"Serena Rees stands in front of me and bounces up and down on the balls of her feet, drawing my gaze to her rhythmically jiggling bosom. The co-founder of Agent Provocateur, Britain's most famous lingerie company, is trying to demonstrate how very simple it is to make nipple tassels swing. She is in a white T-shirt and unassuming grey, wide-legged trousers but promises the effect is far more dramatic with naked sequinned boobs. 'You don't need to over-complicate things. If you just do this,' she says jumping again. 'It's very effective.' There isn't a hint of giddiness in our exchange - we may as well be swapping jam-making tips - and this is the secret of her company's success. Rees, 39, and her business partner, Joe Corre, have sold millions of expensively sexy bras, corsets, suspender belts and nipple tassels - partly because they've removed all furtiveness from the shopping experience. At Agent Provocateur's 13 British stores, men shop for women, and women shop for themselves or their friends. It's deeply uncool to be embarrassed about it."
Funny paper, our biggest-selling posh daily. Barely a day goes by without one of its huffy columnists bemoaning the "me society" or snorting contempt for the "great progressive movement for personal liberation" (see here). Yet when it comes to those forms of capitalism whose rise has gone hand in hand with liberalising social attitudes the Torygraph comes over all wild and free. Some contradiction there, surely? Whatever, the rest of the article is here. I'd reproduce some of the accompanying photos, but I'm far too married.
The rivalry between Merseyside's two footie giants has always been friendlier than those in other cities. Liverpool's unique and powerful sense of identity has seen to that. Not every aspect of that identity has always been attractive, a discovery I made some time ago. At its best, though, it is stirring. We saw a good example at Anfield last night in response to the murder of Evertonian Rhys Jones. And hasn't Boris Johnson been quiet on that subject? I wonder why.
Right-wing columnists, eh? They're all the same and they're everywhere. Chip is pondering emulating one:
"I think I need to take a leaf from Rod Liddle’s book. Whenever I open a paper, I seem to find myself reading something by Liddle. The man has opinions on everything: football, television, politics, literature, and now comedy. The man is a journalistic miracle. I’d love to know how he manages to type when he spends most of his time forming syllables with his arse cheeks."
“They came through on the hotline at about half past two in the afternoon. The Minister didn't quite understand a couple of points in the summary. Perhaps I could see the Minister.
The Minister's flat overlooked Trafalgar Square and was furnished like Oliver Messel did it for Oscar Wilde. He sat in the Sheraton, I sat in the Heppelwhite and we peeped at each other through the aspidistra plant.
'Just tell me your whole story in your own words, old chap. Smoke?'
I was wondering whose words I might otherwise have used as he skimmed the aspidistra with his slim gold cigarette case. I beat him to the draw with a crumpled packet of Gauloises; I didn't know where to begin.
'I don't know where to begin,' I said. 'The first document in the dossier...'
The Minister waved me down. 'Never mind the dossier, my dear chap, just tell me your personal version. Begin with your first meeting with this fellow...' He looked down to his small, morocco bound notebook. 'Jay, tell me about him.'
'Jay. His code name is changed to Box Four,' I said.
'That's very confusing,' said the Minister, and wrote it down in his book.
'It's a confusing story,' I told him. 'I'm in a very confusing business.'
The Minister said, 'Quite,' a couple of times, and I let a quarter inch of ash away towards the blue Kashan rug.
'I was in Lederers about 12.55 on a Tuesday morning the first time I saw Jay,' I continued.
'Lederers?' said the Minister. 'What's that?'
'It's going to be very difficult for me if I have to answer questions as I go along,' I said. 'If it's all the same to you, Minister, I'd prefer you to make a note of the questions, and ask me afterwards.'
'My dear chap, not another word, I promise.'
And throughout the entire explanation he never again interrupted.”
From the Guardian's obituary of Michelangelo Antonioni:
"Blowup (1967)...brought the director to London in its swinging days. Colour is integral to this film about displacement and uncertainty, in which the photographer hero (David Hemmings) begins to doubt himself and his confident mastery of his world when his camera spots something he himself had missed - evidence, perhaps, of a murder among the green leaves of a London park. Blowup remains a key text of the 1960s, the decade which felt experience was for snatching."
I'm no movie expert but I get it that Blowup showed how even those who capture images sometimes don't know what they're seeing and that people tend to see what they're looking for, not what they aren't. Or something. You know, perception being subjective and so on. I vaguely remember watching the film on telly in my teens during the early Seventies. I suppose what it showed me was that by the time Antonioni made it the Sixties were already darkening. Or did that thought only come to me later?
Forty-one years ago England won the World Cup. But today marks another major anniversary - the publication in 1935 of the first Penguin books. The aim of Penguin founder Allen Lane was to provide high quality popular fiction at a low price - each paperback cost sixpence in old money, the equivalent of two-and-half pence today - and sell it not only through bookshops but also at railway stations and in general stores. Woolworths took a huge order, making the economics work at a stroke. Book publishing has, of course, changed massively since then. Yet certain of Lane's innovations are currently standard practice in the trade, as supermarket sales of fiction show. The difference is that Lane wanted a mass audience to have access to classy writing of many types. Can today's British book publishers say the same?
This is Albert Finney as photographed by Tony Snowdon in 1960, the year he electrified British cinema as the star of Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. He's here because I love that film and also love him in Gumshoe, a semi-spoof detective movie from 1971 (or '72?) set in Liverpool and made by then debut director Steven Frears. Gumshoe is on BBC 2 tonight at 12.15. Before that on the same channel - at 9.05, so grab a good seat now - a series called British Film Forever will begin with a programme on British thrillers. I feel a cultural critique coming on. Later, maybe...