Some years ago, there was an infamous TV 'celebrity couple' called Trinny and Susannah, who made a lot of money by critiquing the clothes women wore and advising them what they should be wearing instead. Yes, I admit that I did watch this programme (occasionally) and quietly cheered when one lady told them their suggestions were rubbish and that she was going back to her usual outfits even if they did make her look like 'mutton dressed as lamb'.
Eventually, the viewing public tired of them.Trinny waltzed off with Nigella Lawson's ex to set up a brand of luxury cosmetics while poor old Susannah ended up on Strictly Come Dancing
, where apparently she didn't do very well, partly as she had succumbed to alcohol addiction. Now she has written her life story, it seems she had a totally dysfunctional childhood, then for years was the partner of Princess Margaret's son, Lord something or other, who would never pop the question. I haven't read her autobiography but in one interview she admitted that every day she woke up feeling anxious but got better as the day went on.
The thing is, so do I, and I thought it was a common phenomenon, in my case made worse recently by a pretty stressful house move, when every day seemed to bring on new 'challenges'. It's surprising how many media famous people seem to suffer from this anxiety condition. I do wonder why in that case they seek the public eye?
Some years ago, I did try the help of the NHS in dealing with my own anxiety but all that seemed available was an infantile cartoon programme telling me to go out and smell flowers, etc. Although it was an insult to any reasonable person's intelligence, I persevered to episode two, where the system wouldn't log me in. When I emailed the helpdesk, the 'expert' there told me to take a screenshot of my login details. 'How do I do that?' I emailed back, not being very IT savvy. He never replied and I decided it would make me even more anxious to bother, so like Susannah I decided to learn to live with it.
Revenge of the machines
As well as being an anxious type, I am scared of 'appliances'. It took me years to conquer my fear of the boiler in the previous house and I used to placate it by praising its staying power in the hope that it wouldn't go wrong. Here chez Brown (Mary and Freddy le Chat) I have managed to be nice to the new boiler by organising Mr Blue Flame to come and give it the once over. It hadn't been serviced for a while and he removed a whole lot of sludge from it, which gave me even more anxiety to realise it might
have gone wrong. Sensing my terror, Mr Blue Flame announced: 'If it needs the pressure topping up just give me a ring as you
won't be able to do it!' Hmph!
My helpful son has more or less sorted the TV aerial, as for complex technical reasons it was only picking up Ireland and Northern Ireland channels, together with some rather earnest Pakistani gents discussing theology and some very suspect 'adult' channels. Freddy was annoyed as he couldn't watch Minder
, his favourite programme. In one of those amazing coincidences, I actually found the appropriate aerial 'bit' to fix it lying in the road so the Divine Being must have helped out here. We now only need a very long ladder to get back Minder
and The Professionals
As well as having to conquer my fear of machines, I had an early accident in the new house as reversing the car out of the drive I heard a horrible crunching noise and discovered I had run over the food caddy. Admittedly, it wasn't of the newest design but now it was in bits and embarrassing as another example of my bad driving. When I looked up the council website, it turned out I could get a spanking new one free from the local recycling centre, so I now have the smartest food caddy on the street.
Out of sight?
Interestingly for a psychologist, now that the office room with the PC in it is upstairs, I don't look at the computer half as much as I did when it was downstairs. Today I bought several storage units for the said room, but also risked a trip to the lock-up where half my stuff sits. It is scary to see how much there still is. I am devoutly hoping most of it will fit in the shed that the local shed expert is building for me. One of the things I did retrieve from the lock-up was the first classical vinyl record I ever bought, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
, which I saved more for its cover than its musical merit: Claude Lorraine's depiction of Dido and Aeneas at Carthage, a country that here looks more like the south of France than North Africa.
I adored Purcell from when I first discovered him – like Mozart, he surely managed to combine effortlessly the Classical and Romantic and is a peculiarly English composer – surely the greatest ever produced there. However, If time travel was ever possible, I would nip back and take him to Scotland as he would have loved the musical culture as well as a wee dram – Purcell wrote a number of funny drinking songs for him and his mates to sing.
As a romantic teenager, I learned the whole libretto of Dido and Aeneas
by heart, in case I was ever at a performance when they needed a substitute (although I would have struggled with the high notes in Dido's lament). The best Dido would surely be the fantastic Jessye Norman, although Maria Ewing was pretty brilliant too. Nowadays, I can't decide between Dido
and The Fairy Queen
as my favourite Purcell piece – there's a totally brilliant DVD of the latter from the Proms, the details of which I can't provide as it's still in the storage unit. Hopefully, it will ultimately be retrieved in one piece.
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant