3:12pm Wednesday 27th June 2012
I am not prepared to take lectures on morality from a politician. Show me the job description of a Prime Minister and point to the section where it says it is his brief to name an individual who, on professional advice, has taken a financial decision which is legal but which means there is less money in the public coffers.
10:00am Friday 8th June 2012
HAVE you heard of Beth Tweddle? Shame on you if you haven't. She has just carried the Olympic torch on its journey through Flintshire. There have been less worthy torch-bearers and none more suitable.
'When I use a word,'Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.' Lewis Carroll 'Through the looking glass, and what Alice found there.'
2:48pm Wednesday 30th May 2012
Anyone have to buy a birthday present for a pedantic man? I have the perfect gift. 'The Etymologican' by Mark Forsyth, also called The Inky Fool. It is described as a circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English language. Each page flourishes with delicious wallowing in words. It is not for the person who relishes text speak or whose vocabulary is happily served by 100 words. Today I am playing with antanaciasis. (I want to adopt a baby and call him that.) It is using the same word in different senses and people have been doing it since language began. Take the Roman sentence, malo malo malo malo. Which translates as 'I would rather be in an apple tree than be a bad boy in trouble'. Limited usefulness perhaps. Which might explain why I suggest the gift is best suited to a man. For – and here I shall be accused of sweeping generalisation – men are much more fascinated by words than women. Perhaps it is because men have more time to play with them and analyse them and they do so love to treat them as toys. Women would argue, I guess, that they are much too busy for such niceties and are concerned with the directness of speech, busy as they are with children, families, husbands, jobs, being thin. Except for television presenter and popular historian Lucy Worsley who has enraged the media world by declaring herself to have been 'educated out of motherhood'. I bet she can compose antanaciasis that would have us holding our sides with laughter. But isn't she right? Everywhere we turn we read and hear that being a mother is extremely hard. Everyone nods sagely and tells us that all that juggling and trying to achieve perfection drives women to anti-depressants and for what purpose? I am told motherhood is harder than it was. I always seem to miss the boat where optimum difficulty is concerned. It didn't seem hard to work, play and produce babies or, if it was, no-one would have been interested in the grumbling about something self-inflicted. Lucy expressed it badly but I expect she has been under pressure to explain why she doesn't have children. Perhaps she is clever enough to anticipate what happened to me last week. I looked at my son, never much bother and certainly not the cause of a noticeable decrease in my intelligence, and thought,'Heck, I gave birth to a middle-aged man.'
'Being thick isn't an affliction if you are a footballer, because your brains need to be in your feet.' Brian Clough
1:50pm Wednesday 16th May 2012
There is much in the Cotswolds to make us complacent. We are relatively privileged and can we be blamed for feeling just a tad smug? But I am back from a visit to Liverpool chastened for falling for old stereotypes and prejudices.
'The British are not good at having fun. I get overexcited if there's a pattern on my kitchen roll.' Victoria Wood
4:28pm Wednesday 2nd May 2012
My life is full of nonsense. I suggest yours is too. Nonsense isn't what it used to be. I look at what made us smile then and it makes me smile now. Tommy Cooper, Monty Python, Edward Heath, shambling Michael Foot, Charles and Fiona from Round the Horne, young girls in mini-skirts, men in frilly shirts, P.G. Wodehouse, James Bond's girls, mock cream horns. The list is endless. Now nonsense comes without a smile, designed to take up space in the brain and steal precious time. Take this week. Why is our Prime Minister vilified for not knowing the price of a pint of milk? I don't know how much milk costs but if I needed to I should hope to find a man who does. And it seems that is where the problem lies. No-one in British politics knows what milk costs or what is a pint. Or what is the cost of accepting more than milk from a newspaper baron. Sleaze, never far from the surface of media consciousness, is topical again, as the Levinson enquiry clunks on. I watched it for a mind-numbing half hour this week and wanted to leap into the television and cry, 'no more, I have paid enough for this nonsense.' My suggestion is to revisit the concept of 'networking' and 'hospitality' and to look at how these apparently well-meaning methods of promoting business have, unquestioned, crept into our culture. We must have hospitality and generosity of spirit in business and politics but open one of those glossy regional magazines which curiously proliferate and you see pages of glazed-eyed burghers raising glasses to the photographer, smug in the knowledge that they are part of the in-crowd promoting someone’s hair salon or estate agency. Can you really say that the temptation of being in their orbit will make anyone rush off to make a booking? Turning the pages of such a magazine I see that bums are back in fashion. More nonsense. My derrière has never been out of fashion. And Alan Titchmarsh has been signed up for a further television series. What does that say about British culture? And who is A.A. Gill to say that Mary Beard is too plain for television? His rudeness is not clever. Nor is it amusing to watch a nine year old boy break down on Britain's Got Talent as he struggles with an inappropriate Beyonce song to entertain millions and live someone else's 'dream'. Nonsense too that any child who can open a computer can have immediate access to pornography, but, despite the rainfall, not a full bath of water. My horoscope is promising 'drama and excitement'. Hopefully without nonsense.
