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Tess Read – Murder on the Insta

Tess Read – Murder on the Insta

A friend of mine used to be a hand model. Yes, I didn’t know it was a thing either. But the pretty substantial sums she made from a few years of having her hands be the face (well, hands) of Ponds cream (other moisturisers are available) would suggest that it is. Her delightful digits were also the backdrop for many a sparkly ring featured on jewellers’ posters, bringing a smile to her face and cash to her bank balance. But of course, a hand model is the definition of not being a job for life. There may not be many old racing car drivers but there are zero old hand models. Final salary pension scheme? Not so much.

She was a trend-setter really, seeing as nowadays we are all meant to have at least six careers. Probably simultaneously too. These days people don’t just leave a career in the city to set up a smallholding in the country, they also turn it into a gastro b and b, retrain as yoga teachers for the summer retreat, and direct short films of all their triumphs for Instagram. And then say ‘Of course this is all just a bit of a distraction – what I really want to do is launch the world’s first music festival on an oil rig. I’m going to call it Rigged! Or possibly Festivoil.’

I’ll never forget the case of Helen Steel and David Morris who famously were taken to court by McDonald’s in a case called Mclibel. The two were environmental activists who had written and handed out a leaflet near their local McDonald’s asserting various things about the fast food chain, such as that they endangered the health of their workers, that they used misleading advertising, and exploited children and other such claims that McDonald’s wanted to refute. So the mighty golden arches, a global company with billions of pounds, and all their highly paid lawyers took Steel and Morris to court for libel. It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t learn the lessons of Oscar Wilde – don’t go to court over libel if there is any doubt at all that those things might be true.

Steel and Morris were denied legal aid and so didn’t have any lawyers. They represented themselves, reading paperwork on the tube on the way into court, juggling their jobs and taking care of the kids. The court case lasted nearly 10 years making it the longest libel case in history and cost McDonald’s millions of pounds in lawyers’ fees. The Court ruled that some of the things the activists’ leaflet said were not true, making McDonald’s claim it as a victory. But the Court also ruled that some of the things were true including all the claims above, and more. It was seen as a massive triumph for society against corporation, for the little woman and man, for Steel and Morris, and for the truth.  But how did the pair comment on the victory – they announced how pleased and proud they were to have had many of their claims vindicated and they hoped it would bring about changes in practices at McDonald’s. But they also said that the whole thing was just a distraction from what they really wanted to achieve – lowering the speed limit in their local area to 20 mph so that it was safe for the kids to go out and play on the streets again. Overachievers that they are, they, of course, achieved this as well.

Us lesser mortals may manage to do different things during our working lifetime but the things I have been distracted by in my career have rarely been as notable as making a fool of a global corporation, or founding a stunning new hotel. Instead, I appear to have been distracted by the lure of making stupid jokes. I always wanted to be a writer. I spent years honing my writing skills with various journalistic projects. I was serious about being a serious writer.  I won my first book contract when I was doing my postgraduate studies, a serious MPhil in the learned subject of politics. I wrote two business books; they did have a few jokes in them, but were mostly trying to be erudite. Although they are inadvertently an absolute scream today because they are on the subject of the Internet and so are so astoundingly dated as to make you feel they were written about 1000 years ago rather than around 15. But then I got distracted – I was commissioned to write books about rather more frivolous subjects, such as a book about David McKee’s wonderful creation Mr Benn,  the People’s everybody. And a book followed about our favourite recyclers, upcyclers, and make doers – the Wombles. And then I moved on to subjects not just frivolous but entirely ridiculous. Imagining a diary written by Simon Cowell’s baby – this was a whole load of fun to write. As soon as Simon Cowell released the news that he was having a butler for the baby I styled Piers Morgan as the butler who acted just like the genius butler Jeeves, then I had them hiring Sharon Osbourne as the nanny, and after that, the book just wrote itself. My most recent book was made up entirely of stupid jokes, the hopefully entertaining ‘Contented Little Husband”. This was clearly not at all based on my experience with my lovely husband, who is far happier than contented, and is certainly not little, or belittled by life with me. Whatever he may say. 

And now, dear reader, I get to write for this most excellent publication. I get to extol the virtues of the Southwest on a monthly basis, praising such superb local businesses as the Mango café with its perfect Pimms, divine on a sunny day, the fresh and complex salads of the small but perfectly formed Plant Café, the true Italian pizzas of the newly opened Franco Manca on Queen Street, and I hopefully provide some modest entertainment with my words along the way. My English teacher would be so proud. If only she wasn’t too busy to notice running a Sherlock Holmes themed gastronomic hotel on the Isles of Scilly. Motto: ‘There’s a deerstalker in the water, and a murder on the Insta.’ Those overachievers, where would we be without them. Not on the Isles of Scilly on a murder themed weekend, that’s for sure.

Written by Tess Read
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