Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety: Sophie Dahl is a saint – leave her alone

Toby Young suffers from Status Anxiety

Poor Sophie Dahl. After appearing on the Today programme to make an appeal for charitable donations to the Roald Dahl Museum, she has become an object of ­ridicule.

This was partly prompted by the amount of money she was asking for and the use for which it was intended: £500,000 does seem like rather a lot to fund the relocation of Dahl’s writing shed from the bottom of her grandmother’s garden to the nearby museum in Great Missenden. A couple of years ago I erected a ‘writing shed’ at the bottom of my garden — at least, that’s how I described it to my wife — and the total cost was approximately £12,500. But as Dahl pointed out to the interviewer, moving the shed is quite a process and involves a lot of archivists.

However, the main reason her appeal triggered a tsunami of abuse, particularly from Radio 4 listeners, is that she’s well-spoken, good-looking and reasonably well off. In austerity Britain, when we’re all supposed to be in this together, that’s virtually against the law. Possessing just two of these attributes is bad enough, but all three is intolerable.
If Miss Dahl wants to remove some dilapidated shed from the grounds of her family pile, she should bloody well pay for it herself. Well, knickers to that.

Sophie Dahl is an angel in human form and I won’t hear a word against her. We first met when I was cobbling together the ‘Swinging London’ issue of Vanity Fair in 1996 and, three years later, she moved into my flat in New York. I hoped my male friends would think we were romantically involved, but they soon realised we were just friends and began to circle like buzzards. Whenever I picked up the phone there would be an awkward pause before the person on the other end — usually a close friend — asked to speak to Sophie.

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