I don’t know for sure that Euan Ferguson of the Observer does teeline (the form of shorthand in which I was once, many years ago, 120 words a minute proficient). But I think he might. Either that or I mumble – I know I do sometimes, but I thought I was speaking reasonably carefully when Euan interviewed me for today’s ‘This Much I know’ column in the Observer
If you whizz down to the final question and answer, there I describe a flag that someone (Charles Ashburner, one of the country’s leading flagmakers and flag campaigners no less) designed for me. Before anyone thinks I am getting carried away with delusions of grandeur, it was Charles’s idea and I was very grateful for it, and a small version of it sits on my desk.
I am quoted in The Observer as saying there is a scene of ‘Campbelltown’ in the background, and a ‘B’ from the Burnley emblem. In fact, it is ‘Campbell tartan’, but it is possible that ‘-town’ and ‘-tartan’ could look very similar in shorthand. I would probably do tartan with an above the line double length t, which is how you would do a word with a t and an r in it. But there are shorthands within shorthand, and it is possible Euan just had the short t. Then again, maybe I mumbled. But before this misunderstanding finds its way to the Campbelltown Courier, I felt I should rebut … Campbell tartan not Campbelltown.
Now I am not criticising Euan at all. So far as I can recall he has quoted me accurately in all areas, and it is extraordinary how much he seems to cover in a relatively short piece – rudeness, Jamie’s Dream School, with my whack at editors’ near universal use of private schools, the Iraq anti-war march, men crying, depression, and this odd thing that has happened a few times – people asking me to tell them to fuck off, as though I was Malcolm Tucker.
However when Euan quotes me as saying that I have a letter B from Burnley in my flag – no, it is an actual bee, because Burnley FC has a real bee – a bumblebee – in its emblem. Isn’t communications complicated? And how odd that I felt the need to set the record straight. Apologies to Euan and his readers if my mumbling and my failure fully to explain the difference between a B and a bee, rather than his shorthand, lay behind these minor misunderstandings.