Celeb Spotting-there’s an Art to it-

During the late years of the seventies I lived in Putney, South London. Some parts of the area, even then were considered fashionable and therefore beginning to be pricey, although not the parts I inhabited which were firstly a room on a shared ‘maisonette’ and secondly a two-roomed ‘flat’. The former of these two homes was acceptable, if shabby; but policed by a zealous, basement-dwelling landlady whose unwavering eye focused on our comings and goings [we were four girls]. The second would not, under any circumstances have passed the scrutiny of a housing officer nowadays and is best left to be described in a future post.

I loved living in Putney for a number of reasons. There were wonderful pubs, plenty of green spaces; I was within walking distance of my place of work [a special needs school] and it was an easy hop into central London. But these advantages also made it a magnet for what would these days be called ‘celebs’, so that regular sightings of well-known actors or presenters were commonplace, provided you paid attention.

Those who live in the capital find it difficult to see why anyone lives anywhere else or indeed how anyone copes with living elsewhere, but as the seventies receded I did leave London for the South West of England, which proved satisfactory enough place for me to remain-and here I still am, forty or so years later.

Here though, celeb-spotting is an art acquired only with practice, but one that we have honed to the point of expertise. For the 18 years we’ve frequented the hostelries in and around the coastal town that is our place of residence we’ve seen dozens of famous personas-far more than I ever did in Putney. How has this been achieved?

At just one of our locals we have seen-on a fairly regular basis-the following: Richard E Grant [actor], Ricky-from-Eastenders [whose name escapes me], Ian McShane [actor] and Charles Hawtry [actor-deceased].

No-we haven’t seen these actors. But since we began to frequent the pub we have grown used to identifying other regulars by their more famous dopplegangers. As a result the names have stuck.

Now while this method of identification has worked for years and enables us to discuss said punters with ease it is not without its difficulties. One of the pseudo ‘celebs’ has subsequently become a friend. Adjusting to his actual name took time and we were often in grave danger of blurting out his ‘stage’ name. We had to overcome the problem by using a type of hybrid name [which coincidentally happened to be the name of a historic footballer] until his real name became glued on to him. There is no question of revealing the history of his stage name since it is unlikely that he would be flattered.

Since we began pseudo-celeb watching, Richard E Grant has had a baby and Ian McShane visits less frequently. Ricky-from-Eastenders, however continues to be a regular. I must confess to a certain reluctance to know their actual handles and so, for the foreseeable future I’ll be avoiding any possible introductions.

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Ageing-The Truths you’d Rather not Know

I have kept quite well to my promise not to produce a continuous blog documenting the woes of ageing-an unceasing fountain spurting hypochondria; but I realise I may have gained some kind of watershed where age is concerned-one that may never be drawn back from.

Since I entered the grand decade that is my sixties significant and not altogether beneficial changes have begun to manifest, which I feel are relevant to Anecdotage and the Views from the Descent. For, from here it really does begin to feel like a descent.

Google ‘ageing’ and you will be bombarded with information and opinion. Often, in publications such as Sunday supplements there will be interviews with older celebrities- in any sphere. It interests me that the overwhelming majority of ageing ‘celebs’ are anxious to stress the positive aspects of growing older-how much more experienced they are, how much happier than when young, how grounded, how advantageous it all is. Reader, I am more than suspicious of these people. To me they are missing one overriding, enormous elephant of a fact. However blessed, fortunate, experienced and ecstatic they feel, the spectre of death has not only appeared on the horizon but grows larger as it approaches.

Of course as we all know-it is best to ignore the scythe-bearing one and concentrate on living life to the best of our frailties, but still-aspects of one’s demise will keep popping their heads over the balcony, such as:

Things Hurt More than they Used to

Joints hurt. Old injuries hurt. Vague unidentifiable bits hurt. In an ironic twist [the reaper having a laugh?] many of the hurty bits have been caused in younger incarnations by enthusiastic bouts of fitness.

The Hurty Bits Take Longer to Stop Hurting

Related to above; whereas a familiar, old hip/back tweak used to come and stay for a few days, now it overstays by weeks. An intermittent back injury overstays. Wrists that used to be a little sore are aggravated by carrying anything heavier than a sheet of paper. It becomes tricky finding a comfortable position to sleep, sit or be.

Knowing you are Turning into Your Parents does not Stop you Turning into Them

All the traps you have sworn not to fall into are impossible to avoid-repeating yourself, telling hackneyed stories, being curmudgeonly et al.

Those you have Known begin to Shuffle off the Mortal Coil

Once he became elderly my father began every visit with a tale of who had died that week. In his absence we smiled about it. Now that the clogs of people in my own life are popping it no longer carries the comic appeal it once did. No doubt my offspring are benefitting as I did.

The Recession of Middle Age

Remember all that ’40 is the new 30’ thing? We like to stretch our age back into youth as far as possible. I considered I was ‘middle-aged’ up until I was 60. Then it became far-fetched. Maybe someone could invent a term for between middle-aged and elderly, like ‘milderly’? Except it sounds like mildew-which is actually quite appropriate.

