Jayne Dawson: Be less Jeremy and more Julie to make a happy world

Jeremy Paxman.
Jeremy Paxman.
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It’s difficult to know where to start really, because the differences are just so vast.

Between men and women, I mean.

We’re not just chalk and cheese, we’re not just Venus and Mars. The gap between us is much bigger than mere planets.

Society can be as gender fluid as you like, but some traits divide us as brutally as battle lines. We may as well be back on the Somme, facing each other across No Man’s Land.

They’re always there, these sex-based differences – a man of any age will treat a mucky work surface as if it is invisible – but age makes the divide much more stark.

Women, on the path to old age and ..that other thing, will laugh about their deteriorating bodies. It begins with the jokes about the menopause, when all women become hot chicks, and continues apace. Women will mock their decreasing ability to see, hear, run, jump and generally move. They remain cheerful and defiant in the face of the increasingly unreliable bits and pieces of their anatomy, and diminish any major illness.

“It’s just a touch of cancer/heart disease/kidney failure” they will say. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

Men don’t do any of this. Men take to their chairs, watch their telly, shut down their minds.

But women, in the journey towards the end, remain open to new stuff. They have, for example, taken to social media with gusto. They send friend requests to their grandchildren and then, after reading a few of their posts, quietly unfriend them without making a fuss, for the greater good of all concerned.

They can add to any conversation by speedily looking up on their phone anyone you care to mention, in order to answer the alive or dead question.

So women remain current while men stay stuck in previous times.

Women, as they age, tend to take their cue from the late, great Victoria Wood, who liked to take the suburban middle-aged, and give them a naughty twist.

Men, as they age, like to take their cue from Jeremy Paxman, and become miserable and grumpy.

In fact Jeremy Paxman has become the trailblazer, the icon, the very mascot of grumpy old men.

The 67-year-old broadcaster and former presenter of Newsnight symbolises all that is bad-tempered and churlish about ageing.

Right now, he is lashing out at the BBC, the organisation that nurtured him for so long.

Jeremy says it is biased and “politically correct” though I have yet to know what that phrase is really supposed to mean.

He has already turned on Newsnight saying it is run by “idealistic 13-year-olds”.

That sounds pretty good to me, I can think of a lot worse than being young and idealistic, but grumpy old Jeremy clearly meant it as a huge insult.

What is clear is that Jeremy has become out of date. His interviewing style, all aggression and attack and pantomime villain, does not suit the times anymore. He has been called “an analogue interviewer in the digital age”.

It is plain that, unlike women of his generation, Jeremy is not moving with the times.

Unlike, for instance, his contemporary Julie Walters, also 67. In fact the actress entered the world three months before Jeremy back in 1950, but her attitude is so much more contemporary.

Julie has embraced her age with gusto, she has let her hair go grey, she has let her wrinkles show.

She loves life on the organic farm she shares with husband Grant – but at the same time she is utterly and thoroughly modern in the way that most older women are: she makes light of the ageing process, stays cheerful and enjoys a laugh.

The difference between Jeremy and Julie is immense.

Right there, in those two opposites, is embodied the two options for ageing: Jeremy is an out of date grump; Julie is a loving, lovable, current woman.

My advice to men and women alike is: be more Julie.


The pitfalls of trendy eating come in many colours and flavours.

Today’s fashionable food item is tomorrow’s derided Instagram post.

Who can admit to eating avocado now? Well I can, but I don’t boast about it. I do it humbly, in my own kitchen, without ever taking even a single photo of it – especially as I like it with seafood sauce and a few prawns, just like in the 1970s.

The list of foods that have peaked and then disappeared is long. Remember those little physalis fruits that were served with every dessert back in the 90s?

They looked like orange cherries with paper leaves and tasted of nothing.

Their 2017 equivalent is edible flowers, now on sale in supermarkets and about to enter kitchens everywhere.

Ella Mills, also known as Deliciously Ella, used them on her wedding cake, of course. Ella is not one to miss a food trend, in fact she has made a bomb creating recipes that use complex substitutes for everyday ingredients like sugar and flour.

She is not without her critics, and neither are edible flowers. They may look gorgeous on a salad but botanists are warning that not all flowers are as harmless as they look and, as with mushrooms, it is best to be very 
well-informed and sure of what you 
are doing before you chow down on them.

Sometimes sausage and chips seems like a safe option after all.


Plastic bottles are one of the blessings and curses of life. They help us in a million ways, and then they take about that long to break down and go away.

But sometimes, out of big, ugly problems come elegant and simple solutions.

So: welcome back the water fountain.

These used to be, if not exactly everywhere, then at least pretty common. We would come across them in parks, and at unexpected places on street corners, usually looking ornate and Victorian.

But they became fewer – until now. Now the water fountain is set for a revival, as the perfect antidote to all those plastic bottles.

Environmentalists have realised that the water fountain would encourage us to refill those bottles rather than buy more. Or we might even embrace the past completely and slurp water right out of them. Welcome back to an old-fashioned idea.