“Why is it called ‘Quite’? Well, because it’s my favourite word. It’s a raised eyebrow, an aside. ‘Well, quite.’ But at the same time, it’s firm, restrained, and it manages your expectations … and that’s what we need, I think.”
And so begins the first ever book from Claudia Winkleman. To most people, she is the – and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me using this description – halfway house between Chrissie Hynde and Captain Jack Sparrow, with the mouth of a sailor and a fringe that could hide a family of bats under it, that is generally found alongside Tess Daly reading out loud the terms and conditions/shouting “The scores are in” on BBC One’s celebrity/pro ballroom shindigs on Strictly Come Dancing on the last three months of Saturday evenings running up to Christmas.
That’s what most people tend to know and love her for. My love of Clauds extends a bit further back than that. Much further in fact. Back when BBC Three launched in the early 00s, she was propping up/hosting an early evening celebrity news show called Liquid News, and was also a panellist on a short lived Vernon Kay hosted quiz vehicle for the same channel called Headjam.
The second then 14 year old me saw her on the latter in particular, where, in a round where you had to identify products by their famous advertising taglines, her proffered response to “How good does it feel to be completely in control?” was ‘Bodyform’, I was immediately besotted. And people wonder why I am a little bit strange now. Because of decisions like that.
Happily, upon reading “Quite”, my decisions made back in 2002 / 2003 were absolutely bang on the money. It is less of an autobiography (although there is the obligatory Strictly chapter for anyone worried about such matters) and more a series of essays that cover what she believes to be quite (see, I am using it as she intended) important.
This includes the real nub of life stuff – bad boyfriends to avoid, knowing to admit when you’re wrong, what people really mean when they ask or suggest something and the response is ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea’. But it also praises the virtues of things you don’t expect to be enamoured by/engaged with.
This includes – but is not limited to – redoing the kitchen as a jungle, but only having room for a mini bar style fridge, a cheese and onion omelette, playing bridge, and how to behave around squirrels. Yes, you did read that last sentence correctly. It’s actually called “Squirrel Etiquette” and everything. There’s also a delightful chapter where she recalls seeing Titian artwork for the first time.
Admittedly there’s some things I can’t be seen to her way of thinking on, however alluring the argument. Wearing all black at all times, for instance (know this, Clauds if you are reading this, you are never going to see my wardrobe as I fear you will go a bit all Mommie Dearest on my arse). But other things, such as her disdain for skiing (“An expensive way to eat hot cheese”) and school sports days (“A bit like a terrible drunken night with your friend and those two blokes you met at the bus station in 1994 – it simply never happened”) I can get on board with.
In short, much like the lady herself’s messy Kohl eyeliner, “Quite” is as unapologetic, blunt, funny and excessive a read as you could hope to find, like all the best hilarious conversations and debates you’ve enjoyed with a really good mate over a chilled 7-Up and a bag of Doritos (Tangy Cheese flavour, obvs). And if you’re still not quite convinced this is the best book of what has been a fire sale of a year?
“Quite” is available now, published by HarperCollins/HQ Books. Twitter: @ClaudiaWinkle
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