Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blow winds and crack your cheeks...

Blimey, the cat has just heaved herself through the catflap, leapt onto the desk scattering papers everywhere and streaked through the house with her fur all blow-dried backwards from the wild winds that are battering outside.

This wind reminds me of the greatest Evening Standard article ever written, 'My Tornado Hell' by Caroline Phillips, which was lovingly retyped and posted on the internet. Caroline's writing enthralled the blogosphere in December after the Kensal Rise tornado cruelly struck her gracious home, causing pandemonium and damaging many of the designer artefacts she grievingly details for her fascinated readership. For those of you who have not yet seen this quite extraordinary piece of journalism, I urge you to have a read, weep, and count your blessings.

My top six quotes from this genius feature (which is not a spoof, I swear, it is actually, totally real.)

1. ''A black roof tile speared the American walnut floating shelf...''

2. ''A wooden bowl of Christmas clementines. These are vomited across our limestone floor.''

3. ''For three years, I'd indulged my passion for perfect decor. In January, it was to have been shot for Homes & Property...''

But there is hope for the inhabitants (whose names and social standing are thoughtfully detailed throughout the piece so we don't get the wrong impression of the area...). Caroline bravely makes the best of the situation...and thanks God for insurance.

4. ''Simon Willsmer, our loss adjustor, hasn't yet broken that news to us. The insurance companies have taken a recent slating, but he was sensitive and honourable. He said we could stay in a hotel. Adrian explained that there is only one hotel in London: Claridge's. Simon did not demur. And he loved what's left of our specialist-polished plaster walls...''

5. ''On Friday evening, stupidly, we met friends for dinner in that awful eye of the social tornado, Cipriani. I wore Tornado Chic - the grey pants and multiple jumpers that were still my only clothes. I screamed with grief in the loo.''

6. ''Oh, and now we might just get that communal garden we've always wanted.''

The reaction of some of the piece's readers at mum'snet can be found here ( start at the bottom). I am terribly sorry for Caroline's trauma, but my goodness, that's some reaction she mustered for the paper.


Anonymous Adrian said...

That is fantastic... thanks for highlighting it. I missed the ES (well, I always try to), and the online repost.

January 18, 2007 2:32 pm  
Blogger ejh said...

These people have personal loss adjustors?

For a more impersonal service, try my small Spanish town, where our roof was pierced by water, many times, six months ago during building work on the roof (and subsequently, after the roof had been allegedly replaced).

This morning we got a letter from the insurance company lamenting that they could not help us, for building work was not covered in our policy.

Yes. It took them six months to tell us that it was nothing to do with them.

January 18, 2007 2:39 pm  
Blogger miseryandsuffering said...

I get strangely excited, almost turned on, by the crazy havoc this wind causes. It's crazy.

January 18, 2007 3:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this seems very false in tone.

January 18, 2007 4:14 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Anonymous, sadly it is all too real, the journalist is real, the account is real. I would be charitable and say she was in shock but I have read other stuff by her and that is what she is like.


January 18, 2007 5:56 pm  
Blogger Davide Simonetti said...

I can't help thinking of Polly Filler in Private Eye.

January 18, 2007 7:27 pm  
Anonymous Electra said...

Thanks for that Rachel. I enjoyed reading it. I know it must have been horrific for her but reading it reminded me a bit of the Private Eye comic strip "It's Grim Up North (London"

January 18, 2007 8:38 pm  
Blogger Leighton Cooke said...

We are also having a windy time of it here in Amsterdam. Loads of trees in the canals. I've got pink roses in bloom in my garden.

January 18, 2007 10:52 pm  
Blogger ejh said...

I can't help thinking of Polly Filler in Private Eye.

