Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Further evidence of the imminent collapse of Western civilisation arrives, as usual, from the knitwear manufacturer Benetton. They write, proudly enclosing the latest issue of their magazine Colors - slogan 'Ein magazin qui parle about el resto del mondo'. '"Slums" is the title of Colors 57,' chirps the covering letter, announcing that for this issue, to offset the brightly coloured ads for Diesel and Swatch, the magazine has dispatched a team of photographers and journalists to 12 slums on five continents. And what did they discover? Why, the plucky little poor people are just like us! 'These are communities that have their own stylists, interior decorators, architects, electricians, bankers, plumbers, doctors and businesspeople. Objects are put to maximum use: a pool-table doubles up as a bed at night; Tetrapak cartons become waterproof wallpaper; pigs become informal garbage-disposal units; Coca-Cola crates are used instead of bricks. People brew their own alcohol and cook specialities for small restaurants or food stalls. . . . ' It's hip to be poor! Colors 57: do-it-yourself culture for cash-strapped urban dwellers.

Politics, the politics-free first novel by the 25-year-old Oxford don Adam Thirlwell, has been admired, inter alia, for the genial filthiness of its sex scenes. But no one has yet commended its excavation of an apparently unpublicised and highly questionable paean to racial purity from, of all people, the Celebrity Big Brother contestant Vanessa Feltz. Thirlwell's narrator quotes from her contribution to the 1996 Union of Jewish Students Haggadah, on the topic 'Why Be Jewish?' 'Intermarriage robs us of our future,' wrote Miss Feltz. 'It callously dismisses as not worth preserving the 5,000 years of scholarship, persecution, humour and optimism which have made Jews an extraordinary people. Every marriage of Jew to gentile erodes the foundations of who we are.' The narrator, with whom most of us will tend to agree, yelps, 'Vanessa Feltz! Cuddly Vanessa Feltz! Two years later, in 1998, her Jewish husband left her. And Vanessa turned to another man. This man was not a Jewish man. . . . '

MoD employees seeking light relief from the onward grind of the Hutton inquiry have been diverted by a rolling video display, on plasma screens near the entrance to their temporary Whitehall offices, extolling the modern comforts (MDF partitions, Ikea-style office chairs) they will enjoy when they move back into their refurbished Embankment HQ. The highlight of the video, by all accounts, is footage of the permanent secretary, Sir Kevin Tebbit, blithering in Panglossian mode from, for some reason, one of the bubble-pods of the London Eye. Is Sir Kevin really that keen on the refurbishment? 'In the current building he has an ancient oak-panelled office at the top of a marble staircase,' says a sympathetic friend. 'His desk is so big it should have its own postcode; there's a dining table, a mahogany coffee-table for informal meetings and the sort of leather armchairs you'd expect to see in a Pall Mall gentlemen's club. He has been grumbling, quite audibly, about having to move out.'

I mentioned recently, just to annoy them and make myself look like a pedant, the BBC's solecism in calling Lord Archer 'Lord Jeffrey Archer' (when, as we all know, the correct form of address is, 'Oi! FF8282!'). In a crowning moment of pomposity, I suggested they consult Debrett's. Mea maxima culpa. As a kindly friend points out, Debrett's have in the latest edition of their People of Today taken a firm line with FF8282. …

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