I have always lived by a quote from Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, says Tom Hodgkinson in The Oldie. “I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.” Never quite understanding the need for new things, I am perfectly content with my old car, second-hand clothes and ancient kitchen units. Besides, shiny new things are so often just cheap old things repackaged. Take the trendy new milk substitute Oatly – it’s just Victorian gruel, “food for the poor”, revamped. And cars – I doubt whether a Martian could tell the difference between my old banger and a brand-new Tesla. “They both have four wheels and bomb along at the same speed.”
And yet, slowly, I’m being seduced by the cult of newness. I’m catching myself hanging round fashionable shops like Uniqlo, buying skinny trousers and black cardigans. Recently we put in a smart new kitchen and I picked up a flashy new car that was 10 times the price of my old Vauxhall Vectra. It’s pure vanity, really. After all, today’s new is tomorrow’s old.
But maybe it’s OK. We can strike a balance. As Ovid recommended, we should “praise the old ways, but use the present years. Both are customs worthy to be kept.”
Step away from the paid promotion
In 2019, Evian offered me $8,000 for an Instagram post of me cleaning up litter from beaches, says former influencer and writer Haley Nahman in her newsletter Maybe Baby. The irony of a single use plastic water bottle company peddling sustainability wasn’t lost on me. But when I heard how much they were offering, “my stomach dropped like I’d fallen in love”. Still, I declined – “I could lie to myself, but not that well” – and gave up influencing not long afterwards. To this day, it was “the easiest, most well-paid work of my life”, but influencing is also greedy and morally dubious – not that anyone seems to mind.
Rather than questioning influencers flogging us tat, we commend their financial drive. Celebrities are the same. “The Kardashians aren’t greedy,” we tell ourselves, “they’re enterprising”. It’s funny, we live in an age when stars are subject to constant moral policing, but we rarely target them for greed. “It’s distinctly American.” I can understand why influencers fall into the trap of promoting shabby ideas. But really, they’re just advertisers. So let’s not dress them up as savvy business types or pretend they’re doing us a service.
Why Fleabag should never be Indiana Jones
Rumour has it Phoebe Waller-Bridge is replacing Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, says Melanie McDonagh in the Telegraph. Bar the fact Indiana Jones is a bit of a girl’s name, “everything else about the idea is bad”. First off, Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. He started the role all the way back in 1981 and the entire franchise should die with him – “though letting a profitable franchise die isn’t the Disney way”. But the real problem is, whisper it, that Waller-Bridge is a woman. She’s terrific, sure. But her clever, funny, female persona is all wrong for a character whose default adjective is “rugged”. Hollywood producers might try to deny it, but some parts are simply made for men. “Can we not live with that?”