I just read that Miles Kington died yesterday. He will be missed by many, especially those who like humorous writing at its cleverest, sophisticated and best.
The Times published an article he had written some time ago: on being a reporter. Or, rather, in his case, on not being a reporter. People often asked him how they could become reporters and he didn't know - he wasn't one. He couldn't give them advice on the subject.
There are, however, plenty of people "out there" running "writers' courses" who seem to know the answer to the question: "How can I become a reporter?" Or "How can I write plays?" Or "How can I write a best-selling novel?" You pay the money and they will tell you how to do these things.
Don't you believe it.
I heard of a man who attended a writing group who, I was told, "could not write at all". He was just plain hopeless. But he signed up to one of the writing courses advertised in The Press and followed the instructions, sent in his "homework" and so on. But he never succeeded in having anything published. And the course material had specified that anyone doing the course would at the end of it, if they were still unpublished, get their money back.
So he asked for his money back. But he was told "we have no doubt you will be successful if only you do a few more exercises free of charge."
But he wanted his money back. But they kept putting him off with various offers to extend his course until....
"I want my money back as stated in the rules."
They would not pay.
Many of us, at this stage, would have given up and not wasted any more time over it.
Not him. He took them to court and they settled; they gave him his money back.
I admire him a lot. If he never was able to write anything publishable he certainly knew how not to suffer fools gladly.
Perhaps he himself should start a course. How to beat the system. How to never let the bastards grind you down.