Thursday 17 September 1998
Dee-dee Dobel, the Conservative in question, turned out not to be just any councillor. Unlike most blue-rosette types, she still lives in a genuine manor and calls her dog Maggie, the way nostalgic Stalinists call their cats Joseph. Also, she had somehow ended up bearing the name of a Broadway showgirl; there must be a performance gene to explain her comfort on camera.
The film worked hard to talk up the differences with her hosts, juxtaposing Dee-dee's passion for the flute with one of the traveller's leering taste for dissonant electric guitar. She also had the expected qualms about hygiene. "Brushing hair in the kitchen is something I'd never do at home," she fumed. This, of course, is not an issue for the travellers, being less groomers than piercers. Zana, Dee-dee's neighbour for the week, had roughly double the usual complement of orifices in her head, and, through the home-made holes, she looped pieces of jewellery. (Her father is a vicar.)
And yet, somehow, the anticipated conflict never quite materialised. It's true that the mutual stereotyping, incomprehension and clash of values were as strong at the end of the week as at the start. Behind her back, the travellers demonised their guest as "venomous", "a bigot" and "fanatical", which is going it a bit, even for a Daily Telegraph reader, while she made no real attempt to understand their wishy-washy repugnance of bricks and mortar. But although both parties were always confiding to the camera that they weren't getting on, the camera struggled to produce any supporting evidence, apart from when Dee-dee was mischievously locked into her truck on her last morning (and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the culprit was a desperate producer).
In its own modest way, this was a remarkable film, if only because it proved that the camera's influence can be conciliatory rather than inflammatory. In one set-to Dee-dee had with a lovely man called Chris, she ended up in tears and he ended up tenderly hugging her. The steel rods of ideology keeping them a fixed distance apart had crumpled on impact.
Close up (BBC 2) followed two po-faced Russian artists on a tour of British taste in painting. The composite result of their MORI-assisted researches was a hideous blue-green lakescape, foregrounding figurines of Churchill and an ideal family. Everyone they had met on their travels hated it, apart from Norman Rosenthal, the high priest of the Royal Academy, who thrust his mug at the picture and concluded, "I think it's a good joke". And, in a slightly laboured way, so was the film itself.
Thomas Sutcliffe is away
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
- 3 Welcome to Cameroon, where drinking Baileys can lead to imprisonment
- 4 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 5 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke