Thursday, March 30, 2006

oh, this is really encouraging

a succint burst of frustration in yesterday's Guardian Diary...

"We are not in the least bit amused to hear that Margaret Beckett's ministerial Jag warmed its engine for fully 15 minutes yesterday while waiting for the environment secretary to emerge from a climate-change review press conference. We are positively grumpy to hear that when MPs on the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee flew to California last week to learn about its approach to climate change, they travelled to the airport in individual chauffeur-driven limousines. And we are downright discomposed to learn that, when Tony Blair and his party of 50 flew to Oz last week, they did so on an 18-hour 45-minute charter flight (a record) in a Boeing 777 with 220 seats. This 9,200-mile jaunt, the Diary's indefatigable Saleem Vaillancourt reckons, consumed 120 tonnes of jet fuel and produced 2.32 tonnes of CO2. Four days after it landed, TB was off to New Zealand for talks on the environment. Sod off the bleedin' lot of you, frankly."

...was followed by a qualifying statement today:

"OK, so we (or rather the Diary's hopelessly incompetent Saleem) were wrong. When TB flew with 50 others in a chartered 220-seat jet to Australasia last week to discuss global warming, the flight produced 373 tonnes of CO2, not (as we said) 2.32 tonnes. That, it seems, was Tony's personal contribution to the greenhouse effect".

Good to hear that the government is taking climate change seriously.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Good announcement

Announcement made by tonight's train driver, after a few minutes delay in leaving Chichester. "Sorry for the delay to your service today; it was the result of drug users being evicted from the train. Passengers in the first carriage, I would like to apologise for the smell of glue. Now that the problem has been dealt with, we expect the smell to dissipate shortly". Wonderful!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

pub quiz report

Is it still an achievement to win Brighton's best pub quiz when there are arguably more people on your team than in the rest of the pub combined? Hmm, perhaps not. Well, we didn't win, this week, but then there were only five of us, unlike the week before when we romped home with about twelve. I attribute this week's distasterous performance to our positioning; a surprisingly busy The George had us crammed around the side into the elbow of the pub, where we were disorientated, asked to desist from smoking, and from where we could watch, fuming, as our rivals, Arse Pizza - who are normally out of sight - kept getting ten out of ten.

We are alarmingly good at some subjects and alarmingly useless at others. We are good at questions about

Geography (specifically flags and capital cities)
Record cover art
Football (if I'm playing)
Athletics and Cricket (if Andrew is playing)
and French, Spanish, German or Italian stuff (if Anne-So, Nat, Jess or Michi are playing)

We are ludicrously bad at:

Children's TV characters
Titles of Pink Floyd albums
Picking the odd one out
Inventing amusing team names,

Although the latter has been made easier by our electing Natalia as our team leader, and the new rule that our team name has to start with 'Captain Natalia'. Last week we were 'Captain Natalia and the Zooniverse', which is a geeky half-reference to the Mighty Boosh. This week we were, in fact, 'Captain Miss Nat and the Lifting of the Burkha', which we liked at first because we thought it sounded like the title of a Harry Potter book. Then we got worried that people - especially any Islamic Fundamentalists in the pub (unlikely I know) - might think that we were racists or Danish, so Dave drew a helpful caricature of a nasty academic, and we hoped it would be clear that it was he, rather than any modest schoolgirls, that was the object of our derision. Yeah, we worry too much.

Once the quiz was over, and Morgan had unsuccessfully looked into the possibility of changing teams for next week, we were asked to come up with suggestions for future rounds. As you might imagine from our rubbish team name, we went completely blank and suggested a load of daft ones like 'Tottenham full backs from 1987-1992', 'Composting Methods' and 'Guess the final weight of Bulimic Pop Stars'. We were particularly pleased with 'Major Disasters: Estimated cost to human life', but our normally genial host demurred. So I think in the end our most realistic suggestion was 'guess the number of jelly babies in the jar'.

