Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In the matter of deadly sins, I am far more likely to covet my neighbour's ox than to submit to jealousy. However, I can't deny that the unlikely success of the Blackburn chanteuse, Miss Susan Boyle, has set my heart aflutter with unusual palpitations.
To be clear, I do not envy the woman her fate. Anyone submitting themselves to the slings and arrows of reality television will come, I suspect, to regret the decision. Reality television, which has little to do with reality, and not much to do with television, is an idiot contest in which victory can quickly come to seem like defeat, as was evidenced by the unfortunate Miss Jade Goody, who was compared in death to Princess Diana, yet had far more in common with the Elephant Man, Mr John Merrick. She was served up as a freak, lived a freak's life, and died a freakish death full of simulated emotion and hard cash. May she rest in peace and be remembered fondly by her family and no one else.
Miss Boyle is slightly different, in that she has talent. She can sing. But singing is not what is being celebrated here. Miss Boyle may have achieved her celebrity on a programme called (with suitable disregard for grammar) Britain's Got Talent, but her fame is based on her ordinariness. Unlike most famous women, she does not resemble a blow-up doll. She has not been "styled", or had botulism injected into the sunken corners of her face. She looks like what she is: a church volunteer from the rusty buckle of the Central Belt. She is, according to The Guardian's overweight columnist Miss Tanya Gold, a "munter". Miss Gold, while not easily confused with Miss Dorothy Parker, is one of Miss Boyle's supporters.
What a strange and perverse world it is that ordinariness should be viewed as being so peculiar. I have known many Susan Boyles. The church is full of them, though usually their talent is expressed in traybakes or melting moments, and not through song. But we have had our share in The Peebles Showboaters; of actors, singers and dancers, some of them as handy with a tune as Miss Boyle, some of them less good-looking, but none of them driven enough to subject themselves to a trial in which the judges, the munter-gatherers, are Mr Simon Cowell - a man whose smile is comprised of artificial teeth so large that they can be viewed from outer space - and Mr Piers Morgan, whose self-love is such that his dressing room mirror could be excused if it collapsed through nervous exhaustion.
My point is straightforward enough. Miss Boyle could sing before she was served up as a high-definition dish on teatime television. She lived a good life with her cat Pebbles, harming no one. That, I think, was her gift. Now she is being patronised by the planet at large. We munters must hope that she, and her blessed pipes, make it through to the other side.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
If the Credit Crunch Sounded Like A Breakfast Cereal, The "Downturn" Is A Meteorological State Which Must Be Endured With Stoicism And Spam
Firstly, an apology. I have been absent from these pages too long. I offer no excuses for my absence. I was in a blue funk and had nothing constructive to say, so decided to adhere to a maxim passed on to me by my mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am). Perhaps in deference to the wartime propaganda posters about loose lips and sinking ships which decorated the pantry, she was an advocate of eloquent silence. "Chatter," she used to say, "is the diarrhea of a constipated mind." (Generally, as a cure for this unpleasant condition, she prescribed fig rolls, before meals, until the bloating abated).
My absence has coincided with the event known by the BBC as "The Downturn", and which was previously known by the much friendlier cognomen, "the credit crunch".
'Credit crunch' sounded, I always thought, like the kind of breakfast cereal Sir Chris Hoy might have eaten before pedalling a Moulton Mini around the lower slopes of Mount Everest, and as a metaphor it was of limited use to those us who have always abhorred money-lending, share-dealing, or any of the forms of licensed gambling which have kept the whinnying nitwits of the Stock Market in Champagne baths while the rest of us have us been left to compute the rising cost a sliced pan loaf. I have neither a borrower nor a lender been yet, for some reason, I am being invited to enjoy the unpleasant side-effects of everyone else's economic incontinence. How this happened under the watch of the Prime Minister (nee "The Iron Chancellor") Mr Gordon Brown, I am unable to say.
So now we have a "Downturn". I am no economist, but the technical explanation of this state of affairs appears to be roughly as follows: the bankers encouraged people who couldn't afford it to take out loans in order to buy things they didn't need, to the extent that their banks had to behave in the same way, borrowing non-existent money from each other and paying themselves monstrous bonuses as a reward for their economic perspicacity. This was cowboy economics, except that the men in the black hats who were robbing the stage coach were the bank managers themselves.
That, of course, is all in the past. The downturn, which is sometimes known as "the recession", occasionally as "the slump" or "the depression", has become an almost meteorological state. There is no other game in town.
And yet, these days do not feel so bad. The supermarkets are still crammed with unnecessary products, and young men still have the wherewithall to fortify their stomachs with communion wine every night. The gutters run with spew just as quickly as they did in the boom years, and the pavements remain sticky with Juicy Fruit. The bust is much like the boom. (Hemlines, it's true, are rising, which is said to be a bellwether of grim times, but this is a hardship that we must learn to bear.)
Stoicism is required. Fortunately I have plenty. I keep it in the coal hole, next to the emergency rations of Marvel and Spam.