The Pippa/Telegraph Split: Cause to ‘Celebrate’?

Image: The Telegraph/Clara Molden

I woke up this morning and casually flicked through the updates on my Facebook and twitter, the standard start to most people’s day. One of the first posts I saw was one by MyDaily – the Huffington Post’s style pages – and it said this: “Commiserations! Pippa’s Woken Up To Bad News.” What could this be I wondered? Has her latest moneyed, permatanned Ken doll suitor given her semi-highness the boot? Has that spiffy new bob cut been butchered in the hairdresser’s chair? Has one of those famously peachy buttocks suddenly gained a dimple of cellulite and been rendered unappealing by today’s beauty fat mafia?

Nope, it was none of these things, it was this: “Kate Middleton’s Sister Axed as Telegraph Columnist.” And I’m a touch ashamed to say my first reaction leaned significantly more to the ‘whoopee’ side of the grief scale than the ‘oh no, such a shame.’

I’ve always had a little smidge of a problem with Pippa, but there’s no easy way to say that without sounding like a jealous bitch. It’s a fact of life that any criticism aimed at an attractive young woman who’s doing well, however neutrally expressed, will be met with the comedic sounds of cats meowing or that most offensively ridiculous of statements about handbags at dawn. But then again, some of the time they do come from a catty place and I suppose I did have my claws out for Pippa in a way.

I was cross that people went on about her at Kate’s wedding, choosing to focus more on her athletically toned bum than Kate’s ethereal presence in that exquisite dress. I was amused when she released a book about home entertaining that was filled, by all accounts, with helpful things about putting crisps into bowls and dubbed by Christopher Howse at The Telegraph as “a sort of cultural tea bag for the American Market.” But I was full-blown angry when she then JOINED The Telegraph as a columnist and, to add imagined insult to my presumed injury, she was writing about travel. TRAVEL.

The mildly hilarious, genteel columns in Vanity Fair I could cope with and could largely ignore her thoughts on why she thought men who played cricket were hot and how one should watch rugby (in case we’re getting it wrong), but travel writing was a little too close to the bone for me.

Perhaps it was because travel writing is what I’ve always wanted and tried to do and her first post about a jaunt to the Alps appeared at a time when she had a book deal and wrote for national magazines and websites while I was struggling to get a decent journalism commission. Jealous, moi? YES, obviously! Because I was doing it the old fashioned way of grafting and sending out endless pitches and writing for free while she waltzed into a well-paid (let’s not pretend they didn’t fork out top dollar for her writing) job with one of the best publications in the UK on the back of her face and her name and, probably, that famous derriere. Oh and her previously disclosed “passion” for writing apparently.

Perhaps, Pippa, I should have saluted you for achieving in a year what I hadn’t been able to do in five times that but, at the time, I was buggered if I was going to.

I remember writing a scribbled, vitriolic post about her travel column, which I called: ‘A glorified what I did on my hols that was so dull it made me want to eat my eyes.’ I didn’t publish it because I sounded like a mad woman – the proverbial evil Disney witch, howling with glee at a misused comma or spewing bile at what I deemed was the ultimate in ‘no one cares’ travel writing.

It was the kind of travelogue your friend writes and you read, begrudgingly. I know this because I’ve been guilty of it myself. Take this prime paragraph, for example:

“We ordered rounds of schnitzel sandwiches and würstchen (simple sausage rolls) before attempting a Bavarian jig and a bit of shoe-slapping – apparently a traditional mating dance, in which men hoped to lure their women. We embarrassed ourselves hugely, the lederhosen-clad boys in particular. The rest of the evening was spent as enthusiastic spectators.”

Urgh. Her Alpine piece told us that going up mountains is jolly hard, wine is nice and was peppered with awkward references to remind the reader that she really, really was just like ‘one of us.’ She took cheap airlines “(my easyJet cabin bag allowance ruled out walking boots)” and ate carbs, all the while worrying that she wouldn’t be able to fit in her fetching dirndl for the pictures of her gurning against interchangeable backdrops of snowy peaks and local people.

I think what got me all het up, apart from the good old fashioned jealousy, was the fact that I love Telegraph Travel and think it’s one of the best out there. It’s teeming with quality writers and columnists who aren’t just ‘names’ and column inches, they’re writers who delve headfirst into unexplored fronts; who find new ways of looking at traditional destinations or cover groundbreaking events. They produce written portraits of landscapes that move and inspire you and, while fluff occasionally creeps in – where doesn’t it – I think even they knew the backlash poor Pippa would face for her weekly column. It’s always been very telling that the comments section on her pieces were always disabled, a luxury that’s rarely afforded to most journalists who are often bombarded with unpleasant comments ridiculing their work.

Pippa soon moved on to other areas like Telegraph Lifestyle (cycling underwater to maintain that perfect posterior) and Telegraph Food (tasting pancakes for Shrove Tuesday) and my rage dimmed…although I’m ashamed to admit that I was occasionally tickled to see some of the twitter responses when the Telegraph twitter feed gallantly tried to promote her articles:

Untitled-4 Untitled-3 Untitled-2

Perhaps the most annoying thing of all is she’s probably a truly lovely woman and an intelligent one to boot and, to be honest, if someone offered me all these wonderful opportunities – like sailing with Ben Ainslie – I wouldn’t have turned them down and who can say if I would have written them up any better than she did. There’s no denying her media savvy in pulling in all those deals with zero writing or publishing experience, but I can’t deny that her success still rankles, hence my initial reaction to her Telegraph departure.

Although, as I’m contemplating it now, what right do I have to poke fun at her? Is she the next Kate Adie or Doris Lessing? Probably not, but then again neither am I and at the very least she’s got more column inches in a national to her name than I have. So despite the sacking I suppose she really is having the last laugh…especially seeing as there won’t be any more columns for me to giggle at anymore.

Pippa, I may not have saluted you before but, in typical British fashion, now you’re down I’ll raise my mug of tea to you and eagerly await your next literary foray…although a guide to Alpine Entertaining that focuses on how to look ladylike in a dirndl or how to moderate ones pretzel intake is guaranteed to reduce me to my former, hulk-like rage. Just saying.


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