1. Lucy Noble, artistic director of the Royal Albert Hall, thinks ‘white male titans’ such as Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are putting the young off classical music. Is she:
a) Quite right! My kids would be gagging to go to the Royal Albert Hall if only its programmes included more black female/transgender composers they’d never heard of.
b) Strangling yet another great institution. Audiences are drawn by artistic excellence, not diversity box-ticking.
2. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service says: ‘There is a historical need to diversify our workforce. The number of women operational staff has been under 5 per cent and black and ethnic minority people are under-represented in all parts of the service. The proportion of staff who identify as gay is also negligible.’ Is your response:
a) Any organisation that serves the community must represent that community on proportionate gender/race/sexuality lines.
b) I don’t care who drags me out of a burning building so long as he’s strong, fit and brave.
If your answers are both As, many congrats! You are fully culture-compliant.
If your answers are both Bs — basically you’re stuffed. But it might help you to understand what’s going on if you read Ben Cobley’s The Tribe.
Plus: was Fleabag really profound and true? Or sententious, hormonal, millennial drivel?
If you liked Triumph of the Will, you’ll love this latest masterpiece of the genre: Our Planet. The Netflix nature series exploits the prestige, popularity and swansinging poignancy of Sir David Attenborough to promote an environmental message so relentlessly dishonest and alarmist it might have been scripted by the WWF.
‘Walruses committing suicide because of global warming.’ That was the nonsense from episode two repeated uncritically by all the newspapers, none of which seems to have been much interested in questioning the veracity of the claim. You’ll never guess what it was that really drove those walruses over the edge of the cliff… Ironically, the likely culprits were polar bears — that supposedly threatened species whose population has grown exponentially in the past 50 years to the point where they are now beginning to become something of a pest.
Gosh, it’s depressing watching the natural party of government committing slow-motion suicide. It’s depressing even if you’re not, as I am, an instinctive and more or less lifelong Conservative. What it means is that Britain is on the verge of losing its most effective, tried-and-tested prophylactic against the misery of socialism. Sure, there are lots of other parties competing to perform this function: Ukip; the Brexit party; the SDP; For Britain. But will any of them be able to do enough to avert the dread possibility of a regime led by Jeremy Corbyn?
Let me first explain why I know that the Conservatives are doomed. It’s not so much to do with their sabotage of Brexit, appalling though that has been, as it is with what they’re promising to do if and when Theresa May ever goes.
Anyway, it’s a trick question. The correct answer, at least it is for me after watching The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (BBC4, Friday), is Pete Best — the drummer who got ousted just before the band got big because he was too good-looking, too quiet and, some say, because Brian Epstein couldn’t handle his mum’s pushiness.
A few months ago I had possibly the best massage I’ve ever had. My masseuse, Anouschka, had learned her skills in a remote village in Thailand where she’d lived for a year in a mosquito-infested hut with the local medicine woman. I asked how she’d survived the mozzies. Anouschka explained that she’d just done what the villagers do: eaten a diet heavy in chilli and garlic which seeps through your pores in the night and stops you getting bitten.
Plus: Ricky Gervais’s After Life is a wasted opportunity
Halfway through the first part of Channel 4’s extraordinary documentary Leaving Neverland (Thursdays), I flicked through the comments on social media in order to gauge the global reaction. Surely, I thought, Michael Jackson’s reputation will never recover from these bombshell revelations.
If you sat, squirming, though Dan Reed’s excruciatingly prurient documentary you’ll know what I mean. Lots of those who didn’t have been justifying their decision to ignore it with excuses like ‘Yeah, but we knew this already. Michael Jackson was a paedo. It’s hardly news, is it?’ But this strikes me as glib and dishonest.
Every day our age seems to be getting madder and madder, in defiance of the notion that man is a rational creature and of the even more risible Whiggish narrative that we’re on a path of continual progress.
I’ll give you some examples: the murder of women’s sport by the transgender agenda; the rejection of nuclear power in favour of renewables; HS2; the possible prosecution of the Bloody Sunday paratroopers; the articles celebrating Shamima Begum as a victim; the idea that only gay actors should play gay characters; the government’s wilful rejection of the biggest popular mandate in British history.
I could go on, as I’m sure could you, but I won’t because it’s too depressing. Instead, I want to tell you about a marvellous book, now celebrating its 50th anniversary but still hugely fresh, perceptive and readable, which will help you put all these horrors into perspective and teach you to be more philosophical: Christopher Booker’s 1969 classic The Neophiliacs.
Steve Coogan is back as Alan Partridge but frankly who cares? Like Ali G, I’ve long thought, he’s one of those ‘classic’ 1990s comedy characters funnier in recollection than ever he was in reality. He should have been confined to brief sketches — like Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield mostly did with their cheesy has-been DJs Smashie and Nicey — not cruelly exposed in endless TV series where you’ve got the joke in the first five minutes and the rest is pure cringe.
Actually, though, This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1, Mondays) is genuinely funny, clever and enjoyable because finally he has scriptwriters who don’t hate him. For his original writers — Patrick Marber, Armando Iannucci and Peter Baynham — Partridge was little more than a spitoon in which to hawk all their metropolitan liberal prejudices about parochial, clumsy, racist, sexist Little England. As proper, successful, high-minded talents in grown-up TV and theatre, they looked down on Partridge, a loser in mere local radio who voted — ew — Tory. So there was never a need to understand him; he was there purely to be tortured like some disabled kid who has got it coming because he’s wearing a Maga hat.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I have nothing but respect for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs: fine, upstanding people who want only to ensure that the government collects the proper and fair amount of tax it needs to finance all those things we love, such as HS2 and subsidies for offshore wind and vital foreign projects like the one that funded the Ethiopian Spice Girls.
That said, I have to ask: what is it you hate about us self-employed? Or rather, why is your boss Philip Hammond so determined to make our lives so miserable, first with his mooted National Insurance hike (cancelled only after protests from Tory MPs), then with his vindictive IR35 tax laws (aimed at reducing the number of people with self-employed status), and now with this wretched new programme called Making Tax Digital?
So why exactly had the poor girl’s embarrassing father chosen to film a naked video of himself and then post it up on YouTube for the entire world to see? Well the main one, fairly obviously, was as a satirical response to Victoria Bateman, the Cambridge professor who has been protesting against Brexit over the past few weeks by using the novel method of getting her kit off on TV and the internet.
Like Dr Bateman, I scrawled BREXIT in black ink across my chest. Unlike her, I did leave at least a teeny bit to the imagination: I covered my wedding tackle with an enormous dangling sock. Partly this was for puerile comedic purposes; partly to avoid being censored; but mainly because filming outdoors in February is not conducive to the most flattering portrait of a chap’s rude bits.