Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Large Hadron Collider

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A year or so ago, I wrote a column about Peaches Geldof’s surprise Vegas marriage. I argued in favour. This was (1) because I could think of an argument in favour, (2) because everyone else seemed to be against, and (3) because I’d just finished reading David Niven’s autobiography (one of the books I’ve enjoyed most, ever) and wanted an excuse to write about him. He’d had a quick marriage too.

Point (2) is probably the key when it comes to writing columns. Everyone knows columnists like to write whatever other people aren’t saying. I get annoyed when I read columnists being nasty about something just because everyone else is nice about it (as when the Fleet Street ghouls had to go right round the houses to find a negative line on Joanna Lumley’s fight for the Gurkhas, that kind of thing) but I LOVE being nice about something when everyone else is nasty. The most counter-intuitive thing of all, for a newspaper hack, is to make a really big effort to think positive; I, for one, get a warm thrill out of it. Or possibly a smug thrill, depending on your point of view. Anyway, I decided to be pro Peaches Geldof because she gets such a hard time from the press in general. How bad can she be, I thought? She’s just a kid. She’s probably perfectly bright and perfectly nice, because most people are. She just gets a kicking for her youthful high spirits and for having a famous father; nothing wrong with that.

  Last night, for the first time, I actually saw Peaches Geldof. Not live - I saw her in Fearne Cotton Meets…

  Oh God.

  Oh God.

  She’s something else.

  I wanted to find the show on YouTube, as a treat for any of you who didn’t see it. But either it isn’t there or I’m too many centuries older than Peaches Geldof to find my way around a website properly. All I can find is a section of the programme, pre-filtered through the brilliant eye of Charlie Brooker. But it’ll do as a little late Christmas present for anyone who missed the original. The clip doesn’t quite bring out the rudeness of Miss G - her cold, spoiled, lazy, dismissive tone towards Fearne Cotton (who gets a bit too hard a time from Charlie and the editors here; I think she did a fair job of letting her subject’s character come out) - my main regret was that Cotton didn’t ask, at any point during this, “Why have you agreed to do this programme at all?”

  BUT it does bring out her amazing pretensions. I don’t care if someone’s dim. I myself have areas of extreme dimness - trying to figure out YouTube, for example, or remembering books I read more than a week ago, or knowing my left and right. In many ways I am a genuine moron (by the old medical definition, “a mental age of between 7 and 12 years”). What is astonishing about Peaches is the combination of slender intellect, weak logical grasp, almost complete absence of knowledge, and determination to come across like Bamber Gascoigne. I think, perhaps, I might have to salute her for that after all.

  Go here, watch from 6 minutes in, and I defy you not to laugh when you hear the words “large hadron collider.”

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Tony A at 4:11 pm on January 2nd, 2010

Just wanted to say a very Happy New Year Vicky .....

Haha Peaches Geldof ... perhaps not one of the deepest scientific thinkers of our time ... but a good source of amusement ... personally I prefer National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation though.

Pete Douglas at 10:07 pm on January 2nd, 2010

Re the Large Hadron Collider (which was near Geneva last time I visited CERN…) - do these so called celebrities never learn not to talk such bull about things they don’t understand at all? Sometimes it is better to say nothing and be thought perhaps to be a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt! (I can’t remember who said that first, but then again I don’t claim it to be original).

Craig at 11:18 pm on January 2nd, 2010

Gosh. In its own way that Fearne-Peaches clip was the Large Hadron Collider of TV interviews: a collision, the purpose of which remains a mystery to most, producing quite baffling results.

I would write more, but I’m just off now to colour-code my book collection. I think all libraries should do it.

Neil at 4:11 am on January 3rd, 2010

Most people are bright? You’ve been presenting connect too long, do a swap with Noel Edmunds or Jeremy Kyle for a week and see if that changes your mind.

And if you’re still in any doubt here’s something I’m sure will convince you,  it’s a radio quiz show from a few years back, i particularly like the famous french racecourse one ;)

Happy New Year!

RomanticRecluse at 12:51 pm on January 3rd, 2010

Vicky, I read your latest Observer column and there was something in it that struck me.

You wrote “trust me, when you’ve lost your father you’d give anything for one more cooped-up Christmas with him”.  I lost my father and I wouldn’t want one more second with him, never mind a cooped-up Christmas with him.

Trust me, you didn’t know my father.

John at 6:20 pm on January 3rd, 2010

I don’t blame Cotton and Geldof for being terrible, I blame the management structure for thinking it has its waxed finger on the pulse of the viewer.

Dan at 6:22 pm on January 3rd, 2010

“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” - Richard P. Feynman, Nobel physicist

I think this is relevant somehow. Just not sure how.