A small claim to fame. Some years ago I was rendered apoplectic by reading the summary of a witless chick-lit novel by Oxbridge airhead Sabine Durrant: finding it hard to believe that trash like this got published for any reason other than who-knows-who-in-North-London (or it could be jealousy, Durrant and I were at the same college at the same time) I sent it to Polly Filler at Private Eye. I recieved a polite reply from the good Mr Hislop - and in the next issue, the jokes about Polly's novels (Mummy For Old Rope etc) began. Naturally I take the credit.

January 19, 2007 8:51 am  
Blogger Robert Newsom said...

Rachel this is a fascinating article from many perspectives.

I knew the UK did have tornadoes, but I had no idea you have more of them per square mile than the US does. The ingredients are obviously there, as you have warm, moist air from the gulf stream meeting cold air from the northern Europe. I had always assumed that Fujita scale 4's and 5's couldn't happen in the UK for the same reason you can't get force 4 and force 5 hurricanes: the warm water just isn't warm enough. Maybe this IS so: it doesn't sound like this house was hit by anything stronger than 3, since no one was killed. If she had been sitting in a den, or any room with exterior windows and been hit by a force 4 or 5, I don't think she would be writing anything for a long time, if ever.

She definitely comes across as, well, self-absorbed. One notes that checking out the insurance coverage occurred to her awfully quickly - didn't seem to take long before the "Am I covered?" thought bumped thoughts like "what about my neighbors?" and "how can I help those less fortunate than me?" out the door for good.

On my own blog I have posted twice about why I am sometimes tempted to seek political asylum in the UK, and in upcoming posts I will be writing about why, in other moments of sober (hah!) reflection, I decide to stay put. But this article leads me to think I need a third sort of post: one about how some things would be exactly the same no matter where I went, provided English is spoken. People just like this woman inhabit every city in the English speaking world. They actually believe that having "specialist polished plaster" on the walls marks some important distinction, a cordon sanitaire between "our sort" of person and the sheetrock of the great unwashed. I am curious: how much did she contribute to Tsunami relief? Did she decide the money would be better spent on something else; that leather sofa perhaps, or the American walnut shelf (which isn't cheap, after all)?

January 19, 2007 10:40 pm  

That was properly gripping. By the end of the thing I was reading through my fingers - fully expecting to see the words "it was our very own 9/11". And whilst she let the side down a little by omitting to reference this catastrophe, Caroline pretty much cleaned up on excruciating self-regard.

I found that I had been a little bit sick in my mouth a few times by the time I reached the tormented scenes in Cipriani. And I'm a wholly self-regarding creep myself.

I, for one, salute her cheering self-absorption. Lead, and we shall follow, Caroline.

Kind regards etc....

(PS. found your site via Glad I did.)

January 20, 2007 4:13 am  
Blogger Sean said...

The only time I've come close to writing to Private Eye was when their Street of Shame column took the piss-poor Doncaster Free Press to task for juxtaposing an alarmist headline about porky local school-kids with a photo on the inside pages of a bunch of delighted Donny kinder; chuffed because they'd won a shed-load of chocolate from the Free Press. All of which brought to mind the time I'd returned to Donny the year previously, and the first thing I saw upon leaving the car-park was a poster promoting the paper's latest competition; a prize so irreducibly Northern it could almost have worn a cloth-cap:


Alack, on account of me being rather useless, by the time I'd decided to confect a letter it was about a month later and therefore woefully out of date.

Come to think of it, I could have been £20 richer too, if I'd submitted two of the strangest utterances ever heard broadcast to Colemanballs: one was an exchange during an evening game on Five Live: "That's easy for you to say Brian, sat up here in the cold light of night" and the other was last summer, during the Open Golf tournament, when a commentator was heard to make the observation that Sergio Garcia could accurately throw a golf ball with his unfavoured left-hand because he was "amphibian."

January 20, 2007 7:33 am  
Blogger ejh said...

Har, very good.

I'm told (my copy takes a few days to get here) that the latest edition carries a piece alleging that Julie Welch is a plagiarist: if that's so, the source is my good self (and my blog).

January 20, 2007 3:20 pm  

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