Plain Jane 200516: Eggs, Donald Trump, and the church on Google

Plain Jane 200516I recently had the pleasure  and privilege of interviewing Fay Weldon. The Grande Dame of contemporary women’s fiction-with-an-edge –  with whom I spent an hour on stage at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival (Jeremy Clarkson did not attend) – can count among her achievements not just 34 novels and several volumes of short stories, radio plays, stage plays, essays, TV scripts, a CBE, FRSL, a couple of professorships, three husbands and four children but  – let us never forget –  a significant  contribution to the success of the  1960s campaign:  Go to Work on an Egg.

As the author of a ground-breaking diet book in which the eating of eggs for breakfast is fundamental (studies show you will eat four hundred fewer calories for the rest of the day) and self-appointed connoisseur of the egg mayonnaise sandwich  (should I ever be careless enough to end up on death row it will be my last meal along with decent crisps and a bottle of champagne) I have always been an advocate of the humble egg as staple food item.

Of course the health brigade, in their usual joyless fashion, have been delivering dire warnings about the perils of eating more than  three yolked delights  per week, for some time. A diktat, I hardly need say,  I have roundly ignored.  And Yay!  One is vindicated. Last week saw the death, at age 116, of Susannah Mushatt Jones, the oldest woman in the world, leaving that position open. The new incumbent,  one Emma Morano, also aged 116, an Italian living near Swiss border, attributes her great age to eating… yes, eggs.

Three of them to be precise – a DAY!  (Two of them she takes raw.) And lo – a small dig into the culinary habits of her predecessor – reveals that Ms Mushatt Jones too, liked her oval pleasures.

For her this came in the form of bacon with scrambled eggs which she also used to consume daily. In the interests of fairness, however, and before you rush out to stock up, I should add that Emma Morano additionally swears by staying single as a key to longevity, explaining that after her marriage ended in 1938 she remained solo because she “didn’t want to be dominated by anyone.”.

This does fly in the face of other research studies so if it sounds a bit drastic – and you’ve grown fond of your special him or her – I think you can safely take a chance. And make an omelette.

DONALD Trump has been looking ahead (over-optimistically, we pray) to a time when he might be president of the United States.  Speaking of his future interactions with David Cameron, he has declared:  “It looks like we’re not going to have a very good relationship”.

Well of course not. How could anyone with more than five brain cells interact well with a man who, every time he opens his mouth. spills out the sort of bile that the PM quite rightly described as “divisive, stupid and wrong.”

But these latest comments highlight his unsuitability even further. The grown-up, dignified, and above all, political, response would have been to demonstrate he could accept criticism, by refusing to be drawn on Mr Cameron’s opinions while murmuring soothingly about how he trusted that the “special relationship” would prevail.  But no. Trump is an even greater chump than we feared.

THE CHURCH of England is investing millions of pounds in Google we learn, and has paid one of its executive commissioners a staggering £465,000.

Who knew – I didn’t – that these commissioners manage assets worth seven billion pounds?

Leaving aside the knotty questions of whether the church should be investing in companies with a less than glowing record of coughing up on the tax front, and whether it is right for individuals in the church’s employ to earn so much when so many of its parishioners live in poverty, I can only wonder this: If the Church of England has so much dosh, why is St Peter’s Church in Broadstairs having to scrabble around, begging  for funds,  for a few new pews  and repairs to the clock tower?

Plain Jane 010514: 11 years of writing about Thanet, and I’m not done yet

 

I have been writing this column for an astonishing 11 years – ever since I bludgeoned the then editor Mike Pearce, into giving me a corner of my own – in which time I have singularly failed to be head-hunted by Fleet Street. (Or even Wapping).

Do not misunderstand me dear readers – I love writing for the Isle of Thanet Gazette. I love the invitations, the occasional letters of praise, the fulsome abuse and the helpful suggestions for gripping subject matter to propound on next. (Thank you, Dora of Westbrook, I can see that your neighbour’s brother’s cat doing its business in your garden is annoying – especially when your husband’s bedroom slipper was involved – and yes, the wool shop should stay open till six.)

It is always gratifying to be able to give vent to one’s small rages and know that there’s an outside chance that the object of your griping will get to hear about them, but how much more satisfying it must be to p*** off the Prime Minster himself rather than just irk TDC’s head of planning.

(photo by Darron Broadhurst)
(photo by Darron Broadhurst)

How exciting, I have always thought, to be the Sunday Times’ India Knight, or the Guardian’s Lucy Mangan, there to make free with opinions, or the Weekend Guardian’s Tim Dowling, charged with sharing with the nation, the minutiae of his family life each week. What a fab job that must be!

So you can imagine my thrill and delight at finding myself on stage with all three columnists at the marvellous Chipping Norton Literary Festival last weekend, at which I got to ask the questions…

Was it a stress finding things to say every seven days, I enquired of Mr Dowling, reflecting how my own domestic bliss might err on the repetitive. (Got up late, listened to husband summarise entire country’s shortcomings, stared at largely blank computer screen for eight hours, picked up towels after son, opened wine…) Did he stalk the house demanding his spouse and offspring utter something amusing? It seems he has two or even three ideas on a Sunday night (THREE! I am usually scraping the inspiration barrel around the time the editor’s third e-mail arrives, demanding copy) and it’s all done and dusted in a couple of hours on a Monday morning.

India was eloquent on the continuing role of the professional journalist amongst a sea of bloggers and tweeters, and Lucy was graphic when describing her fondness for being rude about David Cameron. This was greeted by a slightly stunned silence from the good people of Chipping Norton. Which was no great surprise to me.

Plain Jane 010514Earlier I had interviewed our one-time MP for Thanet South, Jonathan Aitken, about his book on Margaret Thatcher. There was a time when the late PM was in opposition, he explained, when some felt that she was “divisive”. “And they were probably right…” I added mildly, feeling an immediate ripple of disapproval run round the theatre.

Feedback on the event was good – JA is nothing if not entertaining – despite, as one watcher wrote, “the lefty interviewer”.

This, I felt was an achievement, having never before progressed beyond Mike Pearce’s description of me as “dangerously pink”. (Possibly because I once admitted to a crush on Ann Widdecombe.) Lefty’s got to sound more cutting edge than wishy-washy liberal. Could the call from on high come any time soon…?

***

Read the original at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Jane-Wenham-Jones-11-years-writing-Thanet-m/story-21042974-detail/story.html

The Ab Fab ChipLitFest :-)

Well what a lov-er-ley time I had at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival – a treat indeed. You would never believe the festival is only in its second year from its big-name line up and terrific organisation but it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be there for both of them. This time I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of being “in conversation with”  the super-best-selling Peter James on Saturday, who talked about his forthcoming Dead Man’s Time  (I got to read a review copy – bloody brilliant!)  fascinated us all with his police tales and amused greatly with his unique revenge tactics on Martin Amis (ha ha!). Peter is a dream to interview!

Jane and Peter Chip Lit 2013 small

(Thanks Liz Fenwick for the photo of us at the Crown and Cushion!)

As is the gorgeous and delightful Fern Britton. I met her for about a minute before we started our event around her latest entertaining novel The Holiday Home but she was as warm and relaxed as if we were old friends. What a totally lovely, natural and generous lady. The audience adored her and so did I. She had some hilarious stories too… (Was Chipping Norton ready for the word c*ck?  Certainly seemed to be…. :-)) We all laughed lots.

Fern and Jane

Thanks Jan Harvey for taking this one

So put next year’s dates in your diary now. Chipping Norton Lit Fest 2014 runs from 24th – 27th April and I’m excited already….

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