SOME COLUMNS9th September 2019
LAST WEEK’S Evening Standard number HERE. Yesterday’s Sun Tel column below. I meant to put this post up yesterday but was so hungover that I couldn’t write a word. I hope I don’t sound like a teenager who’s just had his first beer, but I was in a bad way. I’ve come to Norfolk to write my next book, to squirrel myself away for three months and write like crazy and then walk on the beach in the afternoons and think about the writing. Repeat. And yet I seem to have landed in the most frenetically social area of the country bar London. Having written about the Turnip Toffs up here (!), I could perhaps have predicted this. But my invitation from Anmer is yet to arrive, so instead this weekend I went for dinner with a friend and had to stay over because we all played a furiously competitive game of Linkee and I drank too much red wine. Then went to another friend’s for lunch yesterday where they forced a glass of champagne on me when I arrived. (Not much of a sob story, I grant you.) I slunk home afterwards to the house on the marshes with the Sunday papers and threw myself into an armchair to watch the tide come in while not reading a single word about Brexit because I couldn’t concentrate on it. I started watching The Looming Tower (Amazon) in the end because one of the mags recommended it. Am now two in and so far so good, if you need something new to watch. It’s based on the same-titled book about the rise of Osama bin Laden.
The list of accusations levelled at Millennials grows daily now. We cannot afford to buy houses because we eat too many avocados. All that avocado eating is causing bloodshed in Mexico because, as demand for them has grown, the drug cartels want a piece of the action. We’re too chicken to answer a doorbell. We’re ‘the most prudish generation in history’ (sorry, have you ever heard of the Victorians?), and having so little sex the human race may well die out. And on it goes. Endless slurs thrown at the impoverished, vitamin-depleted, sad and celibate Millennial to which we must now add another: we are no good at DIY.
Apparently, we’re ‘scared’ by the noise of tools such as power drills and ‘intimidated’ by electric saws and nail guns, as if the normal approach to such equipment would be to ask them to hop into bed with us (if only we weren’t such prudes, eh?). Another line in this report which I like very much says that 49 per cent of us are ‘completely baffled’ by spirit levels, a bit like those evacuee children during the war who were dispatched to the countryside and couldn’t recognise a cow. Ergo, no DIY for us.
I am happy to confirm this. I cannot fix shelves. I have little understanding about which nail goes into which surface. I once tried to return a packet of those plastic picture hooks with three prongs in them because I thought the prongs were facing the wrong way for the wall (reader, they were not facing the wrong way). Recently, when two spotlights blew in my flat, I had to get a man over to change them for me. I did this via an app called Task Rabbit. Because as with everything else in our lives these days – taxis, takeaways, controlling our central heating, trying to meet members of the opposite sex so that we don’t actually make ourselves extinct – there’s an app for DIY jobs.
I typed in the details – in this case, ‘change two lightbulbs in my ceiling’ – selected when I wanted someone and, hey presto, along came a nice if short Italian chap who had to return to his van and get a step-ladder which he then erected on top of my mattress in order to reach the spotlights. Wobbling like a gymnast on a balance beam, he fiddled about with them while clouds of plaster and dust rained on my duvet. But after 20 minutes or so, the job was done and I was billed automatically for those minutes, not an hour like certain firms, and off he went with his step-ladder again.
Is this division of labour not more efficient than building up a stockpile of expensive power tools which you rarely use? Or which, when you do bring them out, you realise you need to charge for several hours before punching unnecessary holes in your walls and quite possibly yourself? I cannot conceive of a situation where my life might depend on my ability to wield a spirit level and I am happy to entrust another with that responsibility. Does that make me a feeble, lily-livered sort who’ll be among the first to go when the Day of Judgment arrives? Nah, I’ll be alright. I’ve got a plan as cunning as any of Baldrick’s – I’ll just bribe my way out with a bowl of homemade guacamole.
The British Museum may be losing its marbles. Greece has asked for a ‘temporary loan’ of the of the Elgins as the country prepares to celebrate its 200th year of independence in 2021. The museum has replied that Greece must acknowledge British ownership before it packs them in boxes for the voyage. A word of advice to Greece on this matter – don’t forget the marbles that the 10th Earl of Elgin has in his big house outside Edinburgh. I saw them when I interviewed him a few years ago. After the 7th Earl ransacked the Parthenon in 1816, the family got to keep ‘the bits the museum didn’t want’, his great-grandson told me. The current Earl also relayed a good yarn about a visit from George VI to their house after the war. “Still got all the loot then!”’ the King apparently remarked.
There’s been online carping about Jack Russells this week after it was revealed that Dylin, a sweet-faced rescue puppy, was moving into No 10. ‘I pity the neighbours, horrible little yappy rats,’ said one. ‘I know for a fact that Jack Russells don’t get on with cats,’ declared another. ‘Ankle biters! Should have got a proper dog,’ grumbled someone else and so on. What a load of nonsense. Having grown-up with a Jack Russell called Tadpole, I know them to be adorable, friendly little things, excellent with children, and unswervingly loyal. Tadpole never yapped, either. As ever with dogs, their behaviour depends on the level of attention their receive from their owner. Which should be fine because, ah, well, yes, over to you, Prime Minister…