Today’s Conversation Pieces
Morocco Is Timeless Yet Fast Evolving
Travel has become more complicated since Brexit. Now that the UK is designated as a ‘third country’ we have different entry requirements and are checked separately. For many travel is no longer the get-up-and-go experience of the past but an elaborate and expensive maze of paperwork. Officials in other countries, it seems, are infinitely more courteous than ours in Heathrow and Gatwick. Perhaps because they get a decent living wage.
Given all that happened over the last two years we decided to high-end our Moroccan trip at the frankly fabulous Ksar Char-Bagh, with just fifteen rooms set amid sculpted grounds. A fine example of ‘Louche Moderne’, the hotel chef will cook whatever you feel like eating and make it sensational, adding oranges, cinnamon, lavender and a host of fine épices.
Given that Morocco’s past tourist reputation had been built on cheap hashish and furtive sex, it’s heartening to see how sophisticated it has now become in ways that don’t harm its traditional values. The fine dining involves original fusions of Arabic and European influences (see the turnip/turbot combo above) although I didn’t try the camel burger. Modern technology has been discreetly built into the medina’s old buildings and is used by everyone, but people still stop to chat to strangers. The new Moroccan airport is airy and spacious, but to get out of the country involved no less than five stages of document-checking. Iif you haven’t been for a while it’s time to re-evaluate this lovely country.
The Right Woman For The Job
I was just putting the final touches on the latest draft of ‘Word Monkey’, the last part of a trilogy that began with ‘Paperboy’ and continued with ‘Film Freak’ when I discovered Deborah James, 40, the journalist and podcast host who is now in the final stages of bowel cancer.
I’d read that she had raised a staggering amount for cancer charities but had not realised the extent of the good she had done through ‘You, Me & The Big C’, the top-rated one-hour broadcasts on living with the disease, how it affects sufferers and their loved ones. The husband just binge-listened to many of the episodes, and learned a lot that was useful and even heartening. The stories build an overall picture that shows the universal emotions that connect us, showing that no-one needs be alone. The series is very middle class, very BBC, but the finest example of what Auntie does best, and what we would lose if the Tories manage to wreck it.
As someone who is on the same trajectory, I’m sure Ms James has done lasting good by deep-diving into a subject that has too long been shied away from, and asking the awkward questions no-one else asks. I’ll be trying to do something a little different with ‘Word Monkey’, and I suppose as a gay man (if one has to be classed as anything at all) the content will inevitably be less children-oriented. It’s more about writing and very much its own beast.
Revenge Of The Fishwives
…And it’s the Silly Season, so the Fourth Estate is having a ball with the Wagatha Christie libel case, which continues to provide marmalade-dropping moments as two footballers’ wives continue to believe so deeply in their own self-importance that spending a fortune in a very dirty laundry-airing court case is actually deemed worthwhile.
What have we learned so far? That the press’s worst prejudices about class surface in matters of libel – the women are repeatedly referred to as ‘fish-lipped fishwives, but are frankly doing nothing to help their case.
What else? That when having a one-night stand with a pop star you should describe his dangliest part as a chipolata. That agents are liable to accidentally drop their mobile phones in the North Sea (now rechristened the ‘Who Is D Jones? Locker’) just after being subpoenaed, somehow not reckoning that What’sApp keeps records. And that the next most stupid thing you can do next is to put Wayne Rooney on the stand. Which they’re now about to do. Can’t wait, already looking forward to the TV series.