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Diary

Diary

4 February 2012

3:00 PM

4 February 2012

3:00 PM

Try as I might, I can’t pretend even to myself that the Cambridge Union debate against Katie Price was anything but a total victory for tits and telly, and an utter defeat for me. What was I thinking? But still. Last week I found myself at the Cambridge Union in a tight red dress, proposing the motion ‘This House believes the only Limit to Female Success is Female Ambition’ to an overflowing chamber. I thought I made some jolly good points. And Miss Price, in sparkly leggings and six-inch heels, was winningly unsure of herself, and actually delivered a four-minute speech in proposition rather than opposition of the motion. But none of this counted. Our side was crushed.  The headlines were gleeful. ‘The Price is Right!’, ‘Posh Boris’s Sister Loses Cambridge Debate to JORDAN!!’ Our encounter was cast as a claws-out catfight — ‘It’s JORDAN v. the Lady!’ — and all because I supposedly made snobby reference to her Sky series and literary works. Speaking as someone who has failed to make millions from either telly or books, I meant both comments as the highest praise, as I told Katie later. I mean, how many topless models have an eponymous prime-time reality TV series all about them that never seems to end, and have sold millions of books they claim not even to have to read, let alone write? Total respect! I left the Cambridge boob-off thinking that Miss Price has made more money from ‘getting her tits out’ — her words to the Union — in one day than all those bright bushy-tailed bluestockings will in a year. They’re probably even now mulling whether they shouldn’t be ‘Girton them out’ too.

•••

I had the Mail’s Liz Jones on my team. Liz is an object of complete fascination to all the women I know, simply because of what she is prepared to say. She can write what she likes about me — and often does. We actually have a little cottage industry going on writing about each other, so I might as well cut out our weary readers to address her directly. Liz: there is no one as brave as you, or as mad in print. Single-handedly, you’ve seen off almost all other mummy columnists, the broadsheets’ ‘Wednesday Witches’ and other Glendas, because no other female does extreme, compulsive, car-crash confessional as you do, day after day. At the Union, you were sweet and friendly at drinks and dinner. Then you made a speech in which you said you’d worked for women and they were ‘all crap’. Unlike men, they ‘always put their personal lives first’. Your jaw-dropper of a speech ended, ‘It’s no surprise to me there aren’t more women in the top jobs. I’m staggered any women have jobs at all.’ Cue stunned silence. Did I mention we lost the debate?


•••

Managed to get into the Hockney, thanks to string-pulling on the part of my husband. But as we sauntered in at 8 a.m., Anna Wintour was already cantering out, en route to the haute couture in Paris. So the public comes in at 9 a.m., members and invitees at 8 a.m., but real grandees get the Royal Academy to specially open at sparrow’s, not long after 7 a.m., which is very swish indeed.
•••

Hockney himself — in his big round glasses, a tweed coat and flat cap — was there, as he is a lot, overseeing the rehanging of a picture. Saw the show, a total Technicolor treat that is making everyone who sees it feel unseasonably happy. Then I went to hear the co-curator give a short talk about the show over breakfast. My husband was unaware that Gwyneth Paltrow and her small son Moses were sitting next to him, but I was mesmerised. Felicity Osborne (mother of George) also failed to notice her at first. ‘It’s because she’s one of those people,’ she whispered, with a glance at the actress in her Breton jersey, sneakers and jeans, ‘who manages to turn the anonymous celebrity act into an art form.’

•••

Allison Pearson has identified a new form of infidelity: when one of you sneaks home and gets a couple of episodes ahead of The Killing or The Wire or whatever, breaking the rule that you must watch side by side on the sofa. Now, almost all the telly I watch is in Danish on BBC4 these days, but I wanted to watch Birdsong. My husband had seen Part 1, so to get togetherness out of Part 2 I had to find time to watch it too. Loved the book, but I’m afraid to say I found the adaptation a) long and b) slow. May I make a suggestion for those who have also recorded but not seen it? As there is not much dialogue, but literally hours of snogging, watching it on fast-forward (between x2 and x6 normal speed) made it go a lot quicker, with no appreciable diminution in viewing pleasure.

Rachel Johnson is editor-in-chief of the Lady.


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