Simon Hoggart dies

With the amount of ‘once young’ who’ve died over the weekend (I’m thinking Eusébio and Phil Everly), it’s the death of Simon Hoggart that probably has taken me by the greatest surprise. There was an odd mix of innocence and experience about his sketch writing that allowed him to, as the Guardian puts it, think in “different patterns from conventional people”.

As he once said so fondly and so honestly of us Northern Irelanders, “they really are the nicest people in the world except when they’re trying to kill you.”

Though you can now walk safely at night down streets where in the 1970s I would not willingly have driven in a locked car during the noonday rain, some things don’t change. Outside Debenhams in the city centre I saw three drunk youths singing the old sectarian song The Sash my Father Wore. But as my friend Piers said: “They were probably on an Arts Council grant.”

Or this on the Mayor of London’s odd populist charms… “Boris [Johnson] will stop at nothing to advance his ambitions, short of buying a comb”.

  • cynic2

    “I have often thought that the politicians’ mantra – “the people of Northern Ireland yearn for peace” – is nonsense. Many of them only yearn for victory.”

  • cynic2

    Waitress: ‘Would you like something on your burger?’; customer: ‘A fiver each way, please’. (Simon Hoggart)

  • cynic2

    On John Prescott ” even when you didn’t recognise the words, you knew what he meant”

  • Greenflag

    Sad news indeed.

    ‘ As for “the court of history”, history, he once pointed out, it had yet to reach a conclusion on Richard III.’

    Now that they’ve Richard III under car park -the court of history will resume amidst a welter of Plantagenet dissidents and Tudor revisionists or would that be vice versa .

    Simon Hoggart was always the first column I went to if I got my hands on a copy of the Guardian .

  • It has always seemed to me that the saddest thing must be for a parent to bury a child.

    And so to business …

    I have gone all my post-adolescent life somehow in the shade of the Hoggarts. First there was the father, Richard, whose The Uses of Literacy was seminal to so many teachers of my generation. Richard Hoggart, born 1918, is still alive — though, according to a recent piece by Simon, suffering from mental confusion.

    Then there were the daily and weekly efforts of the two sons, Simon doing political news and unmissable commentary, Paul doing reviews, interviews and criticism in The Times and everywhere else in the broadsheets.

    I last saw Simon at a performance of James Graham’s This House at the Cottesloe, shortly before that venue closed. So that — dearie me, how time flies! — must be November 2012. He was with that other political wit of The Guardian, “Sir” Michael White. I find myself linking those two with the likes of Frank Johnson, Alan Watkins and Edward Pearce, as my essential gallery sketch writers since the 1970s.

    Now that Simon Hoggart has gone, who will keep up the traditions, such as Fabricant’s [alleged] wig, or Sir Peter Tapsell’s rhetorical flounces? Anne Treneman, the future beckons.

    Oh, and did Simon invent the list with the ending “I may have invented the last one”? Any previous sightings welcome.

  • Oh! I see the routine for this thread is to find the finest Hoggartism.

    What about his definition of the job the political sketch:

    “A lot of people read it first, as a way of easing themselves into the serious news. It’s like the chocolate on your pillow. It’s nice to nibble at before you tackle the serious business.”

    Which was in my mind, see previous, but went overlooked.

  • The whole point of reading a newspaper was to read Hugo Young and Ian Aitken to have my view of the world and to show the people on the train that I am the type of person who reads The Guardian.
    Simon Hoggart as “sketch writer” a bit hit and miss I thought. To be honest, I dont get “sketch writers”. They have become too cynical. …with the occasional serious bit.
    I think I preferred him as one of those journos…like Simon Winchester and Derek Brown who explained Norn Iron to their readers.
    I think it was Hoggart (maybe Brown?) who said that the great thing about the Europa Hotel was that the security men were from the Shankill Road and the waitresses were from the Falls Road.
    Simple enough statement but actually very revealing.

  • Brian Walker

    Simon often repeated his favourite truism when people wrung their hands about Northern Ireland. “They’re fighting because they like it and want to win.”

  • Greenflag

    Thems fightin words BW and some truth in them to be sure .

  • ben_w

    I think he often said something like “the people of Northern Ireland will do anything for peace, except vote for it.”