Off Topic


One of my editorial colleagues raised an interesting point the other day. Careful to praise my “prolific” output – and who wouldn’t be chuffed with that accolade! – she insinuated into the text conversation that she considered “some of my stuff off topic.” There were heavy hints that my “stuff” was devoted solely to the mitherings of a self-absorbed, workshy wastrel. Why couldn’t I direct my talents toward more relevant subjects? You know, cultural stuff. Like what we’re meant to be about on this site.

I am genuinely grateful to my colleague for bringing up that little issue. Recently on Culture Vulture we divvied up the editorial responsibilities, allocating areas on the basis of talent, interest and expertise. So, performance, music, dance, film, food etc. went to the best person for the job. Leigh got beer, which I firmly believe to be a fix (just what was the bung Leigh? you can tell me, I’ll not let on.)

Even poetry has a pundit . . . just joking. Who’d admit to enjoying poetry? This is the North, we’ll have none of that soft Southern sonnetizing around here!

As usual I was a bit backwards coming forwards. “What’s left for me?” I asked Emma.

“Erm . . . obituaries?”

“Dead celebs?”

“Well, local notable people . . . you can be sensitive when you try. And you like the research . . . just don’t think of them as . . . erm . . . dead.”

“I’d rather not,” I said, “call me shallow but the idea of facing the question of mortality every time I boot up my computer gives me the collywobbles.”

Which is how I ended up covering the kitchen sink beat.

Oh, I had big plans. Ambition. Aspirations of a literary nature. I was going to develop my own category, “Consultants Question Culture,” write posts on “Cake, and it’s role in the regeneration of the doughnut of despair,” “What can the council do to boost the export of knitted NetBook bags?” “How creativity coaching made a monster out of me!” And I had a scoop on a story that would blow the lid off a ring of rogue Arts Council luvvies involved in dodgy insider trading of cultural commodities.

It never quite worked out. My colleague got it bang on. Somehow, between the vision thing and the editorial meeting all the hot topics were snatched away from my clammy little mitts. “Just make the readers laugh,” said Emma, “you’re good at that.”

“Laugh . . . At what?” I enquired.

“Look in the mirror!”

This was the closest to editorial instruction I ever received from our founder and chief inspiration.

“I don’t mean to quibble, Emma, but that’s as useful as making me retail editor of National Geographic.”

“It’s a challenge,” She smiled. “But think, in a few years you’ll rank right up there with those other more famous Yorkshire humourists, like Jimmy Savile and Giant Haystacks.”

I’ve been writing posts on Culture Vulture now for nearly three years. It’s a challenge, it most certainly is. If I’m consumed with self-absorption there’s a bloody good reason.

Ages ago it became apparent that there were only two topics left that I could lay into with reckless abandon without being sued, flamed, or threatened with physical damage; my own self, and Comic Sans. I took the easy option. There’s only so much humour potential in a font.

Furthermore, it’s not like I’ll ever run short of things to write about. If I have a dull day I can simply make something up, there’s nobody checking the facts or worrying about my research. And the odd occasion I get a free ticket to a show or an invite to an opening, bonus! That’s just part of my normal life and I don’t have to treat it as something special, something I need to feel an expert about. I’ll let the other editors make clever, cutting comments about the latest cultural highlight while I ponder the perennial questions – who will get the next round in, should I pay the rent or the electricity bill this month, and have I gone and missed the last bus home?

Anti-social behaviour rants, red utility bills, Pound Shop purchases, making do with leftover lentils, opining about ex’s, demanding friends . . . these are as culturally significant as the latest offering from the opera. It is the way you tell it. Nothing is off topic. The way of telling is the topic.

Though if anyone has any tickets going spare I do a mean review . . .


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