11 May: With so many interviews and programmes showing people sitting at their computers it seems that I am not the only one who finds interest in the backgrounds rather than the interview! A couple of weeks ago The Financial Times had a column on the rooms from which some politicians broadcast – and drew all sorts of conclusions, some not very flattering. They chose the heading ‘zoom with a view’.
I have spent several years attending meetings by one video link or another and always take care not only with my own appearance and what I wear but also the view I present to the rest of the meeting. I am acutely aware that my presence is being projected onto a screen in the board room (or wherever) where I am actually larger than life – and that has obvious disadvantages. I know that people in the meeting can see not only me but the books in the bookcase behind me – and even read their titles. I don’t take any chances that they might be uninterested!
Not so many of the people we see online at the moment. I am amazed (I suppose I should be admiring) that so few seem to care about what we see of their homes, bookcases, kitchens, etc. Simon Sharma endeared himself to me by having the most chaotic book shelves ever. Books piled upon books, books on the floor, books on tables, books simply everywhere. Thomas Piketty drew my admiration by having well-organised, red bookshelves; lots of books looking their very best offset by red. Why is he the only one to have red bookshelves? By contrast, Angela Rippon recommended herself to me by having the most immaculate presentation. She didn’t have a hair out of place (no mean feat in lock-down), her make-up was perfect, her dress was just right and behind her was an orchid and a vase of fresh flowers on an otherwise uncluttered surface and uncluttered wall. I like attention to detail.
And then there are those who have bookcases but no books; instead they load up the shelves with their trophies and awards. Often the walls behind them display framed awards as well. They seem to occupy shrines rather than homes and I wonder what their long-suffering partners and families think of this form of decoration. Damien Green, of all people, recommended himself by having an Alan Gourley (my husband’s uncle) painting behind him.
My favourite interviews are those where the interviewee doesn’t have total control of his/her surroundings; partners, children, dogs, and cats all have bit parts. In lock-down it doesn’t do to be too judgmental. One gets one’s pleasures where one can! And sometimes I enjoy the interview for its intrinsic merit.