(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

Giles has a Coren-ary

Readers of the Guardian, and other sniggering hoity-toities have been having a good old chortle at this. And I confess I also felt a wave of liberal self-righteousness as I read through Giles Coren’s latest rant. It is richly entertaining to see private correspondence splashed about warts and all – the kind of joyous horror that surges up when you realise an idiot has hit “reply” instead of “forward”. But in this instance I must offer a partial defence, in spite of such breath-taking grandiosity from a man who, let’s face it, is hardly William Shakespeare.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the crazy, pompous arse. I used to clock him barrelling out of my favourite London eatery - the Anchor & Hope in Southwark – replete on Beef Wellington and red wine and no doubt mentally concocting his latest wry review.

And I enjoyed his flamboyant facial hair styling and penchant for late night port-fuelled webcam chats on the Supersize history programmes with Sue Perkins. He always seemed to slide effortlessly into the relevant period attire – alarmingly at home in mutton chop sideboards and frilly cuffs as he scoffed his way through pig’s heads, pigeon pie and, well, mutton chops usually.

The difference, I guess, is that he clearly went on with it to become a name in his own right - helped, unquestionably, by the famous moniker, which no doubt opened the door of the Times a fraction and – who knows? – maybe nudged him through.

Stubbornly, I refused the nepotistic potential offered by my own father, hoping, at first, to carve a puckish niche in the writing world, before slipping into the anonymous abyss of proper work. I think he respected me for that, though it may have been privately frustrating to see his eldest son meander through those early years, directionless and dismally lacking in ambition.

Still he encouraged wildly, eagerly sub-editing my shockingly ill-conceived attempt at a comic novel, and critiquing the early incarnations of this very website: “Liked the Atherton piece, son – but what the hell have you got against Sue Barker?”

call my bluff

Bluffing with Bob - Coren Senior

Anyway, the Coren obit piece made me wonder. I’ve not really had the inclination to eulogise about my own father on these pages. Frankly, the thought of editorialising through a fog of sadness, anger and fond memories seems pointless. I doubt there would be any sense of cathartic satisfaction - even if I had a national newspaper audience and not just a small, loyal band of regular readers (thanks mum) and gay cartoon fetishists (er…).

But if I did have to do it, I’d want to do it like that: with a wry smile and a poignant story about a misfiring lawnmower.

I wonder what Alan would have made of his boy’s latest faux pas? No doubt a playful punch on the shoulder and some bluster about not letting the bastards get you down. I’m guessing the subs at the Times have two generations worth of experience when it comes to a Coren tongue-lashing after an unstressed syllable or a lost gag about blowjobs.

In a funny sort of way I am grateful for this fascinating snippet of life as a professional writer. It reinforces the stereotype of a strange, obsessive loner kept awake at night with brain-whirring angst. Being an insufferable twat seems to be another prerequisite. Maybe I’m better off with the proper job and the amateur status and I’ll leave the sub-bashing to the grizzled pros.

September 2008

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