Yesterday we were treated by the Telegraph to a large photo of the new kitchen at No 10 – or is it at No 11? Behind Samantha and Michelle chatting away on a yellow sofa, there was the cooker, with the information that it cost £3,400.
This did not interest me one bit. But their shelf of books and DVDs did, as the inquisitive reporter kindly included a list of the titles which were too blurred in the photo to discern. Along with some obviously coffee table arty books – well, Mrs Cameron is a designer and fashion icon, after all – there was the complete works of Shakespeare. He is a must-have for desert islands, including the lofty little island that the Camerons now find themselves temporarily inhabiting. As Fr Lucie-Smith points out in his blog yesterday, the man from Stratford is for all time – though I rather wonder if Dave and Sam ever get time to sit on the yellow sofa and share their thoughts on, say, Hamlet and the fate of politicians.
Being a snob, I have to say that their choice of DVDs (Kill Bill, Desperate Housewives, Syriana etc) is very low brow – with one exception: Brideshead Revisited, complete box set. The fact of the “boxed set” means it must be the original, magnificent TV series in 11 episodes of 1981, made by Charles Sturridge and starring Jeremy Irons, Claire Bloom, Diana Quick etc. I cannot imagine how anyone who has listened to the theme music and the sad, musing voice of the narrator, and watched as Castle Howard slowly comes into view, could possibly ever want to see the “remake” of 2008.
A convert friend once told me that it was the novels of Evelyn Waugh that kindled his initial interest in the Church. Admittedly, he mentioned the Sword of Honour trilogy rather than Brideshead, but I think you cannot read the latter book or watch the acclaimed TV series with an open, yet reflective mind, and not ask yourself some fundamental questions. The late Hugh Trevor-Roper, who had a visceral dislike of Catholicism, would doubtless have dismissed Brideshead as a mixture of snobbery and incense; perhaps the Camerons, who have experienced the suffering of caring for a terminally ill child, might have grappled with the deeper questions raised by the series.
The relationship between art and faith is a tricky thing; journalist Leo McKinstry, raised a Protestant, was prompted to turn towards the Church as he looked at Renaissance religious art in Venice; Peter Hitchens became a Christian soon after seeing an Italian old master painting of hell. I am thinking of sending the Camerons some more DVDs for their collection: Of Gods and Men perhaps, and Bresson’s The Diary of a Country Priest; even Babette’s Feast. They would never have the time to watch Into Great Silence, of course.