Sunday, 9 November 2008

Brand, Bond and Blankets

So Manuelgate rumbles on, with Andrew Sachs losing my sympathy after complaining that the apology broadcast on Radio 2 yesterday wasn't up to scratch and didn't mention the suffering of his wife, daughter, postman and everyone in Barcelona. How many apologies does the man needs, for goodness sake? He had (I thought) accepted the apologies of Brand and Ross with grace and dignity, but now he's being all precious about the wording of the apology broadcast yesterday at the time that would usually be Ross' radio show. And a bit later. And again, a bit later. At one point, at the start of this press tornado, I was glad there was something on the news instead of doom and gloom about house prices and the cost of bread, amazed though I was by the attention that was being lavished on Brand and Ross. Now, even the Bank of England has had to slash interest rates by a shocking 1.5% just to shove Russell Brand off the front pages and get a bit of attention for itself. I suppose one of the disadvantages of being a person who likes to hibernate as soon as October drizzles in is that one tends to spend more time reading the papers and the internet than is advisable if one wishes to avoid becoming intensely irritated by excessive press coverage of a particular story. But as disadvantages go, it's more than made up for by the positives.

I think I may be the kind of person who has been an OAP since birth. Thanks to the credit crunch, I can now blame the cost of...well, everything as an excuse to stay in. All the time. If I could, I literally wouldn't leave the house at all until at least May. I'd make an exception for November 5th, as I could go out and still sit by a fire, but other than that if I could get away with it I'd sit wrapped in a blanket by the fireside reading books and drinking tea all day. I'd even like to learn to knit, if I had the patience. I would bake mince pies to live on, and to be fair I would be prepared to pop out for a bracing stroll through the fields on bright, frosty mornings before returning to my cosy nest.

In seriousness, when the days shorten and the dark, windy, wet nights draw in, there is nothing more tempting than a cosy night in by the fire. Once I'm home at the start of the evening, nothing is more appealing than to draw the curtains and shut out the winter weather, light the fire, and curl up on the sofa. I love the trappings of autumn and winter; snuggly blankets, warm jumpers, roaring fires, hot chocolate, hearty stews and soups, period dramas on telly. I associate fantasy, magical films with winter too. The Chronicles of Narnia, for example. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a perfect film to watch on a wintry Sunday afternoon. Perhaps it's because I am the sort of person who still hopes to find a magical land hidden in my wardrobe, or a secret platform at King's Cross station, and have really never quite grown up. The comforts of winter make childhood more accessible over the decades since it was a reality.

So why would anyone want to go out? Are they insane? What's the point? I must confess that one thing did move me out of my metaphorical rocking chair this weekend, and that was the delectable Daniel Craig. Not in person, sadly. I didn't meet him in my garden during the 4 seconds I periodically spend outside to go and put something in the bin. He was of course appearing at a cinema near me as 007 in Quantum of Solace. I could give a detailed review of the film and his performance, but suffice to say, I didn't miss my fireside the whole time I was away from it. Well, not until I had to drive home in the dark and cold, anyway.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

I shagged him once, but I think I got away with it

So, let's be honest. It surely can't just have been me whose first thought on hearing about the Ross and Brand 'scandal' was an image of Manuel, tea towel draped over his forearm, jiggling nervously from one foot to another with utter confusion on his rubbery face and pebble eyes darting worriedly from side to side as he listened to some unexpected and rather regrettable messages on his answer phone and responded with a perplexed..."Que?"

This must surely be the biggest mountain out of a molehill ever in the history of moles.

Let me be clear from the start. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's phone calls to Andrew Sachs were in bad taste, puerile and monumentally unfunny (the latter being what irritates me most). The content was offensive and the action utterly juvenile and unworthy of a couple of silly teenagers with nothing better to do, let alone two successful and highly paid professionals. Without doubt, the broadcast should not have been aired, and both performers should indeed have apologised to Andrew Sachs for their immaturity and idiocy.

