Monday, November 29, 2010
I can't be bothered to have opinions anymore. I used to have loads, about all sorts of things. Politics, economics, charitable giving, the Euro - all sorts of stuff. People used to look scared when I came into a room because I had all these opinions, with percentages and factoids to back them up, and I would shout like Brian Blessed, given half an excuse.
But over the years I've realised that I can't be bothered. Having opinions is totally pointless. First of all, it's boring. Second of all, if you offer an opinion, about 3 people will agree with you and everyone else will turn on you like a mongoose who's spotted a snake.
I once repeated the idea - not even an opinion! just an observation! - at some party or other that in practical terms there's not much point in taxing the very rich because there aren't enough of them. Even if you taxed everyone who earns over £300,000 in this country at 80%, you'd still fall way, way short of the revenue raised if you taxed everyone who earns under £30,000, like, 2 extra pence. *
I mean, I might as well have stood up and declared that mentally disabled people ought to be sterilised.
"I didn't say I thought it was a good idea!" I spent the rest of the night shrieking. "I didn't say that's what ought to happen..! I'm just saying it's one way of looking at it, that's all..! I just mean taxing rich people isn't all about revenue, that's all...!"
Then a few months later I was invited to a book club. I'd never been invited to one before (exactly why not will become apparent in a second) and I was rather excited. The book was Lolita, which was unfortunate for everyone because it's one of the three books without illustrations that I've actually read.
We all sat about eating a really excellent fish pie at the house of some genial Sloane and then started talking about the book. I sat there, becoming more and more amazed at the stupidity of everyone. For half an hour they talked about the book in the most slow and dim-witted way imaginable. It wasn't even like being in an A-Level class, it was like pre-GCSE stuff.
"Do you think maybe," I said finally, "we're not getting the whole truth from Humbert?"
There was a horrible silence.
"Do you think maybe, since he's the narrator, he's giving only his version of events? The phone call at the motel, towards the end, where we only hear one side of the phonecall - wasn't that kind of a giveaway?"
Then a boy sitting in a corner - okay not a boy, he was probably about 28 - said:
"Oh I hate all that reading-between-the-lines practical criticism stuff. Derrida and all that. Such bullshit."
It was then I, fatally, lost my temper. "I'm sorry," I said, blinking a lot for outraged effect. "Do you actually have a degree? What do you do for a living?"
And, I'm not joking, he was a literary agent.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my friend Iain, who had invited me, almost but not quite, put his head into his hands.
Things broke up quite shortly after that. I wasn't invited back.
So, I think it's safest not to have opinions anymore. I find that life is so much more clement if you just smile broadly and say nothing. No-one ever notices that you haven't said anything, they're too busy telling you what they think about global warming and they just think you're charming. But it's got to the point now, where I don't want to hear anyone else's opinions about things, either. I pretty much have to leave the room if anyone mentions Iraq, climate change, or interest rates.
My first boss, Jemima, knows everything. She really does - everything. And she never talks about it at parties, because she thinks it's rude. She just wants to gossip and tell jokes.
Luckily, I married the one person in the world who holds fewer opinions than I do. Every week he sits down to write his opinion column and has to dream up some wild thing to say - if it might get him into trouble even better - but privately he has almost no views whatsoever. It's bliss.
My opinion on roast chicken at the moment, as it happens, is completely off-kilter. It's basically all I ever want to eat, except pizza, and so whenever I go to the shops, I don't buy a chicken to roast because I think "Can't have that again! Boring!" and then I realise that we haven't had it for 6 months.
So I bought one last week and I thought I'd do it with stuffing and two veg and everything for Sunday lunch.
Jolly nice it was, too.
My opinion on how to roast a chicken goes like this:
1 Lightly oil the bottom of the pan so that the chicken doesn't stick. Put it in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes.
2 Turn down the oven to 180C and then turn every 20 minutes for 1 hr 20 minutes. Or 20 minutes more if it's a very large chicken. Rest under foil and a teatowel for 20 minutes.
My opinion on stuffing goes like this:
1 Put three ripped-up slices of bread - whatever you like - in a food processor. Follow that with 1 onion, roughly chopped, thyme, sage, rosemary, few strips lemon peel, 1 skinned raw sausage (if you've got it, don't worry if not) salt, pepper, 2 glugs olive oil and a garlic clove.
2 Whizz until combined. Fill the cavity of the chicken with it. Proceed with the cooking instructions.
Breadcrumbs are the base of a stuffing, but you can add whatever you like. A lot of sausage, less. Prunes, orange (festive) - leave out the onion if you like - chestnuts! Liver! Pine nuts! Basil! Go wild.
Here ends my catechism.
*DISCLAIMER: These figures are not accurate. Like, obviously obviously for fuck's sake, they're not accurate. I can't imagine who'd think they were, but it's been brought to my attention that some people might be confused. And I can't have that. Especially when they have boyfriends who are so monstrously long-winded and tedious in their complaints. You see? This is why I don't talk about shit like that anymore.