Most of the book's 6m words are drily factual, but there are plenty of little insights too. Actresses of a certain age are still reluctant to be certain what that age is: there are entries, but no birthdates, for Kendal, Felicity, Gish, Sheila, and Crosbie, Annette. Collins, Joan, is not so coy: she's 56, or says she is.
The only chance entrants have to show much personality is under Recreations. Many don't take the chance, or don't have a recreation: among them Birt, John and Thatcher, Baroness. Others claim a recreation, but don't know what the word means: Mukhamedov, Irek, puts down "dedication to art of ballet".
Pennant-Rea, Rupert, puts down "family". So do a few others, whose private lives I will now follow with interest. Currie, Edwina, also goes for "family". Heffer, Simon, a deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, puts "my wife" (after "bibliophily"); Lawson, Denis, actor, puts "Sheila Gish"; he may even know her age.
Most people prefer golf or shooting, confirming the suspicion that the British are a philistine lot. They combine this, impressively, with cultural snobbery. The nation's most popular pastime, no question, is watching tele-vision: we average 25 hours a week. No doubt high achievers watch less than the rest of us. But I bet most of them still switch on the box much more often than they go to the golf club. Having scanned the book for four hours, I find only three people who admit to watching telly.
Two are TV people, Charlie Parsons of The Big Breakfast and Jonathan Martin of BBC Sport, so they don't count. The third is one Charles Gladstone, of Kincardineshire, who may be the heir to a baronetcy but is also one of the few prominent Britons who don't mind saying that they enjoy the people's art form.
Now the good news: People of Today finds no room for Grant, Hugh, or Hurley, Elizabeth.
4 TALKING of whom, the video of Four Weddings and a Funeral went on sale a few days ago. In a month's time, it will be withdrawn. Which goes to show that even people who have just made $250m on an investment of $10m can be greedy and manipulative.
4 TO THE National Theatre, for a lecture by Richard Avedon, photographer to the stars. He is 71, slim and spry in black drainpipes. He has grey hair and glasses, in a way that made me want to have them too. It was only the second lecture he had ever given. He stressed how hard it was to talk about photography, and then disproved the point. He kept a packed Lyttel-ton engrossed for three hours, often losing his trail, but always coming back with an anecdote about Chaplin or Renoir, or an acute remark about his craft. His critique of Nick Wapling-ton, the young English photographer of the family, was gripping and generous. A photograph, Avedon says, is a text, a memory, and a hallucination. Having gone along thinking he might be a bit hyped, I came out with a new respect for Avedon, and photography.
Jack HughesReuse content