlie is going, in another year he will be sporting a Fedora, wing collar and spats, which may make fitting in a little bit of a challenge.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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