Fips tells me that I am too eager to search out the hateful, which together with my leaning towards the maudlin, will be my undoing. I welcome the criticism because you can see that it hails from a good place and is aimed at improving me. It uses an almost identical lexicon, but something about the way he does it lacks the disdainful destructiveness of the critical observation to which I am used. Also, it isn’t me doing it to myself, and that makes for a nice change too.
We had been talking about footballers’ metatarsals, specifically that time when Wayne Rooney was recovering from a broken one, facing a race against time to get fit for the World Cup, and was training alone – it was almost as exciting as the current virus vs vaccine race. I was telling him about a Talksport interview I’d listened to at the time, when pundit Stan Collymore said that Rooney’s isolated training would be bound to bring disharmony to the squad. –Why? asked the interviewer, and Stan said (adopt high-pitched Brummie accent) –if I was one of the other players in the squad, I’d be furious, and I’d be on to the gaffer asking what happened to my special training. The interviewer didn’t say, -it’s a team sport you moron. And Fips said, –there you go again. You turn everything to the personal, always looking to expose faults and make a big deal out of them. Then he added, -we’re all born ignorant you know, and only a few lucky ones escape.
I said, –so what? It’s my schtick. I’m giving a bit back.
Fips replied, -just try and see their failures as foibles instead of crucifying them. You start out with a fruity little character like Savage, who you can imagine clutching squashed fig rolls in his clammy little fists, then before you get going it’s all about Jimmy Savile and what a bad hand you’ve been dealt. I tell him that it’s a diary, and there’s got to a place in it where it’s me alone with my dark thoughts, and he said that I’ll lose my audience if I give them much more of the poor me. –You don’t want to sound like fucking Meghan Markle, do you? Look how nauseating all that is.
It all came in the context of a larger discussion about getting a politician on A Sock in the Eye. I was in favour of inviting Rishi Sunak on the back of his recent car crash interview with two teenagers. My view, that though he may appear to possess a hard to penetrate veneer of capability, if there was a weak idiot in there to begin with, he’ll still be lurking there, ready to be lured out by a more able machine like Cum-Bot; Fips, that his Winchester College, Lincoln College Oxford, Goldman Sachs path through life indicated that he was intellectually robust and inviolable. He is starting to sound like my father now.
In the interview with the teenagers when asked, Rishi told them that his favourite subject at school had been Div. Div beng a non-examined Winchester-only subject which provides students with a foundation in history, philosophy, history of art and science, literature, religion, and languages; the idea being to give them a well-rounded education which contextualises everything else they learn – much like Melvin Bragg’s radio programme on Thursday mornings.
I’m a bit of a div actually.
–You see, said Fips, fundamentally, intellectually, unpretentiously, sound, and I replied, that you couldn’t give Stan Collymore a dose of Div and expect a better outcome – just someone who presented slightly better, that if you’ve got a hole in you, Div won’t cover it up.
–It seemed to fool the admissions board at Oxford and his bosses at Goldman Sachs, said Fips. But my view was that Div works because it gave you plenty to say, and made better candidates of them than those of us who had received say, our newly built Sixth Form College’s version of Div, called Core Studies. This is just the sort of whining digression that he was warning me about, but I don’t care, because it helps makes the point. I can’t remember all of the core studies, but one was called, know your car, and I opted for one called understanding the stock market, in which we were invited to pick five shares in the first week, then to track their progress in the weeks following. Err, that was it. Also, in a non-ironic nod to Pencey Prep, a course in horse riding was offered. I chose that too knowing that they’d say ‘it wasn’t quite ready’ at the time. Oh yes, there was also a music core study, in which we were allowed to sit in a room which contained a piano for an hour. Then, when I refused to cooperate with the nonsense, arguing that we might as well devote more time to our actual studies, I was labelled a sulker, and was refused access to the final Oxbridge push – a supply teacher who came in to discuss some articles in The Guardian. What I hate most about this pathetic initiative now, is that it probably didn’t belong to our Sixth Form College alone – that it was most likely a broad-brush policy initiative to drag the state sector up to the private school level. That is why I will ultimately be unable to resist the allure of public sector arson.
–He’d run rings round you, says Fips, and I stay my ground and maintain that he’s a knob who happens to have been polished more vigorously than the rest of us. –Tell me I’m wrong after you’ve watched the video I tell him. –Besides, I add, they’re none of them the intellectual powerhouses they’d have us believe, and we should get one on the show to prove it. All that guff about learning Milton in middle school is just to frighten the hoi polloi – they’re all sociopathic monsters that we wouldn’t let onto our side in the pub quiz.
No, seriously, I am.
Fips changes the subject and tells me that we should get a football pundit on instead. I tell him that he’s being vindictive now, that they’re too thick and we’ll just look like we’re being cruel, but he just laughs and says, -I know, I love it when they confuse being serious with being clever.
Look, I say, Rishi’s predecessor George Osborne wrote The Diary in The Spectator this week, I’m going to send it to you, then I’m going to tell Norman Thrush that we’re having either him or Sunak on – unless there’s another of them trying to flog a book at the moment. Here is an extract from The Diary – it’s George’s joke at the end.
I put the case that there is not a perceptive person in the world who cannot see that it is a contrived joke which either a) went wrong, and he’s now using his column to cover his tracks; or b) went well and he’s trying to cash it again in front of a larger audience to prove that he isn’t a humourless prick.
Elsewhere in the article, he says, “I’m moving on to a third [career]. Politics was an all-consuming passion. Journalism has been a lifelong interest. They happen to be the two most distrusted professions in Britain. So why now banking? Simple, I wanted to do something that’s a bit more popular.”
My advice George: don’t ever turn to comedy. Also, that haircut. Normal people can tell that you’re a soulless ghoul at fifty paces.