WHAT IS it about January that brings the part-work pirates out in force? Are we all so jaded after the festivities that we sit there looking at the rain beating down and think: “I know what would cheer me up – a 96-part collection of Thimbles of the World. I might even buy the finest imitation mahogany plastic display case to put them in.”
Time was that companies like Hachette would try to lure you into a lifetime of direct debits with the ‘Build Your Own…’ scam. A particular favourite was ‘Build Your Own Lancaster Bomber’, a 124-part series which launched with a 50p cover price but would have ended up costing you an eye-watering £619.26 in total. Then there was the blockbuster ‘Sovereign of the Seas’, a weekly magazine with cover-mounted bits and bobs which would allow you to build a “stunning model of the most powerful warship of the 17th century”. Stunning, in that it would take you two years and seven months to collect the whole set at a total cost of £804.65.
(As ever, the first couple of initially inexpensive issues would carry a sexy cover-mounted part – a cannon or something. By issue three, you’re forking out £7.99 for a bit of fucking rigging.)
However, in these days of instant gratification, the trend now seems to be moving away from the simple pleasures of glueing Foremast 4.2 to Decking 39.4 and they’re now giving you completed models up front. Thus we have TV ads for the Modern Military Vehicle collection at £12.99 a pop (and they arrive at the rate of two a month), or the Giant Warplanes Magazine, which comes with a hardly giant six-inch model, starting at £1.99, then £3.99 before reaching its usual price of £7.99 a fortnight.
But my personal favourite of this year’s tranche is the Marvel Chess Set, which features superheroes as pieces on the (not supplied) board. This kicks off at £2.99 for your Spiderman ‘knight’, but escalates to £7.99 a time making a total of £250.68 for the 32 pieces.
Alternatively, you could pop over to eBay and buy one for $40 complete. Now that’s instant gratification.
PETER WILBY’S lengthy profile of Lord Dacre in the New Statesman sums up how most of us feel about the Daily Mail – a mixture of fascination, admiration, fear and loathing. I constantly defend it against blinkered, blathering Lefties because of my respect for its consummate professionalism in identifying a market and then pursuing it ruthlessly. It is also a shining example of how newspapers should adapt to cope with the loss of breaking news as an integral part of their offering. The value to the reader these days is in story selection, background features, columns and campaigns.
However, as hinted at in Wilby’s piece, there is a nagging feeling that all is not well at Derry Street. The Mail sails as close to the wind as it can, and usually gets away with it by never quite crossing that line. Unfortunately, this week brought two instances when it was blown way off course.
The New Year’s Eve splash claiming that flights and coaches from Bulgaria and Romania were jam-packed with benefits-seeking immigrants was simply untrue, and had been roundly debunked by that lunchtime on the BBC’s World at One. You can sometimes bend the facts, chaps, but once you start making them up you’re in big trouble.
Secondly, and a story I only saw online so I don’t know if it appeared in print, read thus: “Revealed: The FOUR rocks that left Michael Schumacher fighting for his life… as picture shows blood in the snow where he smashed his head”. Completely unnecessary, added nothing to our understanding of the accident, classless, clueless and crass. Not even I can defend that.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan