Tuesday, 18 March 2014
So, Clarissa Dickson Wright shuffles off this mortal coil and joins the “choir invisibule” as Monty Python had it, although her demise was somewhat overshadowed by the suicide of Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, L'Wren Scott – no, me neither – which made front page news the world over (forget about flight MH370 – so last week). Recently the eulogies were all for politicians, today it’s ‘celebrities’. It’s a funny old world.
In the end they all go and we have what I find a distinctly odd tradition of not speaking ill of the dead, unless it’s Margaret Thatcher. Instead we seem to go the other way and pour on tributes where they are not deserved, endow the deceased with physical attributes previously unseen and moral codes never adhered to. Thus every dead teenager was a paragon of glowing youth with a glittering future ahead of them and every dead pensioner was a brave and wise elder leaving a shining legacy.
In truth, a vanishingly small number of people have any impact on the world beyond their immediate contacts and even then the memories, in most cases, soon fade. They must; death is an inevitable consequence of being born and with knocking on 60 million deaths every year it’s just as well we don’t try and engage with every one of them, although the curious phenomenon of wayside shrines to complete strangers strikes me as ludicrous morbidity. I blame Saint Diana.
But unlike Dopey Di, Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright was the genuine article. A one-off; an oddity from a bygone world. A maverick, she very much ploughed her own furrow and her lifestyle almost certainly had much to do with her early departure, but I suspect she went very much on her own terms. I can’t imagine Saint Peter having much of a say on whether she gets through the Pearly gates to the celestial bar.
This appetite for death and its ceremonial trimmings is, they say, an essential part of coming to terms with loss but while most deaths are greeted with mourning and a bit of garment-rending and straw-grasping, crass eulogising of an insignificant presence, with Clarissa we can at least engage in the counterpart; the celebration of a life larger than most.
Because she really didn’t give a shit what anybody thought. Quentin Letts gives her a splendid sending off in his obituary and you should read it because it’s very good. There shouldn’t be any tears, for this is not an account of promise unfulfilled or of a stalwart seeker of the absurd notion of social justice. No, here was a woman who lived her life as, perhaps, we all should; doing exactly what she bloody well liked.
Is the bloody bar open yet?
Unlike most of us though, she did leave a small and important dent on the world. She had her platform and - via the medium of knocking up a hash on the telly - health and safety, political correctness, the nanny state, the parlous state of education, celebrity culture and overt sensitivity, among many other modern fripperies felt her hard gaze and stern words. And apart from a few miserable lefties we cheered her on. So raise a glass and drink a toast not to the loss of a distinctly odd woman but to a bit of what was lost with her. To the slow death of Common Sense; R.I.P… you will be sadly missed.