3:32pm Wednesday 25th April 2012
IT HAS always seemed a mistake to me for a woman to show that she can cook. A man can do it (often at great expense and mess) and he will be lauded, praised and not asked to do it again. A woman, on the other hand, will be expected to do it three times a day for the rest of her life. Not a principle to be established in this or any other female skills, methinks.
'There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.' Winston Churchill
2:10pm Wednesday 18th April 2012
It's not often I have a sleepless night but last Saturday I tossed and turned and not in a good way. There are two sorts of events that mark the passing of time. The personal ones' like birthdays and anniversaries and the public ones that are shared with the world. The public events might also carry with them personal memories, sounds of childhood and growing up, the memory of familial allegiance. The Oxford and Cambridge boatrace is one of those. In my childhood world, a million miles from Oxbridge privilege, everyone sported their favourite blue on that day and my mother and father, never afraid of marital skirmishes, took opposite sides. It was exciting. Though whatever the outcome of the race my mother was a certain winner. Same too with the Grand National. You might never have been to a race or know a filly from a stallion but that was the day to be an expert and place your shilling where your heart lay. I love horse racing. I used to go a lot when I lived in Cambridge. Newmarket had a magic quality for it, or my life did then, and I had a connection with the Red Cross who covered the events there. There isn't much I don't love about horse racing. Even those girls we see photographed at Aintree with their terrible dress sense, English legs, and huge capacity for fun. Cheltenham races are great and the joy when the Irish are in town! And, of course, I love Clare Balding. I am not a jealous person but I come close to wishing I were Clare or one of her connections. I love animals and don't wish to be sentimental but over the years I have struggled with the Grand National. It can't be necessary for a race to be so dangerous to be so exciting. What would it say about us, about me, if that danger was the motivation in watching? This year was just too much. 'My' horse, 'According to Pete', was especially beautiful. At least to me. We saw him on the television, waiting quietly and calmly in the yard before the parade. OK he wasn't the most flashy and certainly unlikely to win but he was a little chap who looked happy and the sort who would give it his best shot. The team around him was nervous and could hardly speak to the camera. He died in the race. He was brought down by a faller and crashed to the ground. You could see the inevitable outcome when he fell. I suppose it takes one pivotal moment to put everything in a clearer light. I can't touch it again. Even my modest bet seems somehow indecent. I am sorry.
'How on earth did Gandhi manage to walk so far in flip-flops? I can't last ten minutes in mine.' Mrs Merton
12:16pm Wednesday 28th March 2012
WHAT does "age appropriate" mean, please? I was at Waterloo Station this week when a very striking woman probably in her 40s (though I am a poor judge of age, amongst other things) strode through the concourse on the way to her train. She was head-turning in a way that few people are in these dull and grey times.
12:13pm Wednesday 8th February 2012
I seem to have spent half my life sitting in bars, hotels, and restaurants gazing into the distance, a look on my face of cheerful expectancy, a smile of hope over experience, a mature woman who has not quite learnt the realities of a disappointing world.
'Visitors young and old will be amazed when they arrive at your home and see a larger than life fully lit outdoor reindeer complete with bells and sleigh.' A Christmas catalogue
12:39pm Wednesday 9th November 2011
Is it too soon to put up my Christmas tree? I have held off until after Bonfire Night but feel the lure of the baubles and seeing the lights going up in Cirencester and festive shop windows I am spurred on. Last year I was robbed of Christmas. The only moment that captured anything like the true spirit was when my car was bogged down in snow on the way to Gloucester hospital on Christmas Eve. Unhelpfully I sat with tears spouting forth from my eyes wishing, not for the first time in my life, that I had been born a male sterile orphan who would be spared such horrors (I can be dramatic). Happily, lovely men appeared and dug me out and led the way to the hospital, not stopping for thanks but just waving me in. Banning illness and attention-seeking brushes with death this year I intend to compensate. One perennial Christmas tradition is to complain about Christmas – the expense, the tackiness, the waste, the insensitivity to the poor, the disregard for its religious significance or lack of it, the sheer exhaustion of it all and the dire television. How much better, people say, to ignore the whole greedy fiasco.