An inevitable consequence of travelling is insomnia until one settles back down at home. Hence you discover our hero slumped on the daybed in Bloomsbury Towers at 4am watching Time Team. Have you seen it Rowley? They never bloody find anything. Here’s the thing as Shivaun Sharp would say. You take a bunch of beardie weardie archeologists, women with an aversion to undergarments who probably play the cello in their spare time and a bunch of smelly students and put them in the middle of a field in Somerset to dig. Watch for an hour as all they discover of a Roman villa or Medieval monastery is a fragment of terracotta pottery, a clay pipe and a pair of Val’s old knickers.
They’ve just found a fragment of mosaic which is Time Team’s equivalent of discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unfortunately it most resembles something you’d find in the Westfield Shopping Centre rather than Pompeii. I think they’re a menace digging up your arable. I’m only hanging on in there for the repeat of Deal or No Deal’s Olympic special Going For Gold. Love Deal, don’t you? While I’ve been away, there’s been a whole raft of programmes on Channel 4 about mental illness not least Ruby Wax reviving her career thanks to manic depression.
I am ambivalent about the way Channel 4 handles mental illness. It is clearly a freak show/car crash television handled with as much sensationalism as possible. I wonder why manic depression is the new stand-up comedy? I suppose it gives performers with erratic and/or ailing careers validation. I wrote about the very subject when it first bit me on the bum in the mid 90s for the Independent on Sunday. It was rather a nice story but certainly didn’t wallow. As Tom Ford once said to me, ‘nobody wants to hear your sob story’.
Speaking of which, I’ve just watched a marvellous documentary about Amy Winehouse playing an acoustic gig in a tiny chapel in a small Irish village called Dingle. The gig is interspersed with a face-to-face of Amy discussing her musical influences: everyone from Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington to the Shangri-La’s. She was a truly great talent and it appears to me a rather marvellous, intelligent and vulnerable young woman. Had she lived, I suspect she would have reached the stature of an Aretha Franklin or Ella Fitzgerald though her sound was much more raw than the aforementioned ladies.
Music has been very important to me in the past month to help finesse the health tribulations. The major discovery is a largely forgotten Broadway legend called Dorothy Loudon who created the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie on stage. There is a YouTube clip of Loudon performing Easy Street with her partners in crime Rooster and Lily that is quite simply the best performance in a musical song and dance number I have ever seen. Do look up Dorothy Loudon if you want a smile putting on your face for the rest of the week. Once you’ve watched Easy Street a few dozen times, look up Dorothy Loudon’s rendition of Vodka. I think it is the funniest number ever filmed.
I will try and get a few hours’ kippage after Deal so I’ve got the strength to make it to the camp Greco-Roman spa at 7am for a swim/sauna/steam. In the absence of the sun and sea of the French Riviera, it’s the second best remedy to help chase the physical blues away. Until next time…