I had several blog posts bookmarked for my regular round-up of the most interesting writing advice I’d come across over the week. But my head is spinning after spending the day at a wonderful publishing seminar laid on – for free! with tea and biscuits! – in Cork City Library. More on that in a day or two, when I’ve had time for all the information to settle.
So instead of my usual, I want to mention two of this week’s big news stories. Like everyone else, I was stunned by the untimely loss of both Prince and Victoria Wood in the past few days. I can’t imagine two celebrities holding a more stilted, awkward conversation in God’s waiting room (although it’s exactly the kind of pairing that Graham Norton could somehow have made work). But despite their differences, they were both extraordinarily gifted and influential in their respective worlds.
I saw Prince in concert back in the early 1990s. It was in the strangest venue for him, with the feel of a school hall, slap-bang in the middle of nowhere in Holland. There was no support act, at most four people on stage and Prince played non-stop for three hours. It was a gig rather than a concert, and easily the best show I’ve ever been to. A couple of years later, I was practically front row at a Michael Jackson concert and his slick, oddly sterile precision (fake tears during Ben, which he abandoned when the Dutch crowd started chanting ‘Olé, olé olé olé’) compared with Prince’s raw spontaneity showed me who the real King of Pop was. Prince worked the crowd like no one else I’ve seen because he was totally transported by the music.
Victoria Wood’s talents were far less showy, the unassuming genius in the corner. While I wasn’t a major fan, I was always glad that she was there, proving that women could be hilarious in a male-dominated world. I liked the warmth and gentleness of her comedy, the way she picked on her own shortcomings sooner than other peoples’. And then there were her fantastic observational skills. I would have thought of her as more of a wordsmith than a physical comedienne, but then I came across this surprising sketch, ‘Step with Hailey Bailey’. Fabulous:
So farewell, you brilliant, crazy little sex imp. And farewell, you quick-witted, self-deprecating, awkward bob-rocking funny lady.