Having said that...what is with the ridiculous overreaction and massive media coverage of an incident which boils down to some blokes leaving another bloke a stupid message on an answer phone? First there were two complaints, from actual listeners of the broadcast. Next minute, it was the top headline on ITN's News At Ten for at least two consecutive nights, every television channel and newspaper was headlining it, and everyone in the world was commenting on it. I sat and watched News At Ten in disbelief - admittedly, it was ITN, so not a natural lover of the BBC, but first headline?! On a global news programme? There was an American Presidential election about to happen, war, famine, global recession - but more importantly than any of that was a rude message left on a man's phone! Only the British could possibly consider that a lapse in manners constitutes the most significant global event on any given day, and only we British would complain in droves about a radio programme we didn't actually listen to, and a prank we didn't even know existed until we heard it in the media a week later.
"He said what?! But that's appalling! The swine! I must complain directly!"
" didn't actually hear it. weren't offended by it, were you? It had precisely no effect on your life at all."
"Well, I've heard it now! On News At Ten! You never had to put up with this from Morecambe and Wise. Where's the address for the BBC, and the phone number for the Daily Mail?"

Next thing we know, Brand has resigned, Ross is suspended and Chris Evans is crying because Lesley Douglas has given in her notice.

So anyway. Why is everyone behaving as if Andrew Sachs is some kind of dementia-ridden old codger who needs to be coddled and protected in his dotage? The man has worked in television and the entertainment industry for decades; he worked with comedians who were the 'edgy' performers of their time, such as John Cleese; he is not a naive old dodderer who requires the public to swoop in and protect him from the evil that is Radio 2.

And Georgina Baillie, Manuel's granddaughter. Why is everyone behaving as if she's Sandy from Grease before the bit where she sings "You're The One That I Want" in skin-tight Lycra, and that she had a virginal granddaughterly reputation that has been sullied and debased in the manner of a broken engagement from a Jane Austen novel? Good grief, the woman is in her twenties and belongs to a burlesque exotic dance troupe called Satanic Sluts and works under the name 'Voluptua'. Photographs of her in corsets and stockings (taken from her MySpace page, I understand) have appeared all over the press. Next to many column inches devoted to her bleating on about how Russell Brand has embarrassed her poor grandad by forcing him to think of her as 'sexual'. Now, call me old fashioned, but I've always found that an effective way to avoid your immediate family being forced to see you as 'sexual' has been to not be a stripper who posts half-naked photographs of yourself on the internet. Hugo Rifkind illustrates my point with far more wit than I could here.

Not sleeping with Russell Brand would also be a good way to avoid everyone finding out you slept with Russell Brand. Possibly Brand's reputation is unheard of in satanic or slut circles (the latter seeming rather unlikely, let's face it) but the rest of us have heard all about his sexual exploits rather more than we'd probably like. What a cad! Sleeping with all these women! What a Lothario! But then (and I'm making an assumption here) if he's not routinely using Rohypnol or some kind of hypnosis on all these poor Sandys, then if they weren't there lining up to sleep with him willingly, the embarrassment of poor old grandads could be avoided more effectively.

Jonathan Ross - well, he gets paid too much. Everyone knew that already, including him. It was only a matter of time before there was some kind of protest over it, and here it is. Who decides how much he gets paid, by the way? Have they been suspended too?

He's the father of daughters, and for that reason his involvement in this incident seems surprising and rather disappointing. But come on - Wossy's always made jokes that are close to the bone. Remember Heather Mills and the two legs? (Now that, I found funny). Ross and Brand are employed and popular exactly because they are a bit outrageous and dare to go further than most of us would. This broadcast obviously shouldn't have been aired, and yesterday there was a further resignation in the form of David Barber, who cleared the programme for broadcast. Sorry Mr Barber, but it should have been you in the first place, and Lesley Douglas should never have had to fall on her sword. Brand's resignation and Ross' suspension is a loss to the BBC.

I only have one final question. How is it that Max Clifford is always the winner in every situation, ever?