Hit And Run: Mad to let her go

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The Independent Online

Can it be true? Can Joan Holloway, office manager at Sterling Cooper, the fictional ad agency in Mad Men, really be leaving the company to be a housewife ministering exclusively to her vile husband, Greg? This is terrible news. Fans of the show have got used to walking through the open-plan offices of Sterling Cooper, sitting in meetings and chatting by the water cooler, and it was always a treat to run into Joan.

We've grown, as Professor Higgins says in My Fair Lady, accustomed to her face. Such a lovely face. And her huge blue eyes, which always fixed on her interlocutor's like heat-seeking missiles. We've admired her red hair and her remarkable gait, which she attributed, in an interview, to wearing authentic 1960s undergarments, all girdles and straps and, you know, rubbery bits and so forth.

We liked the way she sassed the boys without ever giving the impression that she found them ridiculous, and the way she radiated a helpless fondness when talking to Roger, her boss and long-term lover. We liked the way she advised and comforted the secretaries in Series 1, then hardened up in Series 2 and banned any more weeping in the Ladies. As she approached her mid-30s and marriage, she began, almost unconsciously, to become more careerist, discovering a talent for editing TV scripts and schmoozing clients. She's become as much a role model as Peggy, the show's only female copywriter.

And yes, since you ask, we shall miss the breasts. Not since Jessica Rabbit undulated onto the screen has a bosom so mesmerised the TV-watching audience. In LA, they joke that the city has given Joan's breasts their own zipcode. A big Facebook group is titled, "I'd like to engage in wanton and unchaste activities with Joan Holloway." In fact the only man who seems not to be drawn towards her voluptuous frontage is her husband. The first time they were seen necking on a sofa, he kept his hands studiously clamped to her arms. (Was he mad? Or unwell?) In bed, he claimed to be too overworked to contemplate removing her silk nightie. (We groaned.) In the agency one evening, he had sex with her against her will, on the floor of Don Draper's office, clearly working out some inadequacy issues. It's a masterstroke to make Dr Greg Harris such a prize bastard. We have to save her. Can she really be lost to home-making, children, Greg and Betty Crocker cakes? Can she hell. It would be too cruel. Come back soon, Joanie. See you by the water-cooler.

John Walsh

Design diplomacy gets ugly

With its boxy shape, high-security moat and waterfall-of-glass facade, US architect Kieran Timberlake's design for the new US embassy in Battersea, London (above), is hardly cutting-edge design – particularly when compared to proposals by other short-listed firms (LA-based Morphosis, for example, are un-afraid of violently abstract shapes). Timberlake's glass cube, unveiled this week, is conservative even in comparison to the capital's existing embassies. The current US embassy on Grosvenor Square, by Finnish-American Eero Saarinen, has been praised for its imposing, almost neoclassical presence; architect/ designer Arne Jacobsen's Danish embassy on Sloane Street combines modernity with blending in. A 30m-wide "stand-off zone" will make the new US embassy stick out like a sore thumb. "It could have been a lot worse," says Will Wiles, senior editor at Icon architecture and design magazine. "We already knew that security was paramount in the design – it's a big factor in the Americans wanting a new building in the first place. Any design would have this 30m setback, defined by the blast radius of car bombs." And any future British embassy designs aren't likely to win any Pritzker Prizes. While Tony Fretton's starkly modern embassy in Warsaw has won plaudits since opening in October, the Foreign Office was criticised by the National Audit Office earlier this month for wasting cash on fancy embassies and scrimping on their security. So our mandarins should get used to living in bunkers after all.

Rob Sharp

The Filofax strikes back

Shoulder pads. Bodies. Double denim. The thirst for all things Eighties seem unquenchable at the moment, and the latest retro resurgence is the Second Coming of that yuppies' must-have, the Filofax. Selfridges has reported a 25 per cent increase in sales of the organiser. Apparently, it's us ladies snapping them up as an alternative to those horrid, masculine mobile phones and BlackBerrys. Given the butch leather cover and OCD-tastic inserts of the Filofax, I'd have thought it was a pretty blokey buy, even now. But then I really wouldn't know – I have the perfect contacts book, calendar, notebook and Tube map. It's called an iPhone. Stonewash jeans not included.

Rebecca Armstrong