So if anyone has any clever ideas for a pub quiz round, please put your suggestions in the comments box below. We'll suggest them on Sunday so if you turn up the week later you might just find yourself able to take Captain Natalia and Arse Pizza out in a single blow.


Heard this on the radio this morning, just as I was waking up, and it introduced a new feeling - being really angry while still being asleep. For those who missed it,

Labour's manifesto last year said ID cards would be introduced "initially on a voluntary basis", but the Home Office minister Andy Burnham said today it was always "absolutely clear" the scheme would become mandatory.
Peers have voted for amendments - which the government does not accept - which would allow those applying for new or renewed passports to decide for themselves whether to opt for an ID card until 2011.

Mr Burnham, defending the government's original bill on the Today programme this morning, said that offering applicants a choice would increase the cost of the scheme while reducing security.

Mr Burnham was asked why Labour had not told voters that the cards would be compulsory. He replied: "Actually, we did.

"During the parliamentary process that the bill went through before the general election, we were absolutely clear on this point.

"There was no doubt about the link with the passport. We said all along that the right way to proceed would be at the time when we introduced the biometric passport, when fingerprints were introduced into the passport, that would be the right time to introduce the clean National Identity Register."

You liar.

Monday, March 20, 2006

all the real girls (2003)

I watched and enjoyed Walk The Line last week, but I don't really see the point of writing a review of a film which almost everyone who read this will have either read about at length already or seen, so I won't go into it, apart from saying that it was great and one of those rare films which stayed in my thoughts for a days after seeing it, which is always a test of a good film, or book or record for that matter.

It's a test I can't apply, however, to a film I watched as recently as this evening, All The Real Girls, but I'm tempted to write a few words about it because I thought it was a particularly charming and interesting film which deserves a mention. Written by David Gordon Green and Paul Schneider (who directed and starred in the movie, respectively) and released in 2003 (I completely missed it at the time), it's kind of a low-key elegaic Garden State without the more obvious comedy or self-conscious hip-ness. It's a very serious movie, in fact, although not one which isn't regularly very funny - but it's one of the sweetest, slowest films I've seen in a while.

Seemingly filmed in the dawn and dusk hours in an absolutely gorgeous North Carolina, meaning that almost every shot (practically the whole movie is set outdoors) is bathed in beautiful golden light, it concerns a pair of young drifters in a small town who drift together, seeking comfort and redemption, and then drift painfully apart when their expectations differ. Largely informed by improvisation in rehearsals and featuring a pair of remarkable turns from Schneider and Zoey Deschaneal, the film is deliberately vague and unformed, ending not with clear resolution but rather with open-ended pathos and lingering shots of the unchanging landscape.

In places the films is marvellous; the supporting roles (from Patricia Clarkson, Danny McBride, Shea Whigham and Benjamin Mouton) by are all as good examples of character acting as you'll come accross this year, particularly from Whigham, whose unpredictable, charged performance as the childish Tip is a masterclass in wringing feeling from a few thin lines. Gordon Green shoots some lovely snippets of layered conversation, and evinces beautifully the contrast between the so familiar inhabitants of a little-changing town and the excitement of discovering someone new. Despite the appearence of several accomplished actors, Green draws heavily on old film-school colleagues and local residents; this, coupled with the rigorous improv, combines to produce an atmosphere and a shared vocabularly of glances which speaks powerfully of real friendship.

It's by no means a perfect film; the last third is frustrating, for all the director's admirable determination to maintain the steady level of careful realism. Nothing is resolved, nothing is ever resolved, the film whispers, all of which makes for a beautifully stylised and shot parable but not so much for a satisfying film; although the movie unexpectedly ends with a tangential, charming moment of comedy. Despite this, it's tremendously believable and struck through with impeccable dialogue and elegant, serious acting. And the stunning scenery of North Carolina chimes with the story as bewitchingly as David Lynch's Washington did in Twin Peaks. Like Lynch - although the movie doesn't resemble his work in any other way - Gordon Green attempts to capture a whole community rather than just his central protagonists; it's these kooky, largely unexplained diversions which pull focus and give the film its disjointed, undisciplined feel. But that's how life is, you can hear Green saying, and that's where you find the film's humanity.

