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Tam fails to deliver on my simple Christmas instructions to him

WHAT can one expect from a man who believes mistletoe is a form of athlete's foot?

Hugh MacDonald practises typing while driving his car. It is something he neither condones nor recommends but insists it is essential training for watching football and writing a match report simultaneously.
Hugh MacDonald practises typing while driving his car. It is something he neither condones nor recommends but insists it is essential training for watching football and writing a match report simultaneously.

Tam was given two precise instructions as to my requirements for Christmas. He came up as short as Shaun Maloney promenading in a ditch.

Certainly, he delivered the apple, orange, silver threepenny and a compendium of games. But my two priorities were not addressed. Which may be why the postman could not deliver them.

All I wanted for Christmas was not my two front teeth. They lie somewhere in the top end of Beechwood Park, Stirling, after a yeti, cunningly disguised as an amateur centre-half, invited me to suck on his elbow. They can thus also only be returned to me by Tony Robinson and his Time Team.

No, what I wanted was a) someone to watch football for me; and b) someone to transcribe tapes of my interviews with sportsmen or women. The first wish seems a little self-indulgent but it is becoming ever more essential.

The problem to be addressed is particularly acute in matches where deadlines dictate that one must write while simultaneously keeping an eye on the action. Older readers will know that this produces an eye condition best described as skelly.

It also causes meerkat syndrome whereby a roar from the crowd alerts a rank of sportswriters who look up from their laptops to see a player being sent off/ a team celebrating/ a referee calling for a proctologist to remove a corner flag after a particularly violent bout of dissent. There is then a chorus so poignant it should be set to music: "Did anybody see that?"

The incident is then pieced together from myriad sources, including the fan who inserts some colour, such as suggesting the ball was deflected off a unicorn ridden by Tam O'Shanter, an Irish trialist. I have only fallen for this ruse twice.

All could be solved, of course, by employing an independent observer who could concentrate on the game while I could focus on arranging a series of words in the right order and finding an internet connection as 60,000 people transmit pictures of themselves to relatives in Australia.

However, this observer remains undiscovered by Tam.

He was similarly unsuccessful in finding a transcriber for my piercing interviews with the greats of the game or, as they are also known, my ramblings with unfortunate, though famous, victims.

It is not just the work in typing what has been said by both me and the poor soul in front of me. It is the self-loathing that results from listening back to one's interviewing technique.

First, I have a voice that is ideally suited to demanding money with menaces. Second, I have a wide range of verbal tics. One of my most conspicuous is to begin an inquiry with the preamble "the interesting thing is". Unfortunately this is followed by a statement so flat one could set an ornament on it. Indeed, one of my queries to Wayne Rooney went thus: "The interesting thing is that rail gauges have always been critical. In 1802, The Penydarren Tramroad of South Wales spaced these at 4ft 4in (1321mm) over the outside of the upstands."

I blame this for his subsequent hair loss.

Another of my awful traits is hooting with laughter when the subject attempts to be humorous. A joke so lame it should have a curtain placed around it and a humane killer deployed is greeted with an outburst of mirth that suggests the interview has been hijacked by Billy Connolly rapping with Richard Pryor.

One can also be so obsequious that Uriah Heep should intervene with a roar of "where is your backbone, you auld tube?"

But this is not a problem exclusively restricted to balding tossers. A female colleague once interviewed a male subject and engaged in a bout of mutual flirting. This was not so much an interview that ended with a simple goodbye but with both participants sighing contentedly before lighting a fag.

The extent of the flirting became all too apparent when she listened back to the tape.

While she was transcribing, her husband entered the room and she greeted his arrival by metaphorically pulling the sheet up to her neck and blushing so violently that the central heating thermostat clicked off. She then blurted out: "It meant nothing, honestly. It was just a meaningless interview."

The tape whirred on with further embarrassment seeping out in every hiss. Please, Tam, get it sorted.

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