Friday, July 29, 2011

On preferring Ludlow to Zoe Williams

And so they came to Ludlow, which some say is the fairest country town in England. In the twelfth century its wall were pierced with seven gates of which only one now remains, but everything else about it today is overshadowed by its magnificent castle, a memorial to the days when its courtyards echoed to the ring of steel and armoured knights rode over the drawbridge to fight the marauding Welsh.

Below the castle walls, at the foot of the cliffs, the lovely River Teme half circles the town before tumbling under two bridges on its way to add its clear waters to those of the muddy Severn.

Malcolm Saville, The Secret of the Gorge (1958)

To see Ludlow as Malcolm Saville saw it you have to visit it out of the tourist season. Autumn is best, when the leaves of the woods on the other side of the Teme are turning. In high summer it can seem crowded and a little too pleased with itself.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the first Town with Nichloas Crane last night. Crane is an amiable and intelligence presence - his book Great British Journeys is worth seeking out - and for me pictures of Shropshire's hills and ancient buildings are a form of pornography. Commendably, the programme also looked at a part of the town that the tourists never visit.

Not everyone enjoyed it though. Step forward Zoe Williams, who now turns up in the Guardian in all sorts of capacities. In today's issue she was pretending to be a television critic:
The market is "its beating heart, where people have been shopping for bargains for nearly 1,000 years". Unfortunately for them, all they'll be able to buy now is some novelty mustard for a fiver and an assortment of peg bags, but there's always Tesco. Sorry, that was unnecessary and disrespectful. They also have very good cheese. In the "Cathedral of the Marches" (to be precise, it is just a very large parish church), Crane looks as if he might break into a jig. It was built on the back of sheep, apparently. It is large. You've got to give it that.
I have to ask again the question that I asked on 17 July 2011:
Why does a 37-year-old educated at Godolphin & Latymer School and Lincoln College, Oxford, feel the need to write like that?
This pretence of adolescent anti-intellectualism has become no less irritating over the past year. I start to wonder why her parents spent all that money on school fees if this is how she was going to turn out. At least Polly Toynbee writes like a grown up.

And, incidentally, by my calculation ZoeWilliams is now 38.

These days Williams is just as likely writing what are supposed to be hard-edged political pieces about cuts in public services. Yet remembering her trying to be the ditzy but loveable woman columnist who cheerfully admitted to going private herself, I just can't take them seriously.

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