Leave Kate, Murdoch and Black Gull Alone

On March 21, 2024, CounterPunch published my article criticizing the media for an intrusive and abusive attitude to the Princess of Wales, whom they would not leave in peace to recuperate from an abdominal operation, but whom they insisted on questioning, harassing and speculating about, regarding her prolonged public absence, despite the fact that this had been announced in advance.

Left: Counterpunch, March 21, 2024. Right: Private Eye, March 29, 2024

The day after my article, she announced in a video that she was being treated for cancer, and suddenly everyone felt decidedly awkward and embarrassed, doing a complete volt-face and proclaiming that she should be left alone, as Private Eye announced on its cover in the issue dated 29 March, using some of the same words I had done previously. You read it in CounterPunch first.

There should have been no need for this, as a modicum of sensitivity and decency would have resulted in leaving her alone all along, but such an approach is a considerable inconvenience, maybe demanding lip service, but to be ignored as much as possible by commercial considerations and the vileness of inadequate internet trolls.

A quick Google search for “leave Kate alone” reveals the recent torrent of pleas from such diverse entities as Peter Andre, Keir Starmer and Jimmy Kimmel. I was surprised that my earlier article came in at number 27. Naturally, she is not being left alone. Now it is known she has cancer, the field is wide open for speculation about what kind of cancer. Media silence about her is impossible for more than two minutes.

Top of page 31, Private Eye, March 29, 2024.

Private Eye likes to take the moral high ground (and usually with good reason) but fails dismally on page 31 with a spoof on Rupert Murdoch, the main premise of which is his age (97) in relation to another forthcoming marriage. The magazine has never been able to completely evolve from its public-schoolboy sense of humour.

I am sure there are numerous grounds on which Murdoch can be attacked, but age should not be one of them. Of course, you may think anything concerning him is fair game, but I don’t and find it leaves an unpleasant taste. People aged 97 can have a life, including a sex life, and they can get married again. There is no reason to mock them because of their age than there is to mock anyone else of any other age for getting married. Old age deserves respect, or at least not derision.

“Never too old” the article is titled. Oh let us roll in the aisles with irrepressible mirth. The wedding breakfast is “washed down with a delicious vintage anti-ageing linctus”. MAGA stands for “Murdoch Asshole Geriatric Anti-christ.” His beloved comments that she likes it “old and leathery”. He has an “ancient spine” and a “nonagenarian quest for twilight love”. It’s a good job he hasn’t got cancer.

Brian Schwartz in the doorway of Black Gull Books.

It’s too late, unfortunately, to leave Black Gull alone. It was for many years my intrepid, local, second-hand bookshop in the High Street of East Finchley, the suburb in North London. Due to financial issues over the lease it is currently in the process of closing.

Chris Overfield, the owner, scribbled this note for me: “Sad to leave. Thanks to everyone who supported us through the years – we’ll miss you … or most of you.” There is a surviving branch in St Leonards on the South Coast, but that’s 80 miles away. Online sales are anticipated to open in a couple of months. But it won’t be the same.

Masthead (nameplate) of The Archer newspaper.

The demise of the bookshop has of course been covered by The Archer, the East Finchley community newspaper run with probity and professionalism by volunteers. They treat the elderly with respect and sympathy and don’t pry into people’s medical diagnoses. In fact, they are a model example to the mainstream press.

The paper is named after an art deco statue which resides on top of East Finchley tube station and which is shown in silhouette on the right of the paper’s masthead. It is available online at www.the-archer.co.uk.

Page 7 of issue 359, March 2024, quoted Black Gull bookshop manager, Brian Schwartz (originally from Chicago): “The greatest thing about a bookshop is people don’t know what they are going to end up with. They come in looking for Wittgenstein and end up with Jamie Oliver, but hey, that’s the thing.”

Page 10 features poet Fleur Adcock, a local resident with an international reputation and, among other honours, The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. She reached 90 this year and her Collected Poems was published by Bloodaxe Books. It is curious to find local references popping up in her poems, such as the Bald Faced Stag pub or Fortis Green (the road where Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks grew up).

Private Eye regularly features poems by a fictional, adolescent versifier E.J. Thribb. I will end with one in his style.

Lines on the Closing of Black Gull Bookshop

So. Farewell
Black Gull Bookshop.

You sold

In  East Finchley
High Street.

Now you are closing,
I will have to travel
To your shop
In St Leonards

Or else
Buy books
On Amazon.

E.F. Throbb (97½ )

Charles Thomson is co-founder of The Stuckists.