The return of gossip: why we need it now more then ever

Robbie Smith
·4-min read
 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

Gossip, life’s secret ingredient, is right now scarcer than a face mask at a Laurence Fox launch event. There’s a very good reason for this, obviously. But as we emerge from full lockdown into a more hopeful spring, there are things we can look forward to again.

London’s parks have been full of people drinking, talking and laughing together — and not doing so, for the first time in months, under the theoretical threat of arrest. Some of life’s colour is coming back. And as closely as the second London bus follows the first London bus, gossip follows gatherings. Great.

Many of us long for gossip and scandal to break through the penumbra of case statistics, death tolls and nasty reports of vaccine wars. Oh, for some frivolity.

We can get our fix again soon because the parties and people are returning. Bring those back and like water from a tap, the gossip will flow.

Luxury PRs assure me (of course) that they’re raring to go and have been cooking up master plans with their clients. Here are a few things that will dazzle after months of drab.

The Burlington Arcade in Mayfair will reopen with a champagne-soaked night next month, complete with a brand new bar and set of DJs. The Ned has DJ Jodie Harsh on the decks, a Drag Club brunch from May, and pool parties planned for June. The Boisdale clubs are ready to fling open all their terraces on April 12 (including a newly-built one in Belgravia) while oysters, champagne, and cocktails will be the order(s) of the day.

I’m told the launch of hip New York hotel NoMad in London (they’ve bagged the old Bow Street magistrates’ court in Covent Garden) with its three bars will be the one to watch in May. To adapt an Iris Murdoch line: let the corks fly and the golden stuff foam.

These have been lean times for the lighter stuff. Even us professional gossip getters have had to wrack our brains for where the secrets are being spilled, or the hot takes being served up.

On the Londoner’s Diary we’ve been scoping out Zoom events, digging into digital detoxes, thumbing obscure periodicals, braving multi-hour podcasts. But it’s always worth it because it’s the softer things that sustain us. The news has been, to put it lightly, heavy.

But some stories outside of the grim cycle have gripped us. That interview with Oprah. The row over Carrie Symonds’ makeover of the flat above Number 11 Downing Street — her brutal clear out of Theresa May’s (reported) “John Lewis furniture nightmare” replaced with a riot of colour, a la smart designer Lulu Lytle. The furore over Dominic West’s intimate scooter ride with Lily James in Rome. Even my housemate, who doesn’t care for anything to do with tiaras or titles, admitted he was drawn into the royal fallout from Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview.

As I said, these things sustain us. If that word sustaining sounds strange, it’s because gossip, though some of us might hate to admit it, is part of life. An essential part, even. While we need the serious and heavy stories, others must balance them out. Preferably pieces that are light, funny, and about actual real human beings. They make us happy, give us relief, and make us forget whatever it is we want to forget. We can lose ourselves in the travails of the rich and the famous, or laugh at some actor’s droll phrase, or muse on a writer’s clever pun.

I’m sure part of the impulse to gossip is found in our evolution from ancestors who chatted while preening each other for fleas, as modern chimpanzees do. Not bored, kept in the loop, and deloused. Win-win-win. Let’s not kid ourselves that we’re too different now (apart from the lice, that is).

Don’t worry if you are out of practice. In the past few months, you may have spotted a minor but strange phenomenon that I call Early Onset Middle Age Syndrome (EOMAS). Symptoms include equanimity, a desire to put your feet up, an urge to go to bed by 10 and an involuntary shudder at the thought of going out.

I became aware of my own case recently. My head says no diarist worth their salt should go to sleep on the same day they wake up. Nor should any diarist be less than 50 per cent wine at any one time. But I’ve taken more sensible decisions in the last three months I can keep track of. Rashness? Never heard of it. Reckless abandon? Sounds like a failed Dire Straits cover band. Wild living? No idea, probably an offshoot of wild swimming.

I’m a trifle nervy about returning to my previous life. I may need to put my liver through a refresher course. Then again, the return of gossip doesn’t have to come through a bacchanalian, no-holds barred, libertine excess-fest. Just a little fun will do.

Drink isn’t the key ingredient anyway. That’s people. Doing things. Together. You know, like they used to? These will be the days.

Read More

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Lulu Lytle: the interior designer who’s inspired the Number 11 Downing Street makeover