MarkP at 8:15 pm on January 3rd, 2010

Isn’t it true that the producers of the ‘Ferne meets…’ show might have had an agenda with Peaches and have deliberately portrayed her as being dumb? How many average teenagers would actually know where the Large Hadron Collider is or care a jot about it? Then the Screenwipe producers play a few of the worst bits and poor Peaches is a laughing stock.
Nah, only kidding but I think I’ve understood point 2 of your reasoning.

sam at 2:30 am on January 4th, 2010

It’s not that she doesn’t know where the LHC is, it’s that she thinks that it’s in Texas and is going to make black holes.  Even the most dull witted Mail reader probably knows that’s wrong.

Anyway I think it’s far, far funnier that we found out that she’s a scientologist.  I wonder what her thetan level is.

M at 1:48 pm on January 4th, 2010

Although, amusingly, I seem to rember Texas was actually the location of the US supercollider project for a similar purpose - you can find references and pictures if you google it, by the looks of it.

Lottip at 9:56 pm on January 4th, 2010

For some reason, since seeing this clip, I have had the phrase “Peaches Geldof and the large Hadron Collider” in my head - it could be the title of a children’s book, the moral of the story therein being that you should never pretend to know about something of which you are, in fact, totally ignorant, becasue it makes you look a fool. QED.

The best bit is when she abruptly says “I don’t want to talk about it any more”. AKA “Can’t”.

Why did Ferne (who, you’ve got to admit, doesn’t come out of this farrago well either) not say to her: “Peaches, do you know what quantum physics actually is?”

Dan at 10:46 pm on January 4th, 2010

That’s true about the supercollider in Texas.  They spent a billion dollars digging a hole for an $11 billion dollar project larger than the LHC.  One scientist tried to sell the project to Congress by telling them it was “to find the Higgs Boson”.  The project was duly stopped and the hole refilled for another billion.  If only Peaches had been there.

James at 12:27 am on January 5th, 2010

I’m surprised that no-one so far has raised the obvious question: does this mean that _anyone_ between seven and twelve years old, and of average mental capacity, is de facto a moron for half a decade?

Dan at 12:46 am on January 5th, 2010

To help present the case for the Texan collider that is.  I should have left Peaches out of that post….

sam at 2:25 am on January 5th, 2010

I didn’t know that about texas.  Still, it wouldn’t have been a bad spot for it.  Texas (Houston specifically) has the highest density of supercomputers in the world by a country mile, mainly due to Exxon.  What wonderful bedfellows they would have made.

M at 10:18 am on January 5th, 2010

We could always postulate that in an original reality she was the lead scientist at the Texan facility and beat the LHC to activation, but while trying to solve the world energy crises she inadvertedly caused a runaway reaction which would have consumed the planet, and in fixing it she caused our new reality to form in which she must never be that lead scientist, and now she has fogged memories and half remembers what she could have been in all her glory from the original time, when the quantum universe was a mere plaything for her brilliant mind.


Jan at 4:50 pm on January 5th, 2010

Yes, it’s not so much she doesn’t know much about the LHC, it’s the pretentiousness with which she decides, knowing she is on TV, to hold forth about it like she is some intellectual giant, an authority and Fearne by contrast is some complete dimwit.  (OK the latter bit might be true, I used to like the girl but hearing her on Radio 1 actually makes me mutter at the radio, hastening my ageing process).

danny maris at 2:39 am on January 6th, 2010

I saw the Peaches and Fern interview AGES ago i.e. at least six weeks.

I thought it was really good TV. 

There is something absurd about Peaches - not least the traditional “plumper than me” friend from schooldays who was going to divulge some vile toilet-related secret (but wasn’t allowed to).

However, in her defence, she had a traumatic childhood. She did have SOME books on her bookshelf and she makes the most of her looks (which are not THAT great),

In one word it’s all about attitude.

danny maris at 2:48 am on January 6th, 2010

PS Did I imagine I heard you speaking on radio as “Vicky” talking about fear of flying.?  I am sure the presenter referred to you as Vicky.  Do you fear flying? Was I half asleep?

But now I just heard you mentioned on Full Tilt Poker on TV (Channel 4).

You are busy these days…

Good ! We can never have too much of La Coren.

You’ve just come on Full Tilt.  Wow! All those close ups. 

You look really happy playing poker…

Do you think yop

Mark at 1:50 am on January 9th, 2010

What are you people saying about poor Peaches? I really look up to her as my intellectual superior (whatever that means, sounds good though). If she’s really as dumb as you say she is, I may have to switch allegiance. Hmmm, that Paris Hilton seems like a nice clever girl…

Victoria Coren

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