Aids: the dead, the dying and the bored

Click to follow
The Independent Online
OH NO, not Nureyev] Friday's Mail had a picture of him at the Paris Opera looking frail, and said that when he went onstage, he seemed confused and had to be supported by two minders. A spokesman said it was not Aids but then there is always a spokesman saying it is not Aids.

I always hoped that as we moved into the 1990s, Aids would recede. The first generation, who didn't even know what they were catching, would have died and then the number of sufferers would fall as information spread, but I was over-optimistic. This week alone we learnt about Denholm Elliott and John Curry. Last week the Evening Standard claimed that one in 12 Londoners has taken the Aids test, which presumably means that one in 12 has taken chances.

Some of my friends say they're 'bored with Aids' and claim it gets too much media attention. For shame] I know that Liz Taylor clutching a condom on the cover of Vanity Fair looks pretty ludicrous but if it saves just one life, it's worth doing. Another thing that's worth doing is stopping life insurers putting the infamous question, 'Have you ever sought advice about Aids?' on their application forms. In theory it is meant to eliminate 'high- risk' applicants but of course it doesn't because the high-risk ones, that is, promiscuous gays, are clued up enough to get tested anonymously at special clinics. So the only people it eliminates are the low-risk ones, the Aids ingenus, who are naive enough to go to their GPs. Thus we have a form which is completely ineffectual from the insurers' point of view, but which could still serve to deter a few desperately worried people from seeking the test. It is outrageous and must be stopped.

LAST WEEK I went for my annual underwear spree in Marble Arch Marks & Spencer's and as always emerged feeling like some poor refugee just off the boat. What does everyone do with all this gorgeous underwear? Where do they wear it? What, for instance, is a unitard? I swear there was no such critter last time I went but now there are whole racks of them - funny sorts of shiny draped blouses with knickers attached. For why? I can just about see the point of bodies - tops that remain tight, albeit at the cost of giving you a bust like a pouter pigeon - but unitards seem to have no functional advantage whatsoever. This is also true of croptops (or Cropped Tops as M&S pedantically calls them) which brilliantly combine all the discomfort of a bra with all the ugliness of a vest, without actually keeping you warm. But bras, my daughters tell me, are dead. In fact most of the underwear I can name is dead - asking for a petticoat at M&S immediately brands me as a dinosaur because petticoats are now slips but then, confusingly, some knickers are slips too . . . Terrifying signs bark 'Underwired body', 'Firm control', while foreign men whirl knowledgeably along the aisles tossing teddies into trolleys and calling out 'Do you have the Fortuny camisole in ecru?' Where do they learn all this stuff? Is there a special Underwear School in the desert? The only thing we ever learnt about underwear at school was: ladies wear white. Like so much else in my education, it now seems woefully inadequate.

ONE OF the innovations of this week's Tory Party conference was a whole new set of people we've never seen before. The wives. Apparently Margaret Thatcher used to ban them, so this was the first time they'd been paraded in the public prints. Certainly many politicians were much enhanced by their armpieces. I suspect we owe all this to John Smith, or rather to his dazzling wife and daughters, whose appearance at the Labour Party conference temporarily managed to distract me from the burning question of why his arms are so short. Some of the Tory wives seemed quite high-powered, not all Norma Major-types hankering for the ironing. But then it was all the more offensive that they should have to submit to having their clothes and hair and legs scrutinised, as if they were Cindy Crawford.

What is all this Wife Display meant to prove? That politicians are heterosexual? Good family chaps? Nah, sorry, won't wash. What really worries me is that it is meant to prove they Take Women Seriously. It isn't enough.

I HAVE identified a new syndrome, abusorrhoea, which particularly afflicts celebrities. It consists of wanting to talk to the media about how you were abused as a child and it particularly afflicts actresses who have a new film or play coming out. This week's victim was Catherine Oxenberg, the startlingly wooden actress last seen trundling through Dynasty like an errant wardrobe, but now remobilised as the Princess of Wales in an American television drama. She told the Express a harrowing tale of having been repeatedly abused in the family chapel, from babyhood to 12, by four people including a Russian Orthodox priest. This had the effect of making her bulimic, which of course made her more like Diana. I don't question the seriousness of child abuse or Ms Oxenberg's experience. But I wonder if this new conjunction of fame and confession makes us take it any more seriously.

THANK YOU to all the many readers who have written to recommend various banks. Royal Bank of Scotland seems to be the favourite by miles, but there are also keen advocates for the Nationwide, the Clydesdale, and the Co-op. No one at all has tried to defend the big four clearing banks - not even their press offices. Meanwhile in Cardiff an unhappy customer dumped 20 tons of steaming horse manure on the steps of the Allied Irish Bank explaining: 'I want them to know what it is like when someone shits on you'.