These are just a few aspects of ageing. Perhaps you harbour some more? Add them in the comments and I’ll compile a ‘bottom 10’-you have to laugh-what else can you do?

Agony in the Waiting Room

                I arrived a little too early for my annual dental check up, not out of enthusiasm for the ordeal to come, but an over estimation of the time I’d take to get there. This is not a disaster, as the waiting room offers a range of magazines for every taste and from almost as many eras. The table is awash with a range of periodicals -from ‘The Oldie’ and ‘Saga’ to ‘Good Housekeeping’ and ‘Woman’s Weekly’. Take ‘Hello’ magazine, for instance. It makes no difference to me whether the edition is February 2014 or July 2003. I’m still none the wiser who most of the featured celebrities are, or in which field they have achieved their notoriety. Of course I do recognise the more prominent members of the British royal family and I am aware of such tabloid royals as the Beckhams, but most of the names and the faces are a complete mystery. So it is with a sense of the surreal that I read the caption-‘Chianti Cosmetique’s bump makes a debut at the Innuendo fragrance awards party’ or ‘Krayde and Melliflua Lamprey’s engagement party at Legoland Windsor’ or ‘Lady Hermione Drake-Smatterborn settles into her new home following her split from husband Basil’.

                I wonder what it is that creates this appetite for pictures and news about ‘slebs’ and/or royalty, when their lives, actually, are not of any interest at all. Like us, they have encounters, they form relationships [albeit brief in many cases], they buy homes, they marry, they divorce, they have babies, they ‘find happiness’ again, they party, they holiday, cavort, pose in expensive outfits in exotic locations and presumably on the proceeds of the sales of the magazines.

                A cursory delve into who some of the unknowns might be generally reveals that they are known for being married to someone famous, or that they are born into a famous/rich/royal family. In other words they are not known for anything they may have achieved, but by the tenuous thread that is as an appendage dangling off the end of a ‘famous’ person. This is irritating. Not only have they benefitted from marrying/being born to a [vaguely] known person but they are then able to rake in more dosh by appearing in the magazine in this lightweight capacity, not having actually done anything themselves.

                It was a mistake to arrive early for my appointment. I then had a wait of 35 minutes while the dentist dealt with someone else’s complications. Grim! I was left to occupy myself with photos of the Ponsonby-Smythes’ garden party of summer 2010 and Victoria Beckham’s shopping trip to New York. And after all this torture, what a relief to be invited in to sit in the chair and have my teeth prodded, my gums scraped and my tongue mummified. This time next year, when I return for my annual prod I will either ensure a more accurate arrival time or take along my Kindle!

Relieved it’s over…but where was the comedy?

                It is a poignant demonstration of advancing years to be able to remember ‘Liveaid’ in vivid detail. It happened in 1985. As far as I can tell it was the first of the big, blockbusting, heart-wrenching, celebrity-wridden charity-thons that have now become as much embedded in the fabric of our TV viewing as the weather forecast.

                Liveaid was a thrilling event for me at the time. Incarcerated as I was, with two tiny tots and no prospect of a night out, it was the closest I was likely to get to a rock, or pop concert or indeed any kind of live entertainment [with the exception of ‘Postman Pat’ on stage at our local provincial theatre]. It was an iconic, riveting, humdinger of a concert, gluing us all to our screens so that we were hardly able to leave the room to put the kettle on, let alone make dinner or put children to bed, lest we miss Freddy Mercury strutting and cavorting or U2 belting out ‘In the Name….’ or The Who [whose set was disrupted by a few technical hitches, I seem to remember].

                Nowadays charity fundraising events are part of the calendar, like Halloween or Mothers Day. Of course they are commendable, valuable exercises in drumming up cash for worthy causes, but am I alone in feeling fatigued by them? Yes, the likes of Lenny Henry, Dawn French etc have worked hard and no doubt selflessly every year to top previous the year’s total and are to be admired and thanked, and I am in no way criticising the ethic behind charity and the giving, but isn’t it time we approached national and world poverty in a different way?

                A cynic would say that the ‘slebs’ are not all wholly in it for altruistic reasons. I’m sure it does nothing to harm Claudia Winkelman’s career to be out there, yet again, ‘presenting’. [Why is she on almost every TV programme?]. But you have to wonder what the poor, sick people of Africa have done to deserve to be visited by the likes of ‘One Direction’. Isn’t their predicament desperate enough already? And these ‘slebs’ are not short of a bob or two themselves. They are asking recession-hit Brits to dig deep into almost empty pockets. Why not simply forget about the dodgy comedy and donate a big wodge themselves?

                Watching Jessie Jay have her head shaved, or Simon Cowell pretending to be a comedian does not provoke me into getting my cheque book out. What does affect me though, is to see and hear stories about struggling peoples’ lives. Back in 1985 it was Michael Burke’s tragic and moving account of the starvation and dying children in Ethiopia that brought tears to the eyes. Surely some sympathetic journalism, together with taxation and a consistent, philanthropic approach by governments in wealthier nations makes more sense than this tired circus that comes round with relentless regularity?

…or am I too much of a party pooper?