The blissful cloud of summer- indolence
Benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less.
"It has an indolent feel," a BBC spokeswoman, who has clearly been dabbling in literary criticism, tells me. "And it could clash with a headline type delivery coming straight afterwards. Peter Lilley banging on about single mothers for example. It would not be a happy marriage." She's absolutely right, of course. Indeed I must urge the corporation to extend the ban even further. Take that subversive Ode to a Nightingale, for example.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk.
This, of course, is exactly the feeling that Start the Week inspires. The juxtaposition could be deeply embarrassing. And as for the first line of his poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, "Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness" - could we really contemplate this leading into Woman's Hour? Cancel the whole season, I say, before the BBC is brought into utter disrepute.
n RICHARD Branson's views on the National Lottery are well known. Indeed, he spelled them out again last week. The National Lottery, he reminded us, "is driven not by fun but by greed", and had fallen into "the same disrepute as the fat cat bosses of the privatised utilities". So the world knows where he stands; but not, it seems, his own staff at Virgin Radio. In a triumphant press release proclaiming that the station's listener figures had increased, Virgin gave every journalist recipient the chance to "have fun" and possibly find some "winning figures" too. In short, they attached to every press release a disreputable, greed-driven, lottery ticket.
I WAS one of the few representatives of the press at the Stonewall benefit at the Royal Albert Hall and was left cold by the climax (below left). I have never really understood the humour of people dressing up in drag. But if that's how Kylie Minogue earns her living now, fair enough. Certainly, she/he captures the exuberance and swaggering self-confidence of a young Australian dandy frolicking on Bondi beach, obsessed with showing off his tan, a simulated tin of Fosters lager held to his/her mouth. It's a witty and incisive performance, but it is shown up for the publicity- seeking that it really is by the natural and homely look of Elton John beside her. So much more British.
n MORE bad news for the McCartney family. Linda's veggie burgers have already been taken off the shelves for allegedly containing excess fat. Sadly, I now hear that most of Paul's post-Beatle recordings face being removed from record shops after they were found to contain disproportionate amounts of saccharine. Paul commented: "I am alarmed and disappointed. My intention was always to make raw and meaty records. Something must have gone wrong in the mixing process."
WE ARE at present in the middle of the season rich in invention, imagination and undreamed of hyperbole; the season of filling in university application forms. I long for a national study by the British Psychological Society of one year's Ucas forms as it could tell us so much about 17-year-olds in Britain; little about their lives, but tons about their creative abilities. Rarely can so many people have spent so much time and effort writing about non-existent achievements, interests and nobility of character for the annual autumnal sport of pulling the wool over the eyes of what is enduringly the last bastion of innocence, naivety and gullibility remaining in Britain - university admissions offices. May I help admissions tutors - those guileless men and women - by offering my services as translator for those enigmatic, extra-curricular phrases on the forms now pouring into their offices?
I am gregarious = I have sex quite often.
I am an avid reader = I don't.
I play the violin = my mum made me have lessons when I was 11.
I play football = ditto my dad.
As it happens, the only achievements that admissions officers should take any note of are the ones that they universally scorn - extra-curricular achievements in school. To gain high office there and suffer the scorn of one's peers by working, or ingratiating yourself for it, takes real character. In that regard, I was particularly shocked to read a comment from an admissions tutor at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Urging applicants to list out-of-school activities, he said witheringly: "We don't care if you've been a milk monitor." Why does such world-weary cynicism horrify me? Dear reader, I was a milk monitor. Could there have been a better preparation for university, or indeed life? The lining up of and distribution to an entire year group demands precocious leadership skills; charming the school secretary to get the job is a lesson in office grovelling. Scratch any Cabinet minister and you will find a former milk monitor.
n THERE IS is an interesting debate raging on the pages of Hospital Doctor, the magazine with the intriguing if utterly incomprehensible strapline "The leading weekly newspaper for seniors in all specialities". The journal disclosed research that showed that post-menopausal women who drink three glasses of wine a day may increase their bone density. But the vision of a nation of merry middle-aged women is short-lived. A week later a registrar in psychiatry with the Avon Alcohol Service wrote to the journal to point out that three glasses a day actually puts the said women 50 per cent over the weekly safe limit and increases the risk of alcohol- related falls. Life ain't fair, though doing the research must have been fun.
IT'S VERY bad form to disclose a private pet name. But I couldn't help but overhear, at that Stonewall benefit, Michael Barrymore addressing the show's director, Sir Ian McKellen, as Serena. It was probably not for public dissemination, so please don't tell anyone.
THIS column has two types of reader. Type As have been at work all week, have not noticed anything unusual in the air, and are spending the day relaxing. Type Bs are lying in bed exhausted, their marriages are on the rocks, their voices have packed up after a series of rows, and their children are looking up the number of Childline. Type B readers took last week off work to be with their children over half-term. So, what would you like to do today? look, turn the television off, I haven't taken a week off to watch you watching television, this is a chance for us to chat, how's school going? well try and remember, how's Mrs Johnson? oh, she hasn't been your teacher for the last two years, well, never mind, let's play a game, no, not computerised hedgehogs jumping over a building, a real game, chess or Monopoly, stop saying everything's boring, come on, I'll take you out for a treat, look I didn't know there would be an hour-and-a-half queue for the Star Trek exhibition at the Science Museum, anyway eat your lunch, oh for goodness sake why do you say it had to be a "Happy meal", what's the difference anyway? come on we've got to get to Pocahontas, my God, since when did they put popcorn in massive great buckets, careful where you're putting that, I'm not bloody shouting, and don't keep asking me when I'm going back to work, that's actually rude... A week is a long time in family politics. Photograph by DAVID SANDISON
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