Magazine article The Spectator

Boring for Britain

Magazine article The Spectator

Boring for Britain

Article excerpt

No need for the gridiron; hell is other people,' said Sartre. Cutting Edge's The Dinner Party (Channel 4) this week showed what he meant. Watching it was almost as hellish as being there, without the consolation of being drunk or the relief afforded by commercial breaks. The cast of real people, who'd answered an ad in the Sunday Telegraph, were depicted in the prepublicity as fascist beasts, but in fact they were mostly classic examples of the Great British Bore. Goodness, they were dull.

Who thinks such people are rarities? You meet them all the time. Taxi drivers, strangers who insist on talking to you on trains, afternoon drinkers, some Tory MPs, distant relatives who grab you at weddings and ask why, if there's so much unemployment, they can't find anyone to paint their fence, women with voices which could split a cantaloupe across Harrods' food hall, the awful husband of that really nice woman you would love to invite but you'd have to ask him as well . . . the country is crawling with them. You just make certain they don't come to your house.

It started fairly well. One of the women told a story which ended with the challenging line: `It's Mary's dildo, go and put that back where you found it!', but things went downhill from there. I feel sorry for teetotallers. For them, sociable evenings must be like this all the time. `Criminals should be sterilised so that you can stop the longterm, the long-term . . . sorry, my brain is grinding to a halt,' said one guest. `We had a pony called Jemima, who was a lesbian' (that said earnestly, as if it was a useful contribution to a discussion of homosexuality. Useful little word 'queer', before the bigots took it over).

`If you choose to sleep on the Embankment in a doorway, that in itself is a freedom, no ties, no responsibilities, like going to prison, everything's looked after, so what's the problem?' Imagine having to listen to that stuff sober. You'd get desperate. `Excuse me, I'll just nip out for half an hour and find a prostitute,' you'd want to say, or, `If you don't mind, I think I'll chew my arm off at this point.'

Jon, the musician, who suffered from a debilitating condition which made him want to think before opening his mouth, looked miserable throughout. There were occasional vicious cutaways of other guests looking bored beyond any tolerable limit. Then the wobbly, from the woman who had been silenced by braying men. 'I won't shut up, I'll leave rather than shut the fuck up, so fuck it!' I can't really blame her. Rather like Harry Enfield's public service announcement, there was a general view among the chaps that women shouldn't think too much because their brains fill up. …

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