Fiona Duff: Soap opera trial is not for show

Oscar Pistorius. Picture: Getty
Oscar Pistorius. Picture: Getty
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There’s nothing like a bit of celebrity to make a humdrum event into a spectacle. I don’t wish to demean the death of Reeva Steenkamp, but murder, especially in South Africa is, sadly, a regular part of life.

But when you are as beautiful as she was, and her boyfriend and killer the fastest Paralympian ever, the eyes of the planet are upon them. Except, not quite.

Unlike the OJ Simpson case a couple of decades ago, to which I became as addicted to tuning into as I do my beloved Coronation Street, a viewer can hear Oscar Pistorius, right, blubbing from the witness stand but not see his face. A strange disembodied voice describes what happened that night when she died, but the camera lens rests upon the judge, the lawyers or her distraught family. Every day newspapers and other media carry photos of the couple (hey, photogenic women will sell papers whether or not they are still breathing. That’s why even a teenager can tell you what Marilyn Monroe looks like).

On the BBC website the trial coverage includes the latest and most pertinent tweets. These are thoughts and musings from people who know hee-haw about the South African legal system yet are given a platform on the website of one of the most respected news providers on Earth.

Personally, I’d like to see no coverage of any trial until it is over. How many people’s lives have been ruined after going to court despite being found innocent in the end? Barristers and advocates are show people; the manner in which they can make anyone look guilty whilst on the stand is their very raison d’etre. Put some reporters in the room and they are going to go for it big time.

Look at the parents of Milly Dowler, whose time in the dock, even though they were the grieving parents of a lovely young girl who had suffered a terrible end to her short life, brought her mother to break down in tears as she had to reveal aspects of her life that were neither relevant nor necessary to the case.

Bill Roache walked free from court but he will be forever judged by the majority of the population who have no qualifications to do so. I have never been in the situation of giving evidence in a major court case, but the idea of being forced to wash my dirty linen in public is enough to make me run for the hills.

So I’m not going to read any more about Oscar – the trial is almost over so that won’t be difficult. I have no idea of how the South African legal system works either, so excuse me while I switch channels and see the latest from the Manchester cobbles.

Return visit is off the menu

These days, what with tourism being such an important part of Scotland’s economy, you would think that people in the hospitality business would make sure staff training would be high up their list of priorities.

It must be easy to think of sending staff to brush up on customer relations as simply time spent when they aren’t creating wealth.

However, it is without doubt a false economy. There is a restaurant in the West End which does a lunch deal of two main courses for a tenner. Over the past couple of years I have been going there so often to meet friends that it has become a bit of a joke amongst my acquaintances.

OK, the food has never been brilliant, but at £5 a head who’s really going to mind too much? However, last week will have been my final visit I fear. The reason? A waitress who had to be asked to produce menus and couldn’t smile in case it cracked her face together with food that was really below par including a piece of pasta in my Thai green curry and a salad that boasted a superfood ingredient that was invisible to the naked eye.

I’m loving Paris in the springtime

Not that I am one to try and incite jealous feeling amongst Evening News readers, but as you peruse the paper I will be in Paris for a few days.

I’ve been to this city a few times, but never really felt that I scratched the surface – once I was pregnant so no late nights, another time was for a friend’s 40th so plenty of late nights but no culture, and more recently to cheer up a chum who was recovering from an illness.

This time it’s my daughter and me meeting up with some friends from London and Italy. What with it being Paris in the springtime (don’t start me humming – I’ll never stop) the flights were on the pricey side, but the canny Londoner has done a flat swap so accommodation is absolutely free. The only drawback on that is I might miss a bit of celeb spotting as I once stayed in the same hotel as Omar Sharif which, to a fan of Dr Zhivago, was very exciting indeed.

So far I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower where in the past the queues have been off-putting but this time we booked before we left. I’ve taken a river trip down the Seine, had supper at Jim Haynes’ legendary Sunday night open house parties and eaten more croque monsieurs than is good for my cholesterol level.

There’s nothing like a few days away to refresh the batteries, look at life slightly differently and get off the hamster wheel of normal life. And did I mention the weather is lovely?

Baskets are not average, Joe

Who’d have thought that I could get excited about a basket? Well, you learn something every day.

Joe Hogan is an Irishman who does little other than make these objects and also grow the willow with which to create them. They are true works of art – you can put them on your wall and then fill with bread for friends when they are round for supper.

Joe doesn’t often leave the place he calls home; I suppose trying to explain where Loch na Fooey is gets a bit tedious. However, he’ll be at The Scottish Gallery on the morning of May 3 where an exhibition of his work is on throughout the month.