I was browsing in my favourite bookshop yesterday and talking in a dilatory kind of way with the woman who runs it when a man and woman came in and the conversation expanded – always in these bookshop conversations there’s a point at which someone remembers a book but not the author’s name, or a name but not a title, and someone else tentatively supplies the missing information and the current moves on – and after the couple had left the bookshop woman referred to the man by name. That was David Attenborough? Yes, it was. I’d been talking to him unknowingly.
Of course the world, and more particularly the media, is full of famous names I can’t put faces to or faces I can’t put names to, and of people who are presented as famous – their names are checked – but I have not the slightest idea, except for what might be suggested by the context of the name-checking, what they are famous for. The published faces that irritate me most just now – even more than politicians attempting to look statesmanlike or writers attempting to look mature and thoughtful – are those of comedians: there they are, on the posters for their shows and their DVDs, pulling a face, often with a kind of quizzical or ‘it wasn’t me, guv, honest’ expression that seems to be the current code for ‘comic’, and already I feel I’m being manipulated.