We've all had one. A boss who insists on holding the reins of power even when they're on holiday. Even though the office is perfectly capable of operating without him/her. Even though, if crisis should strike, there would be no way they could possibly be on top of all the facts from the terrace of their Ibizan apartamento or their Cornish refuge.
"Call me!" they'll toss over their shoulder as they walk out the office one warm afternoon in August. "Text me! I'm on the BlackBerry!" What they mean: "You'll never manage without me, suckers." Even worse is the boss who books their summer fortnight off – then can't quite bring themselves to get on a plane. "I'll just be at home," they say, cheerily.
Thanks to rolling news channels, the pernicious influence of Margaret Thatcher and the cult of the CEO, modern politicians are also now required to put on a show of workaholism during summer months. Holiday is taken, but suit jackets will be worn with the Blue Harbour jeans. Squadrons of secretaries and advisers will make discreet bookings in holiday houses within striking distance of the Prime Ministerial idyll. Favoured political journalists will be close at hand and carefully briefed on the local price of a cappuccino.
This week the Downing Street press office has been at pains to let us know that David Cameron remains in charge of the Government during his fortnight-long holiday in an Arezzo villa. Not only in charge, actually, but impressively on top of "the details of government". So, even as Cameron and his chums indulge in long days of prosecco-quaffing and competitive tennis at the Villa Petrolo, the PM will remain au fait with every nuance of NHS reform and the Syrian situation. In a corner of rural Italy that is infamous for having patchy mobile coverage and a soul-sappingly slow internet service. Right.
If I were William Hague back in London, or, more to the point, any of the lifer civil servants at Number 10 who are actually familiar with every detail of government, I'd be a bit miffed by the whole "hands-on holiday" PR message. Just a tiny portion of David Cameron's attention, even if it is addled by wine and sunshine and third helpings of parmigiana di melanzane, is superior to the best his team of underlings could manage. That's the subtext.
Whereas anybody can see that Cameron, being the sociable, leisurely fellow he by nature obviously is, would probably prefer to not work at all on his holidays. After he returns from Italy he's off to Cornwall for a second holiday. Can you imagine Thatcher or Gordon Brown doing that? Why doesn't Cameron just say, "I'm taking August off. I'll be watching the cricket on my laptop, beating Sam at tennis and gassing on with my friends about how Jamie Oliver comes to this villa, too. Don't worry about the country, because I'm just the electable frontman and it doesn't really matter whether I'm around or not. Hey! At least I'm not here with James and Rebekah."
Do shops think Amy will encourage us to spend?
It's natural, I suppose, that when a popular singer dies an untimely death, as they sadly often do, the listening public realise they don't actually own any of that artist's work. Hearing 10-second clips of the singer's voice on slightly grisly news reports reminds them of its special quality. Reading heartfelt tributes to her talent inspires them to download a few of her songs.
Hence the return of Amy Winehouse's back catalogue to the upper end of the charts. I haven't been moved to do the same thing, but I think it feels like a normal response to her passing. But playing "Rehab" on loop in a riverside pub? Blaring out every track from Back to Black in a Chelsea shoe shop as fashionable ladies browse stilettos? I couldn't help thinking that her music hung in the air in too many public places this weekend, as though businesses hoped that an aura of sympathy and sadness might drive shoppers to exercise a little retail therapy.
The mobile phone is worthy of a drama all its own
We're supposed to be vibrating with excitement at the prospect of an iPhone 5, due to launch in October. But landline telephones are far more dramatic. I keep thinking this while enjoying The Hour, as Romola Garai's ditzy secretary dangles a handset, or when the increasingly febrile Ben Whishaw murmurs into a pleasingly 1950s-styled number. Only about 15 years too late, I've also started watching the first series of The Sopranos which, though set in the 1990s, looks entirely contemporary – except for the lack of any trilling cell in Tony's pocket. Instead, we watch the mobster becoming more and more frustrated in his attempts to receive calls at the local strip bar or from roadside phone booths. Everything about the clunky old immobile telephone – how it makes actors gesture, the situations it creates – somehow adds to the story. Who will make us the first great mobile-phone drama?Reuse content