Saturday, 28 April 2012


For many happy years I lived in Wales, the land of Ap and Apt. Ap, like Mac, means “son of” and predates surnames. Apt as a description, as in my half Indian neighbour who was known as “Glyndustani”. A.A. Gill, the TV critic, employs a similar well worn device in his column. Thus Claire Balding, who makes no secret of her sexual preferences, he memorably christened the “Dyke on a Bike”. Unfortunately she rose to the bait and he achieved more of the publicity which he craves. It is a craving that created his career. Many years ago when he was a run of the mill feature writer he was sent on a tour of Welsh restaurants. I was a restaurant critic myself and know from wide experience that there are more good restaurants in North Wales than bad ones. Gill tirelessly sought out the bad ones and wrote about them disapprovingly. Alas, the Welsh have a Celtic chip on their shoulders and they still have not forgiven us for Edward I, even though the 15,000 strong army which he used to subjugate North Wales was largely made up of South Walians. To them, A.A.Gill was Edward I reincarnate and they responded with a torrent of abuse, widely recorded by the Welsh press. They could not have done Gill a greater service. For a writer to be controversial ensures a career boost. His editor on the Sunday Times appointed him food critic and at every opportunity he reviled the Welsh to goad them into further publicity barrages. In that way did Wales make a bright star of what, in talent, was a mere glow worm. Any writer will tell you that insults are much easier to write than peons of praise. So when the Times also appointed him as its TV columnist the result was predictable. His general views of TV were sound but his comments on presenters and programmes verged on libel. That meant in turn that the programmes he chose were hardly ever mainstream and his taunts were usually about presenters. His latest has brought him just the response he loves. Mary Beard is a professor of Classics at Cambridge University. She is a joy to read and she has done more than most to open the classical world to the modern reader. Unfortunately she has chosen to look like a Tracey Emin’s unmade bed. She scorns the comb and loathes make up. Personally I disapprove of people who appear on television unkempt and unappetising. However, Professor Beard has chosen to look at ordinary Romans rather than their rulers and the result is fascinating. By the time the second programme was aired I was so gripped by her forensic examination of Downstairs Rome I could only envy the undergraduates who are fortunate enough to be taught by her. Gill, typically, ignored the programme and went for the presenter. “For someone who looks this closely at the past,” he wrote, “it is strange she hasn’t had a closer look at herself before stepping in front of a camera. Beard coos over corpses’ teeth without apparently noticing she is wearing them. “From behind she is 16; from the front, 60. The hair is a disaster, the outfit an embarrassment.” The Professor responded: “That was a shock at the time. But get real, I find myself thinking on reflection, it’s both sexist and beside the point. “Sure, I don’t wear make-up. I have nothing against those who do if it gives them pleasure, but actually I feel happy enough in my own skin not to feel I want to bother with it. I don’t dye my hair for the same reason. To the charge of having big, tombstone teeth, I plead guilty. I inherited them from my mum, just as I did her uncompromising double chin. I’m every inch the 57-year-old wife, mum and academic, half-proud of her wrinkles, her crow’s feet, even her hunched shoulders from all those misspent years poring over a library desk. “I could even try a Socratic point here. Like the great Greek philosopher, I look a mess. But actually, if you took the trouble to listen to him, he had something valuable to impart.” Oh that the same were true of A.A. Gill who is not above criticism. Although the rule is that no non-military gentleman wears the kilt south of the River Tay, he chooses to wander round the metropolis, a kilted dwarf, a sort of effete Rob Roy. INHUMAN RESOURCES A blundering Aviva Investors worker has accidentally 'sacked' 1,300 staff by email after forwarding a 'goodbye' email to everyone. The message, sent out by the company's human resources department on Friday, was supposed to go to one worker who was leaving that day. It told all staff: 'I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and wish you all the best for the future.' AS IF ONE WOULD...... Forget about the curse of Hello magazine, celebrities keen on opening their heart to a former national newspaper editor might think twice before going on Piers Morgan's ITV1 chat show. We only mention this after the Daily Star suggested the talk show might be jinxed after ill fortune struck a series of the show's guests, including Cheryl Cole, David Hasselhoff, Katie Price and Bill Roach. "It's being called the curse of Piers," a TV source told the newspaper. "There is huge concern in the business." NEWS TO SOME Professor James Lovelock, the scientist who developed the Gaia theory, has said it is too late to try and save the planet. The man who achieved global fame for his theory that the whole earth is a single organism now believes that we can only hope that the earth will take care of itself in the face of completely unpredictable climate change – news item. Pretty obvious that climate change is unpredictable. The government has only to announce a drought for the heavens to open. I suspect Gaia has a mischievous sense of humour SMART ADVERT Source: ________________________________________ Spirit Airlines last week launched a sale to Cartagena, Colombia, in the wake of the Secret Service prostitution scandal. But a South African airline one-upped the ante by targeting its country's president. South African president Jacob Zuma married his fourth wife this past weekend and the nation's low-cost carrier, Kulula Airlines, launched a "Fourth Wife Flies Free" promotion on Facebook.