John Humphrys on Twitter, TV and why ‘sitting down is the new smoking’
It will come as no surprise to his millions of devoted listeners that the veteran BBC broadcaster John Humphrys despises Twitter, doesn’t do Facebook, finds “almost nothing” worth watching on television and likes to read at a Victorian lectern.
What is shocking, however, is the revelation that balanced on the lectern he keeps not a leather bound tome but his iPad – containing not the complete works of Trollope, but an advance copy of Matthew Blakstad’s internet paranoia novel, Sockpuppet.
“I prefer to read on the iPad now,” he said in a Radio Times interview (conducted, he revealed, from another dangerously up-to-date bit of kit, a rolling stand-up desk: “Sitting down is the new smoking apparently. As I’m talking to you now I’m wobbling around the kitchen.”)
The grumpiest national treasure was on more familiar harrumphing form with his views of social media: “I do not do Facebook or Twitter. I am anti the sort of idiocies that Twitter frequently produces and baffled by people who feel they’ve got to be telling everybody what they’re doing all the time. If I want to hear what ordinary people think then I will talk to them in a pub. Twitter is utterly pointless.”
Drinking proved another provocative question.
“Never during the day. I’m ver happy to have a pint in the evening, but I like bitter, not that abomination, lager. I used to drink a lot when I was a kid, but I’m past the stage where the purpose of drinking is getting drunk.
Given his dawn starts for the Today programme on Radio 4, where the 73-year-old has been a presenter since 1987, he goes to bed at half past eight, and so hardly ever sees live television, apart from watching Wales play rugby with his 15-year-old son. He recorded and enjoyed Dickensian and War & Peace, but insisted: “With the exception of the utterly brilliant Mastermind I could manage without television completely.” (Mastermind is presented by one J Humphrys Esq.)
Despite the iPad, he estimates that he owns more than a thousand books, which are shelved in his combined library and gym, complete with weight training equipment and a rowing machine. He keeps Mozart and Bach on his laptop, but listens to nothing during his favourite exercise, running, which he regards as an effective mind-clearer and time for thought: “I’m baffled by why people would want to cover their ears and listen to something. I mean, why would you?”
He took grave exception to the implication that he could be behind the times. “I’ve been online 10 to 15 years; it’s a wonderful way to access information. So I am not outside that world – please don’t give that impression.”