Really good stuff, all told.


I like that little rush of energy and relief you get when you leave work, particularly at the weekend or, best of all, when you're off on holiday. It's different to the way it used to be, when work wasn't really stressful anyway and the main drama, prior to having time off, was covering the tracks of the little admin tasks you neglected. All of the time you spend preparing – tidying your desk, setting your out of office message, all of it is methodical and geared towards the moment itself, which arrives seconds after you close down your computer and the second you walk out the door. Like the last day of school before the summer.

When you have a bit more responsibility and work is generally harder, you forget about that moment altogether – having time off is arguably more stressful than being in the office, because you've got things that unambiguously have to be done (ignoring for a moment the argument that it wouldn't, in more than one sense, actually make any real difference to the world if I published four books this month instead of five), and there are usually more things to be done than can actually be done. So instead I flap around, curse the occasional colleague, dash off curt emails which I forget to proof read, and end the day an hour late slamming the lid of my laptop shut and blindly reaching for my coat, all too aware that I didn’t do everything I needed to, and that I'll have to turn it back on when I get home and do those last few things. So, mindful of not missing the train I throw the laptop in my bag, sweep the papers on my desk into an ordered looking pile, over-zealously garrotte myself with my scarf and bundle out into the cold.

And then the moment comes after all; it's just a shiver of relief, nothing lasting, but it feels like a part of the inside of me which was previously puffed up and taut (my heart or my stomach) suddenly slackens and deflates and I have a few moments of silence and space inside of me. It's a lovely feeling, albeit fleeting. A big breath out, and I see the sun is setting, and my train clatters into view. Hurray.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

France to crack iTunes' DRM

Interesting news from the French contingent of Assistant. Anne-So passes on information that reveals that:

"The French Parliament is on its way to passing a law that would force Apple's iTunes to open its online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the iPod: like mobile phones, for example. The draft law makes it legal to crack digital rights management (DRM) security software and encourages consumers to use software that converts digital content into any format. The French government said the law aims to fight piracy and encourage the development of the online digital music market in France."

Good work!

Course, you could just use bleep!

Monday, March 13, 2006

please give my band some money

This is quite interesting. Anyone who wants to send me a few quid is welcome to...

From the Guardian's Culture Vulture Blog:

"It's not unheard of for a band that's a bit on its uppers to ask fans to help out. A few years ago, Marillion and John Otway made successful appeals, raising enough cash to fund albums and tours. And it didn't involve standing outside Sainsbury's, shaking a tin - the money poured in by post, with one Otway acolyte sending £7000. For that kind of outlay, you'd expect to have a song written about you. Which, apparently, was the deal offered by veteran art-rocker Momus - who has also been down this route - a hefty contribution got you your very own tune.

As established entities, Marillion, Otway and even Momus were relatively safe bets for their investors, who stood to make a bit of money if the albums and tours did well. But would you hand over thousands of quid to a group nobody had ever heard of?

Surprisingly, a Leeds band called Four Day Hombre, whose first album isn't even out till next week, managed to get several dozen very optimistic fans to bankroll not just their debut record but also the next two. By selling shares in their own label, they amassed "more than we would have got from a good independent deal. In fact, let's say we raised a lot more," says the singer, Simon Wainwright."

If I can raise enough to buy my first guitar pedal I will be happy! Or a pack of strings. Or even a few spare plectrums, thinking about it.

i almost like this sudden cold

It may have suddenly turned bitterly cold down on the South Coast (and everywhere else, I suspect), but there have been some beautiful sites accompanying this downturn; the hot steam rising from cooling towers in Didcot (where I spent last week), and a full rainbow in the sudden sun on my train journey back to brighton last Thursday. An unusually still sea bathed in light on a crisp Sunday afternoon and a really bloody beautiful sunset tonight.

