The beauty in being Jamie Oliver – at the centre of deep controversy this week over remarks about working-class nutrition and about the strong work ethic of immigrants – is that he exists so far below the remit of cool credibility that pedestal-wise he has nowhere to fall. Jamie Oliver, who has worked very hard for many years, has a net worth currently estimated at £150m. By the mid-1990s he was successful, yet deeply unfashionable. Look at him on a scooter listening to Toploader, the massive chump! He has spent many years in the wrinkled nose gaze of the cultural elite.
I’ve always found this rather unjust and felt rather sorry for him, but then there are plenty of famous Britons who are adored like national treasures who will die broke. And then there are successful yet maligned figures like Oliver, who has been nicknamed “Fat Tongue” and had his populist appeal and everyman jocularity ridiculed for the best part of two decades.
Oliver’s first supposed faux pas this week was repeating an anecdote about a woman feeding her kids an evening meal of chips with cheese out of styrofoam trays, which left him sad and stumped. “Well he has no idea about her life! He’s out of touch. What exactly does he know?” was the general furious online response. This ignored the fact that styrofoam cheesy chips woman wasn’t a fictional character, but someone I remember vividly from a wholly upsetting scene in his series Ministry of Food. It stuck with me too, but the difference is I just turned the TV off and forgot all about her, whereas Jamie Oliver actually tried to make an impact.
Whether one likes Oliver or not, his meeting with this woman and others like her led him to spend years – while we were all sitting on our fat arses slagging him off – on a quest to work out why people in poverty aren’t cooking fresh food.
It’s pretty bloody rich that one might look at a cookery expert like Oliver – who became fixated some years back on giving cookery classes to the poor, teaching impoverished kids what vegetable looks like, negotiating with dinner ladies about budgets, fighting with local government and the actual prime minister on the matter of how to break the vicious circle which leads to child existing on chips and cheese – and shout back at him, “Well what do you know about how poor people feed their children?” The fact is: probably much more than you. If he’s annoyed that the woman had a big television and was feeding her kids nutrition-free crap, I’ll let him have that aside, he’s earned it. Also, it’s wholly naive for middle-class people to believe the working class don’t make the eye-rolling remarks about “big televisions” and “wonky priorities” among the poor, as they absolutely do.
Oliver’s second error was to say – as an owner of many restaurants – that his restaurants can’t function without immigrant workers and that Britons can’t stomach the awful relentless slog of kitchen work. I tend to believe him. As I write, my Twitter timeline heaves with friends who work in the restaurant industry in search of good staff. Twenty new openings are scheduled for central London next month alone. This is one industry not remotely in decline.
Making a career from the bottom to the top rung in catering is viciously tough, requiring the individual to work long days in basements and back rooms among tattooed caveman-sorts – screaming, swearing, getting burned and stemming blood. Faced with this reality, it’s telling that many Brits opt for the short cut of entering MasterChef ,which is a month of wrapping scallops in bacon for Gregg Wallace while weeping about how much they “really want to work in a kitchen”.
Oliver said that his foreign staff were “stronger” and “tougher” than his British workers, who tended to “whinge” about too long hours and that he had their mothers telephoning him to say that their sons were “too tired”. And after he’s dealt with all that whingeing, everyone has another turn at kicking him. Poor Jamie Oliver, he the unluckiest multimillionaire ever.
Miley looks like a right twerk
The vastly ironic thing about Disney poppet-turned-pop-princess Miley Cyrus’s attempts to prove she is no longer a little girl, is the harder she shakes her arse, the more naive she appears. “Mid-twerk” at the VMA awards this week, Miley put me in mind of that excellent day in 1978 when I took my dress off at Bishop Goodwin Junior School claiming to be “hot” but in actual fact delighting in the chaos and screams. All those eyes on me. And no wonder, I had invented nudity.
God bless Miley with her pop songs full of hammered home shock and awe about “doing lines in the bathroom” (no one took cocaine before Miley’s youthful clique discovered it, I’m guessing ) and all-night drinking, dancing and zipless-fuck debauchery. Sounds like the exact same debauchery the human race has been up to for centuries, but can’t be as Miley invented it. Look at me! I’m literally dry humping Robin Thicke with my tongue lolling out of my gob like a Labrador left in a hot car. As Taylor Swift might say: “Miley, this is exhausting.”
In contrast, Taylor Swift is a thoroughly surprising entity – a child star turned gritty, stealth robo-bitch, exuding a quiet sass in pithy lyrics, performing in outfits which maintain focus on her facial lips not her labia. There is something wholly in control about Taylor Swift that dares you to treat her like a flimsy female pop star. Every time Miley shows me her arse and begins twerking, my reaction is, bloody hell, grow up.
Is this the end for my Diana-death shield?
F or many years a method I’ve used to shake off unwanted company at parties is to fix people with a solemn stare and allude to my suspicions about the odd death of England’s Rose, the late Princess Diana.
Seriously, no one wants to be stuck with a swivel-eyed conspiracy-theory woman accusing Prince Philip, CI5 and a gang of shady arms dealers sneaking about with snipers, potentially to a sneak-trombone soundtrack, just like the Hooded Claw.
Yesterday, following a month of fresh speculation about “Soldier N” and alleged SAS involvement in the “killing”, the secretive military unit has launched an internal inquiry into Diana’s death.
If this uncovers anything very credible, I’m either going to have to change my conspiracy theory of choice, or start attending functions in a bigger, better, home-made tin-foil hat.