Death by blackberry22nd September 2019
Just back from yet another walk around the North Norfolk coast where I nearly killed myself by overstretching for a very fat blackberry across a clump of brambles/nettles/ditch. I find it almost impossible to walk past a clump of brambles and ignore the shiny little devils winking at me. ‘Oh look, that’s a good one,’ I say to myself. ‘Oh but look that’s even better.’ ‘STOP look at that one!’ It gets to the point where I have to force myself to hurry along without looking at the hedge, an addict in sensible walking boots.
In other news I went to Sandringham this weekend which was bliss. Highlights: Meghan and Kate breakfast tea in the gift shop, the Queen Mother’s racing buggy, furious photographs of Queen Mary everywhere, the corgis’ gravestones, staff who sang like canaries about the place eg did you know that the Queen has ALL her menus in French, in all her houses? I appreciate this might not be a life-changing fact for many but I was quite gripped by it. I went years ago when I wrote a piece about Norfolk for Tatler and some grandee up here thundered that Sandringham was the ‘ugliest house in Britain’. It’s really not *that* bad.
OH and on Friday morning, various people texted me saying that the King’s Troop were on BBC Breakfast and exercising on Holkham beach so I pulled my gumboots on and headed down. I got talking to one guy who’d been kicked out of school aged 16, went to an equestrian centre, realised he loved horses and signed up. His horse was called Slug so what I’m thinking is book four might involve soldiers and and Slug.
BOOK UPDATE: last week I hit 35,000 words of number three – hooooooooray – and am really really loving writing it. Fatal to say that as I shall probably now have a week where I can’t write a single word and wish I ran a cake shop instead. But every day I sit here on this sofa cross-legged, laptop in my lap (I almost never write on a desk or table which is possible why I had to go and see a physio last week), laughing at my own jokes. Tragic. It’s the first book I’ve written in which there are real baddies. Well, kind of baddies. More malicious characters than I’ve written before anyway and writing them is FUN. This week we also agreed its title which…I can’t reveal yet. But I love and think it’s wonderful.
Last week’s Standard column HERE. (No column tomorrow since the fortnightly thing is kicking off from now.) Last weekend’s Tel col below.
Whoops, what a howler. Far be it for me to criticise a magazine I used to work for but this week Tatler landed themselves in a spot of bother for publishing a list of Britain’s top ten social-climbers, awarding the Duchess of Sussex first place and calling her ‘underprivileged.’ Cue screaming outrage online because Meghan Markle was never underprivileged. The daughter of a yoga instructor mum and a father who won an Emmy for lighting directing (before he moved to Mexico and embarked on his second career as a frustrated media spokesman for himself), Meghan grew up in Hollywood and went to a private Catholic school before studying at Illinois’ Northwestern University, so grand it’s almost considered Ivy League. No great hardships, there.
Thousands of protestors commented underneath an Instagram post that Tatler posted, then edited, then deleted altogether. The gist was that calling Meghan underprivileged was ignorant and racist because it made assumptions about her upbringing, based on her race, which a three-second Google could have corrected. Well, yes, quite. But had the magazine printed these details from the start, I’m betting the list would still have been met with fury in certain quarters because accusing someone of social climbing isn’t very woke during these entrenched times of class warfare.
For Sunday Telegraph readers confused by this word, pay attention. To be woke means to be aware and perhaps fairly vocal about today’s social injustices. And look out there at the frontbenches where Old Etonian cabinet ministers loll horizonal as if they’ve just had a jolly decent three-course lunch at Wiltons. Down with the class system! Down with Old Etonians! Down with three-course lunches unless they’re nut-based and served on plates made of repurposed cow dung!
Talk of social climbing is repugnant to such activists because it implies that the class system remains and that some people still want to fling themselves up it. I’m sorry to reveal this is true. Meghan has been put in pole position on this social climbing list, ahead of Jerry Hall and Richard Caring, because for Tatler and for plenty of others, marrying into the Royal family is still seen as the pinnacle of achievement, right up there with finding a cure for malaria or owning three Labradors. Not that long ago, I overheard a sixty-something Home Counties mother discussing her daughter’s engagement with a friend. ‘He works at JP Morgan,’ said the mother. ‘Oh what a clever girl!’ replied the friend, practically clapping her hands with glee. Jeremy Corbyn is going to have to work much, much [itals please] harder if he wants to level that playing field.
To those who are furious about this I have two things to say. Firstly, while you might not like the phrase ‘social climbing’, you may well call it something else. You probably call it ‘networking’.
Secondly, pay no attention to magazine lists. I used to write them and they’re only designed to attract noise. There also tends to be quite literally no research behind them. ‘Who do you fancy at the moment?’ the social editor used to ask when the annual ‘Most Eligible’ Little Black Book issue of Tatler rolled round, and we’d fill the pages with whoever we wanted to snog at the subsequent party. I spent hours at the bar trying to chat up Josh Lewsey one year but had to take myself home when I realised I’d drunk too much.
Paul McCartney has revealed that his grandchildren call him ‘Grandude’. Nothing to do with ‘Hey Jude’, apparently. ‘One of my grandkids, who used to call me ‘Grandad’, just happened one day to say ‘Grandude’ and it stuck,’ explains Sir Paul. How apt. But he’s not the only one shrugging off the grandparent label. Alternative nickname are becoming the norm these days since some can’t stomach the ageing idea of being ‘Granny’ or ‘Grandpa’ and families are a hodge-podge. My Dad, technically step-grandfather to two girls, is ‘Babu’ to them, an Indian term of endearment. Another friend tells me her daughter calls Grandpa ‘Bopper’. A 60-something I know is ‘Yaya’ (Greek for ‘grandmother’) so she feels less ancient. Nobody, however, is as unfortunate as one friend’s mother who lives near a dairy and so has inevitably become ‘Granny Cow.’
I roll my eyes whenever I see it. A woman in the public eye – normally Kate Middleton but most recently Carrie Symonds – applauded in a headline for being thrifty and ‘recycling’ a dress that they’re wearing. It’s absurd. This isn’t recycling, it’s called ‘wearing the same dress more than once’. The Marie Antoinettish idea that women in the public eye are being ‘frugal’ if they wear something again is ludicrous these days given the momentum behind the anti-fast fashion movement, which is trying to encourage us all to make better use of our wardrobes instead of nipping down to Zara or Topshop for a new frock when we have a party coming up. As I increasingly find myself muttering these days in the manner of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, can everyone stop being so silly?