Monday, 24 August 2009

Liz Jones' Tuscan villa nightmares, and other frightening tales

There are Mail columnists I dislike (well, pretty much all of them), but usually I know what the point of them is. Peter Hitchens may use some disingenuous arguments, but I understand why he thinks what he thinks, and I can see why he appeals to people who fetishise the past and fancy themselves as conservative intellectuals. Littlejohn is depressingly easy to understand; his columns are all pitched with exactly the same tone, making the same points over and over, and he appeals to the kind of people who think being 'no-nonsense' is a virtue, even if it means simplifying issues to the point where it pretty much is nonsense. Melanie Phillips...actually, let's not talk about her.

Liz Jones, though, leaves me completely baffled. I don't what her appeal is supposed to be, who her columns are aimed at. I sometimes get the feeling they're aimed at the little voice in her head that tells her to keep going. And no-one else. On Saturday she tackled the sensitive issue of 800m runner Caster Semenya's gender test with a dreadful set of observations about the differences between men and women. In this, Jones suggests that rather than using science we could just do a test based on a load of hackneyed stereotypes about men and women. When the Semenya story first broke forums across the internet were filled with budding comedians making 'THEY COULD JUST ASK HER TO PARALLEL PARK HAHAHA' jokes with all the subtlety for which the internet is famed, but Jones turned this into an entire column.

Of course, those of you who know Liz Jones know that she has a somewhat unique view of the world, which it perhaps wouldn't be that unfair to describe as 'spoilt'. So, instead of even attempting to put herself in the shoes of Caster Semenya, a teenager from a rural South African village which didn't have electricity when she was growing up and still doesn't have running water, Jones gigglingly suggests that we'll know she's a woman if she uses "a BlackBerry timetable" for her weekly shopping, checks in efficiently online when she goes on her holidays and dutifully sorts out the recycling because Lord knows the feckless menfolk won't. Reading Liz Jones' examples of what a woman is like, it's impossible to reconcile this with real female humans I have met. I'm used to people using 'men' and 'women' when they really mean 'my husband' or 'my wife', but I do wonder what planet Jones is on if she thinks that the mark of a woman is the ability to schedule her shopping trips on a Blackberry.

Liz Jones is most notable for writing a series of columns about her similarly objectionable ex-husband Nirpal Dhaliwhal, who seemed to be competing in public to see who could make themselves look the biggest twat post-divorce. Since then, Jones has become notorious for being unfathomably self-absorbed and yet not remotely self-aware, writing endless columns mixing gushing enthusiasm about her wonderful fashion sense and her brilliant taste in designer house fittings with horrendous whinges about trivial shit that real people deal with without any fuss, to the point that even the most pretentious pseudo-middle-class Mail readers started to view her as a bit of a joke. (I mean, she writes sentences like "Michael was fast asleep on his back in the sitting room on the Jasper Morrison"; you know when people start referring to their furniture by the name of its designer that we're not dealing with someone all of us might get along with).

Now she's been given a column which reads like a parody of a vacuous, solipsistic moron; the only thing stopping me from believing it's a satire is that Jones has always been a bit like this. That new column is called, with no apparent irony, 'Liz Jones Moans', in which Jones takes feminism round the back, shoots it, set it on fire, shoots it some more, buries it in a locked safe, pumps a few extra rounds into the dirt for good measure and then commissions an award-winning landscape gardener to do something oh so terribly tasteful with the space above it.

If women were all like Liz Jones, you'd probably become a rampant chauvinist. Aside from her tedious gossip-mag bitching about the awful dresses other women are wearing, she has a very strange relationship with the idea of independence, switching constantly between sassy noughties go-getter and simpering, clueless little girl who expects everyone to do everything for her. Above, she was faintly praising herself for her smart Blackberry-organised shopping trips, but she also writes columns like last Thursday's Who wants to fill up their own car with petrol while wearing heels and cream Burberry?, in which she yearns for some kind of working class man to do the terrible things she can't bear to do herself.

In that piece, Jones complains bitterly about having to fill her car up all by herself, lest she dirty up her cream Burberry clothing and classy heels, before going on to complain about how terribly confusing the process of filling up at a petrol pump is:
When you finally stagger in to pay, they ask you which pump you were at.

How on earth would I know? Then you put your card in, key in about a million numbers, and they ask if you have a loyalty card.
No real person is that stupid, are they? The pumps are numbered. It's a fairly simple system, this 'numbering', and personally I think it's really going to catch on. I predict we're going to be using numbers for all kinds of things in the future, and trust me Liz, while I appreciate how difficult it can be to pull your head out of your arse long enough to remember a one digit number, if you keep persevering with it I reckon even you can crack the code.

