great expectations

For reasons that will be more immediately obvious to some readers than to others, I was startled to see this subject line in my mailbox (from the digital version of Metro UK):

metro headines 5th July 2011

But seriously… “Gwyneth’s marriage ‘not perfect'”. What marriage ever has been?

Anyone who has the least interest in celebrities must realise from all the stories in the glossies that their lives and marriages are just as tumultuous as those of the rest of us.

The headline caught my eye, though, as I remembered reading a piece in The Week only last month that quoted Janice Turner of the Times as saying that Gwyneth Paltrow lived a life of “sparkling perfection”. In fact, in the full article (seemingly only available on-line to Times subscribers) the phrase was that she had “burnished each facet of her life to sparkling perfection”.

I have my own reasons to be interested in “La Paltrow” – including the fact that she calls Spain her second home and returns to Talavera de la Reina regularly. Until I moved from Madrid, I hadn’t even heard of Talavera and now I know the city, I can’t imagine what on earth an American teenage exchange-student could have found appealing about it.

But apparently she liked it enough to continue to visit and to keep up with her Spanish. She’s said to be ‘fluent’ and has a Spanish version of her Goop website with sufficient mistakes de angloparlante – a ‘you’ for example, that should be a ‘yo’, and all kinds of literally translated phrases – to make me think it hasn’t simply been translated by a native Spanish speaker.

I gather that GP is now seeking a tutor for her two children, for evenings and weekends. The Week says the advert asks for someone “well-versed in Latin and Ancient Greek, fluent in at least two languages,and schooled in philosophy. Additionally, he or she must be musical, fit, youthful and outdoorsy, with a passion for drama, sailing and sports.”

I understand employing an expert to teach your children a subject that you yourself don’t know, but, personally, I’d be loath to take such a paragon into my household.

The requirements put me in mind of the discussion of what ‘accomplished’ means from chapter 8 of Pride and Prejudice. (Text copied and pasted from the delightful Republic of Pemberley website):

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”

“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley. “Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.”

“Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

I rather wonder at the possibility of finding a tutor to meet the Paltrow-Martin family requirements, even if the salary is over £62,000 pa plus accommodation. And if they do find someone, I wonder if the tutor will know how to net a purse or cover a screen.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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