IHAVE BEEN fortunate to catch quite a bit of the actress Maggie Smith in recent weeks in both her roles as The Right Honourable (and acid-tongued) Violet Dowager, Countess of Grantham, in Downtown Abbey, and as a retired curmudgeonly housekeeper who pretty much despises Asians in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. With her impeccably delivered and often caustic put-downs, she has joined the unique list of women in this world to have me enthralled. Her one-liners in the at times knee-hoppingly dull, yet, other times utterly compelling ITV period drama are reason to smile each time a scene features her. Thankfully, she has an extensive filmography under her belt for us to go explore when filming of the next series gets under way. I was asked the other evening if I had a favourite Hollywood actress and I had to say no, but at this moment in time Maggie Smith and me certainly have something going on. I read recently where she had a pop at Hollywood directors for treating its audience like they are a pack of five-year-olds, rather than catering to the extensive pool of older film fans that she argues are very often forgotten. What gives further credence to her comments is that they came in the same week that Channel 4 Racing's John McCririck found out he is to be axed, with allegations of ageism again being fired in the direction of C4 producers, as only one member of their revised racing presenting team will be over the age of fifty. Is there an ageist undercurrent gathering momentum in the world of entertainment? Do producers think we want only to look at those that are perceived by some to be beautiful? Alarmingly, I wonder if they believe we are that shallow. If this is the case, then those foolish enough to pursue an antielderly agenda should be prepared for an all-out war with the people that paved the way for younger generations to flourish. In the words of the inimitable countess when asked by a naive young Cora if they would become friends, 'We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.' They mess with wisdom at their peril.
MAGIC OF WES'S WAND
Did you know that around the city of Norwich and further afield Wes Hoolahan's left leg is known as The Wand? Such is the esteem in which the Dubliner's footballing talent is held around East Anglia. Here is a player that scored four goals and provided seven assists in 25 games in the Premier League for his team last season. In comparison, Luka Modric scored four goals and provided four assists for Spurs in 36 games, before being sold to Real Madrid for a fee believed to be in the region of £33m. Until now (with the exception of one cap), Hoolahan has been excluded from an Irish football team almost bereft of creativity. Trapattoni travelled to see Norwich beat Arsenal a few weeks back, a game in which Hoolahan shone. The Italian was obviously impressed, given his inclusion in the squad to play Greece. Let's hope the manager plays him, and that the player makes the most of his opportunity.