Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

If Frank Lampard listens to his fiancee Christine Bleakley, he'd best keep it to himself

Rare respect: local star Christine Bleakley with Frank Lampard
Rare respect: local star Christine Bleakley with Frank Lampard

I recently came across this little anecdote from Emma Thompson, in which she meets the wife of lauded film director, Ang Lee, at a dinner party. "We talked about her work as a microbiologist and the behaviour of the epithingalingie under the influence of cholesterol. She's fascinated by cholesterol. Says it's very beautiful: bright yellow. She says Ang is wholly uninterested. He has no idea what she does.

"I check this out for myself. 'What does Jane do?' I ask. "'Science," he says, vaguely."

I've thought about this story a lot. It makes me sad. Ang Lee is a great artist, whose films, including Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi, imply a deep connection with the minutiae of both the natural world and the profundity of mutually embracing human relationships. He has a wife who has found unusual, luminous beauty in the most unexpected place. No, not, Ahoghill, but in a molecular steroid.

In me, that fact produces a new awe in science, nature, but most of all, in Mrs Ang Lee, who is clearly, in her perceptions, original and highly artistic. Mr Ang Lee should have his socks knocked off every day by such a wife.

His lack of awareness convinces me that the impact of the famous scene in Sense and Sensibility, in which Eleanor crumples with emotion when she discovers the man she loves is not married to another woman, should not be credited to its director, but instead to its writer, Emma Thompson.

It was Virginia Woolf who said: "As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking." Jane Austen's heart would have sunk to hear her, perhaps hoping that her contention that a woman who had 'the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can' would be out-of-date a century later. How would she feel then that another century after that, such views continue to flourish in some quarters?

I'm sure most of you will see where I'm going here. How many of us have thought back to the words of Woolf and Austen when listening to the party game which has dominated football chatter in the media this week; where will Frank Lampard go next?

The Chelsea legend has announced that he is leaving his old club and currently considering his future. The scramble to speculate has been frenzied, with almost every possible weighing detail considered – would Frank feel emasculated staying in a smaller Premiership club? Is he limited to teams whose natural formations make space for a free-flowing midfielder? Could he carry off a Mediterranean tan?

Only one aspect of his life has been ignored by the frothing-mouthed male journos. When BBC Five Live's Rachel Burdon threw in a slightly apologetic, "I wonder what his missus makes of it – she has a bit of a career going on, too", the men in the studio laughed as if she had made a joke and went back to calculating Frank's tax return were he to move to New York.

Yet only this week, Lampard spoke of his reliance on "best friend" and fiancee, Christine Bleakley, whom he says had made his life "happy" and "harmonious".

"I've got a lot of respect for what she says," he revealed, no doubt marking him out among a throng of colleagues and journalists as a pathetic, soppy, under-the-thumb loser like that David Beckham.

Real men, football seems to have decided, as well as being unerringly heterosexual, do not pay attention to the opinion of their wives. If there are any who do, they should, like Austen's clever women, keep it to themselves.

A Qatar-strophic mistake from Fifa

There's a scene in classic comedy The Man With Two Brains in which Steve Martin stands in front of a portrait of his dead wife and asks her to give him a sign if he is making a mistake re-marrying. The portrait begins to spin widely, the windows crash open, the furniture throws itself around the room.

A woman's voice wails, "No! No!" Eventually the situation calms down and Steve gazes up at the painting and says plaintively, "Any sign".

I keep recalling this scene when I read about Fifa's decision to award the World Cup to the homophobic, corrupt, slave-happy Qatar. Can't think why.

Why Liam's tough enough for us ...

Action lunk Steven Seagal has hit out at Liam Neeson, saying the big Ballymena man is "lucky" to be getting so many action hero roles when he is, in fact, neither a "great fighter" nor a "great warrior".

What Neeson really is, Seagal, a martial arts specialist and Jefferson Parish reserve deputy sheriff, said this week, is a "dramatic actor". The implication being that for actors in action films, drama is at best a secondary concern.

Okay, Steve, if you're so big and brave, come to Ballymena and say that. You can call Liam out at his sister's laundrette. Once he's finished the ironing.

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