There’s only so much you can do as a writer to make things happen. Some days all you can do is sit with pen and paper and wait for the Muse to show up. You write a sentence or two, sigh, gaze out of the window, look back at the paper, try not to feel completely useless and rack your brains for something that will bring inspiration. Should you read something? Go for a walk? That sometimes helps…but in the end all you do is check your phone for the zillionth time and give a deep sigh at the absence of anything helpful.
Still, I can take some comfort from the news that Johnson is in deep trouble. For all his allies try to smooth it over, it’s not going away; the BBC are sticking by their story about the bodies, presumably because they believe their source is more reliable than Downing Street. It’s reassuring to know that the BBC can still hold the government to account and have not been entirely weakened by the revolving-door system of journalists taking positions as government advisers. John Humphrys must be doing his nut; the rottweiler of the Today programme must be blenching at this cosy relationship.
Speaking of Humphrys, he did his last stint on Mastermind last night, a job he’s held for an astonishing 18 years. It must be difficult to read the questions fluently and quickly without tripping over your words, and I often wonder who writes them; I guess they must have specialist writers for each subject. Last night was the final, in which we got to find out about the contestants’ backgrounds; two of them admitted to being highly competitive including one woman who had been voted off The Weakest Link a few years ago and wanted to expunge that shameful memory; she regularly cycles 100 miles a day and never lets her children win at games. The other was a company directer who runs marathons in the Arctic. Now I may be the idlest of couch potatoes but such competitiveness ain’t healthy – if only because you suffer so much when you lose. Neither of these people won, and the woman looked utterly devastated. The best attitude is to look on it as a fun challenge and not mind so much if someone else wins.
So farewell then, John Humphrys, and thank you for reading the questions so fluently and presiding so benevolently over the Black Chair. Not so Jeremy Paxman; though I enjoy his slightly waspish avuncularity and occasional bursts of admiration for contestants’ cleverness, it wasn’t so clever of him to say, as he did the other day, that any fool can read the news. It just caused me to think that if that’s the case, any fool can read out University Challenge questions.
Not cool, Jeremy.