Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A Third Week of Wonders

My early week was spent wondering about Tim Hunt and whether we couldn't all just have jeered at him for being an idiot, rather than insisting he lose his job. What I wondered about most was whether insisting that he did lose his job sends the message that we women are all a bit pathetic and easily hurt and can't just use scorn in situations of this sort, because we don't feel strong enough. At the same time, I also wondered whether Boris Johnson wasn't possibly the very last person in the entire universe that I needed to be told by that Tim Hunt should be reinstated.

Later in the week I went on to wonder about feminism and how it fits with the very easy way in which women jeer at the likes of Ann Widdecombe and Sophie Mirabella, both female politicians, both conservatives, both probably not particularly likeable - but probably only as dislikeable as countless of their male colleagues. There is something about a woman who is conservative and doesn't care about making herself attractive to the opposite sex - or who cannot manage to, I don't know which - that seems to make other women, usually of the other political persuasion, think that it is all right to sneer at them in a much nastier way than they sneer at anyone else on the political stage. It always disgusted me the way that Widdecombe was sniggered at, simply because she didn't conform to the idea of a 'liberated woman'. Sometimes I think women police themselves far more harshly than men have ever policed them (us).

This thread of wondering was somewhat muddied or tangled or whatever by a hearing of the beginning of the News Quiz on Radio 4, As the panellists threw around Michael Gove's name with the abandon of those who have never considered that anyone might disagree with them, I began to wonder whether I'd got the whole women against women thing wrong. The venom and spite with which Michael Gove is routinely discussed is as intense as anything directed at unattractive women who dare to be confident. One thing I became certain of was that the day the News Quiz devotes a tenth of the energy it devotes to hating Gove to making fun of Putin is the day I will listen to the programme again, (although, unless I endure it each week to see if it has changed its ways, I wonder how I'll ever know). Actually, even if they didn't worry about Putin but just went back to being absurdly hilarious, rather than treating each episode like a ghastly party-political half hour of point scoring, I'd be really pleased. Those happy days when Alan Coren would go off on an extended reminisce about dancing classes conducted by an ex-Army sergeant, how I miss them.

I also listened to Start the Week, on which Grayson Perry claimed that being an artist allows you to escape Britain's class system. I wondered if that meant that Australians are kinds of artists (con-artists [geddit, con, eh, eh, eh?]?) as many Australians claim that the British find them/us troublingly difficult to classify.

The reason I listened to so much radio is that I was on a long car journey and, at the instigation of my husband, I also endured Desert Island Discs. I can't really bear it now that Kirsty Young is the hostess, as she is one of those broadcasters who have wet voices on radio - not wet in the Fotherington-Thomas sense, but in the sense tht you hear the wetness of the inside of their mouths as they speak. It makes me squirm. But not as much as Stephen Fry himself did, (and heavens to Betsy, someone's just told me, it is NOT HIS FIRST GO on the show). He chose good music, but I wonder if I was the only person who thought he managed to pull off an entire hour, (or however long it was - it seemed close to eternity to me), of full-on, world-class humble brag. Sickening, I found it. Even thinking about it makes me feel queasy.

Finally, I listened to endless Archers episodes. I am beyond wondering how various characters ended up in the situations they have ended up in - nothing used to happen in the Archers and that was the whole point; not any more; it's like Eastenders with added mooing. What I did wonder though is whether I am the only person in the world who always thinks of Edwina Currie when the Lilian character comes on.

I also, separately, wondered whether Peter Hitchens is the United Kingdom's answer to Gerard Henderson - or whether Gerard Henderson is Australia's answer to Peter Hitchens. They are both certainly intensely serious, well-meaning blokes who I suspect were bullied as children and thus whenever anyone teases them a bit they get terribly hurt and stiff and prickly. It's sad, because people then think they're not 'good sports', (although I wonder if that isn't just a term used when people want to condone their own needling of others who are sensitive - but, if I think that, I suppose I should agree that Tim Hunt should have lost his job. Oh it is all so tricky).

This led me on to wondering whether there are merely a dozen templates and everyone is really an answer to one of them, like my great friend years ago, who had four sisters and when you saw them all together, you saw how they were all really cut from the same basic outline, with tiny variations. They weren't identical, but they were like those paper chain dolls one used to cut out as a child. It wasn't that they were like their parents either. They weren't, although their mother was also one of five sisters, and they too were all like paper chain dolls, different but clearly cut from the same shape.

And then I remembered that wonderful play I saw at the Old Vic, Dancing at Lughnasa, which starred various Cusack sisters. I wondered if anyone else remembered it. It was marvellous. It was one of the best evenings I've ever spent.

So I find myself, as last week, thinking about past theatrical experiences. I wonder if theatre is my favourite thing in the world.


  1. I've never noticed Kirsty Young's wetness, but I only hear her when I'm driving and it's probably drowned out by the engine noise. My hear sank when it was announced that she was replacing Sue Lawley, but I think she's proved to be a far more intelligent and intuitive interviewer than most of us expected.

    As for Stephen Fry, I find him disappointing. He showed so much promise when he was young, but he's dissipated his talents and ended up as a second rate writer, a third rate actor and a first rate chat show guest - a Peter Ustinov for our times.

    I haven't enjoyed the News Quiz for a long time and if Jeremy Hardy hosts the show, I'll never listen again. I find the smug humour and predictable political stance very boring.

    I still haven't listened to a full episode of The Archers.

    1. That Fry/Ustinov apercu is brilliant. I think Miles Jupp has been appointed at the News Quiz - was he the deputy in Rev (you probably never watched it & have no idea)? Anyway, if he is, I like him & might even try listening again. Re The Archers, don't tell your friend, but you've missed nothing. I liked it better when it was calm nothing rather than shouty nothing. Now there's only the cricket to listen to for that soothing background noise effect.

  2. A local NPR affiliate used to broadcast its own Desert Island Disks. The host had the attitude that Nora Ephron once designated "shall I compare me to a summer's day": a man of deep self-satisfaction. I remember very little of what was ever broadcast on it. For that matter, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, NPR affiliate had it's own DID. The one time I heard it, they had on a state legislator who I thought had found it difficult to come up with ten decent selections.

    NPR has its own news quiz, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." One of my Saturday ambitions is to be out of earshot of the radio when this is on. The intense self-satisfaction of the host and panel annoy me, and that audiences turn out for this stuff on a Saturday morning produces what the Pentagon used to refer to as "shock and awe".

    1. Re the man who found it hard to come up with ten tracks, I have to admit that I never of my own volition put music on and might find it equally hard. Although probably not - I do like music when I hear it; it's just that I came from a household that never listened to it, unlike my husband's family home where you can barely hear yourself speak when his mother soundly decides that 'this place is like a morgue' and puts on Brahms or whatever. A propos of always wanting to be out of earshot, I'm reminded of a rather solemn Austrian friend I used to have who, when I asked him about some grammatical point, got all nostalgic about a radio programme on which this point he suddenly remembered had been covered. It was his favourite weekly event, this programme. It was called 'Achtung, Sprachpolizei' and his mother would come and call him if he was in the garden when it started and he would run in full of excitement. Small pleasures are definitely the best.