17 May, 2006

War games

The amount of fuss made about the discovery of an unexploded bomb in the Mersey yesterday was absolutely boggling. In our office there are televisions permanently tuned to Sky News (albeit with the volume down, thankfully), and as soon as word reached the channel of what had happened in Liverpool it slapped its massive BREAKING NEWS banner right across the screen, rushed a dozen reporters to the scene and dispatched the SkyCopter forthwith.

Sure enough, half an hour later live footage was being relayed to the nation of a load of grey featureless water with a single yellow buoy bobbing in the middle moving at walking pace out towards the Irish Sea. This devastatingly uninteresting scenario played out for a good few hours before even Rupert Murdoch must have got bored, phoned up and told his employees to find something else to broadcast.

Heaven knows what the coverage was actually saying. If it sounded even half as boring as it looked, then, well, it looked twice as boring as it sounded. And that's notwithstanding Sky's attempt to tell its viewers where Liverpool actually was, which amounted to a poorly realised map denoting the whole of Merseyside as one small dot somewhere on the coast of Lancashire.

Meanwhile the BBC was doing its bit, rustling up a story telling of "travel chaos" as "two passenger ferries were prevented from docking due to safety concerns." This was quite patently bollocks. How can the delayed arrival of two ferries be classed as anyway chaotic? "The Mersey Viking," the report continued, "which had 64 passengers and 55 crew, and the Dublin Viking, which had 81 passengers and 46 crew, arrived in the dock on Tuesday morning but were unable to dock until the afternoon." In other words, they were unable to allow their passengers to disembark for a couple of hours or so. Clearly this was tantamount to sowing the seeds for, if not wholesale rioting, then a healthy outbreak of looting and quite probably racial violence.

The way the south reports on the north is outrageous. It seems to be born of an almost 1930s-esque mentality that views anywhere north of the Home Counties as a foreign country where people do things differently, speak strange languages and behave in incredible base, primitive ways. In truth I'd bet nobody in Liverpool gave a toss about what was going on, apart from grumbling a bit about the travel disruption and taking the opportunity to wax lyrical about how badly the city was attacked during World War Two compared with the rest of the country.

The footage of the Mersey and the Liverpool coastline made me desperately homesick, despite the fact Liverpool isn't my hometown. I think this was largely because I could see skies that weren't bleached by excessive grime and air that wasn't saturated with a million fast food fumes. Of course, I know the reality is far from the perception. But at least I can control the perception.


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