Thursday, March 03, 2011

Joanna Lumley and "slack morals"

What does it take to turn an actor or other public figure into a National Treasure? How do they transmute from your everyday common-or-garden lesser spotted celebrity into something more enduring and – well – treasured?

There’s a good reason for asking. Because as soon as someone becomes a National Treasure, they seem to think they can mess with things they don’t really seem to know nothing about. And especially bringing up children.

As somebody said earlier this week, Jamie Oliver wouldn’t let a teacher manage his restaurant business without a bit of training. So what makes him think he knows how to run a classroom?

The latest National Treasure to enter the bringing-up-children stakes is Joanna Lumley. Who is, most definitely, a treasure.

She was one of the early Bond Girls. As Purdy in The New Avengers she was one of the few glamorous sparks in a dull decade bereft of true glamour.

She was hilarious as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. She has been doughty in her support for Gurkhas and Tibetans. She’s a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, she has more honorary doctorates than you could shake a stick at and in 2010 she was Oldie of the Year.

Joanna Lumley is every inch a true National Treasure.

But then, in the latest  Radio Times, she has to go and spoil it all.

(Dixon puts on his stoutest tin helmet and presses on regardless...)

Today’s children, says Joanna, find it “laughably amusing to shoplift and steal.” Today’s children copy and paste their homework from the internet. Today’s children need to take on more responsibility. Today’s children have “slack morals”.

Slack morals? Slack morals? Sorry, Joanna, but you’ve lost the plot.

Here’s a little thought experiment. You’re the parent of two teenage children. You’ve worked hard to bring them up as best you can. You’ve encouraged them to do their own homework rather than blag it off Wikipedia. As far as you’ve noticed, they’ve never been done for shoplifting. And one of them is starting his Duke of Edinburgh’s this weekend with a 25-mile hike.

Now put them in a room with Joanna Lumley, and get her to tell them to their faces that they have “slack morals”. Would she?

And what’s her answer to the problems of modern youth?

“I would like to see children involved in hearty-sounding pursuits, such as building a camp,” she says. So far so good - camps are fun.

“Or getting an entire school to go and work on a farm for a term.”

What a fantastic idea. The children could learn hearty skills like operating heavy machinery, mixing pesticides, gutting chickens and drenching sheep for worms. And the teachers could have the term off – unless they’re expected to muck in.

Take it from someone who had a Saturday job down on the farm as a nipper – smelly it is, hearty it ain’t.

Sorry again, Joanna, but you’re wrong. Kids are just the same as they always were – but as National Treasures get older, for some reason they think they know better.

(Dixon puts on a second tin helmet and retreats quickly to his bunker.)


  1. Well said, Hugh.
    "The trouble of the kids of today..." has been said by every generation since mankind learned to speak (probably).
    And inside every old person there is a young person (with slack morals - probably) wondering what the hell happened.

  2. I'm blessed with a very good memory of what I was like when I was young, and I wasn't any different from how young people are today. QED.