There was an interesting juxtaposition of articles in a newspaper this week and, while I first thought it was a mean trick by a grudging sub editor to put the two side by side, I realized that one was a harrowing story of bravery while the other was … well… an over-indulgent whine. In other words, a poorly considered first person column.
The main article featured an extract from Let Her Fly, the book written by Ziauddin Yousafzai (with Louise Carpenter) about his daughter Malala, the young girl from Pakistan who was shot and seriously injured by the Taliban.
It makes harrowing reading. Especially when you read about Malala’s horrific injuries and her long crawl back to health and fitness.
And what was Malala’s crime that made her the subject of an assassination attempt? The young woman, who went on to become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was promoting education for girls.
In the right hand column on this double page spread, running alongside this shocking, inspiring story, is an event the reader might not find quite so harrowing.
Written by the celebrity mother of a 27-year-old, it tells of what she sees as an appalling incident that should astound us all. The celebrity’s daughter had ordered the necessities for her vegan existence – tofu included – from Waitrose. But when the delivery arrived, the driver wouldn’t hand over the life-sustaining goods because he couldn’t be sure the girl was over 18.
One might wonder why anyone needs to prove their age to order this sort of stuff – unless it’s to try and get them to change their dietary habits and eat real food. But Waitrose has some sort of company policy, and the unfortunate O* had to wait for a real grown up to arrive and take delivery of the order.
The column goes on. ‘The irony is that if O had walked into a Waitrose branch to buy her food, no checkout operative would have turned a hair,’ proud mum writes. Ah – and here’s the rub. Poor tofu-munching O, a ‘successful TV writer’, can’t drive. The nearest shop was two miles away. We’ve got to assume this youthful-looking 27-year-old can’t walk or cycle either.
The column represents the worst of the whining ‘Poor Me…’ pieces in the printed press that tell you nothing other than how spoilt, self-satisfied and smug some columnists are. What it shows is how self-indulgent writers can be when they put their first world demands before their reasoning.
And I rather think the writer of this one is regretting the day she turned to print to have a go at Waitrose. Perhaps she was hoping for compensation by way of a tofu-shaped burger.
But if she reads the article about Malala – alongside her own tearful moan – I wonder if she holds her head in shame.
* Names have been withheld.
Next time… I’ll be writing about how to write a first person piece.