After last month's day with the police dealing with some of London's more unsavoury characters, this month I spent six days on a press trip to Israel with someone who was in many ways a lot worse, to the point that the Israeli guards' guns (pictured) looked increasingly attractive as the week drew on. (*To clarify, I don't have the full data on Britain's bullshitters but he's indisputably the biggest I've ever met.)
The background to this is that you often have to spend press trips with other journalists, and as many PR people will tell you: “There’s always one in every group...(making) the trip less enjoyable for everyone else". Step forward - 'Stan', which is as close to his real name without fully revealing it.
All I know about Stan is he used to work for a red-top tabloid before losing his job, not long after somehow being shortlisted for 'Reporter of the Year' - something he mentioned at least four times during the week. His most immediately prominent physical attribute though was his grating, unintelligible northern accent: a nasal babble somewhere between a sped-up Liam Gallagher and that Lancashire girl off The Apprentice a few years back.
But that was only the beginning. It became clear that Stan was a classic 'blurter', ie. impulsively blurting out thoughts with no preconsideration of how dull or dumb they are. And it never stopped - will provide examples shortly.
Another alarm bell that started clanging was how he appeared to have done little if any research at all on the region and its history, his inane questions betraying not only a basic lack of knowledge but an inability to retain facts he was given. Within an hour of our being told the population of Jerusalem he asked the guide what was the population of Jerusalem, and then again two days later, no qualifying "sorry if you've already said" but in the manner that it was an original, incisive question.
This was the other thing about Stan's supposed journalism skills - he didn't write down any notes, but occasionally tapped words into his phone. As he squinted into it in blazing sunshine I asked why he doesn't use pen & paper. "Can't be arsed to carry pen & paper around," he replies, like he was some kind of maverick. When I found out he'd checked in at the airport his much smaller bag than the case I brought onto the plane, meaning a potentially long carousel wait, he explained: "Couldn't be arsed to put it in the overhead locker."
Unsure by this point how he got onto this trip or ever qualified as a journalist, I did some Googling back at the hotel to find he has no online presence of note as a writer. When the guide asked him about his commission he casually referred to the trip as "a free holiday" as he was friends with the editor of the mag he was writing for. No camera either, just his phone, whose low-grade snaps he insisted would be fine to print in a national magazine.
> (After I noticed our restaurant was playing a Stones Roses song)
Stan: They shouldn't be called a Manchester band because Ian Brown is from Oldham. Kris: No he's not. S: Yes he is.
K: Even if he was, the band formed in Manchester and was based there. S: Right, so the Bee Gees are a Manchester band then are they? (Guide changes subject. Ian is from Warrington.)
> (After someone mentioned Helen Shapiro while discussing the Jewish surname)
S: She went out with Mick Jagger. K: ? S: Or was it Paul McCartney. It was definitely one of the two.
K: As there's WiFi here let's Google it...(5mins)...Ok, so she didn't with either. S: What, you've got a website that lists everyone she dated? K: Nah, just ongoing results pages with nothing on either of those unlikely relationships.
> (Stan is asked how many Twitter followers he has and which celeb has the most?)
S: I've over 300 followers and it's one of the Kardashians with the most. K: Not more than Barack Obama surely?
S: It's definitely one of the Kardashians - can't remember which one. K: Ok, let's Google again...(2mins)... So, it's Katy Perry with the most, Kardashian not even in top 10. And you've half the Twitter followers you claim. S: Well...Twitter's old hat now anyway. And I meant the Kardashians had the most popular photo on Instagram.
Stan: Scotland changed its limit recently to one tenth of England's, so just a mouthful of booze will put you over now.
K: That's ridiculous. England's is 35mg - you're telling me Scotland's is 0.35? S: Did you not see it on the news? It's now one tenth of England's. Google it.
Regrettably I couldn't get WiFi at that juncture so readdressed it the next day. Unbelievably he got irate ("Look, it's one tenth, so piss off"). When I finally showed him the official info (22mg) on my phone he snapped "Well I had to tell you that Scotland's limit was lower because you didn't know". The sheer freakishness of this behaviour left me dumbfounded, how a journalist could almost pathologically bullshit then react this way - no "ah, you got me" concession but outright hostility at being confronted with the truth. A paradigm for Urban Dictionary's bullshitter definition: "One who talks shit, never has anything to back it up and never admits to it."
I could fill a whole new blog post with further examples but I feel I've nailed his essence in this one. So, travel writers, PRs and tourist boards, beware this person when planning your next trip if you don't want it plagued from start to finish. And Stan, if you're reading , seriously see a psychiatrist, re-evaluate your ways and give it a rest you insufferable bellend.
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or travel blog posts on Jamaica and Zimbabwe