Not that I've been organised enough to photograph any of them, annoyingly. I have no instinctive urge to use cameras to collect things, I only think afterwards. I got the snap below, actually, at a time when the cooling towers looked less impressive than they had on first sight. But there's no point trying to recapture memories with photographs, anyway.

hello old friends

What I'm doing in March 2006...

1. Mystery Jets - You Can't Fool Me Dennis (a muted hurrah for the prog rock revival)
2. Graham Coxon - Gimme Some Love (quite alarming hearing Graham talking about sex)
3. Donald Fagen - anything from Morph The Cat (Which sounds like peak Steely Dan in places)
4. Liars - Drum's Not Dead LP (Can meets MBV, fucking hell)
5. Johnny Cash - Hurt (just saw Walk The Line yesterday, it was great, and makes the video of this, with Johnny playing and June watching affectionately on all the more poignant)
6. Maximo Park - I Want You To Stay {Field Music remix} (more prog rock, oh no. It sounds like Genesis. I like it. It sounds like Genesis. I like it. Confusing)
7. Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics LP (trying and failing to love this one, I'm afraid)
8. Young Knives - Rumour Mill (it might be at number 8 but it's still the best song of the year so far)
9. White Rose Movement - Test Card Girl (pop music exploiting my fatal weakness for Duran Duran, damn it)
10. Ride - Nowhere LP (ooh, wow, still sounds astonishing!)

song titles meme

Ah, a good meme from Andrew - you need to pick a band and then answer the following questions using only titles from the band's songs. Andrew chose the Fall. No-one will be surprised to see what I've chosen, I suspect...

Name of band/artist: Pavement
Are you male or female?: Billy
Describe yourself: Fucking Righteous
How do you feel about yourself?: We are Underused
Describe your ex girlfriend/boyfriend: Perfume V
Describe current girlfriend/boyfriend: Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era
Describe where you want to be: Box Elder
Describe how you live: Cooling By Sound
Describe how you love: Spit On A Stranger
What would you ask for if you had just one wish?: All My Friends
Share a few words of wisdom: Cut Your Hair
Now say goodbye: Stop Breathing

Friday, March 10, 2006

back to reality

Although I do touch on politics a fair bit here, I have usually managed to avoid creating any sort of fuss about it. Not many people read this and those that do are usually tolerant of my excitable and badly argued political opinons, even if they do disagree with them. I've just had a rather odd week at a training centre in Surrey doing endless case studies and being given the hypothetical power to turn around ailing publishing companies with a wave of my hand, and one consequence is that - bleary with facts and weary with alcohol (publishers drink quite a lot, I notice) - I've not had time to catch up with the news, much less have the opportunity to rant about abortion in South Dakota or the increasingly alarming relations between the US and Iran. And if you want any proof that exposure to news is addictive, a week without the papers was actually rather restful. I realise how much time I spend obsessing over current affairs.

Anyway, I get back to two interesting things, each political in a sense but not much to do with politics in another. I watched, with mounting discomfort, Michael Winterbottom's very interesting film about the disgraceful treatment on prisoners in Guantanomo Bay last night, moved by some fine direction and sensitive acting, and thoroughly appalled by the abuse which the imagery depicted. I'm a bit of a crier anyway (managed it a couple of times to Eastenders last month and once to a RSPCA advert. Oh, and to the bit in 'The Parent Trap' where Linsay Lohan meets her estranged twin sister. I know.) But only in a faintly-ridiculous, god-I'm-being-manipulated-by-Richard-Curtis way.

