Have I got News for You

‘Tractor on Fire at Relubbus’.

A Russian fighter jet engaged a US drone over the Black Sea risking an escalation of the war. Australia, the UK and the US agreed to base nuclear submarines in the South Pacific, threatening an escalation of China’s continued, perceived and historical, humiliation at the hands of Western powers. Boris Johnson forgets to take his trousers at a Premier Inn in Cleethorpes while fleeing the scene, having been caught yet again with his ‘johnson’ enjoying freedom of movement with a young female Conservative’s naivety.  

One of the previous stories is not true. 

Meanwhile, in West Cornwall, the St Ives Times and Echo informs us that a tractor caught fire in the village of Relubbus. The paper added further detail; you will be pleased to know it was on the B3280. This is a small country road linking ‘nowhere’ to ‘where’s that?’. At this time of year it is liberally sprayed with a mixture of mud, dung, and rotting cabbage, making it all but impassable to vehicles other than a Russian tank on its way to Redruth on a mission to regenerate the town centre with some well aimed shells.

We are told by the ‘T and E’ that the Fire and Rescue Service sent two pumping appliances, one from Penzance and one from Tolvaddon (twinned with the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, but not as nice). In a classic of the genre entitled ‘No Shit.’ a ‘spokesman’ (sic) tells us that ‘firefighters wore breathing apparatus and used two hose-reels to extinguish the fire’. The ‘Fire Brigade’ did not turn up, being a non existent relic of the past, and so deemed unfit for purpose as its name implies. But the ‘Fire and Rescue Service’ did. It is not enough to put out fires; ‘ rescue’ is also required, hence the name change. I presume in the old days once a bucket of water was chucked over the chip pan fire, a fireman would say, “sorry mate, not my job…call a friend” to the chap on fire as ‘rescue’ was not in the job description?

It is good to see old-fashioned journalism sticking to everyday English. The writer of the paragraph (on page 3) preferred the word ‘spokesman’ to an increasingly fashionable spokeshim/her/them/they/hermaphrodite for the sake of clarity. No doubt the old grizzled Fire Officer, being of the boomer generation, appreciated the use of his gender assigned at birth, having had a fire to put out rather than engaging in a verbal to and fro with the journalist about appropriate pronouns.

Don’t worry, you can still refer to someone as a c*nt because in normal use it is gender non specific.

Upon being informed that a tractor was on fire in a village in West Cornwall, our trusted news sleuth turned up sharpish in the dung spoiled country lane somewhere, and accurately summed up the situation succinctly. They later added the necessary detail to avoid disappointing the reader. I’m assuming he or she turned up at the scene, but it could be that she (or he…or they) heard the story while necking pints of Doom Bar in the King’s Arms in Marazion. They (or he…or them) could have stayed boozing, and so took a wild guess at the bar to embellish the story with tales of the use of a breathing apparatus and hoses. It’s the sort of wild stab in the dark that wins Pulitzer prizes if you are lucky, or charges of lying through one’s overused ringpiece if not. Mind, it is a pretty safe bet that firefighters did use hoses, given that fires are very often reluctant to be put out using out-of-date candy floss and prayer.  

I would have liked to have known the make of the tractor, its age, the name of the driver, and wtf he was doing in Relubbus at that time of day, and another thing, whether there were any animals hurt in the extinguishing of the fire. There is potentially so much more to this, and I think we should be told. Was it caused by an old but over-excitable spark plug, a dropped cigarette or Brexit? Did the police turn up, and is the farmer now on a plane to Rwanda?

This tale of rural conflagration is the quality of story regularly published in my local paper. It’s probably also in yours, unless you live in London. Given that the rest of the world’s news is a complete and utter rusty bucket of leaky shit, underpinned by a sense of doomed foreboding last felt by everyone on the planet, except Noah’s family, as a mass of dark thunderclouds rolled in overhead. It is perhaps comforting to know that agricultural machinery is prone to self immolating pyrotechnics from time to time. 

Relubbus is not as exciting or as dangerous as South Central Los Angeles. The only ‘hood’ you will find there is the Young Farmer’s club, and ‘hoes’ refers to actual farm implements, not female performers of sexual exotica skilled in the darker arts of unlubricated fornication. Relubbus has a village dog called Trevor, a chapel now used for reflexology, reiki and wishful thinking, and now a burned-out tractor. 

In other news reported by the Times and Echo, the paper revealed that the number 16 bus was 3 minutes late at Crowlas, but it made up time at Penzance due to the driver staying awake while driving the bus. In addition, the St Erth to St Ives branch line train ran on rails, uneventfully, last week (as usual), helped in no small measure by the staff employed on various duties to do so. Mrs Flange of Back Road West, St Ives, fed her cat with a tin of ‘Salmon flavour Whiskers’ without mishap. “Mind, the tin was a bugger to open”, she later clarified, “what with my arthritis and me knees”. As part of medical confidentiality, the condition of her knees was not divulged to the paper and is known only to Mrs Flange, her GP and Back Road West residents (not the up-country second homeowners, obviously). The Public Interest defence was not used on this occasion to break Mrs Flange’s confidence as the Public could not give a flying fid about her “sodding knees she’s always banging on about”, said a neighbour.

Other stories included the fact that St Ives Rugby club scored a few tries, the St Ives cricket team is waiting for spring to play their first match, and St Ives FC scored no goals (again). The weather forecast predictably predicted rain. The local advertisements included nothing more exciting than the sale of a bicycle, a typewriter and a pine dining table with three chairs. The fourth being unavailable due to woodworm and poverty, as it ended up on the fire. Mind, that’s close to being an interesting story.

The obituaries reported that no one under 78 had died, or had died in exciting circumstances such as touching power lines with a kite, being trampled by a pig or asphyxiating on the billiard ball while wearing a gimp mask.

The paper has a regular column called “What’s On?” and invites the local community to share tidbits of exciting news and events such as whist drives, bible readings and the goings on of the local pizza-loving paedophile ring who secretly control Cornwall Council’s Parks and Gardens committee. Most of the time, the column is blank as nothing much happens, so the answer to the question ‘What’s On?’ is “Bugger all, and you?”

One local wag in the snug bar of the Sloop has suggested that the Times and Echo staff rehash stories from 1958 to 1975. They merely change names and dates to make it look like things are happening today when we all know nothing has happened locally since about 1975. Looking around the bar at the haircuts, clothes (and body odour) indicates that it could still be 1975. Gulls stole chips and pasties back then, and they still do. The locals still burn witches, eat turnips and talk about the ‘common market’ as a communist plot to steal the pilchards from off the plates of local urchins fresh from their 12 hour shift down the mine shovelling pony dung from underwater shafts.

There is no other news. Tractors may continue to burn, attracting commentary, while the ice caps melting, the rain forest burning, and Putin invading Poland are kept off the Times and Echo’s front page by the Council’s refusal of Planning Permission for the siting of a Pop Up Pizza van on Wharf Road, Mrs Flange’s cat has gone missing

Published by Lance Goodman

Freelance writer, bon vivant and all-round good oeuf.

2 thoughts on “Have I got News for You

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