I have received a good-natured letter from Tony Simpson, taking me to task for some of the comments I made about his appearance on Saturday Morning With Kim Hill.
He takes exception to my lumping him in with Wellington’s chardonnay socialists, explaining that he can’t stand chardonnay and in fact isn’t much of a wine drinker at all, preferring beer. (He doesn’t contest the “socialist” part of the tag, and of course neither should he.)
Tony also denies moving in the same social circles as Hill. He says he can recall speaking to her only twice over the past decade and does most of his socialising within the gay community.
Finally, he finds the “intellectual” label pretentious. While I can fully understand that, it’s a fair description to apply to someone whose public reputation arises from his writing, reading and thinking.
Does any of this fatally negate my basic premise, which was that Hill shows a marked tendency to favour a certain type of guest? I don’t believe so.
To be fair, though, I should have acknowledged in my original post that notwithstanding Hill’s irritatingly chummy chats with arty, left-leaning people whom she likes and agrees with, including her own producer, she does have some interesting guests. An example was the British author Simon Winchester, whom she interviewed a couple of weeks ago about his book on the China scholar Joseph Needham. I also enjoyed her conversation with Alastair Thompson, co-founder of Scoop – but that doesn’t detract from my general criticism about her propensity for playing favourites. In fact in some ways it reinforces it, because part of the reason I enjoyed it is that I know Alastair and once worked with him (as I did with Tony Simpson in a past life). It’s that incestuous Wellington thing again.
Possibly the best interview I’ve heard on Hill’s show was with Sir Patrick Hogan of Cambridge Stud last year. His account of his relationship with his prize stallion Sir Tristram, and of the great horse’s death, was profoundly moving. It was outside Hill’s normal zone, both geographically and in terms of subject matter, and it made me wonder why she doesn’t go there more often.