In troubled times, turning to Jane Austen can provide a little respite. Her prose uses parody, burlesque, irony, free indirect speech and a degree of realism. No shortage of material for her style at the moment, then.
Penned over two hundred years ago, some passages resonate today. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Mr Bennet, unable to listen any more to his daughter Mary’s excruciating performance muttered “That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough.”
Try replacing Bennet with Hunt, and Mary with Liz – and note the bit before the rather more famous quote: “[her] powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected…” Remind you of anyone?
Austen’s decorous prose is in contrast to the distinctly more fruity language used this week by two people who should have known better. Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy has been taken off air following a testy interview with Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Steve Baker. Still mic’d up (you’d think the highly experienced broadcaster might have thought about this) he was heard describing Baker as the C-word. (No, not Conservative. That would’ve been beyond rude.)
While some may view his description of the arch Brexiteer admirably restrained, KG-M has been put on the naughty step for a week and told to wash his mouth out with carbolic soap.
Listeners to Radio 4’s Saturday news last weekend were also treated to another expletive bomb. This was a real marmalade dropper, delivered by Miriam Margolies.
She was gushing about her departed co-star Robbie Coltrane and, interview completed, joked with Justin Webb about the irony of her sitting in the seat just vacated by Jeremy Hunt. Webb must be rueing the moment he gave her the opportunity to explain that on seeing Hunt leaving, she wanted to blurt out “F*** you!”.
Seasoned Margolies watchers will be only too gleefully familiar with her form on saying something filthy or outrageous during live broadcasts. Why they didn’t pre-record this one remains a mystery.
Meanwhile, in Tabloid Land, a wilting 60p iceberg lettuce from Tesco, in a blond wig, has been crowned the winner of a bizarre competition after outlasting Liz Truss’s tenuous grip on power.
Seven days ago the Daily Star set up a webcam on the lettuce to see if it would have a longer shelf-life than the prime minister. To nobody’s surprise, the lettuce won.
The real shocker here though, is the price of an iceberg lettuce. 60p?
But then, when we are told that even Waitrose customers are turning to buying fish heads and Spam in the face of the cost of living squeeze, as Austen may have put it, it is a truth universally acknowledged that when Waitrose shoppers start buying fish heads and Spam, you really know the country is in trouble.