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The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media spacer The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media
Talking Chardonnay: Northern Woman
by Daniel Jewesbury
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This magazine has everything for the modern Ulsterwoman. It's full of the kind of things she wants to know about, the kind of things Stephen Nolan would love to whisper in her ear over a chilled bottle of Chardonnay in the Apartment. In fact NW is very much the magazine equivalent of Nolan's brand of Norn Irish Lifestyle TV: the vapid, bored middle classes getting on with enriching their empty lives with shiny baubles that only accentuate the great void at the centre of their existences.
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On the positive side, at least it's not Ulster Tatler, a magazine only read by women waiting for their facelifts, featuring rabbits-in-front-of headlights photoshoots of such society events as the DUP Business Dinner at the Ramada Hotel, the Holy Rosary Parish Women's Group and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents' Annual Dinner. NW is less stodgy than UT (100 pages against 178) and even contains slightly less advertising (30 pages, or 30%, against 73 pages, or 41%). The Malone Sloan wouldn't be seen dead reading UT (although interestingly enough UT is magazine of choice in chapels of rest around Northern Ireland). The kind of Northern Woman that reads Northern Woman is a career girl (though not too Sex and the City she plans to settle down in Holywood with Brian and have a boy called David and a girl called Gemma before she's hit 35); she loves the latest fashions and patronises all those cheesy sub-designer boutiques on the edge of town, the ones that are wedged between sun-bed salons and hairdressers (and if that isn't good planning, I don't know what is!); most of all she knows that her home is an extension of her own personality, and that light-coloured wood flooring complements tan soft furnishings just perfectly.
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Highlights of the April Issue include an interview with Jennifer Aniston: NW's hack somehow managed to slip into the queue of journos at her London hotel as she went through the motions. I wonder how many Aniston interviews in this month's women's mags contain such intimate gems as the story about sleepwalking in her garden and Brad having to wake her up: 'He's my hero. He knows all my little habits and I know his. It really is the perfect relationship. In fact, we both knew we were perfect for each other from the first date it was weird!' or the amazing insights into the making of Friends: 'It's been 10 years, but it also feels like it's just happened. I don't really know where the years have gone'. Or, most fascinating of all, the revelation that Jen and Brad's marriage is just really normal: 'I am a milkshake-and-fries kind of girl, nothing too fancy for me in any walk of life. I may be half of what is seen as a glamorous showbiz marriage, but my life with Brad is as normal as that of any girl who works in Burger King.' So now you know and it was Northern Woman told you first. You are just like her!
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Like any serious publication (Vacuum editors please take note) there are the usual signs of cosying up to the local PR companies: car and restaurant 'reviews', prize competitions, a feature article on Toni & Guy. And the Aniston hack even gets to go on a junket to France for a 'Paris in Springtime' puff. One cause for slight concern is that half the 'articles' seem to be written by the editor.
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My favourite feature was the one in which a number of 'celebrities' disclosed the best April Fools' Day pranks they'd ever pulled. I laughed until I needed sedation upon reading how Noel Thompson (BBC Newsline presenter) had got a particularly waggish chum in the BBC to ring his wife and tell her she'd won an all-expenses-paid holiday in Rio de Janeiro. 'It was only after I had pointedly asked her twenty times what date it was that day that the penny dropped. I'm still waiting for her revenge, and I know it will be bloody!' If I were Mrs T, I'd slash the bastard's tyres and get him set up with a call-girl and a photographer. That'd teach him. As for Joe Ferguson (who apparently does something somewhere, I don't know what) getting Bryan and Nicky from Westlife chucked out of The Living Room in Liverpool by the bouncers, only to see him chuckling outside I can only say that I completely ruined a decent pair of Marks & Sparks briefs guffawing at these antics, and I didn't mind sitting in my own mess and reading the rest of the magazine!
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NW is marked by such poor writing, such empty, pointless stories. It is, as poet John Cooper Clarke said of the Daily Express, 'full of pornography, the kind that's clean'. I have, accordingly, sent my CV to the Editor. See you at the tanning salon!
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