jo brand's week

The word "fun" inserted into any public occasion tends to strike fear into my heart so I approached the Bethlem and Maudsley Fun Day in Kent with not a little trepidation last weekend. The Fun Day had been set up to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Bethlem (formerly Bedlam) hospital and also to launch a year of fund-raising events for a new children's unit. As the only ex employee who has been on telly, I was asked to do the honours and open the day. That morning, of course, the monsoons set in. Still, the British stiff upper lip dictates that one soldiers on and so we did. I have to admit, I am not very good at meeting the public, as my repertoire of small talk tends to consist of "hello" and "thank you very much" or "oh well, can't be helped" depending on a positive or negative assault. There were many familiar faces, staff and users of the psychiatric services among them. During my short speech, one lovely old geezer wandered up and asked me if I had worked at the hospital before the war. (Falklands, yes).

It would be most people's idea of hell to visit a psychiatric hospital given the Hogarthian visions that tend to be conjured up by the press, but I have to say that the crowd there were much better behaved and more polite than your average mob at a public event like this and it really is time that we stopped viewing those with mental health problems as uncontrolled animals.

I see Jonathan Aitken's mum has stepped in to put in a good word for him. Well, if your mum can't say anything nice about you who can? However, she has felt the need to slag off his wife in order to do it, stating that she never cooked for him. I'm afraid Mr Aitken was summed up for me some years ago on Question Time when, following a question about bringing the UN into Bosnia, he said he knew about the terrain in Sarajevo because he had been there skiing. (Perhaps a job is in the offing for Fergie in Defence then, seeing as she has been skiing in most places). Lady Aitken also said that Mr Aitken is a good boy. From where we're standing, Lady A, he looks like a very naughty boy who shouldn't be allowed out to play for a very long time.

"Get a life" is a common statement directed to those people who are considered to be leading a vacuous existence from those who believe themselves to be having an interesting one. These words have recently been used by Tim Henman in reference to his fans, a gaggle of young women who follow him everywhere oohing and aahing a lot and no doubt adorn their bedrooms with pictures of him. I don't think it's particularly damaging and if they are enjoying themselves, what's the big deal? Mr Henman, although not as crap as most British tennis players, hasn't really proved himself enough, even though I see he's started doing the advert rounds already. Perhaps before Mr H starts casting aspersions on these young women because he wishes for more grown-up fans, one is tempted to say to him, "Get a Wimbledon title mate".

Those Wimbledon wimps have been overshadowed in the courage department this week by the revellers heading towards the Glastonbury mud bath. I am proud to say that I attended the last Glastonbury mud bath in 1985 when the heavens opened all weekend. What I can remember of it was a good laugh, as the vast majority of people, carrier bags on heads, (when have you ever seen anyone under 60 wearing a grandma's rain hat) squelched round the fields being surprisingly cheerful. I don't remember there being a roaring trade in umbrellas, which some entrepreneur has seen fit to make a quick buck out of this year. In fact I quite enjoyed wearing the most unsensible shoes I had and feeling the mud squeezing through my toes. Much entertainment was available as various friends in states of inebriation fell flat on their faces in the mud or ended up dressed in a tent that had buckled under the weight of water. I almost wish I was going this weekend. Still, plenty to do inside my nice warm house.

I see EMI have signed up a poet for pounds 1.1m before his performance at Glastonbury this weekend. Having seen the headline announcing this, I felt quite hopeful and pleased that a record company was moving into the area of poetry until I read the article and saw some of the things the record company had to say about Murray Lachlan Young, the poet in question. The marketing direction speaks of how he can be "sold", which just reminds you that anyone signed up to a record company is a product and nothing more. The poetry establishment is not happy. Michael Horowitz, who organises the Poetry Olympics, says: "His work sucks". It may be true, but it's not very poetic is it Michael?

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