TEA. A FACE SCULPTED IN CAKE. AND HOW T.S. ELIOT’S COAT WON THE NOBEL PRIZE
Guardian Podcast on Alan Bennett’s ‘Keeping On Keeping On….Diaries 2005-2015’
This recently published podcast
is a combination of an interview with Alan Bennett in front of a live audience and a series of excerpts which he reads from his diaries. The interview is interesting, insightful and funny but the real joy in listening to this podcast are the extracts – and fortunately the Guardian know that! At one point, mid-flow, Bennett asks his interviewer, the Guardian Chief Culture Writer, Charlotte Higgins ‘How are we doing for time?’….’You just keep going!’ she replies. And she’s right!
But in some senses the revelation in the podcast, and in the diaries, isn’t those incredibly wry, witty and sharp stories but instead it’s the strong values and beliefs that Bennett gives out during the Q and A with Charlotte Higgins. She takes him on a journey through his views on Trump, the current performance of Corbyn and the Left, Brexit, Farage (not good to the point Bennett describes him as a pretty vile human being – which he is!), Boris Johnson (not good to the point he is seen by Bennett as so utterly and wholly loathsome he’s even more vile than Farage – which he bloody is!). The only thing missing, and that I’d have loved to hear, was his thoughts on the most vile of the lot – that odious creature Gove!
The interview section really does balance up the humour of the diary extracts – the hilarious stories give you a flavour of how brilliantly he sees and captures the unexpected and random acts, sights and remarks of life, such as the crucial role of tea and his opportunity to join the Board of the Yorkshire legend that is Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms and the offer to capture his image for posterity….in cake. It’s these that show life at its lightest, while the interview shows you a part of the depth of the man. Alan Bennett lives a bloody interesting life – but when you are as interested IN life as he clearly is then you deserve to get the maximum OUT OF life in return!
On realising his mother had met TS Eliot in the street in Yorkshire, as Eliot had married a woman to whom the Bennett family had once been their butcher….
“I tried to explain to her the significance of the great poet but ‘The Wasteland’ meant nothing to my mother. I said ‘He won the Nobel Prize for Literature’
She said ‘Well…..I’m not surprised….he had on a beautiful overcoat!”