Rachel Johnson on pesky Instagram influencers, Heathrow protests and why she miss Radio 4’s John Humphrys.
A bad start to week. When I checked my email on Monday morning it was to discover that panicking residents of west London – where I live – were circulating an eleventh-hour round robin. The subject line contained the words of doom. ‘Heathrow flightpath consultation DEADLINE 11.55am.’
We had but a few hours to mobilise against a grave threat to the pampered daily lives and sweet nightly sleeps of my fellow Notting Hill neighbours.
An even greater threat than the hordes of tourists who still come to see – well, to take photos of – the blue door and the travel bookshop the film Notting Hill, and the garden gate where Hugh Grant jumps over and says ‘oops a daisy’. (I wearily report that the garden gate is the magic door to my own communal garden and my street is therefore persistently mobbed by forever fans with selfie sticks.)
An even greater threat to our wellbeing than the hordes of international Instagram influencers who come from thousands of miles away to take pictures for their feeds of themselves posing outside our gelato-painted stucco terraces.
Heathrow plans to change the way it uses its two runways and introduce early morning landings on BOTH. Which means that my early morning reveille will be at 5.15am every day as jumbos thunder past at a height of only 3,000 feet above my house. I’ve put my postcode in and checked. Bayswater, Kensington, Holland Park, will all be ‘affected’. Only 3,000 feet above my bonce, at a rate of twenty-five an hour.
It really will never be glad confident morning again in W11 – unless this madness can be stopped…
I ‘navigated’ the website to registered a protest before the noon deadline, noting that the site gives no info about noise, air pollution, or emissions, despite the fact that noise levels under the new proposals could be as high as 65 decibels (context: the WHO regards 40 decibels as an acceptable noise level for a bedroom, and 55 decibels as a stressful level).
The council has objected. As have the Garden Committees, and the Ladbroke Association. But local resident Sir Simon Jenkins is the go-to man on this sort of thing so I went to him. He of course has been banging on about the third runway and overflights for years.
‘I find it astonishing that a sophisticated city in the 21st century can begin to think of these runways in densely populated areas,’ Simon said. ‘Here at least Boris was right. Incidentally, they have been promising quieter planes for half a century. Where are they?’
Savour this moment, readers. I am prepared to bet a one-way, long-haul flight out of Brexit Britain that this is the first and last time you will read the words ‘Boris was right’ in these pages.
Call from Mary Killen, the agony aunt star of Gogglebox and friend. ‘You must watch Bachelor on Channel Four I think,’ she said. ‘I’ve just watched it for Gogglebox and it’s brilliant. The concept is there’s this six foot four handsome single man and about a dozen women compete to bag him. It’s as if feminism never existed!’ As she spoke, I felt confused. I had literally the night before finished with a satisfied sigh Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, which sets Pride and Prejudice in modern day Cincinnati, and Mr Bingley is called Chip Bingley and has starred in a dating show called Eligible, where 14 or so hotties compete to win his heart. ‘But that’s the plot of Eligible,’ I said, thinking that books repeat first as comedy and then as reality television, or something.
Then, of course, I discover that Curtis Sittenfeld is not only copying Jane Austen; she didn’t invent Eligible, the dating show, either. Eligible is copycatted from on an existing US show called The Bachelor, and it must be the UK version of this that is coming to our screens this week. I must remember to tell Mary.
As I write I am listening to WATO (Radio 4’s World at One) and it is being announced that Jonathan Dimbleby is stepping down from Any Questions?, in the wake of David Dimbleby leaving Question Time, John Humphrys hanging up his Today headphones, and the BBC binning off Andrew Neil’s show This Week. All I can say is, what a shame. Of course this opens up opportunities for others, but these broadcasters are not bedblockers, but absolutely ruddy brilliant. Although the show must go on, to me they are all irreplaceable. We may never see their like again.
It is unfashionable to say so, and many will sneer, ‘not before time’ but I mourn their passing on from these programmes they have made their own. This is no country for old media men.