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JAN MOIR: Oh what a joy it is to glimpse celebrities' knick-knacks!

by Julianne Albright (2020-08-07)

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Equalities Minister Liz Truss does it beside a Union Jack on a highly polished pole (n.b. the flag is on the pole, not Liz), while Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley does it in his kitchen, next to a wall cabinet containing wine glasses.

What are they doing and why?






Equalities Minister Liz Truss works from home beside a union jack


Being confined to barracks by Covid-19 means celebrities, politicians, experts and journalists must now broadcast to the nation from the comfort — or otherwise — of their own homes. This reliance on video-conferencing applications such as Zoom and Skype has given us all a fascinating glimpse into their home lives, not to mention an insight into their decor choices, unfortunate knick-knacks and personally acceptable levels of clutter.

So come with me now through the keyhole, as we take a sneak peek into the high ceilings and low taste of the great and the not-so-good who form the corona commentariat.

Let's start with the bookcases...

BOOK SHELFIES

Bookcase backdrops loom large in working from home (WFH) transmissions. Is it wrong to assume that all those who choose to broadcast in front of their groaning shelves (Jeremy Hunt, Tobias Ellwood and Rick Astley, to name a few) are somehow intellectually insecure?

What is the subliminal message being pumped out here? Look at me, look how many words I have ingested, let me scream it from the rooftops; I am not a lightweight.

Books on politics and history are usually front and centre, while one imagines that anything by Andy McNab, Hairy Bikers curry cookbooks, DC comics or self-help titles such as Awaken The Giant Within have been hastily banished into boxes.

First question. If philosopher Alain de Botton is so clever, why does he have horizontal and vertical cram-stacking on some of his shelves (tsk) if there is plenty of room on others?






I love the sense of calm and order in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's study, with his neat desk, immaculate bookshelves and comfy reading chair with matching footstool. Rishi's shelves are packed with no-nonsense titles, inspiring confidence in his capabilities on both an intellectual and a practical level


In his study, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau reveals himself to be a two-lamp man who likes to display simple, childlike drawings of Santa Claus, a doggy-woggy and a rainbow next to his bookshelves. Many presume these to be artworks by his children, while others insist they are his own efforts.

I love the sense of calm and order in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's study, with his neat desk, immaculate bookshelves and comfy reading chair with matching footstool. Rishi's shelves are packed with no-nonsense titles, inspiring confidence in his capabilities on both an intellectual and a practical level.

By comparison, Matt Hancock's red-painted bookshelves are a right old mess; adorned with football shirts and CDs, with a book of cartoons prominently displayed. If Matt's shelves are a reflection of his state of mind, then his outlook is still stuck in Spotty Teenage Boy territory.

Quite charming, really, as it's not as if the Health Secretary has much to do in these… oh, God.

IT'S ALL ABOUT ME

Meanwhile, slick financial journalist Martin Lewis broadcasts on all channels in front of shelves laden with all his awards and trophies, including his OBE.

Oh, Martin! Must you? The most prominently displayed book on Lewis's bookshelves is a copy of Your Money Matters, by one Martin Lewis. He is on the case in more ways than one, as is…

JAMES CLEVERLY MP

James totally gets it when it comes to Zoom backdrops. 'Is it mandatory to pose in front of bookshelves?' he ponders on Twitter. 'Other backdrops I was thinking of include drinks cabinet, untidy garage shelves, garden shed, landscape painted by my grandfather or Acer Japonica starting to come into leaf.'

James, I like your style. I like your stripy shirt, I like your Diptyque candle and I like your little dog Coco most of all. However, I am not sure you should have left that potty visible on your top left-hand shelf. And as for your giant pussy willow, the less said the better.






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LIGHTING

Over on ITV, political editor Robert Peston comes live every night from his home in North London. Robert sits parallel to a bookcase that looks as if it might collapse in a heap at any minute, an apt reflection of his sentence construction.

Whereas Jeremy Hunt looks as if he is talking to the nation from a dark cupboard under the stairs, Robert's lair is more spacious — and beautifully lit by a lightbulb coming out of his right ear. This does not surprise me. If the National Grid went down, we could just plug in Robert and carry on as normal.

KITCHENS

Cooks should broadcast from their domestic situations, yes — but why tennis personage Judy Murray? Here she is in the depths of her Perthshire kitchen, chattering away to BBC Breakfast.






