Monday, 22 June 2015


Gandalf as Sherlock Holmes has grown grotesquely old, with bloodhound jowls and liver spots and wrinkles, literally sagging into the earth. One heartbreaking scene features the distant white cliffs of Dover searing into sharp relief, behind Sir Ian McKellen's long-retired, nonagenarian detective. Was I over-thinking it, or did this symbolise not only the war that Britain had recently survived, but also the lifelong battle that Sherlock had won, finally, with himself? I can't say a word more about this picture without spoiling it. Go, see.
We all know that Sherlock's not real; and yet, irresistibly, that he is as non-fictional as a novelist's invention can be. I didn't tear to see it because I feared what it might make me hear about ageing. Because we're doomed, buggered, and going down, and I'm not in any rush. After you.
But there is hope here. Though I felt every creak of his knees, every mangled gasp for oxygen, every un-shed tear and pang of longing, I emerged with a fierce awareness that being old is nowhere near as wretched as it is cracked up to be; as those so terrified of it that they butcher their faces and tits and asses are dying for us to believe.
We do know, don't we, because we were there, that being young wasn't all that, most of the time. Ecstatic, award-winning and drop-dead gorgeous 24/7, were you? Nor me.
Our state of mind reflects the state of our lives at any given moment. Pause for thought. When was it that the primary synonyms for 'happiness' became 'money', 'beauty' and 'fame'? Other cultures revere and defer to their elders. Ageing, in ours, is about invisibility, embarrassment and decline. We grow old, shall we dare wear our trousers rolled? Or eat a peach? Apologies for the paraphrasing, T.S.
Sherlock's message in this wrenching piece is simple. There's not so much to fear. We will always be exactly who we are now. Just older. We will always be who we always were, within. We still rage, though we age. With the piling years, the unfathomable becomes clearer. It dawns on us, as it dawns on old Sherlock, that we've got to fix stuff, and do so with haste and vigour, aware of the hourglass's emptying, of the closing of the circle, of the need to make amends. We must do right by those wronged. We must avoid, for our own sake in the wherever beyond, the danger of dying with regrets. 

Thursday, 11 June 2015


A feature on the Absolute Radio breakfast show this week called for listeners who had appeared in TV commercials. It reminded me of the Pampers nappy ad which my firstborn and I shot for Saatchi & Saatchi, way back when. I didn't seek the commission, they came looking: on Fleet Street, where they were hoping to find a genuine national newspaper journalist with a real-life baby. They found me.

The first question I was asked was 'What brand of nappies do you use?' I gave the right answer, evidently. Because this was to be what they called 'endorsement advertising', the Advertising Standards Authority rules did not allow us to be paid. We would receive 'payment in kind', I was informed. A year's worth of nappies. Fine by me.
That was where the 'genuine' aspect of the arrangement ended. We shot the commercial over three days, first in a hired house in Teddington which was far too grand for the likes of us. The idea that a real-life single-mum hack would be able to afford such a princely gaff was laughable. Then there was styling. In minced the hair and beauty police, armed and ready to transform me into someone utterly at odds with the raw material. I fancied myself as a bit of a rock chick in those days, but you'd never have known it from the end result, with a neat French plait down my back and the kind of make-up that renders one almost nun-like. Rebekah Brooks during her butter-wouldn't-melt High Court appearances had nothing on me. I had expensive taste in infantwear, too: not that you'd have known it from the cheap, primary-coloured garb in which they kitted out my little girl.

We shot days two and three at London Zoo, with mini friends from nursery for comparison purposes. The most priceless sequence was yours truly back in the lab, pouring test tubes of unidentified blue liquid into cut-out squares of nappy padding. This one soaks it up completely, look, while this one is still lamentably damp. 

Oh dear.

A month or so after the commercial began its high rotation - across Europe on MTV and various Euro-channels as well as in the UK, would you believe - I went to Rome and Milan to cover some A-ha gigs. Morten, Mags and Pal got their own back, believe me. I didn't live it down for about ten years.

I ran into Morten not long ago, who couldn't wait to remind me of the experience I'd long tried to forget.
'It proved to us,' yelped the Norwegian Blue, with mirth, 'That British television really IS crap.'

Does Pamperwoman dare show her face at their gigs next year? Will they remember?

Oh, you can bet on it.