Monday, May 15, 2006

Liquorice Allsorts



I realise I've been a little lax recently so I thought I'd do four mini posts instead of one big one, in the style of that end bit the Guardian now give their columnists to show off how cultured they are.

This week I have been mostly watching: Prime Suspect.

Huge excitement that I've reached the fourth series, as I love watching Helen Mirren hitting tables and being emotional, whilst all policemen live up to 70s stereotypes around her. Even better, every series has a theme: the first was, broadly, 'it's hard to be a woman in the police force', the second 'it's hard to be black in the police force' and the third 'it's hard to be gay in the police force'.

So I was eagerly awaiting the discovery of which oppressed minority were going to be consoled this time round, but it seems to be a toss-up between 'it's hard to be an abused child in the police force' and 'it's hard to be a foetus in the police force'. God knows who it'll be next series.

Now, excuse me if I have this wrong, but Prime Suspect was on ITV, wasn't it? As was Cracker... Has anything ITV has commissioned since been anywhere near as good? (No, you can't have Touching Evil. A strong premise was ruined by charisma vacuum Robson Green.)

This week I have been mostly listening to: OK Go.

I have extremely narrow musical knowledge, and also 'the worst music taste in the world'. Not a good combination, which is why I almost never write about music. Besides which, as a former journalistic colleague put it, 'All music criticism consists of saying "X band sounds really like Y band with a touch of Z".' But yeah, I've been listening to OK Go, and it's, er, really good. Lovely tunes, nice lyrics, fantastic dance routines. The lead singer looks like a bit of a fittie too, which never hurts.

This week I have been mostly eating: Iranian food.

See that? Those are my horizons, expanding. Just as I reject 'world music', I tend to be a bit boorish about FFF (Funny Foreign Food), loosely defined as any cuisine outside Western Europe. I'm not proud of this, so at the further suggestion of the Man of Taste and Substance, I tackled my prejudice that all North African/Middle Eastern food was gristly (and grisly) meat embalmed in unspeakable slop by going to Patogh, a very bijou Iranian place off the Edgware Road.

I was surprised to discover that it was all very pleasant (apart from the mad Americans intent on getting us to join their cult, or talk to them about Eng-er-land.) The meat was not gristly; nor was there slop. There was even some very nice yoghurty drink, although I still remain to be convinced that raw radish is anyone's idea of a delicacy, even if it does come with free mint.

I think I've cracked my hatred of FFF, anyway: I don't like dry food, and in particular I like my meat to be positively wet. I also love dips, to the extent I used to refuse to eat McNuggets when there was no BBQ sauce available (now I refuse to eat McNuggets because I don't want to die aged 40 of high blood pressure). I get very stroppy with pizza delivery men if my requested Garlic and Herb pot fails to arrive. And obviously, chips are nothing without ketchup, no matter how budget a brand it is. And this doesn't just apply to cheap food: French and Italian restaurant food, being very keen on the whole sauce genre, suits me perfectly.

So, Iranian chicken kebab thing = great. But, frankly, I could have done with some sauce.

This week I have been mostly reading Kenneth Tynan's diaries.

I first encountered Kenneth Tynan in Christopher Logue's memoirs, Prince Charming. All I knew was that he smoked his cigarettes between his third and fourth fingers, and was a theatre critic. Anyway, his name kept cropping up and I eventually resorted to wikipedia, which revealed he was behind the groundbreaking sex revue Oh Calcutta and was the first man to say 'fuck' on TV. Fair enough, I thought.

Then I read Craig Brown's parody of his diaries in This Is Craig Brown. They sounded hilarious, a mix of intentional wit and unintentional pomposity. (Sample Brown-as-Tynan entry: "To see Waiting For Godot at the Royal Court. I doubt I could ever have full anal sex with anyone who didn't love Beckett." Sample entry 2: "Considered suicide. Checked diary - am entertaining Princess Margaret on Friday. Decided to postpone.")

Tynan's story is a tragic one in many ways. I want to write that he shot to fame as an undergraduate theatre critic, but somewhere in my head I can hear the voice of my boss saying, "The only person who shot to fame was the Human Cannonball." Zeitgeist could have been his middle name (although actually it was Peacock) and his early spunky, subjective, coruscating reviews fitted the revolutionary zeal that had infected the theatre in the 50s.

The diaries, however, date from the 70s (specifically 75-77), beginning as he finishes an unfulfilling decade as a dramaturg at the National Theatre, feeling he has discovered only one dramatist of any note - Tom Stoppard. They cover the subsequent decline of his health - through emphysema exacerbated by heaving smoking ("I must smoke to write," he agonises some way through) - and his eventual move to Los Angeles.

The diaries are full of shameless name dropping (Gore Vidal, Princess Margaret, Harold Pinter - it goes on and on, you should see the index!) and increasingly frequent bouts of self-loathing as the ageing Tynan struggles more and more to put pen to paper. There's also the small matter of Tynan's anal fixation and love of spanking, indulged over the years with a submissive named Nicole.

They're an entertaining read; but I am worried by them. Tynan is seduced by the glamour of the theatre and celebrity; but the only way he can become involved is by the essentially parasitic act of criticism. When this palls, he tries to become involved creatively (the stint at the NT) and fails. Thereafter, his relentless socialising is tinged with the realisation that his talent, such as it was, has largely deserted him: he is no longer the firebrand twentysomething who could churn out 6,000 words a week, but a 48-year-old racked with doubt, missing his copy deadlines by months.

For someone like me, also involved in a glamorous but parasitic job, my desire to identify with Tynan was chilling. Is this what will happen to me - conversations mired in anecdotes about semi-famous people, overwhelmed by the feeling my best years are behind me, so impressed with my own witticisms that I record them in some sort of journal which I force people to read....

.....Oh shit.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Laura said...

Hmmm....like the logic....don't want to eat mcnuggets because you'll die at 40 but when the *pizza man* arrives you require garlice and herb dip. Pizza being known for its healthy and nutritius status, clearly.

I too have been listening to Ok Go (I had a mass download session at weekend). It's so good! But the lead singer is not a fittie. Nooo.

5/16/2006 8:45 am  
Anonymous pia said...

Oi! We can see where all the girlyness is coming from now then can't we? Look how she sneakily slips in a boy-based comment...and no, he is not a fittie.

5/16/2006 11:01 am  
Blogger galatea said...

Women!

Look.

5/16/2006 12:38 pm  
Blogger hangthedj said...

Yes he is a fittie...and seen as how you have trademarked "He's ever so dreamy" Galatea, I shall simply say "Wuuuurggghhhh!!!!"

5/17/2006 10:04 am  

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