Three days earlier, Jones scraped the self-parody barrel with a whinge about the horrors of going on holiday to her rented Tuscan villa and her hellish experiences in posh hotels. Here she complains about such hardships as overlong codes to unlock the hotel's broadband connection, insufficiently obvious light-switch positioning, and being given too much helpful information on her bedside table. Let's join Liz as she recounts the harrowing tale of the time her remote stopped working:

The remote control for the TV doesn’t work. You phone downstairs. ‘We will send an engineer up to your room.’

‘No, don’t do that. I don’t want a man in my room because I am tired and in my pyjamas.’

He arrives anyway.
It's not entirely clear what Liz expects the hotel to do without coming to her room, but I'm sure you'll agree it's all a terrible farce. She moves on to complaining about the expensive villas she's stayed in;

And don’t get me started on self-catering villas in Tuscany which, despite costing half your annual salary, don’t come with coffee beans or bottled water or a TV that works.

Why are people in Europe not as obsessed with TV and DVDs and up-to-date gadgets as we are?

I once rented a villa near Siena. I hired a car to get there, kept driving the wrong way round roundabouts, got hopelessly lost and then couldn’t find the key to the front door.

I kept having to go to a supermarket to buy food, which was all extremely tiring.

Imagine! Imagine having to drive to your villa all by yourself! What horror! Imagine having to buy your own food on a self-catering holiday! Oh, the humanity! At this point I might have made an exaggerated comparison to some actual real-life hardship for comedic effect, but Jones is perfectly capable of unintentionally satirising herself, as she does expertly in Modern hairdressers? They're as bad as Guantanamo Bay (no, really), in which she does actually declare that "the modern hairdressing salon is the female high-maintenance equivalent of being sent to Guantanamo Bay - torture".

The basins hurt your neck, the magazines are out of date and mind-numbing (salons never seem to stock newspapers) and don't even get me started when you try to book an appointment.
I do feel that in amongst all the talk about human rights abuses and indefinite detention without trial, people like Amnesty and Liberty have missed the real scandal of Guantanamo Bay - the out-of-date copies of Grazia which the shackled inmates are expected to read. Who knows what terribly outdated techniques they're now using to please their man? By the time they get out their fashion sense will be soooooooo 2002 that they'll probably wish they'd been beaten to death after all.

What kind of future are these detainees in for anyway? Next time they fly out for a holiday they'll have to deal with the nightmare that is using an airport. Now, a lot of people get a bit annoyed about using airports. They take a long time, procedures to get through, lots of waiting, boredom sets in, fair enough. Jones, though, manages to make her complaints about airport security so toe-curlingly irritating it makes you want to vomit up your soul;

I have booked a week in a villa in Ibiza with its own pool, mainly to avoid having to strip off in public on a beach.

Why, then, am I forced to practically get naked at the airport?

First, I am asked to remove my jacket, despite the fact that a) it is Yves Saint Laurent and doesn't do folded, or being squashed into a horrid plastic tray, and b) I only have on a Marc Jacobs camisole underneath, which is the equivalent of standing around in a bra.
A normal person might go on a flight wearing casual, comfortable clothes, but not dear old Liz here. Why can't airports just arrange their security operations around her for a change? Because, if Liz Jones has to fold up her Yves Saint Laurent jacket to reveal the horror that is her Marc Jacobs camisole, then the terrorists have truly won.

Although, to be honest, sometimes when I read Liz Jones' columns, I start thinking that maybe the terrorists have a point.


  1. She is even hated by the Daily Mail commenters. Worst rated comment, with a respectable -77 is:

    "Seriously Liz, why aren't you running the country?"

  2. That is truly awful - your account of Jones make her outpourings sound like a retread of all those dreadful S&F novels that I hoped were buried in a part of the past that we had all agreed was best filed under collective amnesia.

  3. Absolutely fab article.

    I guess she is in the Mail's opinion 'something for the ladies'.

    Thank god she is about as far from a real woman as Gordon Brown is from a salad, otherwise the human race would have died out in 2002.

  4. Oh superb article. I kept copying the words I most agreed with as I went through only to change choice to a comment that was even better till I realised there could be nothing better than the completely vaccuous and utter stupidity of Jones herself:

    "the modern hairdressing salon is the female high-maintenance equivalent of being sent to Guantanamo Bay - torture".

    Get Chris Hitchens to take her water boarding; she'll think it's an upmarket sport and buy a bikini.

  5. Oh snap, my sides. I think I'll have to start keeping an eye on her. Her entire life sounds like an ever-unfolding car crash.

  6. Why bother with the daft wife when you've got Polly Filla in the Eye? Much more authentic.

  7. I don't think she's supposed to be serious.

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