Diary RUTH PICARDIE - UK - News - The Independent


It has been a turbulent month for glossy magazine editors. Last week, Marcelle d'Argy Smith announced she was leaving Cosmopolitan to spend more time arranging her flat. Now, as all people with their fingers on the pulse of youth culture will be shocked to learn, another icon topples: Sheryl Garratt is leaving The Face.

"I think I've been editor for about five years," Ms Garratt explained over the phone, no doubt smoothing her elegant indie kid-skatewear crossover shorts with one hand and adjusting her Nike Air Darwins with the other. "I'm not necessary any more. Plus, 12-hour days tire you out after a while."

Indeed, Ms Garratt, 34, is so tired she left the magazine's 15th birthday party, held last Friday, half-way through. Luckily the other guests, who included indie bands Blue and Pulp, camp icon Kylie Minogue, comedy superstar- turned-moody novelist Robert Newman, music producer Dave Stewart and, obviously, Paula Yates, stayed on to dance to "jungle" and "handbag", drink vodka cocktails, eat Japanese food and become increasingly irritated by the beer-flicking antics of minor media personality Miranda Sawyer. Phew!

Once The Face's assistant editor Richard Benson has been installed at the helm, Ms Garratt will be taking time out to have a baby, and then, she hopes, join Face publisher Nick Logan in launching a new women's magazine. "I grew up on Cosmo," explained Ms Garratt. "It was my pornography when I was 13. But like all women's magazines, it has become predictable: free orgasms, a family and a career. It's time for something more intelligent, with a sense of fun and loads of glamorous fashion."

Baby, new career and only 34. Thanks to Cosmo and Marcelle d'Argy Smith, who helped to bring feminism into the mainstream, it now seems young women really can have it all.

I can't stand any more of it. The hundreds of photographs of that trademark half-smile. The acres of speculation about his survival as a star. The detailed analysis of his peculiarly British sex appeal. The cod-psychological investigation into the motives (cool pragmatist or hopelessly devoted) of his gorgeous model girlfriend. And, of course, the never-ending chortling about that sexual misdemeanour. Yes, I'm talking about that sneer and those snaking hips, Jerry Hall, Marianne Faithfull and that Mars bar, about Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones and the Voodoo Lounge tour.

Instead of simply buying their tickets and enjoying the show, the middle- aged men who run the British media have gone stone crazy. Last week, this paper ran a 13-inch deep photograph on its front page; at the weekend the Observer sent in "Britain's great author", Salman Rushdie, to write a review - sorry, masterpiece - about the band; now Tony Blair has asked Mick Jagger to join the shadow heritage team (just kidding).

What is the big deal? The Rolling Stones are in their fifties, very popular and tour every few years. So what? The same applies to Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, both of whom played at the Phoenix Festival over the weekend without an accompanying orgasm by menopausal men who specialise in reliving their schoolboy fantasies. To quote John Birt's recent criticism of BBC news and current affairs: "I don't think it was right. I think we reported that particular matter in a way that we should not have done."

Film critics were weak with laughter at last week's preview of an American film about a woman who is desperate to have a baby. How could a respected British actor make such a dud film? How could he perpetuate British class stereotypes with post-coital lines like "I enjoyed that immensely"?

Yes, Alfred Molina, what on earth persuaded you to play a dim-witted anthropologist in the trashy new horror film Species, about a half-human, half-alien trying to take over the planet with the help of her spawn? Your only hope of getting anyone to see this turkey is for you to go and commit a major sexual misdemeanour on an LA freeway.

As soon as one mad, misogynist judge retires after 99 years on the circuit, another one - Justice Jowitt - rears his ugly head. Last week a 13-year-old boy was convicted of raping a nine-year-old girl. According to the prosecution at Cardiff Crown Court, he had carried out numerous assaults on the girl over some time. She didn't tell anyone because the boy threatened to kill her if she did.

And what were the words of wisdom and warning that accompanied the three- year supervision order? "You behaved wickedly and were dirty-minded," said the good judge. "You have to learn that sexual desires must be put aside at your age. You must learn to control your urges. It may sound old-fashioned, but think about purity and being a decent fellow."

Not quite as deranged a view as the "she was no angel" case, but Judge Jowitt sounds like a vicar ticking a child off for putting his hands down his trousers. Funny, the rest of the population believes that rape is not about sex and purity, but humiliation and the exercise of absolute power.

It had to happen. First Sainsbury's started selling sun-dried tomatoes. Then rhubarb became a designer fruit. Now Ryvita, the old-fashioned diet crispbread, has gone foodie and decided cottage cheese and Marmite are not good as toppings.

Mix a handful of cherries, blueberries, raspberries and sliced figs, suggests a recent ad. Add a dash of Kirsch, a dusting of icing sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon. Dollop with clotted cream and a toasted amaretto biscuit. Serve layered between a millefeuille of Ryvita - made only of rye, water and a pinch of salt. Et voila! An expensive, high-calorie snack which takes a mere 45 minutes to prepare and would be far nicer on a meringue.

"It is the image of youthful beauty that's a temptation and damnation for Humbert Humbert's weakness." Who can be commenting so profoundly on Nabokov's masterpiece? A brilliant academic contributing a long essay to the London Review of Books? An off-the-cuff piece of brilliance from Melvyn Bragg on Start the Week?

Actually, this insight comes from screenwriter James Dearden, the man who penned that sophisticated, unsensationalistic examination of sexual politics in the Eighties, Fatal Attraction. Now Dearden is teaming up with that film's equally sensitive director, Adrian Lyne, to remake Lolita. According to the director, the new version will be more sensual than ever, with more explicit sex and more emphasis on paedophilia. That's more like it, Adrian.

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