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In search of gravitas

Being blessed with lots of curly hair saves me a lot on hats and umbrellas. I am now working on the gravitas. Let me explain. Having reached the age when having a social life is something to be pitied rather than celebrated, I am happy to watch gardening programmes until I become exhausted at the sight of so much hard graft that I then switch to cookery shows. I have noticed that the best presenters on garden and cookery shows are adorned with great shaggy heads of hair, like an Irish Water spaniel in his prime. Think of Monty Don. Think of Marco Pierre White.

On the BBC, Monty stands tall, his voice quiet, a lump of muck in his mighty hand as he tells you exactly what to do this week. The birds sing decorously. The dogs stretch discretely, not missing a word. The garden has become a cathedral and Monty is the bishop, quietly praising nature and its Creator. God is in his heaven, all’s right in this world and if you want to know what God is like then his personification on earth is before you. If he tells a plant to grow it will and in the right place.

Over in The Restaurant, Marco enters the restaurant to an ovation for just being his splendid self. He does not acknowledge the applause. He is only interested in the food before him. He is judge, he is jury and he is comfortable in his great knowledge. It might be a boiled egg, and it might be cooked by a legend of stage or sport, but the egg is all that matters.

Jeremy Paxton is another one. “Oh come on King’s College Cambridge!” he snaps. How did such young idiots get into college/into parliament/on television, he wonders, sometimes aloud.

The Supervet tries hard and has plenty of hair, but he is scruffy and intense and he looks like he has been up all night. Monty and the others sleep the sleep of the just and trust that tomorrow will be on time and in good order. He is also Irish.

You see, the Irish do not like to be told what to do. Hooky and Ivan Yates try, but nobody really listens to them. We just let them off. We have no time for the heavy grandfather – we prefer the fun uncle, like Ryan Tubridy or Dermot Bannon. Eamonn Andrews was a hit in Britain but we preferred the light touch of Terry and Mike Murphy, Marty Whelan and, of course, Gay Byrne who was once referred to as ‘the oldest Young Man in the business’.

They are all chatty and convivial and go easy on the gravitas. I know The Restaurant is an Irish show, but there is always a rowdy and disrespectful gang in the kitchen. Not for us the cursing Gordon Ramsay. We have Neven chatting away like an old pal over the garden wall, or the impish Francis Brennan who can insult you more painlessly than any man alive.

Jeremy Clarkson should have the gravitas factor, but he doesn’t. He is big and imposing and he has the curls, but he is peevish and he can be petty. You could see him and Boris Johnston as the kids in school who tried to be in with the ‘In Crowd’ by poking fun at other kids. They are funny all right but would you turn your back on either of them? Boris Johnston is particularly unnerving, with his Malfoy hairdo and permanent smile.

Ivan Yeats and George Hook certainly don’t have the curls and while they both have a modicum of gravitas they are more contrarian than authoritarian. Dunphy and Brady are diminutive and while they clearly have a great opinion of themselves, if not always each other, you could hardly imagine them planting an acre of spuds in a day, or even cooking some. Anyhow, they barely have a decent head of hair between them.

Simon Cowell has the hair and I would imagine that it costs him as much to maintain as Monty’s garden, but he uses his domineering character to harass teenagers who sing. Nobody has asked him to sing. He is a mere critic and not seriously worth any attention.

I am working on the gravitas. Someday my dog will lie adoringly at my feet instead of charging about yapping like Louis Walsh and when I enter a CME meeting I will get a standing ovation. I just have to watch more television.

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