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Paper Monitor

13:13 UK time, Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The untimely deaths of two celebrities, announced on Tuesday, make for some telling insights into various papers' priorities.

Broad(sheet)ly speaking, Patrick Swayze comes second to Keith Floyd in the "quality" press. The Sun, meanwhile, simply lumps the two together with "They had the time of their lives".

There's no shortage of people waiting in the wings to pay tribute to Floyd. But as an irascible character, it proves impossible for many of the papers to obey the first law of journalistic taste and decency - never speak ill of the recently deceased. In the Guardian, restaurant critic Jay Rayner recalls that a recent Channel 4 programme about Floyd was "all but unwatchable". "The Floyd we knew... was long gone. It was awful, sad and inevitable."

In the Daily Telegraph, the chef's producer, David Pritchard, recounts a "love-hate" relationship which became more "hate-hate". It was Pritchard that brought Floyd to the nation's attention, discovering him in his restaurant in Bristol in the early 1980s. How does Paper Monitor know this? Because it's been devouring this week's serialisation of Floyd's autobiography in the Daily Mail... which means the death must have raised a few eyebrows in the Mail newsroom when it was announced. So how does it handle this handbrake turn of events?

Effortlessly, in fact. Simply alter the tenses of a few verbs and away you go. The Mail also drafts in celeb chef Marco Pierre White to pay tribute, although Paper Monitor is somewhat bemused by his fond reminiscence that "unlike some of today's chefs, when he was on television he never shouted or swore". And those foul-mouth TV chefs of today to which you refer, are who exactly? (MPW also contributes to the Sun's coverage, though there's no explanation as to why he is pictured in a Yasser Arafat-style headscarf.)

The Independent drafts in another chef, Mark Hix, for a comment piece. And it was in one of Hix's restaurants that Floyd enjoyed his last ever meal - a feast which the Times recounts in rich detail - although Hix is compromised a little by the revelation that Hix's eaterie messed up the order, presenting Floyd with red-legged partridge and bread sauce for his main course, instead of the grouse that he had actually selected.

The piece also recounts his drinks bill from the meal - a Hix Fix cocktail, complete with morello cherry soaked in Somerset apple eau de vie and topped up with champagne, a glass of white burgundy and a shared bottle of Cotes du Rhone, only, a few paragraphs further in, to relate how Floyd was "not drinking a lot" these days. In fact "he had really given up drink".

Well, relatively, perhaps.

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