Living in a caravan really broadens the mind

A character called Jade has come to emblemise the sort of world I am happy to be missing
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The Independent Online

I am currently in temporary accommodation. No, let's not give ourselves airs – I am, in fact, in a caravan on the edge of a field. Apart from the occasional bath-and-brush-up trips to London, this will be home until the end of the year.

By its nature, this development has necessitated certain changes in lifestyle. Some serious blue-sky thinking has had to be applied to practical matters like cooking, washing up, grooming and certain aspects of personal hygiene.

My view of the world, as seen from the shadow of a hedge, has been simplified, too. There is a TV in a tent nearby (which serves as my spare room), but the prospect of lugging it into the caravan and cramming myself into the small space that remains, all to watch Germaine Greer and Tom Paulin self-importantly discussing a play or exhibition from the land of mains electricity and water, seems utterly absurd.

More startlingly, reading fiction has also begun to seem pointless. I have struggled gamely with Kate Grenville's The Idea of Perfection and then John Banville's forthcoming Shroud, but both have bored me to distraction. In my past life, I was an admirer of both writers; now it seems that, somewhere along the line, they have lost me – or, rather, I have lost them.

Opinionated, critical Independent readers – that is, virtually all of you – may well argue that a columnist removed from the exciting world of everyday events rather loses his point, and you may well be right. I only hope that, in my unsophisticated way, I can bring to bear an innocent, slack-jawed wisdom in the manner of the simpleton hero of Jerzy Kosinski's Being There.

I have, for example, discovered a rather and surprising truth. Nothing really happens. From the couple of newspapers that I buy from the village shop, it is quite clear that, even on a busy day, only one or two events of real interest take place; the rest is frothy nothingness.

There is no need to watch TV because the latest programmes, with the off-screen activities of the inhabitants of Celebrityville, now provide the mainstay of the written media. Without a trip to the TV tent, I know that Channel 4 has finally sold its soul to Big Brother. Once it would have made me sad that the network that provided an alternative to mindless pap is, at a moment when FilmFour is virtually being phased out and the superb Artsworld channel is closed down, devoting hour after hour to a dreary and degrading form of voyeurism.

I would have recalled that I secretly quite enjoyed the first Big Brother, whose cast of characters, to judge by the press accounts, were Einstein, Oscar Wilde and Nicole Kidman compared to the gormless yobs and slappers whose oafish flirtations are now delighting the nation.

Perhaps, at a moment when nothing is really happening, a programme revealing nothingness in its most torturous form has a certain moral appeal, but the view from this caravan is that, apart from making money for a few TV types, Big Brother has nothing to recommend it. A character called Jade, apparently the star of the series, has come to emblemise the sort of world I am happy to be missing while I am sitting in a field. Not only is she what used to be called educationally sub-normal, believing that East Anglia is a foreign country and Cambridge in London, but her manners and looks are none too hot either. Unfortunately, she likes to undress for the camera – a photograph in this weekend's papers of her removing the knickers from someone called Raunchy PJ nearly made me bring up my breakfast.

Another disconcerting thought: are the activities of Jade and PJ that much worse, less morally and intellectually improving, than even the best of what is on TV? Last week, apparently, a wonderful play about Winston Churchill revealed that the great man was also flawed and human.

I have seen it. Or rather I feel I may as well have seen it. There will have been atmosphere, fancy sets, impressive music and astonishingly authentic cigar-and-growl performance from Finney. My problem is I cannot for the life of me work out what I missed by not actually seeing it.

Future froth, the stuff of many news reports in August, is said to include a new series in which a group of celebrities will be put on an island off the coast of Australia – Melinda Messenger, Tony Blackburn and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Needless to say, Christina Hamilton is likely to be there. As far as I am concerned, the producers can stop it right there. I have seen it already.

It is possible, of course, that caravan life sends one mad. Even real stories, such as the six-man invasion by Morocco of a Spanish rock called Perejil, timed for the wedding of Morocco's King Mohammed, have begun to seem like something cooked up by Channel 4.

Out here in my field, I find myself wondering: will Jade and Raunchy PJ soon be on their way to Perejil? And which side will Christina Hamilton be on?

terblacker@aol.com

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