But I got through about an hour and half of last night's film before I suddenly found myself bursting into tears; possibly the result of being knackered and hungover after a long week, I'm tempted to think, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that I seem to share the same sense of misery at the way some people are treated that I think we all feel sometimes. Certainly there's no shortage of people amongst my friends who find the abuses which have accompanied the West's treatment of civilians (and indeed suspected terrorists) in recent years utterly appalling. Neither are there many, incidentally, who don't feel that George Bush and Tony Blair should be held directly accountable for much of this, but I'm not going to go into that right now.

Except to say that the second thing, Iast night, which grabbed my attention, was that Andrew has posted a glut of interesting stuff on his blog over the last week and attracted a remarkable amount of criticism for doing so. Bloggers4Labour is a project which I think is really interesting, and the site has gone from being a service (it syndicates Labour-supporting blogs - so I'm not included) to one of the more interesting places for online comment and conversation. Obviously Andrew is a good friend of mine, which perhaps explains why I'm not in the slightest bit tempted to regard him, as some others apparently do, as a cynical party hack or a brainless Blairite. Bloggers4Labour is always interesting, and often provocative, especially to those who have made it their job to paint Tony Blair as the devil.

As a consequence the likes of Blairwatch and the readership associated with that blog have started steaming over to Andrew's page and leaving a slew of sarcastic and often ridiculous comments. Now, first off, let's be clear. Andrew has decided that in some cases he will reserve the right to delete messages which he considers offensive or time-wasting. He is right to do this, because it's his blog and he can do what the fuck he likes. Fairly straightfoward, you'd think.

Much of the comment has been directed at Andrew's refusal to condemn Blair for invoking - when asked pretty directly - God in talking about how he makes decisions. And much else at Andrew's well-informed opinion that there remains a good moral case for the war on Iraq. I think he's absolutely right in the first instance and I disagree with him on the latter; we both know this, we both chat cheerfully about it and frankly, couldn't really care less that we don't agree. No-one listens to us anyway, although perhaps the reaction is proof that more do than we suspect. I suspect the truth is simply that people form pretty hilarious ideas of what other people are like when all they do is read their blog. Either way, it's more evidence of the frantic emotional tug which politics and especially war has on us all. And either way, I'm totally tired of the ridiculous sniping that goes on in the increasingly macho world of blogging and so would like to ask everyone to please shut the hell up and listen to and respect each other's opinions.

Okay, feel free to be horrible about me in the comments box, I don't mind.

Anyway. Michael Winterbottom's film was beautifully shot and incredibly moving; it made me quite furious at the continuing acceptance of the UK government towards US activities in Cuba and the middle East. It did, on the other hand, completely fudge the issue of how four young men, who certainly weren't terrorists, came to spend two and a half weeks 'chilling out' in South Afghanistan while bombs dropped all around them. Winterbottom is doubtless confident that the boys are innocent. I'm sure he's right. But it's a shame he didn't find it necessary to demand a little candour from them in return for giving such an eloquent and passionate case for their defence. Whatever happened to the supposed marriage? Why didn't they leave Afghanistan earlier? What did they mean when they professed that they wanted to 'help'? It was all a bit opaque. But either way, they weren't terrorists and they didn't deserve the treatment they received in Afghanistan and Guantanomo Bay, and Winterbottom's film deserves serious consideration, as do Andrew's serious and well thought-out comments on related issues on his blog.

Hooray, it's the weekend. Meanwhile.

Friday, March 03, 2006

even better than normal

I just received a wonderful spam message, I'm really pleased with this one. Allusions to literature, that's so classy...

"Yo. You not satisfied with the size of ur unit. Been hearing complaints in the bedroom about ur show. If u've answered yes to either of these then come here, [URL deleted]. a “bad” person. After further examination she seems to draw feelings of sympathy and pity. The feelings originate from the fact that she contains some of the same traits as Gatsby. She is not a “bad” person she is just following her dream, as was Gatsby. Not only were they both following a dream, but also tragic hero must face his punishment. The tragic hero always excepts his downfall with dignity and grace. By act five the protagonist has realized his flaw .

