Monday 6 January 2014

Simon Hoggart RIP - Farewell to our Spiritual Dad ! The end of an era in more ways than one

On the 5th January 2014, Simon Hoggart, sketch writer for the Guardian Newspaper passed away. For me, this is a tragedy. Simon is one of the few reasons I have persisted in buying the Guardian. His sketch was always the first thing I read (except when Manchester City FC were doing well). His style of writing was, to me, the model of what political writing should be. Funny, incisive and to the point. Pomposity was pricked, vanity was ridiculed and the stupidity was lampooned. Simon had a great eye for detail. Whilst many other writers struggled to bring the House to life, Simon always managed to notice something from left field. It could be Michael Fabricants wig or Bernard Inghams brick red face. People who may otherwise have been so dull and uninteresting that they would pass you by, suddenly took on a whole new life. Often these marginal characters seemed more interesting than the main players, who we all knew so well from TV and Radio.

In the early days of the Barnet Eye, I would positively try and copy Hoggarts style. I would look at the various councillors in Barnet Town Hall and in a very Hoggartesque manner, try and pick up on the details of their mannerisms. It could be Mike Freer's twitchy foot, that took on a mind of its own whenever he was under pressure, or Councillor Andreas Tambourides eyes following Councillor Caroline Clappers shapely derrier, whilst wearing a Sid James like leer, whenever she walked across the council chamber, as his wife glared at him. At the meeting after I raised this issue in my blog, Mrs Tambourides continually poked Mr Tambourides and pointed in my direction every time his eyes started to wander. Councillor Tambourides became the Sid James of the Town Hall. Sadly Councillor Clapper went on to greater things in Hertfordshire County Council and these days Mr Tambourides just sits there looking rather glum. 

In the early days of this blog, I rather naively thought that all of the Councillors were pretty much of a muchness and no real decisions were ever taken at the Town Hall. I just thought they were a bunch of incompetents, paid a lot of money to do nothing much. I felt they did nothing much rather badly. Then it became clear that there was an evil Masterplan, called One Barnet. Things became serious and I drifted away from writing in a Hoggartesque jokey style about meetings. I also found I enjoyed writing the blogs less. 

These days I find I enjoy writing about subjects such as Cancer and Dyslexia far more. I have only persisted with the Political blogs about Barnet Council out of a sense of duty to the likes of John Sullivan, who has staunchly supported me over the years and whos disabled daughter Susan has no one to speak out for her. Following the betrayal of disabled people by politicians of all parties in Barnet Council over the Your Choice Barnet task and finish meeting, the final nail had been put in my love of writing this blog in its present form. I have sacrificed several hours a day, which I could have spent enjoying myself with my family and building up my business to keep a daily record of the shenanigans in Barnet. Instead I sit for hours a day in front of my laptop.

And who's fault is this? Well I could blame myself, but that would be no fun at all. Nope, I blame Simon Hoggart! Without his way with words and his example I would have had a great five years. And what a traitor has has been to me, whilst I've blogged about my very under control, low grade, non aggressive Cancer at length, Simon was literally being eaten alive by pancreatic cancer, one of the most virulent and nasty forms of the disease and keeping schtum. I feel truly saddened that Simon did not turn his wicked wit on the disease. 

His death has made me sit and reflect on what I've achieved at the Barnet Eye. I've no idea whatsoever if Simon ever knew of the monster he'd spawned. As his bastard son (in a literary sense), I feel  a great sense of bereavement at his death. I am genuinely overcome with grief. I had noticed that his columns had not been appearing in the Guardian recently, without picking up on the reason. I had hoped that he was having a deeply dirty relationship with a dusky wench, which he was hiding by throwing regular sickies. Sadly the truth was not so happy. 

Simon has passed at a time when I've fallen out of love of writing. It is perhaps the bleakest day in the winter of my career as a blogger. I am doing a non alcoholic January, so I can't even drink to his passing. How cruel a fate at the death of such a close (literary) family member. Especially for someone of Irish?Australian ancestry such as me, who always mourns a family death with an alcoholic splurge. 

I have mourned the passing of young punk rockers, feeling that the world had punched me in the face. It never occurred to me that the death of a middle aged sketch writer and wine critic could leave me feeling so bereft. I feel like a page has turned, an epoch has ended. I was going to attend a Council meeting tonight, but I simply couldn't face it. The death of Simon Hoggart is for me, the end of an era. In more ways than one. 

There is a fantastic obtuary here - - written by proper journalists who actually knew him. I thoroughly recommend it. As Simon also was a bit of a lover of a good bottle of plonk. A man after my own heart, Tonight I will raise a solitary glass of Red wine to Simon Hoggart. He deserves it, even if I don't.

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