David Banks: A one-eyed journalist is the last thing a hack would want to be called

Journal columnist David Banks writes from Northumberland about medical woes and (far worse) BT broadband

Andrew Milligan/PA Wire A British Telecom engineer at work
A British Telecom engineer at work

Do I always tell the truth? Godzone knows I try, but like all journalists I can only report what people tell me.

Sometimes the result can be misleading: a combination of journalistic enthusiasm combined with lack of clarity which you call lies and I call a misunderstanding.

Recently I published a ‘scoop’ in my Godzone e-weekly The Clarion which revealed that superfast fibre optic was now available to users of our local telephone exchange. Reactions were immediate but mixed.

Delight from those of us who immediately upgraded from a snail’s pace 4megabytes per second to download speeds of up to 80mbps. Disappointment from many others who, upon calling BT, were told that superfast was still not an option.

Confused, I contacted the senior north-east BT executive who had briefed me. His rueful reply? “You may have been a little over-enthusiastic in your publicity or perhaps I should have made myself more clear?

“Only the fibre optic in your village is now live. Nearby villages will go live over the next few months.”

Worse, I now understand that many – if not all – of BT’s rival providers like Talk Talk cannot immediately access the direct-to-premises system BT has installed. So the congratulations I received from Berwick’s Lib Dem MP, Sir Alan Beith, and Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan were premature, to say the least.

My delight at my good fortune is tempered with this question, which awaits an answer from both political camps: who paid for the infrastructure – pipe-laying, cabling and connecting and so on – which was carried out by BT?

And if taxpayers’ money was used, shouldn’t the resulting network be available to ALL internet service providers?

Anything less and BT is blessed with a self-built monopoly, surely not what the current government had in mind?

:: Talking of truth, a one-eyed journalist is the last thing a hack would ever want to be called but a one-eyed journalist is what I now am. Official!

Not in the partisan sense of taking sides, of course; I really have lost the sight in my left eye as a result of a somewhat chequered recent medical history. As such I may now be entitled to dismiss the male/female gender question on government forms in favour of the altogether more neutral ‘Cyclops’ answer.

Those gimlet-eyed domino pals of mine at the Red Lion shifted swiftly from initial sympathy as my eyelid gradually closed over a still-present but slowly deflating eyeball to one of ribald hostility to my Dick Deadeye impersonation.

“Get yourself an eye patch, Long John!” snarled the Byreman.

“Never did much for Lord Westwood,” snarled Lawnmower the Sunderland fan.

So I went one better: the Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh made me a beautiful false eye in acrylic, much thicker than a contact lens, which sits over the eyeball and is moved by my ocular muscles just like the real thing.

Truthfully, the only time you can tell it’s false is the morning after an eye-popping night at the Lion . . . when the REAL one is bloodshot!

:: Still on the subject of truth, my Facebook picked up a post by a f-f-f-fellow from Washington, Tyne & Wear, who published a picture of a Tesco store on Oak Street in London which “refused to serve a solider in uniform because they were afraid it would offend Muslim customers.”

It had, as the b-b-bloke suggested, been distributed by 3,700 “outraged” f-f-Facebookers who must have no s-s-sodding sense at all!

A quick Google check would have told them that (a) the originator was a (one-eyed?) ‘Britain First’ activist with an axe to grind; and (b) the pictured “Tesco store in Oak Street, London” was, in truth, Tesco’s own published photo of their store in Finsbury Park, twenty miles away.

Je suis Charlie Hebdo, after all, and in the spirit and exercise of free speech I’ll fight to the death to protect a man’s right to say what he likes.

But only when there’s as much as a grain of truth in what he says, not when it’s a load of old c-c-cobblers!

david_banks@hotmail.com

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