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Dinosaur in a PC jam
My first encounter with political correctness came in the Eighties when I was taken to task for a reference to an accident "blackspot" in a report in this paper on a Road Safety Committee meeting.
The swift response via my Editor's Comment on the front page was to inquire if such words as "whitewash" were equally undesirable.
From memory, I think I won that particular battle. One-nil to the dinosaur. I sometimes wonder how I survived 17 years at the helm with changing attitudes putting Big Den - that's before I shrank to a mere 5ft 10 ins with the passing of time - in a particularly unwitting non-PC role.
I grew up in an era where Great Britain had a mighty Empire and we put Robertson's jam on our morning toast without a thought that anyone would be offended by the label. We even won the World Cup in my heyday!
The worst hostility I encountered as an editor was when I tried to get a toilet in Hendon Park closed because of its use as a meeting place for sexual encounters.The Hendon Park toilet just off Shirehall Lane was even advertised in Scandanavia as an attractive venue for visitors to London.
The hoo-ha that developed over the months led to letters to the hierarchy of the paper protesting about my campaign from eminent professors in Edinburgh and dons from Oxford. I never knew that the Times series reached such far-flung cities... although perhaps Gay Times campaigning against me and featuring an interview with me that suggested that I was right of Genghis Khan helped spread the word.
The issue was finally resolved in my favour and the toilet was closed. The next day Hendon Round Table held their annual event in the park, attracting 2,000 people who all, it seemed, wanted to use that particular toilet and had to trudge all the way up to the Hendon Central end sticking pins in the image of yours truly.
Today, in my long established role as Father of the Bride getting into gear for the marriage of elder twin Claire to Woody next month, I am again under the cosh as I prepare the witticisms for my "I'm not losing a daughter but gaining a son-in-law speech" at cake cutting time.
A recently formed, but quite mutinous, Signy censorship committee has come up with a black list - can I say that? - of subjects that are taboo for the ears of the anticipated 200 guests.
The most galling is a restriction on what I can say about Mrs S, which first manifested itself when my contribution to the invitations was cut in half to delete any seeming disparaging remarks about the mother of the bride.
You will appreciate that Father of the Bride has a capital letter status, as befits a man who invested £3 13 shillings and sixpence 43 years ago at Hendon Register Office to join together in holy matrimony and has spent goodly sums hosting wedding receptions for our girls at venues from the House of Commons and The Savoy to the now forgotten and lamented Rat Hole at the Production Village in Cricklewood Lane.
Unfortunately the speech that wowed 'em in the aisles at previous Signy weddings went missing when we moved home some 18 months ago so a 2009 update is being prepared for Claire's big day.
Mickey taking, I am now advised, is at a premium so, even after 43 years hard labour with the lady who was my child bride, I cannot point out a few of the perils that arise when two people join asunder.
Mrs S, boosted by the all-feminine trio of Claire, her twin sister Kathryn and Kathryn's mother-in-law have ganged up on the dinosaur. Sensitive Signys is a new phenomenon and just having a brief to say what I like about a new son-in-law as a target for a cheap laugh is rather restricting.
They come in different shapes and sizes these male newcomers to the fold. I have managed to adjust to a son-in-law with a Yorkshire accent who supports Bradford City and been rewarded with two gorgeous grandchildren for my patience. I did not adjust to the character who did not like his photo taken and insisted on drawing moustaches on faces when presented with copies.
I guess the best thing is to prepare a bland speech that will be heard in complete silence and live with the mutterings that the old chap has lost his touch.
Perhaps I could send copies of the one I'd liked to have made to anyone not bothered about incurring the wrath of Mrs S and Claire.
Oh for the days when we sent a gunboat to sort out troubles abroad or when Bobby Moore lifted the Cup for England and West Ham United.
Life can be hell for a dinosaur in these changing times.