Helen Martin: Dame Judy is so out of touch

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GOD bless celebrities who speak out for what they believe in, who nail their colours to the masts of political protest and to hang with whether or not their fans agree, who share their experiences of bowel cancer, disability and all sorts of other worthwhile causes to attract publicity and raise awareness and improve funding for those not as rich as themselves.

Unfortunately, this easy platform is just as available to some of them who are dangerously unaware of the consequences when they open their mouths and let their stream of consciousness bons mots slip out unchecked.

Dame Judi Dench, for example, is a national treasure and a superb actress. At 77, she is aware that some people her age are in care homes – and she’s determined not to follow them. After all, she shared a home with her husband and children, plus her aged in-laws and her mother, and found it so rewarding she wouldn’t have changed things for the world.

Now she has chosen to lecture the British public, via an interview with Saga magazine, on how they should do the same because care homes for the elderly are “inhumane”.

Listen hard enough and you will hear the anguished, guilt-ridden cries of ordinary men and women, who couldn’t or didn’t follow her example and now feel like monsters, or those who had everything set up for mum or dad to go into a carefully selected home and now feel as if they are being torn apart.

Dame Judi doesn’t go into great detail, but by the tone of her interview, she was not coping with the incontinence, confusion, hallucination, aggression, bewilderment, constant repetition and 24-hour supervision and nursing of someone who didn’t even recognise her any more.

Dementia doesn’t strike everyone but it’s on the rise and seems to come to most eventually. Yes, it requires family understanding – but professional care.

She was obviously able and free to go to work. If she did need extra help or professional carers, either then or later when it came to nursing her late husband, actor Michael Williams, I imagine she was financially blessed enough to be able to afford it. And she clearly had sufficient funds to buy a property big enough to house this large, extended family. How many of the people she doesn’t know, yet feels happy to rebuke, can say the same?

And then there is Gwyneth Paltrow, married to Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who shares with us her views of marriage, admitting that feminists are unlikely to approve.

Actually, it has nothing to do with feminism. It’s a matter of having even the faintest idea how most people live today and realising that she is in no position to lecture anyone. She feels she has to be home for Chris and to have dinner ready for him, care for her children Apple, seven, and Moses, five, be there to bathe them and to take them to and from school . . . to be a wife, she says.

Neither of their comments, advice or goals are helpful, inspiring, realistic or even vaguely possible for the majority of women today. Gwyneth’s take on marriage is as relevant to most of us as would be the Queen’s. Dame Judi probably means well in her ignorance, unaware as she appears to be that everyone in a normal family has to work to eat and pay the bills. And if she turns out to be just old, sweet and forgetful, or even cranky, cantankerous and a damn nuisance, I hope her children have room for her, plenty of money and she dies happily in her sleep in a large house after a large gin and tonic. If, however, she loves her children, she will at least consider the possibility that she may become demented and examine what that could mean for her, as well as them.

And it would be nice if both of them considered the effect of their words on the less fortunate before they offered us their painfully out of touch pearls of wisdom.

Goodknight, Sir

THE issue is not whether Fred should have been stripped of his knighthood, but whether he should have been given one in the first place. A caller to a certain Scottish radio talk show opined that had the establishment waited for a more suitable occasion – such as his retiral after a distinguished career in banking – it would have been rightly deserved, or as it turned out for Fred, not awarded at all.

Who knows what lies ahead when someone is honoured half-way through their career? Does motive have a part to play?

Do bankers or young sports stars deserve an honour for achievement when they are driven by personal ambition and self-seeking glory rather than alleged love of their country – and is there a difference?

Do even mature high achievers deserve recognition simply for rising through the ranks of their chosen profession and doing a job for which they have already been amply rewarded?

The aim might have been to punish the Black Banker.

But it’s also shown the honours system is not fit for purpose in the modern world.