Fridge magnetism: Tennis coach Judy chats to the BBC


She has applied frisky Cleopatra eyes to stand in front of a giant fridge and talk about Wimbledon. The symbolism is lost on me — unless that is actually not a fridge but a magic silver door leading to the Murray family tennis-trophy hall and visitor attraction centre?

Tony Hadley looks like an out-of-work butler loafing around his kitchen, while many are still reeling at the psychological smorgasbord revealed by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth's kitchen.

His WFH panorama revealed a blue cruet set, a four-bulb floor lamp with opalescent shades last seen in Del Boy's living room, and some garage-forecourt flowers in a cut-glass vase.

Most troubling of all was the huge gilt-framed painting of an unknown citadel, featuring a very, very small man clopping along on a tiny horse. Paging Dr Freud.

OH MY EYES

Jonathan Powell, Downing Street chief of staff during the Blair years, was interviewed by Newsnight this week. He seemed to be locked in an attic, being tortured by some porn on the walls.

I say porn. I mean art, of course. Or perhaps it was a couple doing some very friendly yoga? A nice man showing a lady how to do a handstand while offering his shoulders as a support? That was kind of him, wasn't it?






Jonathan Powell, Downing Street chief of staff during the Blair years, was interviewed by Newsnight this week. He seemed to be locked in an attic, being tortured by some porn on the walls


Meanwhile, on ITV's Good Morning Britain, travel consultant Simon Calder went full grunge by broadcasting in his living room with what appeared to be a pile of undies and peeled-off bicycle shorts heaped on the radiator behind him. Imaginative viewers could close their eyes and practically smell his socks.

Over on BBC Breakfast, Green Goddess Diana Moran climbs into leggings and does her workout in a suburban conservatory complete with yucca plant, potted orchids and a side table with four metal legs and a nightmarish plastic daisy head.

'We don't want to be sitting in our chairs too long,' says Diana. Not if we're looking at that monstrosity, we do not.

ROYALS

Of course, the Royal Family are unbeatable when it comes to broadcast backdrops. Who could compete with the Queen's rotary phone, corgi statuettes and general tweediness?

On a recent broadcast from Windsor, her private quarters looked as if a blunderbuss packed with bric-a-brac had just been fired into the room.






Prince Charles recently made a broadcast from his Scottish corona isolation in Birkhall. He has cream bookshelves — I would expect nothing less — packed with first editions and not a football shirt in sight














Prince Charles recently made a broadcast from his Scottish corona isolation in Birkhall. He has cream bookshelves — I would expect nothing less — packed with first editions and not a football shirt in sight.

When the world seems at its darkest, isn't it amazing how moments of beauty present themselves in the most unexpected places? What WFH reveals is that most of our politicians, for example, seem to live in cupboards rarely visited by duster or sunlight.

But we will always have Simon Calder's underpants and Robert Peston's ear bulb, bringing light and joy to all.



 



Happiness is a soft WFH bra

The only thing not in lockdown at the moment appears to be the boob. Manufacturers report that wireless bra sales are up by 40 per cent compared with the same period last year.

That's a massive hike, which coincidentally is exactly what I demand of my own bras.






Model Romee Stridj walks the runway during the 2015 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The only thing not in lockdown at the moment appears to be the boob


Clarification for confused gentlemen? A wireless bra is not a bra that broadcasts Jeremy Vine at lunchtime. It is a bra without metal supports, and it represents a joyous relaxation in the structure of foundation garments for the WFH women in your life.

We have emigrated en masse to what manufacturers call ‘soft cup, zero feel' bras and we are loving every minute of it. I said zero feel, sergeant, and I meant it.



 



Actor Matthew Macfadyen stars in a new three-part TV series about the former Army major who cheated with the help of a coughing friend in the TV game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? back in 2001.






Actor Matthew Macfadyen stars in a new three-part TV series about the former Army major who cheated with the help of a coughing friend in the TV game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? back in 2001


Charles Ingram and his wife Diana — who helped with the script for the ITV drama, Quiz — managed to swindle the show out of £1 million before being exposed as cheats.

After a lengthy trial and public approbation, Macfadyen (pictured) feels they have suffered enough. ‘It's a game show. Nobody died,' he said.

No, but Charles Ingram went on to be found guilty of other fraud charges, too. Seems to me he deserved what he got.



 



Most unsurprising academic study finding of the year - the Golden Age of Hollywood was rife with inequality and that female representation across all genres and top jobs hit an all-time low during the period between 1920 and 1950. #This from the boffins at Midwestern University in Chicago. Whatever next? That King Kong wasn't real?

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