Friday 17 December 2010
Brian Viner: Coco thinks it's grim up north London
Rehab clinics probably don't have guest books – "lovely stay, can really recommend the cold turkey" – but if they did, the children of the rich and famous would loom large. It's no easy matter being born into the limelight, growing up with one or both parents appearing to belong as much to their fans as to you, and in some sad cases even more so.
Obviously there are compensations: the ponies, the holidays, Eric Clapton or Jennifer Aniston or Madonna as godparents. But it can be a tough emotional ride, all the same, which is why it's always pleasing to see superstar-offspring become normal functional adults and flourish as themselves.
Somewhere along the line, though, there's usually a kick against the privileged and often wacky circumstances in which they were raised. Some do it by changing their names. David Bowie's son Zowie decided at the age of 12 that he preferred to be known as Joey, thanks all the same, and now he's the respected film director Duncan Jones.
Coco Sumner, the singer-songwriter daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler, reacted even more extremely, writing a song called "My Name Is A Stain". "Forget my dad, hear my band," she sang, unequivocally.
An unworldly 16 then, a sophisticated 20 now, Sumner admitted in a recent newspaper interview to being somewhat embarrassed by this melodramatic youthful swipe at her connections in the music biz, and yet in the same interview she talked about growing up between a Wiltshire village and Archway in north London, a magnificent burst of inverted snobbery given that the Wiltshire village home was Sting's sumptuous pile Lake House, and the London pied-à-terre was actually part of one of the city's most elegant Georgian terraces, The Grove, slap-bang in the heart of leafy Highgate.
Nobody, except possibly a rock star's daughter, desperate for street cred, could ever mistake The Grove for grotty Archway, half a mile down the hill.
Bless her, though, for trying. Twenty years ago, when I worked on Highgate's local newspaper, the efforts of estate agents to talk up properties by locating them somewhere they weren't, or even somewhere that didn't exist, was a constant source of delighted derision. Parts of Archway were presented as Highgate, parts of unremarkable Gospel Oak as East Hampstead or even, unforgettably, Hampstead Bottom. At a stroke Coco Sumner has turned all that nonsense on its head. Maybe she could now consider covering her dad's 1980s record Englishman in New York, adjusting the title to the less glamorous Englishman on Staten Island.
What to do if stranded with a Stradivarius
It is more than a fortnight since the South Korean violinist Min-Jin Kym returned to her table in a branch of Pret-a-Manger outside Euston Station, having just bought a mature cheddar and pickle sandwich, to find herself in a different kind of pickle.
Someone had pinched the tools of her trade: a Stradivarius worth £1.2m and a Peccatte bow worth the best part of £100,000. Despite a £15,000 financial reward, not to mention the difficulty of selling the instrument, there has been no sign of the missing Stradivarius. With every passing day it seems more and more likely that the thief was an opportunist who mistook the violin case for a briefcase, and opened it hoping to find something more obviously valuable. The Strad might have ended up in a skip, or at the bottom of a canal.
Anyway, this dispiriting story reminds a cellist friend of mine of an episode in Boston, Massachusetts, a few years ago. Returning from a concert, a musician accidentally left his Stradivarius cello outside the house for a moment or two, emerging to find it gone. Some weeks later, the ashamed thief contacted the police and admitted that he'd had no idea of the cello's value but, as a carpenter, had recognised the beauty of the wood, and had turned the thing into a bookcase.
None of this is any laughing matter, but I can't help thinking of the old Tommy Cooper gag about the man who, rummaging around in his late mother's attic, was surprised to find a Stradivarius and a Rembrandt. "Unfortunately," added Cooper, after a perfectly-timed pause, "Stradivarius wasn't much of a painter ... and Rembrandt made rotten violins."
Big Sam didn't deserve to be treated like poultry
Of all the examples of the sheer loopiness afflicting English Premier League football – the barmy salaries, the vast payoffs made to agents, the rise and rise of the foreign plutocrat – this week's sacking of the Blackburn Rovers manager, Sam Allardyce, scales altogether new heights.
Rovers, one of the founder members of the Football League back in 1888, were recently bought by the Indian poultry conglomerate Venkateshwara Hatcheries. Venky's, as the company is known, is run by a woman called Anuradha Desai, a hockey and cricket enthusiast who until two months ago – two months ago! – had never watched a football match in her life.
Now, not everyone approves of the way big Sam Allardyce's teams play. That he knows the game inside out, however, is irrefutable. Indeed, he has managed five clubs currently in the Premier League, more than anyone else in football. And his achievements at Blackburn, while nothing to write home even to nearby Oswaldtwistle about, let alone to Mumbai, have been solid enough. Yet Mrs Desai with her two months of experience reckons that Rovers will be better off without him, the broad equivalent of Allardyce making key changes in Venky's plucking strategy.
Like most football lovers, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
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