As you get older it becomes harder to gauge just how in touch you (and your writing) are with those people around you. I’ve always thought of myself as pretty grounded; I catch the tube every day and visit my mum and have fish and chips and go down the pub with mates, and never get given those codes that allow you an online discount, but a theatre friend told me this; a play he saw about broke kids in a council flat showed them constantly drinking and smoking and coming in from pubs, which he said was false because genuinely broke kids do not have the money for these habits. The playwright was out of touch.
I once accused Eric Idle of not being realistic when he told me he was in touch with kids of today while living in Beverly Hills. Out of touch doesn’t mean being too rich and successful to care; Mr Idle cared very much, but didn’t fully realise that the circle in which he moved was kind of unusual.
For some time now I’ve been trying to organise a Christmas drink with friends, and reluctantly realised that they are simply not as others. These are the warning signs;
1. They get their shots done once a year. (I don’t mean their pets but their publicity photographs, as in; ‘Where’s Amber today?’ ‘Oh she’s getting her shots done.’
2. If they got into a bad situation and had to provide a contact, they would write down the name of their agent.
3. They remain utterly unconcerned about being broke, and casually find ways around the problem. ‘Where’s Amber?’ ‘Oh she joined some experimental research programme where they lock you in a room and give you a rare disease. She needed some money for Christmas.’
4. They either bump into each other buying Nespresso capsules in Selfridges or at an art experience where someone is nailing ravens to a giant crucifix.
5. At any moment they’re liable to give everything they own to a complete stranger.
6. They have absolutely no sense of discrimination. They’ll talk to a member of the royal family or a passing tramp without noticing the difference. Which means they’re always shocked when they hear suburbanites complaining about foreigners.
7. They can win arguments on the semiotics of Marvel films but have no idea how to turn on their central heating.
8. They don’t remember having dinner with Sienna Miller.
9. If they’re with someone famous they never take a photo for Facebook. (Today a friend sent me a photo from a party. It was of David Walliams’ socks. He was actually trying to show me a picture of the flooring, which interested him more).
10. They can’t recall what children look like. – ‘Oh look, are they dwarves?’ ‘No, Sarah, they’re children.’
11. They don’t own a motor car and hardly ever get into one. ‘What do you want one for? Where would you actually go?’
12.They appear to make their own clothes, and have never shopped in a designer store. (John Waters describes his look as ‘Accident at the dry cleaners’)
13. They never name-drop. When somebody has to be mentioned, the name is chucked away as a self-deprecating aside in the sentence.
14. They have never been outside Zone 2. Not on purpose, they just don’t know anyone there.
15. Organising the Olympics must have been a doddle compared to getting all of them in a room together with only a month’s notice.
16. They abbreviate place names to airport callsigns to avoid sounding flash. ‘I’m off to MXP (Malpensa, Milan) for the weekend, do you want anything picked up?’
17. They don’t think London is crowded. They think Delhi is quite crowded. They don’t understand the countryside. ‘Why are there all these trees? It’s so untidy.’
18. They genuinely don’t see themselves as different. ‘We can’t make it tonight. I’ve got this thing with Brett Easton Ellis and Amber’s recording in the crypt of St Paul’s.’
19. They see movies with the cast (I am guilty of this) ‘Watch this bit – I’m rubbish in it’.
20. They recall restaurants by the conversations they had there, not the food, and spend more on books, on the theory that books will get you through times of no food rather than the reverse.
When I challenged one of my friends on this, he said; ‘Well, you either treat this like a disability and live with it or go to your sister’s neighbour’s Christmas drinks party and try to connect with her kids.’ Although he added, ‘And if they ask you what you did this week, you keep your mouth shut.’
Photo: Pal Victoria Jeffries in ‘Celebrity’. The first thing we realised we had in common was that I once danced with her father’s girlfriend, the legendary jazz singer Annie Ross, at Mel Torme’s party, because we happened to be seated at the same table (example of Rule 13).