When I first had a job with a salary I couldn’t spend no matter how many books, Tshirts, trips to the cinema and gifts I bought, I worked for a women’s magazine. There were always people who thought that you shouldn’t admit to that, it was a lower form of journalistic life – and being an agony aunt was lower still. (What’s that lovely quote about “I may not agree with you but I defend to the death your right to an opinion” ?). Off the back of a salary I couldn’t spend (it was only ever enormous for three months, when I worked three jobs, the most remunerative for a woman and a newspaper I disliked – so I quit, to find that my adored husband had boasted to his clients about how much I earned: regrettable) I instituted the purchase of good gloves, good shoes, good soap and every publication that interested me. As I handed over chunks of money and held out my arms for the pile of stuff, the newsagent used to twinkle at me “Singlehandedly keeping the print alive?”
I would be honoured. One of the best things I heard just before Christmas was that book sales were up. Specialist magazines are thriving too – I have a quarterly on Illustration which I gave myself as a present last year (see below).
Apparently men of over 50 dressed better (Antonio Pappano certainly does.)
It’s been a long time since Matt Frei who was the last tv frontsman to find a style which didn’t look poor, poseur or odd. I’ve never got over Dan Snow flapping about in cheesecloth or the beautiful R Everett in black pseudo sports gear, looking as if he were taking a day off from a cure.
Watching Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Todd Haynes talking about the film they made together (“Carol”) beat the film into the ground, as did Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance discussing each other in “Bridge of Spies” – about which Camilla Long’s review (“is this a film about Tom Hanks having a cold ?”) made me laugh out loud.
Downton was down before it was out. “Call the Midwife” escaped twee by the narrowest of margins – oh the pitfalls of the Christmas special. But Daniel Craig is the best actor ever to play Bond, and even if I hate his (unchecked) tailor’s suits, at least I now understand their purpose. While Judi Dench’s M made a strangely prescient speech in which she said in part “We don’t know who our enemies are any more: they have no nationalities, no boundaries… we talk about transparency but we function in opaqueness.” Yes. So unexpected honours to Bond, a franchise that meant nothing to me until I had nothing else to watch and was so disappointed in a new book on the Joan of Arc myth, that I couldn’t read any more. It was how not to write a book – pedantic, predictable, over-extended – you only have to look at the pages of acknowledgements to know that this was conceived and managed as a beach best seller, too many cooks, utterly predictable and a waste of a provocative idea.
I waved to a bus driver on New Year’s Day and he waved, hooted and kissed his hand. Honours. And I met an elderly Irishwoman, older than me, wearing a holly berry red coat which we discussed (“They said I should put on a warmer coat, I’m so glad I did” she told me in that soft sibilant accent, before we hugged each other and went our ways home on the first day of the New Year.) And the young Australian makeup artist at the BBC on Boxing Day greeted me saying over her shoulder to her colleague – “I told you she’d be made up, she’s a pro !” And she didn’t know who I was from a hole in the ground.
I don’t think a list of the big things that I find shameful or dishonourable is useful- you have your own and some of them will be in common to many of us. Worse still, some of them will be the same or worse than last year. (I think of a frowning angel with a big ledger, looking down at us and writing “Must try harder !” And we must.) Never mind about New Year’s Resolutions, just make a list of ten or fewer things and try to work through them. And remind yourself that if the BBC had learned the lessons of Warner Brothers in their heyday, they’d have shot “Dickensian” and “War and Peace” back to back: it would have been cheaper.
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