New Statesman 2009
12 February 2009Some people get ridiculously excited. On snow morning, someone sent me a picture of their car covered in snow. I can see pictures of cars with snow on the internet, on TV, in books. It really isn't a new phenomenon. I could understand if someone had sent me a picture of a giraffe giving birth on the sunroof in the snow. But this was just snow.
A couple of days of snow and allof a sudden everyone is five years old. I woke up on Monday morning to find random kids in mygarden ruining the virgin whiteness. I was well annoyed; Iwanted to stampede around my snow in my snow boots, which Ionly get to wear once every ten years. I told the kids to get out of my garden, to which they replied, "We'll build you a snowman." Two hours later I had a lovely big snowman called Fred in my garden, and every person I bumped into was happy and excited.
Snow makes people do weird things. All of a sudden it's OK to start walking in the middle of the road: one person does it and everyone follows. I don't see cars driving along the pavement or buses riding in the cycle lane.
The only violence anyone can really get away with is snow violence. I got hit three times in theback of the head with huge snowballs, but when the boy said, "Sorry, I meant to get him in frontof you," it seemed all right. And quite fun for me to throw one in his face.
I was driving through the East End of London late at night while the snow was still falling, when Inoticed a house with a burnt-out car and washing machine in its front garden. Even that looked beautiful. The next day the internetwas full of blogs by peopletelling stories about their one day in the snow.
Everyone has an opinion these days, a point of view that they feel should be urgently expressed and the whole world should know about immediately and in full. And if people don't have an opinion, they'll steal someone else's or they'll buy one off the internet.
I don't think most people know what they really think any more. Someone put a clip of me on to YouTube. Underneath was the usual litany of the world's most illiterate people expressing hatred of anything. Someone had written, "This is great, I love it." Someone else had written to that person, "What's wrong with you, it's rubbish, you idiot, how can you like it?" Then someone else joined in and said, "You're both idiots, how can any of you even be on here? If I catch you on here again I'll come after you!" The internet isjust a series of angry people punching each other up in cyberspace. It's fashionable to be judgemental these days. I blame The X Factor. The only time I used to be judged was at school report time. Now I don't even have to leave the house to be judged on everything from my work to my underwear.
On the internet, the blog is something that really baffles me. On the one hand I really don't care if your washing machine has broken down and you're waiting for Steve the plumber to come and fix it, and what a bargain Steve is, and how his kids and your kids goto the same school, and how he used to have dreadlocks but now that he's had his hair cut you feel much safer letting him into your home. But, on the other hand, it's addictive to read and it makes me feel better to know that your life is just as mundane as mine.
I'd like to end this column bygiving my opinion on Carol Thatcher's recent comments. Everyone seems surprised that she called a leading black tennis player a "golliwog".
I am more surprised that there isa leading black tennis player. Iwant to know who he is, wherehe's playing, and how I can get tickets. Why is this important sports news left to the likes of Carol Thatcher?