Norfolk's too good for you, Mr Gill
My faith exhorts and inspires me to turn the other cheek to provocation. And, on most occasions, I do just that.
Growing up with ginger hair, you get used to choosing between fight or flight. More often than not, I have chosen the latter.
But there are a few things that I will always fight for, including my family, my friends and my beloved county of Norfolk.
So when I read a Sunday Times review of the Rose and Crown at Snettisham by food critic AA Gill, I’m afraid the temptation to present a rather more risqué exposed cheek was overwhelming.
In case you missed exhibit A in the display case of snobbish, sneering London "journalism", here are a few highlights:
"If Norfolk didn’t exist, we would have to make it up, and then regret it"
Norfolk is a "backward place to allocate dark lusts, incest and idiocy"
"The hernia on the end of England"
"A poverty-bitten place, keeping up its stained trousers with baler twine".
No doubt he laughed to himself as he penned so many witty phrases, anticipating a flurry of air kisses from his acolytes.
And I expect his waspish attacks on Norfolk will draw amusement and even adulation at the dinner parties of the chattering classes, where a tasteless titbit is far more digestible than the truth.
After all, anywhere that is more than 10 minutes’ drive from the nearest Harvey Nicholls must be populated by primates who wave their fists at passing planes and drown women with warts.
Provocation is, of course, part of Mr Gill’s game. He has famously offended the people of Wales, the Isle of Man – and TV presenter Clare Balding. And I am playing into his hands by reacting to his latest divisive dispatches.
Normally I let it go, safe in the knowledge that those who do not recognise Norfolk for the beautiful, inspiring place that it is are not worth developing an ulcer over.
When defenders of the Norfolk faith attacked Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge for mocking the county, I wished they would develop a sense of humour.
And when Jeremy Clarkson made detrimental comments about Nelson’s County, it was obvious that it was simply our turn, and not worth getting uptight about.
But Mr Gill’s comments go beyond the acceptable bounds of humour.
I’m not ever going to be a "name" in the world of journalism. But I do know that resorting to gratuitous abuse of a subject is lazy and unimaginative.
I learnt that to my cost last year when, in this column, I carelessly composed sentences that were critical of English shopkeepers. Quite rightly, rage and fury rained down upon me. I made a mental note to be more careful in future.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where being nasty gets you noticed.
Every reality TV judging panel has a Simon Cowell, a Jason Gardiner or a Craig Revel Horwood to bully and berate people. And the likes of Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay gained notoriety and a fortune from being foul-mouthed.
AA Gill appears to be hewn from the same spiteful stone.
He has a privileged national platform, from which his views are read by hundreds of thousands of people. But he has chosen to abuse that position.
With dreadful hypocrisy, I tell my children: "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing."
It is a homespun motto that Mr Gill would do well to take note of.
posted on 01 March 2011 08:35 bySteve Downes