Christina Patterson: It's nice to know, at long last, that money isn't always enough

The Saturday Column
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It isn't very nice to laugh at someone else's misfortune, but sometimes it's an awful lot of fun.

It is, for example, quite hard not to smile, and maybe even to laugh, and maybe even to send out a little tweet to your so-called followers, when you hear a rumour that the 13th most powerful man in the world, who has a "net worth" of $6.3bn, was this week, and perhaps for the first time ever, refused a table in a restaurant.

It's quite hard not to smile when you hear that the person he was meant to be sharing it with, who sometimes flies to Venice just for lunch, and who has parties, and dinners, and sleep-overs, with prime ministers and their wives, and who thinks a holiday is a time when you can't know anything at all about the paper you edit, and that sacrificing the jobs of lots of other people is the best way to keep yours, has finally resigned.

It's quite hard not to smile when you hear that all the politicians who spent years eating the powerful man's canapés, and drinking his champagne, and laughing at his jokes, and pretending not to be upset by newspaper stories about their affairs, or their children's illnesses, have, at long last, plucked up the courage, but only when they thought it was safe, to pass a vote telling a man who only ever did the telling, what to do.

And it is, I'm afraid, impossible not to smile when you hear that a very big business deal that was very important to the very powerful man, and which everyone thought was so likely to go through that hedge funders made massive bets on it, has been "too difficult to progress in this climate", and dropped. It is, in fact, impossible not to send out a tweet – perhaps a rather childish tweet – saying, "Ding dong, the witch is dead."

It's impossible not to smile when you hear that the powerful man, who had said he was too busy to talk to the elected politicians of this country, and whose son said that maybe he could squeeze them in in about a month, then, after being told he might have to, said he would. And when you hear that his son, whose haircut and glasses make you wonder whether Goebbels was a Harvard dropout, and who was being lined up as the heir to a massive empire, might be asked by shareholders to step down. And when you hear that American politicians were beginning to involve the FBI.

It's very hard not to smile at all of this, and to laugh, and to walk with a little bounce in your step, and maybe even hum "Ding dong, the witch is dead" as you walk down the street. It's hard to do this not because anyone is actually dead, because you don't want anyone to actually die, and not because other journalists have lost their jobs, and other journalists are worrying about their jobs, because you don't want any journalists who haven't done anything wrong to lose, or worry about losing, their jobs, but because something that has, for a very, very long time felt wrong, suddenly feels right.

It's quite strange when you live in a country which is meant to be run by a government you elect, and that's meant to tell other people what to do, and does tell other governments what to do, and that government is told what to do by someone who hasn't been elected.

It's quite strange when politicians in the governments you elect, who talk a lot about things like hard work, and taxes, and who tell people who are about to lose their jobs that it can't be helped, because we're all in whatever it is that makes them lose their job together, spend a lot of time with people whose work means they have to sit in the Royal Box at Wimbledon, or fly in private jets, or drink cocktails on yachts.

It's quite strange when, for example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who's the one who told us that a lot of us would lose our jobs, and a lot of us would have our benefits cut, and a lot of us would have to move into cheaper houses, goes to dinners on yachts with billionaire financiers who have chosen to settle in Switzerland, perhaps because it's a very lively and interesting place to live, or perhaps because if you live there, you don't have to pay much tax. And when, for example, a politician who helped get Labour back into power, and keep it in power for 13 years, goes to the 40th birthday party of the same financier (who happens to be called Nat Rothschild) which costs £1m, and takes place around a 215ft infinity pool in Montenegro, in a marina full of £60m yachts.

It's quite strange when people, and not just people who work in politics, but also people who work in TV, and newspapers, say they like people who are nice, and who work hard, or do interesting things, but actually seem to like people who don't seem to be very nice to the people they employ, and pay them as little as they can, and sometimes make their money through horrible sweatshops, or horrible factories, or horrible mines, and who pay less of their income in tax than the people in the factories or the sweatshops. But who are very, very, very, very rich.

And it's quite strange when you live in a country where most people are getting poorer, and are trying very hard at a very difficult time, but where the people some people seem to admire are the people who don't have to try, and don't have to worry about paying their rent, or their mortgage, and who employ lawyers, and accountants, and PR people, to tell them what to say, and how little tax to pay, and what they can say to Parliament. What, in fact, they can get away with.

It's quite hard to smile, or laugh, or hum a happy tune, when very, very, very, very rich people are getting away with things that most people can't. But this week, and maybe only this week, they couldn't, and we laughed. Ding, dong, the witch isn't dead, but at least he learnt a little lesson.

The Chapmans and the shock of the banal

In a week of such high excitement in the media that it's hard to leave the telly/phone/laptop even to sleep, it's nice to be reminded that some things don't change. It's nice, for example, to be reminded that the art world, or at least a big chunk of it, plods on in the same way it has for the past 20 years. Like John Major's spinsters on bicycles, Jake and Dinos Chapman are relics of a vanishing England, and one they'd like to preserve in aspic, or perhaps plastic.

It feels like about a century since the Chapman brothers stuck penises on mannequins of children, and dressed other mannequins in Nazi uniform, and made statues of sex dolls. It is, in fact, 20 years since they started working together, and really, really hoping that everyone would be shocked. They're still trying to shock. Or at least they're still trying to tell people off. The mannequins of children, they told a slightly irritated Sarah Montague on the Today programme on Thursday, weren't children, and the genitalia weren't genitalia, and their defaced Goya drawings were "better" than Goya.

Their work, they said, "has its own momentum, and its own trajectory". The "whole point", they said, is that their "sculptures" only "have themselves as a referent in the world". Not everyone, they said, would "understand what the attack is, and what the challenge is, and about the speculations".

On this, at least, they're right. Even those of us who don't speak art school Esperanto might find it hard to understand the "momentum" of a new exhibition – of, yes, mannequins of children with funny things stuck on their faces, and, yes, mannequins in Nazi uniform – that doesn't have any, er, momentum.

The (old) hand that rocked the cradle

If you're a woman over 45, there are certain jobs you'll struggle to get. You will, for example, probably find it tricky to get a job as a TV presenter, or a newsreader, or a model, or an actor, because if you're 45, you're an "older" woman, even though a sixtysomething man like John Humphrys, or Jeremy Paxman, is "middle-aged". And you'll probably find it tricky to get a job as an au pair, since the main qualifications have tended to be extreme youth and long legs.

But not, it seems, any more. A 50-year-old German woman has started an agency for, yes, "older" women. "Families like to take them on because they are reliable, serious and know how to be strict," she said. And women like to take them on, she didn't add, because – well, she wouldn't really need to spell it out.

For those of us working in an area that seems to be imploding, it's nice to know not all avenues are closed. I'm not sure I know one end of a baby from another, but it looks as though I might have to learn.