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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 5 June 2008
Jon Snow and Julie Christie at The Tricycle Cinema
Jon Snow and Julie Christie at The
Tricycle Cinema
Camden - John Gulliver | TV presenter Jon Snow | Julie Christie | Academy Awards | Hollywood | Tricycle Theatre

JULIE Christie is rarely known to venture out. Perhaps it is the glut of gongs, trophies and Academy Awards piled up in her Welsh farmhouse retreat that impede the silver screen idol’s public outings, but pleading calls from Hollywood fall on deaf ears.
Even Oscar nominations do not always cut the mustard, apparently.
What a rare joy, then, to catch the star in the flesh in West Hampstead last week. Ms Christie shimmered into the ­Tricycle Cinema to talk about her recent, much-feted turn as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in the Canadian film Away From Her.
Interviewing her, a besotted Jon Snow said: “I’ve got to declare my hand. I saw Dr Zhivago at 17 and I fell in love. You’re beautiful in every age.”
Christie, resplendent in black and fur, met his compliments with disarming modesty, and let slip her mixed feelings about her numerous plaudits.
“I don’t feel pleased about it,” she said, talking about her four Academy Award nominations. “There’s always a tussle over whether you go or not.”
She was coerced into her latest Oscar-nominated role by director Sarah Polly, who bombarded her with phone calls until she complied.
On the front row I noticed her husband Duncan Campbell.
He and Julie got married discreetly last autumn after living together for nearly 30 years.
When they first met Julie had already become a sought-after star while Duncan was starting out as a freelance journalist on a London magazine called City Limits.
After the talk, Julie told me she still keeps a pied à terre near Old Street, and even makes frequent visits to the Rio cinema.
I confess I myself have always had a soft spot for Julie and I was glad to notice that the celebrity scene doesn’t appeal to her. An admirable quality.

We switch off in the face of our power crazy politicians

WHEN I put the phone down after talking to an old contact of mine the other day, Kipling’s well-known aphorism about power came to mind – the one about “power without responsibility is the prerogative of the harlot”.
Somehow “power” just kept on buzzing around my mind after that conversation with one of the most senior members of the Labour Party in the borough.
I had asked him about his views of Gordon Brown whom he had met several times – sometimes through a family connection – not just at political gatherings but also at intimate parties.
“He’s not the same among friends,” he told me. “He’s friendly, charming. But when he’s in a political setting he becomes another man – distant, emotionally frigid, not a bit like Tony Blair. He just cannot put himself over.”
I sensed he was worried about Labour’s future. He had always been a Brownite. To him Brown was closer to old-fashioned Labourism.
I thought he would elaborate on this again. I expected him to say that if Brown doesn’t drop Blairism Labour will be doomed at the next election. I thought he would peel off all the Blairite mistakes Brown is making, and how he has to change if Labour is to remain in power.
I expected him to say if Brown didn’t introduce real reforms – ending privatisation of health and education, launching a massive programme of council housing – Labour would be forced to pack up.
But all he kept on stressing was that Labour was in a hole, and that Brown’s personality itself was causing irretrievable harm.
The spectre of power slipping away horrified him.
You could say there is nothing wrong with this attitude. But only if you bring politics down to the basement level of power, power and just power.
His main regret was that Brown was not like Blair, personable and winning.
Gushing smiles, an ability to sell an idea, politics reduced to a sales pitch, that’s what he hankered after.
That’s when I began to think about Kipling. My contact isn’t a political harlot but, I suspect, like many Labourites he is prepared to bow the knee before the god of power, to make any act of obeisance, anything to keep Labour in office.
He’s probably typical of the political man today – and that’s why more and more disenchanted people are turning away from politics. Can you blame them?

Theatre’s art and soul stay

ARE the bohemian days of the Arts Theatre at an end? Not if a Camden Town architect has his way.
Plans are afoot to demolish the current venue in Great Newport Street, which has weathered the West End crowds since 1927, and replace it with a 62-bedroom boutique hotel, a luxury restaurant and a new hydraulic-seated theatre in the basement.
Traditionalists might jib at the prospect of this rather dramatic make-over, but architect Tim Evans, whose office is in Parkway, informs me the writing had always been on the walls for the fringe venue where Beckett’s Waiting for Godot received its UK premiere.
Mr Evans, a partner of the Sheppard Robson practice, said: “The original theatre was founded by a real theatre enthusiast, who wanted it to be a place for practitioners and enthusiasts of the stage.”
What began as a theatre club will get the social element put back into it, says Mr Evans, if Westminster Council give the plans their blessing.
A 1960s mural will find a new life, and an old bench, graced by generations of thespians, will stand in the foyer of the hotel.

Targets? Consultant takes aim at NHS

I AM glad to find a ­fellow moaner about the target culture that is damaging the National Health Service, an ­institution I am fond of.
In a Royal Free newsletter one of the hospital’s longest-­serving consultants blasted the “obsession” with targets as he retired from a lifetime’s work as a kidney specialist.
Nephrologist Dr Paul Sweny, who joined the Royal Free in 1979, attacked “a lot of things I do not much care for in the current climate”, including “the ­imposition of targets that distort proper ­treatment regimes”.
The “obsession with audit and appraisal by ticking boxes on more and more forms obscures rather than illuminates,” he said, adding: “The complete nonsense of junior ­doctors’ hours and partial shifts means that nobody really owns a problem any more.
“Life has become a handover meeting. Nursing has also changed and not for the better.”
Although he praised the progress of the hospital over the past three decades and admitted his daughters accused him of coming home “tired and grumpy every night”, Dr Sweny also attacked cuts to the number of medical ­secretaries at the Free as “a high-risk game and likely to flounder”.
He said of nursing colleagues: “Hours spent at the computer, hundreds of forms, numerous meetings and loads of clipboards have all diverted nursing away from the delivery of nursing care.”
I am pleased he got that off his chest.
But I wonder whether the Royal Free chiefs will take any notice of his barbs.

Grayling in church!

HE states that a belief in God is no different to believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden – so it is interesting to note that philosopher AC Grayling will be in the pulpit of St Mary’s Church, Primrose Hill.
The philosophy ­professor from Birkbeck College is just one of a number of big-hitting thinkers the church has managed to bag for their annual summer lecture series.
The imaginative list of lectures starts on Tuesday with a talk by the explorer Rory Stewart.

Tickets on the door or in advance by
sending a cheque to SMVPH, Primrose Hill Lectures, St Mary’s Church,
Elsworthy Road, NW3 3DJ.
Single lecture £10, series of five, £40. 

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