Jo Brand's week

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Recent tragedies involving ecstasy have resulted in oversensitivity on the part of many adults, as demonstrated by the recent Polo furore. Polo manufacturers were delighted when they came up with the idea of selling a limited edition of the discarded holes with the letters P, L or O on them. Having the appearance of small white pills, various teachers became alarmed and contacted poisons units round the country, with the result that these little sweets were put on a national database. This illustrates, yet again, the gulf that exists in the perception that grown-ups and younger people have of drugs.

I have had a bash at most drugs and as a teenager was told by someone about making tea out of cigarettes for asthmatics. They had benzedrine in them and gave you a good buzz. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who made some and consequently tried to jump out of a window. This fact was reported to my parents, who went absolutely bonkers and from that point on, I fear, suffered terrible visions of me lying in the gutter with a syringe sticking out of my arm. I personally knew this would never happen, but it's hard to convince your mum and dad of that when you're 15. Under- twenties will never stop taking drugs, and unfortunately, education, not blanket prevention, is the only way forward.

A study in New York has discovered that shopping is good for women's health. Dr Rex Metzier claimed that the sheer pleasure of making personal purchases does something positive for a woman's system and seems to give temporary immunity from ageing. So apparently shopaholics are often stronger and slimmer. The study showed that it was best to shop about 17 hours a week - especially for clothes.

This sounds like a right load of cobblers to me. Maybe Dr Rex is in cahoots with some of the big department stores. He also sounds like some doctor out of a Woody Allen film, sending his patients off on marathon spending sprees to cure their middle-class ennui.

I'm sure most women don't have enough money to last 17 hours a week. Even if they did, I'd like to think that the vast majority couldn't bear to spend that amount of time indulging in such an empty pursuit. Still, anything to keep them on the streets.

The Tory MP Jerry Hayes seems to have been well and truly destroyed, whether the reports of his affair with a Commons researcher turn out to be true or not. For if they are true, yet another "happily married man" will be revealed as something we never thought he was. Many people see this as the ultimate humiliation for Mr Hayes. Obviously they never saw him on the James Whale show.

As the Tories know, the problem with setting yourself up as a shining example for others to follow is that when you get caught out, that proverbial substance really hits the fan. So it was this week, when Turkish police allegedly found Muslum Gunduz, leader of a radical Islamic sect, in flagrante with a young girl. The woman maintains that Gunduz has used hundreds of girls as sex slaves.

This is a true case of having your cake and eating it; not to mention "don't do as I do, do as I say". As usual, it is the poor old women and the weak and helpless that have to sit back and take the abuse while the powerful please themselves.

What a gloriously revealing bunfight the debate about the monarchy was on Tuesday night. Please remind me never to read a Frederick Forsyth novel again. What an unpleasant man.

Peter Stringfellow, (knock me down with a feather) a supporter of the monarchy, arguing fiercely that it is good for tourism, and made the point that if the monarchy was abolished there would still be poverty. Of course there would, Pete, because money-grabbing businessmen like you would still exist. Royal Family first; you next, mate, I reckon.

I am not sure that the programme would be graced with the name "debate." It was more like Gladiators, with the expectation on my part that at any moment, as another person with unpopular opinions was shouted down, the chant "Another One Bites The Dust" would strike up in the background. The heckling was of the usual sub-standard nature and the arguments were simplistic. A triumph of Sunesque trivia.

Scotland was the only republican area at the end of the night. Another temptation - along with the deep-fried Mars Bars - to move up there.

"Boys will be boys." This cliche is chucked about whenever a good old bloke sets off on an adventure from which he might not return - a dangerous climb, a land speed record or indeed a round-the-world balloon flight.

In my book, the sort of feats to be admired are those of kindness, generosity and fairness. I'd have been a lot more impressed if Richard Branson had used the balloon money to increase his staff wages or something of that nature. Now the mission has failed and another load of money has dribbled down the drain. Popular opinion may be that it's his money and he can do what he wants with it. That doesn't stop some of us thinking it's a crime to chuck it away on what amounted to an almost instantaneous failure.

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