IT’S a funny thing, but as I get older I get more tolerant.
Increasingly, people’s characteristics, foibles or even crimes provoke only a rueful shake of the head, perhaps a disapproving tut. After all, I reflect, to err is human, we all of us fall short.
But I find that this understanding only extends to real people, those whom I know and meet in the flesh. When it comes to the famous, who appear on telly or in the papers, politicians or some other variety of celebrity, then it is far, far more likely they will be on my ever-lengthening list of those I hate and despise.
It might be jealousy on my part, resentment that they earn more than me and are more famous than me; yet there are a few in those categories whom I tolerate and even admire, such as Jeremy Paxman, Eddie Mair or Silvio Berlusconi.
There are others I used to hate but now – reluctantly – find myself indulging.
Take Germaine Greer, whom I usually find merely stupid, but who, from time to time, can be engagingly stupid.
Then there’s Janet Street-Porter who is so famously detestable it would be otiose to catalogue her qualifications. But, occasionally – just very occasionally - she comes close to talking sense. Maybe it’s because she’s getting old and sucking up to `yoof’ would be too painfully ridiculous even for her. Of course, she still has the capacity to rocket right back up the ratings, as when, for example, she expressed her disapproval of Kate Middleton on the grounds that she was thin and not always shooting her mouth off. Presumably Street-Porter wanted Prince William to marry someone fat and opinionated. Maybe Anne Widdecombe (pretty consistently on the hate list) would have fitted the bill.
But I can also hate seemingly inoffensive. I hate Andrew Marr because he is so pedestrian, so predictable and so clearly blithely unaware of his utter averageness: a Michael Parkinson de nos jours, though Parkinson was a professional Yorkshireman and that’s a whole separate world of hate.
Obviously I hate Stephen Fry – the national tosser – for there has to be a lot of hatred directed against him in this world to balance his self love. For once, I agree with Piers Morgan (also on the list) who said Fry was `a crashing bore with delusions of intellectual grandeur’. My hatred is stoked by the certain conviction that Durham University is poised to invite Fry to be its chancellor, as the next middle-brow, populist faux intellectual to succeed two of my other hate figures: Bill Bryson and Peter Ustinov.
Yes Ustinov, because I can still hate dead people. I hate Alan Clarke, a pretend historian, pretend politician and pretend womaniser. In the words of Craig Brown, Clarke was `second generation mock toff’, or, in the opinion of Auberon Waugh, merely `preposterous’.
I hate John Bercow and his wife; I hate Paul McCartney and all his wives; I hate Marcus Brigstock and all unfunny people; I hate both the Attenboroughs and all the Murdochs; I hate most Labour politicians and all Liberal Democrats; I hate Syd Little and I hate Eddie Large.
To drop another quote, this time from the film City Slickers: “If hate were people, I’d be China’’.