The DANube FesTIvAL oF soNg
26 August – 2 september 2011
An outstanding list of internationally acclaimed singers and pianists, performing in appropriate, historic venues along the Danube, all within the span of a week. Contact us for a brochure 020 8742 3355 or visit www.martinrandall.com
Florian Boesch Wolfgang Holzmair Stephan Loges Felicity Lott Christopher Maltman Eva Meier Anna Maria Pammer Renata Pokupic´ Christoph Prégardien Joan Rodgers Birgid Steinberger Elizabeth Watts Roderick Williams
Paul Cibis Imogen Cooper Julius Drake Roger Vignoles The Vienna Piano Trio Speakers: Alfred Brendel Ian Partridge Richard Stokes
M A RTIN R A NDALL MusIc
5085 Jenny McCartney
At what age is one officially expected to embrace adulthood, in these days of perpetually extended adolescence? I turned 40 last week, so I suppose that this is crunch time. But the truth is that — although I made the traditional appalled face when the looming birthday was mentioned: imagine Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit, caught in a wind tunnel — I was looking forward to it. I have been observing what happens to women after 40, and there are various paths from which to choose. You can buy elasticated slacks and let everything go to heck thereafter; or, like Madonna, you can step up to a manic gym’n’Botox regime and arm-twist a weary world into admitting that you’ve ‘still got it’, whatever ‘it’ might be. The first has the whiff of despair, and the second of desperation. Far better is what might be termed ‘the French route’: carry on much as before, with added investment in vaguely scientific skin creams, and the occasional rakishly high heel, just to show you haven’t been sewn into your slippers.
On the day of my birthday, however, I developed a nasty ague, the kind that — like an expensive firework — is mined with delayed surprises: a shivering fit here, a red-raw throat there. On day two, I awoke to find that a demon with a glue gun had sealed my eyelids in the night. Conjunctivitis! Forget the French route, we were heading fast down the medieval dirt-track. When I prised one eye half-open, I could see a small pink orb, like that of a maltreated albino rabbit, swivelling in the mirror. Welcome to 40. As Professor Brian Cox once opined, in the days when he was but a humble keyboard player in the pop group D:Ream, things can only get better.
Fortunately, there is already one event to look forward to: the chance to vote No to AV on 5 May. My polling card is poised on the mantelpiece. There are many reasons to shun AV, which compels the voter to grade parliamentary candidates according to the intensity of one’s dislike (like forcing a child to rate, in order of preference, liver, chicken gizzards and tripe). But its worst aspect is the threat of more coalition governments.
People think of coalitions as a recipe for sensible compromise, when really they are full of surly brinkmanship and diffused responsibility. Nick Clegg traded the chance to take a stand on university tuition fees for an AV referendum, thereby exchanging the exercise of power for the promise of additional clout in the future. Judging from the resulting dog’s dinner of policy on fees, one Cleggalition is more than enough.
free in next week’s issue. On sALe friDAY 8 APriL
www.spectator.co.uk/scoff Spring 2011
Alain Ducasse: spring recipe Taste test: British charcuterie Dan Jellinek on airline food Peter Grogan sips rum Imogen Lycett Green: lunch with Jilly Cooper
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Up, and out in the spring sunshine to the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, to peer with my pink eyes at Watteau’s drawings. I am struck, not just by the vivid exactness of his execution, but the pleasing humility of his materials: red, black and white chalk on paper. There is one appealingly casual drawing of a semi-nude woman on a day-bed, examining her left foot. It calls to mind the difference between pornography and eroticism: pornography imposes the uniform of desire upon its faceless subject; eroticism teases out the particular allure of the person already there.
Across the road in Fortnum & Mason, the air is delicately scented with tea and cologne. Just the next day, it is ‘occupied’ by a group called UK Uncut, which was founded by a 22-year-old Oxford graduate, Thom Costello, who looks as though he would be more at ease tucking into a Fortnum’s hamper than most. Their headline pretext was alleged tax avoidance, but on their press release a supporter, one Sally Mason from Manchester, stridently described the store as ‘a symbol of wealth and greed. It is where the royal family and the superrich do their weekly shop.’ Only someone very young could manage to sound quite so ludicrously self-righteous.
Yet for most visitors, Fortnum’s is not really a shop at all, but a free form of London theatre. People of all incomes go there to pass a pleasant hour exclaiming softly among the biscuit tins, and generally leave clutching a £5.75 packet of fudge, which isn’t bad value for a bit of fun, and less than the UK Uncut squad no doubt splashed out on beers on the way home. It reminds me of the time my granny returned to Belfast after a trip to London in the late 1970s, triumphantly brandishing the green and gold Harrods bag which at the time signalled the height of English refinement. ‘What did you buy?’ we all squealed in excitement. Her gaze took on a dreamy aspect, as if remembering the grandeur she had witnessed. ‘A pound of sausages,’ she said.
Jenny McCartney is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph the spectator | 2 April 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk