Last week I took part in a new television programme entitled Grumpy Old Women. The well-received first series featuring such fogies as Rick Wakeman, Arthur Smith and John Peel whingeing on about everything from pets to espresso coffee is being repeated on BBC2. My idea of hell would be spending an evening with any of that cast list - in fact I loathe John Peel's Home Truths Radio 4 show so much that I ritually switch it off at 9.02 every Saturday morning in the vain hope that my act of defiance will register as a drop in the listening figures. Why has John Peel been accorded saint-like status which is out of all proportion to what he actually does, which is host a rather mawkish speech programme? He doesn't treat the sick, walk on water or even foresee the future. John Peel is like Ken Dodd - you either get him, or (like me) you don't, and are made to feel like a leper as a result.
As you can tell, I had absolutely no problem in filling an hour with about 106 different rants on everything from old people's homes to small children and pets. I also predict that no one in Grumpy Old Women will look as appallingly dressed as our male counterparts. Why is it that men think it is acceptable to wear jeans with a shirt and tie? Martin Sixsmith posed confidently (and smugly) on the cover of our sister paper's Review section the other day, committing a fashion crime of the highest order, wearing badly fitting jeans with an ugly brown leather belt, a pink shirt and a red patterned tie, his flabby midriff just visible through the folds of cheap fabric. I had to lie down with a couple of Nurofen Plus to get over this outrage, and most definitely will not be buying a novel written by such a badly dressed poseur. If Mr Sixsmith has constructed the plot of his literary opus like he plans his wardrobe, it'll be a clunker.
There has been a lot more to get Grumpy about this week than usual. We are in week two of the public show trial of Mr and Mrs Beckham, who have now engaged my lawyers for the past 20 years, Harbottle and Lewis - but what for? To my mind, this implies that they plan to take matters further. Why? The best thing to do in their circumstances would be to say nothing. Rise above the tidal wave of smut and innuendo which surrounds them on every front. Am I the only woman in Britain who finds Victoria a pleasant, friendly person? Women throughout the media are united in their determination to trash poor Posh as comprehensively as possible. Unlike Amanda Platell and her coven, I have actually spent a weekend with David and Victoria, eaten several meals with them, talked to them at parties and we once even spent a hilarious night dancing in a gay nightclub in Nice. And, hold the front page, they were good company. I'm not going to pretend that we discussed the future of Nato or the imminent expansion of the EU, but I can think of a lot more dreary people to share fish soup with. I am not the slightest bit interested in the intimate details of their marriage and neither, I suspect, are many readers of this paper. So why does Sky television treat the whole matter as if the Beckhams are national icons whose domestic comings and goings are as important as those of our Prime Minister or Royal Family? In a week when civilians have been kidnapped and brutally slaughtered in Iraq, the sight of a woman accepting £500,000 to go public about her sex life in the most banal and trite fashion is nauseating in the extreme. And, by the way, by the time tax has been paid on her fee, she'll be left with around £300,000. Her life's ruined, and she looks cheap, for the price of a small house in suburban London.
Is our country so sick that we care more about what twaddle Mr Beckham may have spelt out on his mobile phone, than the attempts of our prime minister to broker any kind of dignified exit from Iraq, a country where every day innocent women and children are being maimed and wounded in the crossfire? The fact is, our media are out of step with the real world when it comes to the Beckhams. Page after page has been filled with this utter tosh. Could it be a coincidence that for the past two weeks schools have been shut for the Easter break, newspapers will have half their staff on holiday with their children and sales will be down as a large percentage of the country is either abroad or at home redecorating? The Beckhams have been an effortless way of filling columns inches at very little expense. I expect the board game to go on sale any day.
I ask myself what newspaper editors and TV producers would like to see as the result of their gross intrusion into the Beckhams' privacy. None of it can be in the public interest. My trip to Tesco in Whitstable on Friday proved one thing comprehensively: not one member of the public, at any of the 15-plus checkouts, in any of aisles, by the cashpoint machine or in the car park was talking about Posh and Becks. People were chatting about football, gardening, the sunshine. They weren't swapping small talk about what the distinguishing mark on Mr Beckham's body might or might not be. I have a huge amount of faith in the British public at times like this; they frankly couldn't care less about a couple of women who may or may not have exchanged bodily fluids with a married man. Luckily Victoria has a supportive mother and sister because, it seems to me, some journalists want nothing less than a nervous breakdown or a divorce out of this woman whose main crime has been to admit to being ambitious. Nothing wrong in that.
A loss of hope
The death of Caron Keating left me feeling extremely upset. Not just for her family and small children, but because the death of such a young and successful woman touches every woman in a way that's hard to define. When Linda McCartney died I felt so helpless. Women feel a real sense of fear because if these rich, efficient, high-powered women were sacrificed to something they could not fight with all the connections and money at their disposal, then what hope for the rest of us? Cancer is a cruel disease, always hitting on those who deserve better. For the past seven years Caron Keating dealt with it privately and with great dignity. Most women in Britain can't afford private medical schemes, with annual smears, mammograms and scans. How long you wait on the NHS depends on where you live. Last year 13,000 women died from breast cancer - surely regular mammograms should be free on demand for all. At times like this it's hard to believe there is a God, if you ask me.