Friday, 23 August 2013

Excursions in Ennui and Introducing the Panty Pimp

Frances Na
The highlight of my summer holidays (which are now even more frugal thanks to a certain dastardly council and their pay cock-up) is my weekly trip to the Tyneside Cinema.  Recently, I sashayed along to see Frances Ha, which has been billed as a homage to early Woody Allen.  Now, I adore Woody.  I won’t have a word said against the be-corduroyed, angst-ridden, jazz playing imp  Did you see the BBC documentary about him?  It was fantastic!  Rochester even emailed me afterwards.

“Woody reminds me of me, you know.  Although I would draw the line at sleeping with a stepdaughter.”

I find it hard to believe that Rochester 'draws the line' anywhere, sexually speaking, especially given the morally ambiguous turn his work-life is taking  (but more of that debauchery later). 

“You didn’t draw the line at sleeping with a brother’s ex though, did you?” I retorted.  The oaf chose to ignore that.  He ignores me a lot lately. 

Anyway, back to Woody, I watched Manhattan the other night. What a joy!  I know the script off by heart, but one forgotten line did make me smile.  A lovelorn Woody, in the back of a cab, whispering sweet nothings to Diane Keaton.

“You look so beautiful! I can barely keep my eyes on the meter.”

I was doubtful that Frances Ha could come anywhere close to the charm of those early Woody Allen/Diana Keaton movies.   I went to an afternoon showing.   I love matinees.  I frequently get the whole cinema to myself. I find increasingly that I don't like to be out late (later than say, 7.30pm).  I attribute this to my father, who, even when he was wooing my mum at the Easington Colliery Hippodrome, ALWAYS had to be home and in bed by 9.00pm.  Poor mum.  She missed the endings of most films.  As far as she was concerned, in Gone With the Wind, Scarlet said 'Fiddle-de-de' a few times, Atlanta burned and that was it.  The end. My dad also, famously, slept through every air raid in the war. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I am my father's daughter.  I am half woman, half sloth.

It was probably just as well that I had the Tyneside to myself for Frances Ha,  as I spent most of the film muttering furiously at the bedraggled protagonist. She spent a preposterous amount of time prancing 'charmingly'  along the New York streets to a David Bowie soundtrack. She lived in black and white. She wore leggings.  Lots of leggings. And Converse sneakers.  She dreamt of being a professional dancer.  This seemed a highly unlikely ambition as she seemed very gangly and angular.  The clumsy sort who can't go through a supermarket without upending an entire display of perfectly arranged Fray Bentos pies.   Her dance moves lacked grace and fluidity.  She resembled a dispraxic, three legged foal trying to fight its way out of a leotard.  Frances couldn't hold down a job.  Or a relationship.  She lived in a series of shabby, curtainless hipster dens, filled with books, cheese plants and gawky lads in skinny jeans. Yes, she got my dander up.  She unleashed my inner Aunty Margaret. 

"Get a job, slacker!"  
"For the love of God, BRUSH YOUR HAIR!"   
"Don't sleep with him.  Look at the state of his Converse!  He's bound to have fungal nail infection!"
"When is the last time that coffee table saw a duster?"

I have no patience with jobless, self-obsessed beatnicks.  Maybe I am too old to appreciate Frances Ha.  

 My next Tynside jaunt will be to see the new Kristen Scott Thomas film.  It's French.  It's a comedy of manners.  Now THAT will be a class act.  There is a brittle fragility to KST that I love. And trust me, if there are leggings and unbrushed hair, she will carry them off with a  genteel insouciance and radiance.   Kirsten will not smell of mildewed Converse, marijuana and three day old falafal.  No.  She will smell of cashmere cardigans, lavender fields and warm brioche.  Looking for Hortense is much more my cup of tea.  And what a great name for a lurcher!  Hortense.  I picture a very aloof and equine hound.  A graceful saluki type.  A canine Patricia Hodge.

There was one section of Frances Ha that resonated with me.  Frances, disillusioned with her shambolic lifestyle and inability to hold down a relationship or a job, jetted off for an impulsive trip to Paris.  Once there, she spent the entire time brooding on a park bench, alone and wretched.  That is just the kind of thing I would do. Although, whilst there, I would also take the opportunity to eat my body weight in macarons and steak frites.  Frances didn't even have a Petit Filous!  This part of the film confirmed a deep-seated belief of mine:  you can't hide from yourself;  you can't outrun  depression. It is tethered to you like a backpack filled with lead.  If you're going to be depressed, best be depressed somewhere shabby and mediocre.  Don't go somewhere astonishingly beautiful, like Paris or Provence or the Grand Canyon.  It will just make you feel even more futile and insignificant.  Trust me: if you are heartbroken, go to Hull.  If you are sorrowful, go to Sunderland. Be melancholy in Middlesbrough. Don't go to Peterlee mind.  Trust me.  NO ONE IS THAT DEPRESSED.

Actually, this gives me an idea for a new business venture: Ennui Excursions: holidays for the dejected and misanthropic. How about a bus tour of Northern sink estates?  A camping experience in the grounds of a obsolete nuclear power station?   I think I am on to something here. I think has idea has legs.  

