Carla Carlisle’s A to Z of uncertain times: ‘Never talk about money to those who have much more or much less than you’

Our columnist on everything from the BBC and Deja Vu to Money and Zoom.

A

‘All Property is Theft.’ The French anarchist Proudhon’s rallying cry hung on my wall in 1968. I’d now quite like a poster above the Aga that says: ‘All property developers are thieves’

B

BBC. To whom it may concern: faithful Radio 4 listeners (average age 56) turn off the radio when the comedy programmes come on at 6.30pm and 11pm. Segregation of the airways based on sensitivity and intelligence is perfectly acceptable — I think you’ll find that Trollope and Julian Barnes rarely appear on Radio 1.

C

Country Life is a weekly periodical with a surprisingly diverse, literate, open-minded and prescient readership.

D

‘Déjà vu all over again’, first uttered by Yogi Berra, expresses how we feel when we hear the words ‘Brexit’, ‘deal or no deal’ and politicians on Radio 4’s Today.

E

Englishmen are much admired in the Deep South. My grandmother always regretted that I was headstrong and farouche, but, when I married an Englishman she changed her will and left me the family silver.

F

Farmers are noble custodians of the countryside and salt of the earth, until they are offered £5 million for nine acres where 250 houses will be built. Upon completion, the farmer will move to the Dordogne with his new wife.

G

Google is 22 years old this year, but I can’t remember life before Google. Question: is Google the life raft of the forgetful or are our memories shot because of the propinquity of Google?

H

‘Hope is the thing with feathers.’ I, too, love Emily Dickinson, but most of us need more substantial signs of hope: a clean bill of health, a tax refund, banana bread.

I

In uncertain times, only one thing is certain: almost everything will work again if you unplug it for three minutes.

J

 

Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory are the soundtracks to our pilgrimage to a place we heard of long ago. The music is in our bones and we know most of the words.

K

Kindness is everything. If I see someone being unkind — to a waiter, a dog, a child, a partner — I never forget it. It’s useful to remember that when I am feeling unkind.

L

Lies told by children are mischievous and inventive. Lies told by political leaders dehumanise all who believe them.

M

Money. All Jane Austen’s first paragraphs, indeed, first lines, include money. Love only comes into the story later. The English would rather disclose their weight than their bank balance. The only rule is not to talk about money with those who have much more or much less than you.

N

‘Nothing terrible lasts forever.’ Wise words from my Hungarian friend George Lang, who survived both Nazi and Russian prison camps. He made it to New York in the 1950s, where he revived the famous Café des Artistes. He died aged 86, proof that, in fact, nothing lasts forever.

O

Old age comes as a slow and outlandish surprise. Fortunately, it’s a number that benefits from constant revision.

P

Parker Morris standards established the minimum space in dwellings needed for human happiness. He also required all rooms to be heated and all homes to have storage. His gift to humanity was rewarded with a knighthood, but the rules were abolished in 1980. If I could change one thing…

Q

Queen Elizabeth II will be a hard act to follow, but this country is lucky to have The Prince of Wales. He’s been right about architecture, organic tomatoes and the planet. He also has very nice clothes.

R

Rituals — weddings, christenings, hand-shakes, coronations — give structure to life. Of all the rituals coronavirus has deprived us of, the one I miss most is the funeral, the sacrament of tender farewell that underlines the preciousness and mystery of life.

S

Sizewell C has gone from £14 billion costs to £20 billion before it’s even begun. The nuclear-power scheme by French energy giant EDF and the state-owned Chinese CGN has tripled in size and cost and will carve up ancient woodland, farms, rural communities and a fragile heritage coast. Idea: instead of raising taxes to get the country out of our economic hole, cancel Sizewell C.

T

Teeth become more relevant every year of your life. Your front teeth are only as healthy as your back teeth.

U

Ubiquitous is a word that should be used sparingly. Ditto Unprecedented.

V

Vigorous writing is concise. Believe it or not.

W

Woman. Until recently, this was not a controversial word, but I’m with J. K. Rowling on this. I know all the words to Tammy Wynette’s Stand by your Man: ‘Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman’.

X

Xis the Greek letter for Chi, which is the first letter for the word Christ. There is no excuse for writing Xmas to save time.

Y

Yeats’s poem Responsibilities has the epitaph ‘In dreams begin responsibilities’. Is it an epigram or an aphorism? Google it.

Z

Zoom meetings have convinced a whole generation they can live in the country and gaze at sheep as they run the world from their barn conversion. I think they’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.