Deborah Orr: There are times when the reader knows too much about the writer

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I've been in thrall for years to Liz Jones, whose column about her single, then married life until recently was the sine qua non of toe-curling personal-revelation journalism. But I've found a new car crash to gawp at of late, in the form of Lorna Martin's Grazia dispatches about her thrice-weekly therapy.

Like Jones, who used to edit Marie Claire and now is a jewel in the crown of Associated Newspapers, Martin has a successful career, with a crisply conducted day job as The Observer's Scotland editor. Also like Jones, she labours under the misapprehension that a girl's being short-changed if Prince Charming isn't cutting a distracted swathe through the nation, desperately searching for the exquisite owner of a lovely shoe. (Any continuity person will point out that such an item would have disappeared at midnight in anything other than fantasy-fantasy - which is something of a psychological double-bind in itself.)

Anyway, the most eye-catching detail in our plucky scribe's torrent of mind-blowingly candid self-revelation is her open admission that she has spent some while embroiled in an affair with a married man, who is coyly known only as CJ, but who may be easily identifiable among Martin's social circle in Glasgow. So far, the foremost practical fruit of Martin's intensive sessions has been her realisation that writing to the guy's wife about it all might not be the big favour to the cuckolded one she had persuaded herself that it was. Good call.

Call me old-fashioned, but my own understanding is that if you really have to indulge in this sort of dangerous hobby, then you have the good grace at least to keep the publicity to a minimum. I've no idea of the identity of the sports personality who this week succeeded in winning an injunction banning the press from writing about his extra-marital activities, and I don't want to know either. But I thoroughly approve, whatever his motives, of his reticence. It implies, surely, at least a modicum of shame and regret.

Maybe he'll troll off with his wife for some therapy, and maybe he won't. But it's nevertheless some kind of milestone in me-journalism that Martin's decided to combine coming out as a casually breezy marriage-wrecker with checking in to see what that might be about, headspace-wise. Certainly her naked pandering to the sensibilities of voyeurs who ought to know better, such as myself, is prima facie evidence that she needs to "do some work on her issues". But the truly compelling thing is that week by week, as the project continues, you can't help noticing that the woman is sorting herself out.

Martin has a pretty combative relationship with her therapist, Dr H - part of her reluctance to grant power to her analyst is of course expressed in her insistence on publicly analysing by herself all that's going on in this supposedly private space. This week she mocks her therapist to her older sister (who is a therapist too - you work it out) by ridiculing Dr H's suggestion that Martin has "a tendency to go from one all-consuming love obsession to another".

Martin is stunned when her sister doesn't join her in rubbishing this idea, then admits to the reader that while she's never actually had a moment of romantic involvement with the man she had been discussing in therapy; she's already daydreamed about "our wedding, what our children would look like, their names ... and the photojournalism projects we'd collaborate on". It's pretty bonkers that she can't tell this stuff to her therapist or her family, but doesn't mind spilling it to a million Grazia purchasers. But the important thing, I guess, is that she's told it, firmly, to herself.

Good therapy fosters self-knowledge. So Dr H appears to be doing well in somewhat trying circumstances. At some point Martin is going to twig that she just might be putting her flaky old self a bit too far out there. Sad as I'll be at being denied my weekly seven minutes of guilty pleasure, I'll be wishing her all the very best in her private life.

A match made in heaven

Can gay weddings have been with us for just one year? There have been so many to attend - 15,672 all told - that it seems like they've been around for ever. Or maybe I just feel that way because I got in on the bonanza early, going to my first queer wedding as far back as the mid-1990s.

Obviously, due to the then-illegality of the girl-girl or boy-boy combo, this one was gay-lesbian, and a political statement as much as a nuptial gathering. The bride's preparations had gone well, so well that she had managed the notable feat of growing a beard prior to the big day. But she fell back on convention nevertheless, by calling a couple of evenings before the great event in pre-ceremony meltdown. She couldn't find an open-topped car, so I co-opted my friend Sam, who had a soft-topped 2CV.

The great day saw us dressed in black, maids of honour no less, sitting up front while Della Grace and Johnny Volcano stood proudly behind us, shouting at the top of their lungs: "We're here, we're queer, and we just got married."

In a romantic postscript, Della eventually became a man named Del LaGrace Volcano. It's nice that the law caught up with him and Johnny.

Strange things history never taught us

Obviously one does not believe in school league tables. But it's still stressful to see that those schools one's children attend are not quite covering themselves in glory. Happily, there's always Schadenfreude, which came this week in the form of glad tidings that a private education can be just as progressively nutty as anything the state sector has to offer. This particular vignette involves children being exhorted to make history "come alive" by conducting a role-play debate. "Zinoviev" and "Trotsky" pitted their wits against each other to win full membership of the Politburo, then submitted their efforts to a classroom vote. It was a lively lesson. Unfortunately, Trotsky won in England in 2006, while Zinoviev was the victor in Russia in 1921. The rest of course, is "history". Whatever.

* It's hard, as a left-of-centre mother, to stay supportive when one's nine-year-old reads a newspaper for the first time, and emerges as a fully fledged Daily Mail guy. 'This is terrible," my son announced the other morning. "They are letting killers and rapidists out to kill and rapid again." We proud parents can only suggest that a rapidist is a rapist who doesn't even take the time to say: "You're enjoying this, bitch, aren't you?" Relax, rapidists. Regrettably, a quick trawl though the criminal justice system confirms that you have all the time in the world.

Unlike the rapidists and killers on death row in Texas, who can smoke until their three days of pre-execution isolation. Then they're no longer allowed to have a cigarette, because that's smoking in a very private but symbolically very public place. Not that the crims are the only ones suffering. Art Spiegelman, the supremely brilliant New York cartoonist, now considers himself a "prisoner of conscience" because as a chain-smoker he simply cannot leave his apartment without breaking the law. Maybe he should cave in and have that last cigarette before they cart him off.