Introducing the Panty Pimp
Speaking of new business ventures, Rochester has been in touch to tell me about his new enterprise.  He sounded as brash and irrepressible as ever.  Kremlin Enterprises (his home improvement company) has taken off massively, now bored and rich, the rogue is branching out into the sex trade.  Rochester is a pimp (of sorts).  His proposed new company is called Panty Parlour.  I am not sure I even want to explain WHAT exactly Panty Parlour's product is.  It is terribly grubby.  Actually, that is the product: grubby knickers. I am hoping that the whole thing is a wind-up.  However, the fact that he attached a draft website design for Panty Parlour makes me fear it is not.  He even offered me employment, 'Although I think I am going to target Polish lasses as knicker providers.'   Maybe he doesn't think there is much of a demand for size 14 primary school teacher control pants. Could be a profitable niche market.  

It's all very dispiriting. Why couldn't Rochester have a more dignified mid-life crisis? Paul Newman (in between working bare-chested on a sun dappled ranch and making waffles for Joanne Woodward) set up a charitable foundation making salad dressing.  Richard Madeley established the Menopausal Musers book club and designed a range of tan orthopedic loafers for Clarks.  Nick Cave grew a moustache and relocated to the seaside to play crazy golf with the Bad Seeds and run a bucket and spade shop.

"This is a joke, Rochester?  Isn't it?  Please tell me this is a joke!  If it isn't, doesn't this make you a predatory, amoral, middle-aged creep?" 

He ignored that one too.  

Books Read this summer (so far)

I enjoyed this, but it's certainly the slightest of Barbara Pym's books.

This is probably my favourite of Taylor's novels.  Beautiful, languid English summer setting with a satisfyingly dark and menacing undercurrent. 

Just started this, pleasant and charming but NOT I Capture the Castle.  Sadly.

Oh my lord, READ IT.  Brilliant. 

I was so disappointed in this.  I loved the beginning and the development of the characters, but it just didn't seem to go anywhere. 


  1. Dear Miss U, I think we are soulmates! KST is utterly compelling to watch, infinitely superior to Greta Gerwig, who seems to specialize in playing very self-absorbed individuals. When that vein in her temple starts throbbing! And I am the only man I know who has read anything by Barbara Pym. Can't quite follow you with Woody Allen, but I don't mind the early Diane Keaton era stuff. As I feel confident of your good taste, could you recommend a Nick Cave lp to get started with?

  2. The Boatman's Call. ALWAYS The Boatman's Call. Eerie, melancholy and beautiful.

  3. Now of course, next time I am seeing my Mum and Dad, who live in Middlesbrough, I will have to go to Peterlee, to see what it's like. I enjoy abandoned and run-down places, or places which have been badly designed. I took a girlfriend to Cumbernauld once, ignoring her entreaties that we might spend the afternoon in the beautiful garden of Glasgow's Kelvingrove Gallery and then enjoy a flask of tea in the Botanic Gardens. Instead, we went to a brutalist 60s concrete new town near Falkirk. It were ace.

    I enjoy Barbara Pym too, and read Jane and Prudence whilst on holiday this year. You could, if you liked, expand a little on why one should read Louise Doughty. Not familiar with her.

  4. Boatman's Call. Great recommendation. As my sister put it, "the perfect chill down music following a minor injury". We listened to it on the way home from Embleton via Alnwick Infirmary, after my head had a close encounter with the surfboard of another middleaged fool who should have known better. Am glad to hear I am not the only man who likes Barbara Pym then :-)

  5. I am delighted that Barbara Pym has a legion of male fans (well several).

    Looby: Apple Tree Yard is simply the best thriller I have read in years. It is beautifully paced. The plot unfurls so gently and tantalisingly. There is a very subtle (but mind-blowing) twist at the end. I read it in 24 hours. Couldn't put it down. Peterlee is not so bad really, Was built to offer a better quality of life for those living in the local mining villages. In truth, we all pitied the people who lived in Peterlee. It has a very famous modernist, concrete pavilion designed by Victor Passmore though. I can't help but think, every time I see it, that a few hanging baskets would help.

    Anonymous 13: I have blogged before about middle class injuries (after a nasty accident with a scented candle). I am now in the middle-aged inury bracket too: although mine are unlikely to involve surfboards. I did skid on a discarded cod liver oil capsule on the tiled bathroom floor last week. That would count, right?

  6. I'm sure I've read all of Barbara Pym, but I don't remember that one. I'll have to look for it. We have similar reading taste, and I'm another KST fan!

  7. You probably went further on your cod liver oil capsule and kept your balance better than I do on the briny, so yeah, definitely counts as catching a wave particularly as it was cod oil. Sorry to hear about the shite at work. Remember that nothing is an absolute failure (or success for that matter) and hope you find another place soon and a good buddy at work to offload to in the meantime.

  8. I'm surprised that as a budding entrepreneur (I like the idea of a depressive-filled charabanc cruising along the A1 with a large and brooding cloud above it) you didn't offer Rochester the services of your senior girls to help supply his grubby knicker stock.
    You could take a 25% commission and solve your money troubles quickly.

  9. Size 14? That's a wind up yeah?