Hit & Run: Dave's domestic policy
Tuesday 13 January 2009
The economy, Gaza, Harry's gaffe, his reshuffle plans – David Cameron covered all bases as he and Andrew Marr chatted by the fireside on BBC1 on Sunday morning. But for those still too bleary-eyed to concentrate on the content, a casual look at the Tory leader's surroundings proved just as revealing.
First, there was the contrast with Gordon Brown's interview with Marr at No 10 the previous week – all marble and period paintings. Cameron was keen to project an altogether fresher image of modern leadership.
So, who would live in a house like this? Well, it comes as something of a surprise that David Cameron does. This is a carefully edited room. It's a relaxed, neutral, modern middle-class interior with no old-fashioned class indicators or modern, plutocratic, loadasamoney indicators either. Anything that might say 'trad toff' has been whisked out. Let's study, for a moment, the anatomy of Cameronian Minimalism.
1. Picture imperfect
The important thing here is that it's propped up rather than hung. It's more informal and suggests the choice of picture is personal. There are no old portraits – a crucial class identifier – and certainly no Bullingdon photos. Nor are there close-hung pictures above a dado rail, distancing the image from that of a fogey's library.
2. Shape of things to come
A happily meaningless carved sculptural lump with a hint of Anish Kapoor. I don't know who it's by but the whole extended shelf is very Primrose Hill modern.
3. Glazed over
I suspect this is an old house with a new extension. The window is architectural rather than period – it's certainly not Georgian – but the high brick wall rather than a low fence outside is a class indicator because it suggests a larger, expensive garden.
4. Hot hot hot
I suppose it's more eco-friendly to have a wood-burner rather than a traditional fire, but I just think there's a bit of a pleasant-wee-holiday-in-France association going on here.
5. Read all about it
I don't imagine this bookshelf is old. Its modest size shows this is not a red library stacked to the rafters with hefty tomes, though the choice of books is quite cynical, I think. You can just about make out some of the titles, Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls and The Spin Doctor's Diary among them.
6. Sitting pretty
This looks to me like it's come from a middle-class shop such as Sofa Workshop or perhaps Habitat. The wooden legs suggest it's British – something European would be sleeker, probably with metal legs. The red cushion is a harmless bit of bright but even that is matte.
7. Curtains for curtains
No curtains here, of course – blinds are fresher, more modern and cleaner. These appear to be in cream calico – the most neutral shade available.
8. Burn baby burn
Is this a scented candle, we have to ask? I suspect not because that's something women have in bedrooms and bathrooms. But Mrs C has definitely had a hand in this room. She is much more trend-aware and modern than he is.
9. World at his feet
There's not a gorgeous old rug in sight. Instead we see light oak boards. I think we're probably right to assume it's not laminate from B&Q but it's not a fancy finish either. It's quite boring, really – everyone has it. But that's the point, I suppose. Peter York
Think thin with Paul
Paul McKenna can make me thin. I know this because he's told me so. About 300 times.
Until last week, I'd been impervious to his hypnotic charms. But then, arriving home on Tuesday evening, I find my wife watching his latest US-made TV show. Within 90 seconds I've fallen under his spell. Paul McKenna can make me thin – through the television. He's told me so, and I believe him.
I've spent most of my adult life eating and drinking more than I should have. Until my 30th year, it seemed to come without strings: I was naturally lean, with a six-pack to shame many professional athletes. Within months, though, all that had changed, and I've been fighting the flab, unsuccessfully, ever since.
I've struggled with diets, and I'm allergic to exercise. So when Paul McKenna tells me he can make me thin through the TV, I'm all ears.
How does he propose to do it? By giving me a simple message (his four rules: only eat when you're hungry; eat what you like; eat consciously, enjoy every mouthful; stop eating when you think you're full), and repeating it at three-minute intervals throughout the 60-minute show. Am I being hypnotised? I'm not sure. I go to bed and forget about Paul McKenna.
The next day, I'm in the office. A colleague fetches me a sandwich. I start chewing. Suddenly I'm aware that, erm, I'm aware of what I'm eating. I'm eating consciously. I quickly feel full. I leave nearly half of it. That night, at dinner at home, again I eat consciously. Again, I leave nearly half of it. By the end of the week, my paunch has visibly shrunk. My wife tells me, out of nowhere, that I'm looking trim. Paul McKenna can make me thin. Oh yes he can. Adam Leigh
My Jesus is bigger than your Jesus
A holy war is set to break out in Brazil. The town of Sertãozinho, in the state of Sao Paulo, hopes to acquire divine prominence by erecting a statue of Christ taller than the one in Rio. The new statue will stand 187 feet tall on the highest hill overlooking the town, dwarfing Rio's Christ the Redeemer – a mere 120 feet high. "Far from a pretence of grandeur, we[re thinking about visibility," commented Nerio Costa, mayor of the town, which hopes to inaugurate the statue at Easter. From a distance, though, it looks like a game of My Jesus Is Bigger Than Your Jesus – but that wouldn't be very Christian, would it? Simon Jablonski
White House to 'Full house!'
Turns out Governor Blagojevich isn't the only one (allegedly) hoping to profit from Barack Obama's election. His stepmother, Kezia Obama, has launched an online bingo game called "Mrs Obama's Bingo" to commemorate his achievement. Mrs Obama, who is 68 and lives in Berkshire, is the first wife of the president-elect's late father. She has lent her name to the Gala Bingo's game in aid of the charity Sue Ryder Care, ahead of her stepson's inauguration on 20 January, at which she will be present as an honoured guest. Can any president's family have concocted a more democratic tribute? Tim Walker
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