Fiona Rintoul – writer, journalist, translator

Category: Thoughts on things

Let her eat her words

Posted on March 18th, by admin in Thoughts on things. No Comments

Sad, isn’t it, that if fell to Rod Liddle, writing in the Spectator, to defend Joan Bakewell for her comments on anorexia made last weekend? Where are the liberal voices defending Bakewell’s right to think – and say – what she damn well likes? Drowned in a tsunami of bile on social media, that’s where.

Bakewell, who used to read Harold Pinter’s manuscripts to tell him if they were any good, who once endured being told by the head of BBC News that women would never read the news because their voices were too high, their clothes were too distracting and they would cry if the news were bad, who has, in other words, lived a little, was roundly pilloried for daring to suggest in conversation with the Sunday Times that anorexia could (my emphasis) be caused by narcissism in society. So intense did the hate fest become, you felt that obituary writers up and down the country must be dusting down Bakewell’s send-off and adding the line: ‘In later life, her reputation was tarnished by her hateful and outmoded comments on anorexia nervosa.’

Let us forget for a moment that Bakewell was being interviewed – or thought she was – about … Read More »

Fashionable resistance – “I don’t wear their clothes”

Posted on October 22nd, by admin in Leipzig Affair, Thoughts on things. No Comments

Sometimes fictional characters are not fictional at all. They are clearly based on someone real. Even properly fictional characters usually have some element of a real person in them. The genesis of the character Magda in my novel The Leipzig Affair was an idiosyncratic behavioural detail I observed in a friend of mine whom I met at Leipzig University.

The person in question was a man, not a woman, but I thought his attitude to one aspect of life in the GDR – clothing – was a perfect starting point for the character I wanted Magda to be: bold, defiant and a bit troubled. My friend – we’ll call him “Johann”, with quote marks like in Stasi reports, though that was not his name – made all his own clothes.

East German clothes were a bit of a joke, both among westerners and people from other Ostbloc countries. East German shoes, in particular, were the object of ridicule from Vladivostok to Vienna.

It was a highly sensitive topic for “DDR Bürger”, as the regime relentlessly styled its citizens. I remember the utter shock I felt when I learnt that the West German language assistant at St Andrews University had greeted East German exchange … Read More »

Bothy and soul: coming to terms with the indyref

Posted on October 14th, by admin in Thoughts on things, Travels from Tinseltown. No Comments

Last weekend, Dougie the Dug took my husband, Peter, and I to An Cladach bothy on the Sound of Islay for a couple of nights away from it all. “Away from what?” I hear you cry, you pair of feckless freelancers, you. Well, Dougie had discerned a certain flagging in our spirits, a doon-heidedness, a pall of despond.

The blues started on the morning of 19 September and would not lift. In truth, they affected me more than Peter, for I am afflicted with being Scottish, whereas Peter is originally from Brighton. As everyone knows, it’s sunny in Brighton and it’s shite being Scottish.

Metabolising the result of the referendum on Scottish independence was, for me, a bit like dealing with a bereavement. There were grief and tears. There was anger. With the Labour Party. With John Lewis and RBS. With the Daily Record and the BBC. With no voters – the hardest part, as some of them were, gulp, quite good friends of mine.

What there wasn’t – what just wouldn’t come – was acceptance.

Instead, I began to wish I were not Scottish. For it’s not just shite being Scottish. It’s hard and complicated too. I began to fantasise about being, say, … Read More »

Selfie is as selfie does

Posted on November 20th, by admin in Thoughts on things. No Comments

So selfie is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, having, in the view of the esteemed lexographers, evolved into a mainstream term for self-portrait. Indeed. Only the other week in Russian class our teacher showed us a photograph of some shipyard workers, looking into the camera, and asked us what they were doing. Working? Striking? Standing up to corrupt communist dictators in Gdansk? No. ‘Taking a selfie?’ ventured one student.

The word may be newly welcomed into mainstream vocabulary, but taking a selfie is an activity with a long and distinguished history. To celebrate the word of the year, Magnum has assembled some brilliant examples of the genre.

Below is one of my own selfies, taken in the toilets of C/O Berlin.

What is this United Kingdom of which you speak?

Posted on July 22nd, by admin in Thoughts on things. 1 Comment

Whichever side of the Scottish independence hilltop you’re on, it’s hard not to despair of the way the debate is being conducted. Quite a lot is being missed out, glossed over and not grasped – purposely or otherwise.

There has always been some confusion outside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about the difference between British and English. Now there also seems to be confusion – rampant confusion – about what the United Kingdom is.

Recent discussions about Faslane are a case in point. Forget for a moment the absurdity of suggesting that Faslane could be not part of Scotland in an independent Scotland, with a sort of non-Scottish corridor in the Firth of Clyde (a bit like the old corridor road between West Berlin and West Germany perhaps) down which nuclear submarines could happily chug, bound for the defence of Rump Great Britain (we’ll think of a better name in due course).

Forget that. And all the other scaremongering. Marvel instead at the idiocy of writing or talking  – as many journalists, politicians and commentators on both sides of the border continue to do – about what will happen if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom.

“If Scots vote for independence, the 1707 … Read More »