My eye was caught yesterday by one of those little non-news stories that resonate, for all their silliness.
A young woman, a student at a British university, with hopes of making a career in broadcasting, bid in a charity auction for the opportunity to work for a week as intern to veteran broadcaster Vanessa Feltz. I’m still bemused when I hear ‘intern’ applied to anyone other than a junior doctor but perhaps in this case it was appropriate. The student had no idea what a bloody business she was getting into. Miss Feltz does a mean Miss Piggy impersonation when she’s off-camera. How do I know? Because once, long ago and far away, I sat on her daytime TVcouch. What?You think writers just sit at home in their peejays and type?
Anyway, Miss Intern, who probably thought all she’d have to do was run down to Starbucks for Miss Feltz’s skinny latte, found herself on the prickly side of Miss Feltz, Cambridge graduate in English. Miss Intern couldn’t name a poem by Yeats. Actually she’d never heard of Yeats. And whatever points she got for candour were outweighed by those she lost for cultural ignorance. Miss Feltz, slipping momentarily into schoolmarm mode, told her to go away and write a 2000 word essay on WBY. By tomorrow. Cue much sniffling and snuffling into Kleenex in the ladies’ loo.
Now I’m no great fan of Vanessa Feltz but on this occasion I’m right with her. Our children are emerging from a minimum of eleven years of full time education with unfurnished minds. As parents we bear some of the blame, but not all. The Old Feller and I both know poems by heart. No-one thrashed us into learning them. We also read poems to our children when they were young. But dollars to donuts there’s only one out of the six of them that could now name their favourite poet.
Yeats isn’t my favourite, though he is up there. We went to a lecture on the Yeats’ family last week and one of the things that struck me was how swiftly poor Mrs Yeats Snr gets dismissed from the picture when his admirers start talking. God love her, she thought she was marrying a Dublin barrister. If she jibbed at the change of plan when Mr Y decided to be a (relatively) penniless bohemian instead, can you wonder she turned her face to the wall?
But to return to Miss Feltz’s intern. If only she hadn’t run to the press with her story. If only she’d picked herself up, bought herself a nice poetry anthology and started furnishing those bare attics. Yeah… I know…