6.40am: the 242 bus is passing. Two women are walking to work across the road, and a younger woman with a rucksack is walking, perhaps, to holiday. On Radio 4, a very matter of fact reporter called Jill, in Afghanistan, is telling the Today programme, “…and in fact, British forces had to just drop a 500-pound bomb on a compound…” as if compound meant ‘rubbish dump’ not ‘home’. She made this comment just after telling us that British forces were encountering “resistance” in the area despite “warnings” to “local people” to leave.
6:46am: a bald man outside in a corduroy jacket is getting into his car. He throws his bag on to the back-seat and pulls out a pack of cigarettes which he tucks into the jacket pocket. He gets in the front seat and drives off. John Humphreys, meanwhile, is telling me that the big threat to the people of Afghanistan is not foreign troops dropping 500-pound bombs, but the Taliban’s heroin production. This insight is followed by another reporter, this one in Kabul, saying that onions and tomatoes have gone up in price, maybe three-fold. A local man in a market says this is because the products are coming “from somewhere else”. The price of fuel has gone up by about 45%. At the Chamber of Commerce, a very well-spoken man who uses expressions like “jack-up the prices” blames businessmen and politicians. There is no mention of the fact that typically, where there is conflict, people stop producing, roads close down, transport ceases and prices go up. The reporter also didn’t mention the word poppy or heroin.
6:55am: the sun is coming up here. The sky is pink, blue and yellow. More lengthy discussions about how to find Madeleine McCann on Radio 4. This is the second time since 6:41am that I have heard her name on Today. Meanwhile there’s going to be an interest-rate cut. An interest-rate cut.
7:09am: I receive an email about Somalia which informs me of an attack by Somali security forces on another compound, that of Radio Shabelle. The attack took place on 18th September. “Forces opened fire on the building with staff inside, forcing the station off the air. According to local journalists, police fired repeatedly from 10am to noon at the doors and windows at the compound while staff took cover. No casualties were reported and most staff members managed to escape during a brief respite in the shooting…” But don’t worry about it. Somalia isn’t that important. (The Committee to Protect Journalists says that six Somali journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work this year, making Somalia the most dangerous place for reporters to work, after Iraq.)
7:13am: A woman – she’s a chief constable – is talking about huge immigration in Cambridge. She says that people who come to the UK as immigrants often don’t realise that they can’t behave here as they behaved at home. Unlike the British, who tend to think they can do what the hell they like abroad regardless of the fact they wouldn’t dream of doing it at home.
The wind is getting up. Another bald man passes. The 242 has passed again. Almost empty. And I can hear more planes above. Hackney used to be plane-free. No more. That Man is discussing share prices. I must write the talk on the slippage between fiction and journalism. It’s for Friday. Fiction and journalism. Slippage. Truth. Objectivity. Yes, all that. In 8 minutes.