Thank you

Thursday, March 02, 2006

king ming

Sounds like Ming Campbell is the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. Don't think that anything is official yet but that's how it looks according to the big smiles on the faces of his supporters. Will I vote for the Lib Dems with him as the leader? I dunno - if they had selected Simon Hughes that would probably have been enough to tilt me over to the Liberal Democrats, even in the event of a soonish Brown leadership of the Labour Party. I certainly like Ming Campbell but I'm not sure yet - my vote remains up for grabs, so parcels and bribes to the usual address, please...

more on linda smith

"I do sympathise with Bush and Blair trying to find WMDs. I'm like that with my scissors. I put them down, then I search all over the house, and I never find them. Of course, I do know that my scissors exist."

Ordinarily, I'd just link to Mark Steel's obituary of Linda Smith from yesterday's Independent, but I've got a feeling that the online edition of the Independent swiftly updates itself in order to make archived articles subscription only, so instead I'm reproducing it in full - not out of love for Linda Smith, although her death is incredibly sad, but because it is so beautifully written and such a wonderful testament of friendship. It goes without saying that it's quite something to have lived a life which can be summed up with such warmth. Thanks to Vic for pointing this article out to me.

"In 2002, Radio 4 held a poll to see who their listeners felt was the "wittiest person on the planet". The overwhelming winner was Linda Smith - a regular on such programmes as I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and The News Quiz.

The voters made a fine choice. For example, a group of us were watching the Euro 2004 final, which was won by Greece. As the Greek captain received the trophy, Linda said, "We'll have that in the British Museum by the end of the week claiming it's ours." Linda Smith's everyday conversation contained more jokes than most comedy scripts and more social comment than most dramas.

She was brought up in Erith, a town by the Thames where Kent edges towards London, which she said "isn't twinned with anywhere, but it does have a suicide pact with Dagenham". This was a comment that attracted the wrath of her local paper, but she defended herself by pointing out that the same paper ran a competition the following week to come up with the best name for the new Erith leisure centre, which was won by the entry "The Erith Leisure Centre".

Perhaps it was the tower blocks that lined the river from Erith upwards, peering down on her 1960s childhood, that framed her outlook. Because, just as 19th-century Romantics opposed the functional grime of the Industrial Revolution by praising art and imagination, Linda Smith developed a contempt for all that was soulless and concrete, and a passion for what could be appreciated purely for embodying beauty or enthusiasm.

She read novels at an alarming rate, retaining huge passages which she could quote with flair even when drunk. She seemed to have watched every film ever made, and could recite entire episodes of The Simpsons. And she retained a deep affection for the language and nuances of all she encountered, employing an Alan Bennett-ish attention to detail in her anecdotes.

With one simple tale, she summarised the process whereby people at work feel no connection with whatever they're producing. She was working on an assembly line, on which apple pies would emerge from an oven, then Smith and her colleagues would pick them up as they passed and place them in their boxes. Every single time, she said, as the pies approached, one worker who'd been there 20 years would flare his nostrils, look menacingly at them and snarl, "Here come the little fuckers."

In 1978 Smith went to Sheffield University to study English and Drama, and in 1983 joined a professional touring company. Then, in a short period, came what were probably the three defining events of her life. She was attracted by the growth of a new comedy circuit, in which comics would write material about their own experiences rather than rely on standard jokes. She met Warren Lakin, also part of the theatre group, who became her devoted partner. And there was the miners' strike, for which she performed and arranged countless fund-raising benefits, winning her vast affection amongst Yorkshire mining families.

Following the strike, she was confirmed as a very English radical. She adored Blake and Keats and jazz and rambling and cricket, would travel across Britain to raise money for a strike or anti-racist campaign, then hurry back to spend a day gardening or scouring east London for a red- and-white tea-set. Hers was an Englishness with no English nationalism. After she moved to London, her favourite walk was across Wanstead Common, absorbing the twinkling lake, then back down Newham High Street to embrace the chaos of the Indian and Pakistani markets.

