Tuesday, 12 November 2013


A telephone call can change a life.

I have often wondered how the one I received in the late summer of 2008 might have changed mine.

It was from Piers Morgan. Yes, he of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and Twitter fame.

“Can I speak to Jim Black?” enquired the unfamiliar voice. “Speaking,” I replied.

“Hi, it’s Piers Morgan here. I was given your number by a colleague of yours at The Sun and I understand that you are a man with a detailed knowledge of Glasgow and all things Glaswegian.”

“Is that right?” I responded in a tired voice, in the belief that I was the victim of a wind-up and the Piers Morgan at the other end of the line was “at it.”

But I quickly changed my mind when the voice added, “I want to pick your brains. How about lunch? Anywhere you like. You choose the restaurant.”

In that instant I instinctively knew I was speaking to the real Piers Morgan.

If he had said “nothing too expensive, mind” I would probably have hung-up. But the good Piers doesn’t strike me as a man who does anything on the cheap – especially lunch!

“Great,” I said. “When do you want to meet?”

“Next week alright?” he asked. Regrettably, it wasn’t. I was booked up for two weeks in the sunshine of Cannes and I don’t think my missus would have impressed had I informed her that the holiday was off and I was going for lunch with Piers Morgan instead.

Clearly, whatever Piers wished to “pick my brains” about could not wait and we never did have that lunch.

But I can’t help wondering what our proposed meeting might have led to. Would I now be Piers’ man in Scotland – his Mr Fixit, his gopher...his resident trouble-shooter north of Hadrian’s Wall?

Probably not. There again, who knows?

I’ve still got his number, but I’m sure it has changed several times since.

But if you happen to read this, Piers, give me a call back. I’m sure you’ll be able to acquire my mobile number without any difficulty. If not, it’s the same one you dialled back in 2008.

Oh, and lunch is on me. It will be worth it just to find out how my life might have changed.

While I find Piers’ Life Stories compulsive viewing, I cannot say the same of Coronation Street.

Let me begin by saying that I never was a fan of Corrie. But, having been coerced into watching the every-day happenings of Weatherfield on a fairly regular basis of late by a Soap-obsessed partner, I marvel at the duplicity of those who produce the iconic ITV serial.

It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the Soap’s should mirror everyday life as it affects the rest of us – warts and all.

But the producers have unashamedly taken a tragic story-line and milked it for all its worth, not in the name of compulsive viewing, but rather simply to boost ratings.

I refer to Hayley Cropper having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Yes, none of us can avoid the inescapable fact that cancer – the most terrifying six letter word in the English language – pervades all our lives at some point.

But for weeks now viewers have been subjected to the unrelenting misery of Hayley and Roy’s struggle to come to terms with her imminent passing.

Not content with an almost daily diet of death, the script writers felt a need to introduce an added twist to the tale by creating a second terminally ill character whom Hayley felt a need to visit as she lay dying in a Hospice.

Just what you need if you happen to sitting at home contemplating your own mortality    and desperately in need of some light relief.

So, don’t be fooled by the pay-off line that follows the credits: “If you’ve been affected by Roy and Hayley’s story, contact the Samaritans” followed by the national telephone number of that fine body of volunteers who have been responsible for rescuing so many.

It’s all about viewing figures, not lives saved – no matter how much added misery they bring to our into our living rooms when there is already more than enough reality rubbish filling our screens.

Mind you, compared to the diet of poverty porn served up by programmes like “The Scheme”, BBC’s BAFTA award-winning documentary, STV’s daily horror show “The Night Shift” has reached new levels of mind-numbing banality.

The station’s bosses should feel nothing but shame at subjecting insomniacs to such utter rubbish produced for a pittance.

Having said that, dreary voiced presenters lacking a basic grounding in grammar talking over film clips of a helicopter flying the length and breadth of the country to bring us views of our dear, green land, interspersed with clips from the station’s archives dating back 30 years, might after all turn out to be far more effective than a double dose of mogadon!