The other day while on the Underground, I was approached by a young man who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old. He looked typically “street” – trousers round the ankles, boxer shorts to the nipples, teeth pierced, you get the drift. I was alarmed when he started speaking to me. Was I about to be mugged on the train?
Surprisingly, he said, in a rather posh accent: “Hello, Miss Mirza. Sorry to bother you. I just wanna say, yeh, I never used to read the Statesman when it looked like the Bible, but now it’s dead cool I read it like Penthouse, you know what I’m saying, yeh, innit?”
I kissed my teeth and replied, “Yar man, I know where you’re comin’ from.”
I was pleased that the Statesman was reaching out to a whole new generation, and was very disappointed when I arrived home to find an email from the editor telling me he was stepping down from his position. What of my humour? Would any editor ever find me amusing again? John Kampfner was the wacky daddy who really was “down with the kids”. He enticed a whole new generation of young people to read this magazine. I hope they don’t all go back to reading Razzle.
I also hope our next editor is not going to be of the dishevelled intellectual dandruff variety, the type who thinks humour is best kept for special occasions and that 50 Cent is a street name for Beethoven. On retirement, he should absolutely be willing to get locked up in a house, a kitchen, or a jungle with one of Liza Minnelli’s ex-husbands or a member of the Jackson family.
I have been terribly middle-class this week. No, I haven’t started shopping at Waitrose and hired a cleaner – I have been skiing in Geneva. This picturesque little city has been colonised by the English, who all speak French in a Mill Hill accent. There are no poor people or pound shops round here.
I love skiing; I do it for the fashion. Ever since I saw a picture of Elizabeth Taylor on skis I thought this must be the height of glamour and I must copy her.
I stand at the top of the Swiss Alps in my £25 Primark ski trousers, matching cerise jacket and M&S thermals so that when I come back to London I can boast to my friends Jemima and Hilary that I can now ski. Everyone says the best thing about skiing is the après-ski, though for me that involves hanging sodden salopettes on the radiator and picking pine needles out of my hair.
Children are amazing at skiing, even the obese ones. It’s wonderful to watch a five-year-old skiing faster than an adult without using poles. Ten poles wouldn’t have been enough for me. I was constantly grabbing on to children for protection and using them as extra ski equipment. They laughed when I fell off the drag lift: my poles went downhill, my skis went uphill, and my face nearly ended up in Lake Geneva.
Wherever you are in the world, you cannot escape half-term. Geneva is full of groups of French schoolchildren learning to ski. The children at my resort sing very loudly, stuff their faces with chocolate and leave the wrappers all over the ground or hanging from their pockets, and each time they ski two metres they reward themselves with two chocolate bars. I would tell them to go away but I may need to use them as ski poles. We think British children have behavioural problems? French schoolchildren are a lot worse. A little boy called Pierre was swearing at the English in a French accent. I swore back in Urdu; that soon confused him.
We are staying at a chalet situated in the middle of a forest. Think Fawlty Towers without the service or any stairs. It was advertised as having an open fire, but when we arrived we were told to get our own wood. Wandering around in the snow in my pyjamas with an axe isn’t the bijou luxury I had imagined. I’m sure Liz Taylor didn’t have to chop her own wood.