All news services suffer from the Slow News Day phenomenon. However investigative or creative they may be, there is nothing to report. Nowt. Diddly-squat vaguely interesting things. On the TV news in England back in the 80's they did lots of film clips with ambulances and fire-engines racing to places before finally admitting that no-one had been injured and, in fact, absolutely nothing was on fire.
It was to cover this problem that the recent culture of celebrity has developed. On days when all the interesting stuff is having a sabbatical, or what is happening requires more brainpower than a hamster on Mogadon to understand, something can be reported. Usually at length.
Anyone who thought news filling was a recent practice would have been brought up short by the recent discovery of a diary by the most famous of Slobbering-under-the-Bed's Town Criers, Mr James Southsea. He was famous because during his tenure in the office of Town Crier so very much happened. There was the Mysterious Cattle Rustling, a terrible stage coach crash and, last but certainly not least, The Great Fire of Slobbering.
The diary starts in September 1835. The first few entries in the diary run like this:
Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Everyone turns and looks. I tell them nothing has happened. Townsfolk look a little cross.
Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. It's traditional you see? Everyone turns and looks. Once more I explain nothing has happened. I mean whose fault is that? If they did something then I could announce it. No use the townsfolk getting annoyed with me.
By November the entries have become like this:
Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Bored. Bored. Bored. Tell everyone that nothing is going on. They stare at me. I stare back. I can keep this up as long as they can!
Rang bloody bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Still absolutely nothing going on. Dammit. It's not my fault people! If you weren't all so very very boring I'd have a fulfilling job.
In December, the Christmas tipple was getting to the man:
Shouted at bell. Bell did not ring itself. Told townsfolk I was going for another ale. Nearest they'll get to exciting news.
By January things had not changed for the better:
Decided that since Slobbering-under-the-Bed is the jewel in the crown of boredom, it needed brightening up. Am now going to make up the news. Started lunchtime. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Told the townsfolk that the Vicar's wife had just had a baby and would any man claiming to be the father please report to the vicarage. Stunned silence.
Needed more interesting news. Waited until three in the morning and then left cow field gate open and the back door of the mayor's cottage. Once four cows were inside, closed the gates and back door. Went home satisfied and waited for my first announcement of the day. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Latest news: mayor implicated in cattle rustling scandal. Oyez.
Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Mayor arrested for cattle theft. Man, that caused a bit of buzz in the town. Maybe this is an interesting job after all.
Bored. Nothing going on. Mayor seemed a little offish with me. Seems the vicar wasn't too pleased with him confessing to having an affair with his wife.
Slipped into coaching inn at the dead of night and loosened the wheel bolts on the left side of the stagecoach. The stage would be riding out at midday. Prompt news reporting would be needed.
Two minutes before midday. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Bringing the news to the townsfolk as it happens, right now. The stagecoach shot past me pulled by four horses. I announced a major stagecoach disaster just outside Slobbering. Aboooouuuuut NOW. There was a crash. A wheel rolled back past me. How's that for prompt news?
Slow news month again. Apparently the mayor was on the stagecoach trying to leave town. He was mightily peeved when the wheels fell off.
Slobbering has just had gas street lighting fitted. One of the new gas light posts was put where I normally make my announcements. Feel a little aggrieved about it. Especially since the gas supply, like that of the rest of the town came from the local sewer. Some of the posher cottages had gas light too. Must really smell bad.
After the third day, I could no longer stand the smell. That night I snuck out with a hammer and flattened the pipe on my gas light. It went out. It no longer smelled. Job well done. As I was walking home, the gas lights down the street over-pressured and flared up one by one. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Oh dear. Finally the mayor's cottage exploded in a big ball of flames.
By my first announcement at six the following morning, most of the town was ablaze. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Great Fire of Slobbering consumes most of the town, faulty gas supply suspected. The townsfolk did their staring at me thing again.