Last Monday, I sold my car. This had to be done. Later this month, the mayor of London will extend his low-emission zone; my old VW being a diesel, every journey was about to cost me GBP12.50. But as I kept telling myself, there were other, more virtuous reasons for this mournful visit to the Shoreditch branch of the Philip Schofield theme park that is webuyanycar.com. Whatever else I might have done wrong in my life, at least I’m now no longer contributing to the city’s congestion and pollution.
Travelling home on the tube, however, I was overcome by sudden sadness. As a teenager, nothing was more important than passing my test; even now, I still feel weirdly proud of the fact that I can drive and weirdly disdainful of those who can’t. I regard driving as a feminist act. It has saved my bacon so many times; locking my car door from the inside late at night has always represented safety to me.
The woman who cannot drive cannot bolt, a word I use in its Mitfordian sense to denote “escape from a male lover of the species”, though one does, of course, need something to bolt in. The man at webuyanycar.com, sipping thoughtfully from his Pip Schofield mug, spoke kindly of all the options available to me. But it’s hardly the same, is it? Where’s the drama in booking a hire car into which to throw all your worldly possessions? How to roar off stagily in something that’s parked in the next-but-one street and that has a multicoloured Zipcar logo emblazoned on its side?
Lady Boss, a brilliantly mad (and sad) new film about Jackie Collins to be screened by the BBC next week, has lots to say about feminism, albeit mostly of the leopardskin-jacket-and-athletic-sex variety (the author of Hollywood Wives, though seriously into equal pay, was not, we gather, a great one for Kate Millett et al). But not everyone in it comes to praise or even fondly to recall the shoulder pads.
Jackie’s big sister, Joan, just can’t help herself, telling us, solemn-faced, that after she died in 2015, her sibling was reincarnated as a fruit fly. What? How did she know? Apparently, it was its impressive tenacity that was the giveaway, the insect having doggedly followed poor, grieving Joan all the way from the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills hotel to the south of France.
V&A’s new baby
However well-intentioned, I think the V&A’s decision to change the name of the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green to Young V&A – and to banish its historic collections of toys to V&A East – may be a mistake.
Reason one: while all of us have a childhood, not everyone is young. Reason two: such a name suggests that the V&A’s other outposts are only for the old, which they’re not. Reason three: Young V&A sounds so contingent and temporary – something, perhaps, to be grown out of. Reason four: in my experience, children know instinctively when they are being patronised and all this talk of “nurturing the innovators of the future” does sound a touch condescending to me. Reason five: no one should discount the value of (ostensible) boredom.
That sensation, almost as much as its opposite, can set a small brain working. As a child, dragged around a museum by a teacher or parent, I was always looking for the least dull thing, which is how, against all expectation, I would sometimes find an interesting, exciting thing.