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Jimmy the tea leaf turns over new leaf

LOATH as one is to admit it, Michael Barber was right. You will have to leave the planet to avoid the National Year of Reading.

Last week saw the first official TV soaps' plug for the wonkmeister's baby, the prelude to a sudsy deluge of overwrought storylines come the new year.

Brookside was first off the blocks, courtesy of Jimmy Corkhill - old lag, new man, newly-qualified teacher and new Guardian reader, even if he does nick it from the staffroom. Upwardly mobile Jimmy has a lesson for all of us.

Long-suffering wife Jackie marvels as Jimmy offers to interrupt his marking to bathe baby Wills ("My little prince - thislittle lad might end up middle-class").

Then we discover his ghastly ulterior motive as he whips out ... "A splash book - a waterproof book. Just the thing to teach my son and heir how to read while I'm getting him clean."

"You can't teach him to read at his age," scoffs our Jackie. "Get out of it," retorts Jimmy . "You're never too young to start learning the shape of the words."

"Anyway, it's National Year of Reading - I learned that from one of those posh papers I've started reading."

If Grant Mitchell reading a book to baby Courtney in EastEnders is the most hilarious endorsement of the NYR (surely Grant can't read to himself, let alone the nipper), Jimmy's was surely the most embarrassing.

Just one word of warning for our tea leaf turned new leaf: if we find you've been nicking The TES too, mate, we're calling the bizzies. Now caaaaalm down.

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