SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: Stephen Bayley wants us to live like peasants

SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: Design guru Stephen Bayley wants us all to live like peasants when lockdown ends

Bayley (pictured), who was the first director of the Design Museum in London, says lockdown could make our lives more satisfying — if we revert to a ‘peasant’ outlook

The pandemic may have heaped untold misery upon the nation, but design guru Stephen Bayley is determined to see a silver lining in this darkest of clouds.

Bayley (pictured), who was the first director of the Design Museum in London, says lockdown could make our lives more satisfying — if we revert to a ‘peasant’ outlook.

‘In recent years, a lot of people have been feeling increasingly fretful and anxious about the digital world,’ he tells me. 

‘Our world is haunted by tech, and the freedom it has allowed has turned out to be a sort of slavery.

‘Nowadays, any fool can lead a busy life. What we need is to get back to a less complicated life.’

Bayley, a former collaborator with Habitat founder Sir Terence Conran, is writing a book — Value: What Money Can’t Buy.

‘When I say ‘peasant lifestyle’, I’m not advocating a return to felt leggings, wattle-and-daub huts and a life expectancy of 35,’ he says. ‘I mean a new respect for enduring values and satisfying rituals in place of trashy novelty.

‘If you think about it, this is exactly why people enjoy holidays in villas in Tuscany or the Dordogne: here, the basic mechanisms of existence become all-consumingly satisfying. You sweep the stone floor carefully and throw away the Dyson.

The pandemic may have heaped untold misery upon the nation, but design guru Stephen Bayley is determined to see a silver lining in this darkest of clouds. A farm is pictured above in Ramsgate, Kent

‘I started writing this book and then the virus came along and emphasised all of these beliefs. I’m not a technophobe, but I passionately think that analogue experiences are more valuable than digital ones.

‘People would rather look at a screen than a building or the city they live in. What we’ve discovered during this crisis — and what I’ve always suspected — is that ordinary domestic routines are deeply satisfying.

‘Cleaning the fridge is more truly satisfying than [watching] Love Island. Mrs Thatcher taught me the importance of cleaning the fridge.

‘In a complicated life where not everything went well, she found that this was the rare task that could be completed to perfection.’

‘In recent years, a lot of people have been feeling increasingly fretful and anxious about the digital world,’ he tells me. ‘Our world is haunted by tech, and the freedom it has allowed has turned out to be a sort of slavery’

At 51, Naomi Watts proves she still has bin bags of style

The former Oscar nominee, who was born in Shoreham, Kent, posed in pink gloves and little else while holding a black bin liner full of garden leaves

Most Tinseltown stars go out of their way to ensure they look good in public, but Naomi Watts is happy to poke fun at her sartorial shortcomings.

The former Oscar nominee, who was born in Shoreham, Kent, posed in pink gloves and little else while holding a black bin liner full of garden leaves.

She humorously compared it with an old photoshoot in which she sported a strapless black mini-dress. 

‘Trashy looks… then and now,’ wrote the 51-year-old, who is spending lockdown in The Hamptons, New York, with her ex-boyfriend, actor Liev Schreiber, and their two sons.

Her supermodel pal Helena Christensen gave it a thumbs up, declaring: ‘Hot in both.’

Honours for ageing actors would not just strike a sour note during the crisis, but they shouldn’t happen at any time, according to Cold Feet star Robert Bathurst. 

‘It’s questionable why anyone thinks an actor should be given a gong,’ he tells The Oldie magazine. 

‘The profession gets recognition enough — and a ‘K’ doesn’t make you a better actor. Most honours citations for actors should read: ‘For services to their career.’

Hamster injects £500k to keep wheels turning

He’s made millions from his screen partnership with fellow petrolheads Jeremy Clarkson and James May, but Richard ‘the Hamster’ Hammond has had to pump almost £500,000 into his television production company in loans as he tries to stem massive losses.

He has his own business with his wife, Mindy, separate from his co-stars on The Grand Tour. Chimp Productions is £228,000 in the red for the 12 months to the end of March, but it would have been much more had he and Mindy not pumped in almost £½ million.

The couple lent the money via another company, Hamster’s Wheel Productions, and promised they’d help fund more bills: Chimp has deals with Amazon to produce a show called The Great Escapists, and the Science Channel for Richard Hammond’s Big.

Crown star hopes to get a new royal plot

Polo pair: O’Connor as Prince Charles with Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles

Having played Prince Charles in Netflix hit The Crown, Josh O’Connor seems to be taking on airs and graces, declaring that he wants to spend the rest of lockdown at the heir to the throne’s Gloucestershire retreat.

‘I’d quite like to borrow Highgrove House,’ he says. 

‘It’s pretty big and has famously beautiful gardens — a fairly lush spot for isolation.’

The house is empty as Charles and Camilla are in Scotland. And O’Connor would certainly appreciate Highgrove’s beautiful grounds.

‘I’ve been starting most days with an hour or two in the garden,’ he says. ‘It feels like the most peaceful place to be.’

But does he talk to the plants, like Charles?

Donald Trump does occasionally have some sensible advice. It’s emerged that he once urged Sir Richard Branson to ‘try and get out of the airline business… as soon as possible’. 

The American President added in the 2004 letter: ‘It is obviously a terrible business.’ 

Branson’s Virgin Airlines is currently in such dire straits that the billionaire tycoon is offering his Caribbean island, Necker, as collateral to save it.

Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon has finally revealed the inspiration for the ‘bird of paradise moving on the floor’ with a ‘cherry ice cream smile’ in the group’s signature Eighties hit, Rio. And it’s more Bull Ring than Brazilian beach. 

‘The song started life in Birmingham,’ Le Bon says. ‘I was in a restaurant in the middle of town and I saw this waitress literally swanning across the floor, and that was how the lyric was born.’

He also explains the laughter at the beginning of Hungry Like The Wolf. ‘Nick’s [Rhodes, keyboardist] girlfriend Cheryl starts the track giggling while he was doing something naughty to her.’

Too much information, perhaps.

Hollywood star Nicholas Hoult plays Peter III of Russia in new historical drama The Great, opposite Elle Fanning as his scheming wife Catherine the Great. 

Berkshire-born pilot’s son Nicholas says: ‘Peter likes to impress people with his clothes and be in the latest fashion and create dresses so that he can have a better air circulation to his genitalia.’ 

They do say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

While actors are struggling without work, Jane Asher is relieved that she has another string to her bow: baking boxes, which contain almost everything to get started making cakes in the kitchen

The dough’s rising for Jane’s baking box idea

While actors are struggling without work, Jane Asher is relieved that she has another string to her bow: baking boxes, which contain almost everything to get started making cakes in the kitchen.

There’s been a surge in home baking during lockdown and Asher (right) is counting the dough. 

‘The baking boxes are doing incredibly well,’ she tells me. 

‘Partly because people are having difficulty finding ingredients like flour and yeast and so on. Of course, in the box the mix is ready to go.’

The Sixties icon, who is married to celebrated cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, adds: ‘I’m delighted that people are baking and may be finding pleasure in something they didn’t know they would enjoy.’

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