Christina Patterson: So good that you make me feel bad: my open letter to Miriam Gonzalez

 

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The Independent Online

Dear Miriam Gonzalez,

When I tapped your name into Google (your maiden name, which I know you prefer) and saw the pictures that came up, I thought someone must have messed around with my computer.

I don't think I've ever seen bigger breasts on a human being, though it's true that I haven't looked at all that many.

For a moment, I was worried that something terrible had happened to you, but then I realised that the first photos that came up were of a Playboy Playmate, and I thought it must be quite annoying to be married to the Deputy Prime Minister, and have the same name as a Playboy Playmate.

I thought it must be particularly annoying if you were a partner, and head of international trade law, in an international legal practice, and if you had co-written a book called Regulatory Aspects of the WTO Telecoms Agreement, which sounds like the kind of book you probably wouldn't write if you were a Playboy Playmate, and if you didn't need to take your clothes off to earn (apparently) half a million a year.

It must be even more annoying when you've just been appointed head of "EU trade and EU government affairs" at another law firm, because "it provides an excellent platform" on which to "further build" your practice, and because it's also probably paying you even more. And particularly when some people seem to think that taking this job is a bad thing. They seem to think that your husband, once he's put the children to bed, and whipped up a nice risotto, and done the washing up, will be passing on secrets about EU policy and trading that will give you an unfair advantage in your work.

I think they're being unfair. I think there can't be all that many jobs that allow you to show your understanding of regulatory aspects of telecoms agreements, and that when they come up, you should probably get in quick. I also think that when people hear the words "EU policy", their eyes tend to glaze over, so if your husband does tell you something about regulatory aspects of telecoms agreements, because he's just read The Gruffalo for the 250th time, and forgot he wasn't supposed to, I think it's quite likely that no one will notice.

I know I shouldn't mention such things, but I can't help wondering how it was that you managed to look so fantastic in that yellow dress you wore for your husband's speech at the party conference, which apparently cost £46, even though you could probably have afforded to spend a bit more. I didn't think anyone ever looked good in a yellow dress, but I suppose that what you need to look good in one is an olive skin tone, and thick, dark hair, and big, brown eyes. What you need, in fact, is to be beautiful and Spanish. Which doesn't really cheer the rest of us up.

It is, of course, not your job to cheer anyone up, except, perhaps, the sixth-formers you met a couple of weeks ago at the Women of the Future Ambassadors Programme where you presented the awards. I'm sure that Women of the Future do feel very cheered up to meet a very slim, very pretty woman with a very powerful and even quite handsome husband, and a very grown-up job, who lives in a very nice house, with a very nice kitchen, in a very leafy part of town.

I'm sure that they're even more cheered up to know that a very slim, very pretty woman can have all these things, and also have three lovely children, and a husband who dashes home from meetings about the future of the euro to take them to nursery and school. I'm sure that they're also cheered up to know that the wife of the Prime Minister managed, until the elections last year, to combine being a mother of three children with a job that apparently paid her 400 grand.

It's always good to have something to aim for, even if you think it's pretty unlikely that you're now going to bag a future prime minister, or deputy prime minister, or be able to do your bit to combat the declining birth rate of the Western world. It's always good to know that some women really do seem to be able to "have it all". But it might be a little bit more cheering if the wife of our leader wasn't also a member of the British aristocracy and if the wife of our deputy leader didn't seem to be a member of some super-charged Euro-elite.

It might, at a time when decisions made by that Euro-elite, to yoke together countries in a common currency, that seem to have been based on a jug of sangria and a vow to be blood brothers, and a promise to collect tax, and reform the public sector, and cut the retirement age mañana, which mean that many, many people will lose their jobs and their homes, and many other people will have their salaries slashed to a level that's an awful lot lower than the national average, be a bit more cheering if the wives of our leaders had jobs with salaries nearer to the national average than to 20 times the national average. Salaries that mean that their husbands might understand what it was like to struggle to pay a childminder, instead of salaries that could buy at least 20 nannies.

But none of this is your fault. I think you're amazing. I really do. And it certainly isn't your fault that hearing about you, and seeing pictures of you – the ones of you in the yellow dress and not the ones of someone who isn't you wearing not very much at all – makes almost every woman in the country feel just a little bit worse.

Yours,

Christina Patterson

English Heritage's lesson in manners

At a time when Euro-tempers are rather frayed, and Italian politicians seem to have decided to ditch the verbal cut and thrust for the kind of blow that can smash a face in, it's nice to be reminded of some English manners. It's nice, in fact, to be reminded of English Heritage, which doesn't just serve cups of tea in lovely country houses, but also works very hard to keep its visitors happy. It has, apparently, just asked a man it commissioned to write a play, to be staged at a Cornish castle for Hallowe'en, to tone down references to Jews and Nazis, in case visitors reminded of recent history were "offended".

Meanwhile, a woman who used to have sex with Jeremy Clarkson has announced she's planning to write a book about it because, according to her agent, it's her "human right".

A nice Hallowe'en treat for your mum

If you're a bit old for trick-or-treating, but quite fancy a little blast of horror for Hallowe'en, you could always dig out the talc and the tomato ketchup and go on one of the "zombie" marches that allow you to wear your anti-capitalist bleeding heart on your (artfully ripped) sleeve. (The one outside my front door the other day turned out to be against the building of a Sainsbury's, which made me want to start a march against the march.) Or, you could just go and see We Need to Talk About Kevin. It's full of red gloop – squashed tomatoes, jam, paint – and the most glitteringly evil eyes seen in a child since The Omen's Damien. You could even do as I did, and take your mum. Trust me, it will make her appreciate you more.

c.patterson@independent.co.uk

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