I started the bank holiday in traditional fashion, arguing with my 14-year-old son. This is why bank holidays exist, by the way, to remind you why secondary school exists, which is to let someone else irritate the hell out of your kids for six hours so you can go about your regular business of not irritating anyone that much.
Sometimes these rows work out pretty well for me. Well, once: I said hurricanes were named alphabetically. With elaborate scorn that is still, 10 weeks later, delicious to me, he paced out all the letters between “D” and “U” before I casually mentioned that Eunice begins with E.
Anyway, he claimed May Day was a religious ceremony, and I said it was actually International Workers’ Day, and we were both wrong – major religions hate equinoxes and ribbons, and anything else that might turn into an orgy, yet the celebrations commenced some centuries before organised labour – but I didn’t let that swerve me from my quest, which is to reminisce him into submission.
We used to spend the day protesting, me and his auntie, I said, and he said “protesting what”, like nothing politically bad ever happened in the olden days, and OK, fine, he has a point. This was the early 2000s, when zero-hours contracts didn’t exist, and the minimum wage had just been brought in, and I think most likely we were fighting globalisation and the IMF, though what I chiefly remember was that we saw the actor Anna Carteret on the way up to the Trafalgar Square, and were amazed, because you really wouldn’t think of Juliet Bravo as a debt-jubilee kind of person.
It was either that year or the one after that the police started kettling people, and my sister escaped after no more than 15 minutes by pretending to have a kidney infection, but I still managed to spin this to my kid as both of us having been arrested fighting The Man. He’d only been half-listening from the start, and by this point, I had no more than a third of his attention. But that’s part of my plan. One day, I will have poured so much anecdotage into him, extraneous information and exaggeration commingled, he will be unable to differentiate between me and Rosa Luxemburg.
Pictures dropped of the Met Gala, the ultimate postmodern event: layer after layer of people arriving, then arriving further in, but do they ever truly arrive? Or is it like the layers of an onion, and at the dead centre, more onion?
Guests were judged on two criteria: did they or did they not slay, which means “look good” in TikTok. And did they understand the assignment, which was “gilded glamour”? It’s much more complicated than it sounds, and you can’t just Google it to find out what Vogue says (though if you were to, you’d think New York between 1870 and 1890; you’d think embellishment and high structure; or you’d think Rockefeller and Vanderbilt and just apply a very thin moustache). Beneath the literal, lies a silent, much more stressful brief, which is to eclipse everyone else who knows how to use Google.
Last year, all eyes were on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had “tax the rich” splashed across her great meringue-y, wedding-esque dress. It was such a magnificent provocation. Half the nation exploded in “how much was a ticket to the gala, huh? HUH?”, and “if she’s so radical, how come she can afford clothes?” The grumble of indignant heartburn could be heard across the world.
So that was a hard act to follow, and nobody this year came close. Cara Delevingne sprayed herself gold, Kim Kardashian starved herself for weeks in order to look nothing like Marilyn Monroe, and Naomi Campbell bejewelled her face, but none took the crown.
And so the theme of the night was properly observed, perhaps for the first time in the gala’s nearly 75 year history: “the gilded age” was coined by Mark Twain, of course, in a novel depicting a riven society held together by a superficial layer of economic growth. To render it in fancy dress is too big a job for one person, and has to be a collective effort: there’s no “me” in satire.
The full human ramifications of the leaked supreme court decision to overturn Roe v Wade and criminalise abortion for American women will take months and years to unfold. But the impact was felt immediately, across the world, as issues that were previously a matter of settled humanity were suddenly up for grabs.
A presenter on the Today programme wondered whether women really needed abortions, when adoption exists; the Times newspaper decided this judgment was good, actually, because it really showed up the downside of a written constitution, whose ultimate impact was to put the lives of millions in the hands of nine unelected and now predominantly Christian fundamentalist judges. I heard people arguing for reproductive autonomy on the basis that having an abortion is a decision nobody takes lightly, as if the past 60 years – over which we established quite painstakingly that it’s nobody else’s business whether you’re doing it lightly or not – had never happened. I heard too many people to count describe it as a “women’s issue”, as if unwanted pregnancies were a niche concern, like nail varnish, that men can simply skate above. I read people arguing that this was all the fault of trans activists, for reasons that slid from one bad faith proposition to another. It’s been like a discursive oil spill, clarity obscured, everything polluted at a stroke.
The situation is serious indeed for US citizens, who have a fight on their hands. But the contest is quite different in the UK, where the number of people who oppose reproductive rights is vanishingly small and has been for years. Apart from the obvious task of international solidarity, our critical job now is to remember that a few fanatics, toying with people’s lives for cheap rhetorical advantage, should not be allowed to set the nation’s temperature.
It was polling day, and therefore it was dogs-outside-polling-stations day. I’ve left a dog outside every polling booth I’ve ever been in, even when I had to borrow one. I’ve left young dogs and old dogs, other people’s dogs, dogs that could safely be left sitting, calmly, without a lead, and dogs that could happily be tied to other dogs, but since 2017, I’ve had the worst dog in the world, and it’s a completely different proposition.
He is a bolter, an enthusiast for people, especially children, adults and anyone in hi-vis, and an inveterate hater of all other dogs, especially large ones but also many small ones. In 2017, incompetent tethering meant he got into the primary school, I guess expecting to find children in there. It turned out not everybody liked dogs. Oh, the chaos. If I’d been actively trying to suppress votes, I couldn’t have done better. In 2019, he took agin a labrador tied up opposite and, when I emerged from my doomed vote casting, was yowlling an aria of hatred that was like a metaphor for our busted politics.
This year, my Mr and I now wise to the dog’s antics, we voted in relay, one waiting outside at all times to make sure he didn’t throw the election.
By the end of the week, TalkTV, the scourge of the woke liberal left, had hit rock bottom, with Piers Morgan having lost 80% of his audience, and political editor Tom Newton Dunn having aired a show on Tuesday that registered precisely no viewers. As Shakespeare said, “the worst is not/ so long as we can say this is the worst”, which I think for simplicity’s sake can be paraphrased: you haven’t hit rock bottom while Piers is still talking.
Nobody could accuse Morgan of having failed to prepare: he’d spent the weeks ahead giving interviews about wokery, tweeting about woke waffle, generally allowing the woke to live so rent-free in his head, while spinning so much attention out of us, that I wonder whether there’s a way for us to actually start charging him rent. He covered wokeness in the RAF and brought in the actor Brian Cox, another scourge of wokery, to bemoan the woke. So many of the complaints are opaque: they’re very noisy, for people who claim to have been silenced; and so extremely visible, for people who’ve been cancelled. But scourges gonna be scourging, I suppose.
Yet this stubborn philosophical problem remains: if Piers really is giving voice to the voiceless, why aren’t they watching? What’s the silent majority doing instead? Do they all take an evening class?