There was a curious incident with a microphone during the Conservative manifesto launch. David Cameron gave his speech in the usual manner – tepid, uninspiring, broadly competent – and then took questions from the gathered journalists. Whenever he pointed to a journalist a party worker would dash over and stick the microphone out by their mouth. Several journalists tried to hold it, as is usually the way with these things, but she kept it firmly in her grip. Clearly she'd been instructed not to give it to them. Journalists with a microphone can ask follow-up questions. Cameron hates follow up questions, because they are the only way to really hold someone to account. One question is useless. You ask something damaging, the politician appears to address the question, then deploys a bridging phrase, and then just ignores it and talks about whatever he wants to talk about.
Some debate in the Old Doom Bar lately over the success of Poldark. In particular, there has been discussion of the stir caused by Aidan Turner’s torso as recently revealed. The series location being our native heath so to speak we are hopeful of increased tourist traffic as lust crazed matrons from up country flood into the Duchy in search of our brooding and muscular menfolk.
To say that EL James has opened doors with her erotic 50 Shades trilogy is an understatement. We all know about the phenomenal success that she has personally accumulated on the back of it, but the repercussions reverberate far beyond her personal good fortune. Erotica in general, and erotic romance in particular, has blasted its way off the top shelf and into the kindles and paperbacks devoured in bedrooms, beaches and book groups.
I bump into Friend en route to the tube and she can see I’m wearing my date outfit: skinny jeans in high boots and a sort of rock chick top that reveals little, but taken as a whole conjures three words: smart, sensuous, sassy. I hope. “Funny how we all wanted to be nurses when we were little girls,” she smiles looking at the headline on my Evening Standard: ‘The Medical Director of NHS England says “system is creaking under pressure”’. “So,” says Friend, “another date? Why this particular guy?” “Profile reads well enough – at least he can punctuate his prose.”
Much merriment in the Old Doom Bar over the judges caught watching porn on the judicial network. The spin-doctors showed subtlety and kindliness in their description of the culprits as ‘junior’ judges and the porn in question as ‘not of the illegal or child porn sort’.
Life out here doesn’t mean isolation from the Überkultur of the metropolis. It is true that great ballet or world class orchestras don’t seem to make it (for fairly obvious reasons) but ‘alternative comedy’ certainly does. So it was that in one week we have been treated to visits from Simon Amstell and Stewart Lee: both on tour, the latter ostensibly to try out new material on a grateful but suitably unpredictable audience as we ‘edgies’ tend to be. It is also worth noting that the rail service enables access to interesting events such as Grayson Perry’s recent appearance at the Royal Institution on the topic of What is Art Best At?
He's out there. That’s what your friends and family will tell you. And who am I to disagree? We’re all here today because men and women have been pairing off for sex, love and the whole nine yards quite a while before Blind Date hit our screens 25 years ago. I’m sitting in my Friend’s house overlooking the river and we’re drinking large glasses of Merlot. Light fading, there’s a lapping tranquillity beyond the picture window as trunk-thighed rowers carry long boats on their heads. Friend pushes the olive bowl towards me and touches my arm. “If I was in your position, I’d make a list of what I’m looking for in a man, and find him through online dating.”
The frozen bison grass vodka was flowing on Tuesday, and as Ognisko's stylish restaurant started to fill up we, the speakers, had a great time ensuring a little Dutch courage was present. The Editor at Large (Copstick), The Political Editor (Ian Dunt), the International Editor (Ali May, who compèred brilliantly) and the Editor (Jamie Maclean), that is. And it seemed our guest speakers, Sarah-Jane Lovett, Nichi Hodgson and Jonathon Green (aka Bob Logic, aka Mr Slang) weren't feeling much pain either.
When did you develop a taste for reading – where and what would you read? I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, spending hours lying on my stomach on the grass or my bed depending on the weather. My parents are amongst the best read people I know (barring erotica) and our house was full of books. Once I was too old for Beatrix Potter I used to read alien tales such as Heidi and Little House on the Prairie, aspirational stories such as Ballet Shoes, the plain silly St Clare's series (banned by my own convent boarding school) and the thoughtful Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, and then I'd pretend to be one of the heroines, drifting round the garden talking to myself.
We may hate Disney for many things: the xenophobic racism of old Walt’s hiring policies, the ‘family-orientated’ banality of its cartoons, the destruction-cum-dumbing down of as any children’s classics as its millions can buy, but, for those whose reading matter requires but a single hand, its greatest sin is the destruction of 42nd Street, New York City and especially the blocks between 6th and 8th Avenues. Prior to their gelding by the Mouse, what a cornucopia of delight those seedy blocks offered the pornophile.