Why being a bad loser (and lying) is a Very Great Crime18th February 2019
Will paste column below. Have only used a picture of Richard E Grant to illustrate it because he is an example of a very good sport, as opposed to the other miserable git I mention in my intro. I interviewed him once at Tatler, just after he launched his
perfume fragrance scent oh why can’t we just call it perfume? Anyway, he was as cheerful as you can imagine – talked as if a Dickens character, bounced around the studio like Tigger.
Also, click HERE for a piece I wrote for YOU mag yesterday, about whether men or women lie more. I have canvassed opinion among friends and family on this topic in the past few weeks and it generally causes a shouty row to develop. Men swear they’re honest and never lie, that it’s us women who are the Jezebels. The women scoff from the other side of the table. Hmmm…
I don’t like to tell tales (poor form), but I spotted some astonishingly bad manners at the BAFTAs last weekend. It was just as a certain category was announced and the cameras were trained on the five nominees’ faces.
‘And the BAFTA goes to…’ The winner was declared, whereupon one of the unlucky nominees turned to their date and – very clearly – mouthed ‘sh*t film’ at her. They said this twice, actually, because the date didn’t hear the first time so it was repeated. ‘Sh*t film’.
What a bad loser, I huffed to my friend Clare, watching with me. Clare said she wasn’t much bothered and wanted to see more of Kate Middleton’s dress. But I was all the more shocked because it seemed so thick – if you’re lucky enough to be nominated, that’s the very moment you keep a smile plastered from cheek to cheek. If you’re not the winner, then you have to clap so hard your hands might fall off.
Being a bad loser has long been a very great crime in Britain. I learned this early, aged about five on the walk we often did in the Sussex village where I grew up. As usual, I challenged my brother – 15 months younger than me – to a race along the final stretch of the road, around the church, to our drive. Moments later, I was surprised to find I couldn’t move. Mum had clamped her arms around me so that Drum could win for once. In the 28 years since this incident, I’m not sure I’ve ever been as angry. I lay down on the road and screamed, kicking my little wellington boots up and down on the tarmac. It was as if I was auditioning for the role as Just William’s Violet Elizabeth Bott; ‘I’ll thcream and thcream until I’m thick.’ Mum, sensibly, ignored me and carried on towards the house with Drum, pushing our sister in a pram. I remained in place until a car came along and stopped. Down went a window, which an elderly woman extended her head through. ‘Are you alright?’ she said.
It was instantly shaming. Course I was alright. I was just Making A Scene, another great crime. So I nodded wordlessly and got up, then ran off towards Mum. Apart from the odd spike of fury during a Scrabble game, I’ve managed to control my megalomaniac tendencies ever since.
We all have McEnroe moments. A hot sense of injustice takes over during tennis or backgammon (or an awards ceremony), and we become primal and irrational. But the trick is not to show it. Although we’re encouraged to talk openly about every single feeling and thought in our head these days, there are still a few sacred occasions when you should shut it and act pleased. When your sister puts a hotel on Park Lane, for instance. Or when someone trumps you to an acting trophy. My seven-year-old niece beat me at Uno recently, but I was very magnanimous, said ‘well done’ and told her crisply it was bath time.
You mustn’t be Henry VIII who was beaten at cards by Catherine Howard shortly before she had her head lopped off. Ok, she was also dropping her knickers for male courtiers. But as a former bad loser myself, I suspect the card game had something to do with it.
Bien joué to the French mayor who’s banned ‘excessive dog barking’ in his town and issued a decree saying anyone who can’t keep their dog quiet will be slapped with a £60 fine. I say this not as a dog hater. I love them. Ask Trumpet, my mother’s Parson Jack Russell, and he’ll tell you I’m always throwing him stones (he’d addicted to picking up and retrieving stones – a sweet chap but not so bright). French animal rights activists have criticised the edict but the Mayor has stood firm. Quite right. He’s not trying to ban dogs, just protect them. Whenever I hear a poor dog yelping away at night, I always think it’s the owners who should be given a good talking to, or not have a dog in the first place if they can’t look after them. Might we consider a similar fine for those noise polluters who seem to have lost their earplugs and play music or Peppa Pig aloud from their phones in public?
Desert Island Discs was named the greatest radio programme of all time this week, reminding me of my favourite episode. In 1981, Princess Margaret was interviewed by Roy Plomley – ma’am this, ma’am that – and it’s a splendiferous 40 minutes. At one juncture, HRH demands Scotland The Brave played ‘by the pipes and drums of my own regiment.’ At another, Plomley asks her about moving into Buckingham Palace when Margaret was six, following the abdication.
‘It must be a very daunting place, from its sheer size?’ he suggests.
‘Well no,’ comes back the tart reply. ‘Buckingham Palace is a very cosy house.’ Except she pronounces house ‘hice.’ It’s magnificent. Download it from the Desert Island Discs archive (they’re all on there) immediately.
(HERE IS A LINK TO MARGARET’S DID IF YOU’RE TOO IDLE TO GOOGLE IT. Also, while looking for that link and a suitable picture of PM, I found several snaps of her in some quite silly hats. See below. A bit of jolliness for a Monday morning, no?)