Diary of a misfit – but will Liz Jones regret offending the good people of Exmoor?
The writer Liz Jones has penned her last diatribe from Exmoor causing thousands of angry countryfolk to comment on the Daily Mail website – Exmoor resident Martin Hesp makes his comment here...
Not since Carver Doone robbed, pillaged and murdered on Exmoor has anyone been so universally unpopular in the national park as the writer Liz Jones, who has just quit residing in the hills after five years which she describes as a “prison sentence”.
The fact that the wicked villain of Lorna Doone didn’t really exist doesn’t seem to matter here – because there are an awful lot of people across the Westcountry who suspect Ms Jones is also a character of fiction. No one, they argue, could really be like her.
The Daily Mail columnist came to fame outside the London fashion world when she saw fit to relocate way, way out in the sticks somewhere near the village of Brushford – and since that unhappy moment she has used her newspaper writing to either attack the countryside in general, or pick holes at anyone and anything that moves within it. You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.
For years the scriptwriters of the BBC’s The Archers programme tried to – they invented a character called Mrs Snell who was an “incomer” of the very worst kind. That is, she moved into the fictional Ambridge, knowing far more about everything and anything than anyone else – which, naturally, meant she had to take on responsibility in the village for bossing everyone about.
But poor old Mrs Snell couldn’t carry it off for too long – eventually the scriptwriters realised they must soften and subdue her.
The scriptwriters in charge of Liz Jones – or perhaps the real person of that name – obviously chose not to follow The Archers’ example. They/she just kept on with the initial script instruction which may have read something like this: “Truly awful incomer of the worst urban kind moves to muddy countryside and finds everything – absolutely everything – to be horrible and at fault.”
The producers of the contemporary hit TV programme Idiot Abroad couldn’t have done better. My imagination produces a bunch of media types enjoying a particularly sordid meeting after a long and liquid Soho luncheon…
“Of course no one like this character really exists, but that doesn’t matter, we’ll make her default position in life be 100% opposed to everything normal country people do.”
“Good idea. But she mustn’t realise it. She must go on believing that they are all indisputably wrong and that she is the only sane person for miles.”
“And the funny thing will be that she is not afraid of saying so. She’ll get nasty and offensive at the drop of a hat – and the poor old country bumpkins around her will be utterly bemused and upset.”
“It’s a fantastic plot – London media-type goes to countryside – a sort of Bridget Jones in reverse.”
“Yes, but we can’t call her Bridget Jones. How about plain old Liz Jones?”
Surely, there will be a movie version of this sorry tale coming to a cinema near us all soon? I can’t believe they’ll let this great wealth of material go to waste.
The trouble the producers will have is in trying to decide whether or not any of it sounds feasible. After all, in her “real life” goodbye to Exmoor article, which appeared in the Mail on Sunday last weekend, Ms Jones states: “I admit I’m spoilt and eccentric…
“I admit I used to yell at the gardener to ‘walk faster!’. I admit I used to leave food out for the rats in winter.”
Shall we get our collective rural heads around that for a minute… She used to yell at the gardener to walk faster? No, surely, that will not do.
No one has behaved like that since the real Dowager Duchess passed away at Downton Abbey.
As for leaving food out for rats… Well, not even St Francis of Assisi did that. No one deliberately leaves food out for rats. And anyone who did – and who liked to show off about doing so – would, in a real world, be locked up for their own good.
“I became so lonely,” sobs Ms Jones after five bitter years of slowly realising that no one likes her, “I would often get in my car – not just for the warmth – but for the kind voice of the satnav lady.” Oh, please, stop it – you daft scriptwriters. You are now taking the mickey.
“I’ve learned that an amazing view and a pair of nesting grey herons are not enough to make me happy,” sobs Liz, climbing into that car one final time for the trip back to London.
Hang on, Liz, don’t bring the poor herons into this…
But wait, perhaps there is to be some kind of redemption: “And then, of course, there was ‘toothless-gate’,” writes Ms Jones – perhaps at last realising that she has upset a few folk down mud-pie way. “I wrote that ‘men in Exmoor with their own teeth are a bonus’…”
Is she going to regret being offensive and inaccurate (I live on Exmoor and the vast majority of men I know do actually have teeth)? Is she heck.
She’s only pointing out that: “Most young people, starved of decent employment and affordable housing, soon leave.” And what does she get for her kindly concern? “This resulted in me being called names and shouted at when I went into the local pub.”
Self-pity doesn’t last for long – Liz is in righteous stride now: “I didn’t increase my popularity by being unable to pass a party of men and often children with guns, shooting rabbits and deer, without getting out of my BMW and saying: ‘Do you really have nothing better to do with your Saturday morning?’
“The look of shock on their faces that I had the cheek to challenge them was priceless. I would stop, too, and shout at huntsmen on horses, galloping on tarmaced roads, one hand on the reins, the other clamping a mobile phone to their heads. ‘You will ruin your horses’ tendons!’ I would wail.”
This is all precious stuff. Fantastic comedy, I’d say. So good you could hardly make it up.
And the really big problem is that the departed Liz didn’t.
The bit of me that doesn’t get offended and likes a satirical laugh will miss Liz Jones – the other bit hopes she never decides to write a book entitled: “How To Make Friends and Influence People.”