Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Nanny McPhee State

Emma Thompson to become my first best friend. This may seem like an odd sentiment to come out of the blue like this, especially as she did make that awful film where Arnold Schwarzenegger gets pregnant, but I have a very good reason. I was sitting watching the commentary track on the Nanny McPhee DVD. I know that seems a very weird thing to be doing but you must understand that I am seasonally disorientated for reasons previously ad nauseatingly explained and I would normally be watching family DVDs with my ten year old niece at this time.

I cling to these routines for fear of sinking completely into the quicksand of despair. I need violent colours and babies being eaten and flung from catapults into boiling soup stock to keep me real. Having watched the film, I immediately wanted to see another of the dozen family films that had just arrived from but couldn’t be bothered getting up so I whizzed through the bonus menu and discovered the dialogue track with Emma and one of the producers.

There is something incredibly heartening about listening to people who know what they’re doing discussing what they've done. So many years working in local government and taking far too seriously the pronouncements of central government have gradually disacquainted me with even the possibility of situations and explanations having any degree of synergy. But there it was. Emma Thompson was hoovering one day, as you do, and came across an old favourite book entitled The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand. Like any other person for whom hoovering is simply a trigger for a creative explosion, she kicked the off switch and sat down on her lint-specked sofa to read.

Nearly ten years later, the marvellous film Nanny McPhee resulted. There are lessons to be learned from this, not least of all that it takes rather a long time for a very good idea to set off alarm bells, even if you are a really big star who used to be married to Kenneth Branagh. One reason for this could be the time differential between London and Hollywood, or perhaps Emma’s good friend Arnie, now Governor Schwarzenegger, has had alarm clocks banned under his environmental agenda as an unacceptable noise polluter.

The film did eventually get made at just the right moment in time because it is impossible to imagine that a more divine and perfect cast and crew could ever have existed at any other time in history or that Emma herself could ever have been more hideous or beautiful throughout her long career which will obviously go on forever. But this is not why I want her to be my first best friend. My real best friend that I have had most of my life never reads this blog. This is the subject of a separate and private action and need not certain anyone else. I certainly hope I have made myself understood on this. Sorry, where was I? This early nightfall thing isn’t half distracting.

Right. Emma. My best friend. Reasons for. Here we go. During this discourse on the general marvellousness of life, Emma disclosed that she had ‘made up’ the concept of a ‘government nanny’ as one in the eye to the government of the day. Nanny McPhee arrives in the Brown household (tee hee but just a coincidence), claiming to have been sent by 'the government'. Remember this is circa 1997 when New Labour was actually still very new and she was already kicking against it. How great would it have been to be in the know then? It took a ludicrous five years for the scales to fall from my eyes. I was so thrilled to be rid of the Tories. The cheesiness of Cool Britannia notwithstanding, it was such a relief to consign Major style Victorian values to the recycle bin. Little did we know that they would return re-branded as ‘our shared values’.

I know, the point is a long time coming, even for me. Emma explained that in that early Cool Britannia phase, she received a letter from Government asking if she would become a role model. This is what she says on the DVD,

‘I said what do you mean? You don’t tell people who their role models are. You don’t say “Now you’re a role model”. That’s ridiculous’.

On the strength of that statement alone you’d want Emma as your bestest but later in the commentary she reveals such astounding insight that you wonder if you shouldn’t be urging her to enter politics. She’s talking about the people that she knows in Government who exude the rigidity of Aunty Adelaide, (one can only guess but they need to look like Angela Lansbury in a fake nose – no actually that covers most of the front bench). What Emma says about her experience of meeting people in government is illuminating,

‘It’s like they’ve never worked through any of their issues.’

That’s a wrap Em. Would you please be my first best friend now? As your friend I would advise you never to go into politics. Think of Arnie. Think of Ronnie…

Picture from the film Nanny McPhee


Ms Baroque said...

"Angela Lansbury in a fake nose".. Prime Minister's Question Time may never be the same! (For me, I mean. The Front Bench will probably not notice a thing.)

That's so pants said...

Absolutely right Ms B. 'Noticing' os not a prerequite for being in government these days. 'Ignoring', on the other hand is essential.

Groucho said...

My mother loved children. She would have given anything if I'd have been one.