While she befriended and assisted all sections of the left, she would join none of them. She often said, "The last thing I joined was the Tufty Club." And there was even a point, long after becoming President of the British Humanist Association, when she realised she had forgotten to fill the form in and so was technically not a member of the thing she was President of.

Throughout the 1980s, Smith became one of the few women to conquer the male-dominated world of stand-up in clubs and universities. When a student yelled, "Show us yer tits", she retorted sweetly, "Ah, is it time for a breast feed" - resulting in a deservedly humiliated student. She was similarly biting about authority. When many people were refusing to pay the poll tax, the Labour Party would not back them, so Smith described the Labour Party campaign as being "Pay the poll tax - but while you're doing so - oo you give that clerk SUCH a look".
From the early 1990s onwards, Linda Smith performed for seven years at the Edinburgh Festival, by herself and with Hattie Hayridge and Henry Normal. But she was often at her funniest in conversation, which is why her national prominence began after she was heard chatting on radio shows, at first, from 1998, on Radio Five Live's The Treatment, then on Radio 4, on Just a Minute, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and, conspicuously, The News Quiz.

There was the odd dissenting voice, in the form of letters complaining that someone with such an accent was "lowering the tone" of the BBC, but their isolation made her success all the more delightful. As well as disarmingly savage routines about the week's news Smith was wonderfully playful with the other guests. For example, if Alan Coren looked in any way puzzled, she would say endearingly, "It's all right, Alan, the nurse will be round this afternoon. No she HASN'T been stealing your flowers."

In 2001, she wrote and presented the first series of her radio show A Brief History of Timewasting (with a second series the following year), and on television was one of the most popular guests on Have I Got News For You, appearing on six occasions. Once she tied together her political outlook and passion for film by describing the privatised rail service as a series of scenes from Doctor Zhivago, with parents desperately passing their children on to crowded trains in the hope the odd one might make it.

On Room 101 in 2003, she won acclaim for including adults reading Harry Potter in public amongst her pet hates, and her love of language resulted in appearances on Call My Bluff, Countdown and the 2003 Test the Nation, of which she was the "celebrity winner".

It was around the time she was diagnosed with cancer, three and a half years ago, that her popularity became most apparent. For the two years that followed, she toured her live show, selling out large theatres with embarrassing ease, and through an honest humility barely acknowledged this was anything to do with her. "Oo, I went up to Norwich on Tuesday and there was 800 people there," she would drop into conversation, slightly bemused, as if them and her turning up on the same night was a complete coincidence.

Maybe that was because there was something else unique about Linda Smith, which is she was the only comic of any renown I've ever come across who wasn't an egomaniac. When she won the vote as wittiest person, she didn't even tell anyone, and, if it was brought up, she'd comment, "Oh yes, that was nice because it was presented by Stephen Fry."

A common cliché when a comic of Linda Smith's popularity dies is that, despite their jokes, they bore no one any malice. But this isn't a cliché when it comes to Smith, because it isn't true. She was funny partly because, while she oozed and overflowed with compassion for the vast number she befriended, entertained and assisted, she had plenty of malice for the soulless corporate world, of which she was proud to be an enemy. What annoyed her most was when that creed seeped its way into the world of entertainment. Even a few days before she died, as she lay motionless and apparently oblivious to visitors, when someone mentioned a new television show starring Davina McCall, Linda suddenly looked up, glared and beamed, "It's shite."

Linda Smith will be remembered for her charm, her wit, her subtle destruction of pomposity, her subdued but burning English rage; and for her familiarity. Even those who only know her as a voice on the radio will feel they have lost not just a splendid comic, but a wonderful and brilliant friend."

If the link still works, Jeremy Hardy's Guardian obituary is here. (Oh, god, I don't mean that Jeremy Hardy has died too! The one he wrote about Linda, obviously...)

And there's lots more nice stuff about Linda in today's paper.