Clarissa Dickson Wright has died aged 66. In a press release we are told that probably the most important thing about her was that “Clarissa was utterly non-PC”. If there were such a thing as political correctness – and there isn’t, it was an in-joke made by academics that got picked up by the Right as a stick to relentlessly beat the Left with for the past 30 years – then as I understand it, it would be about trying to make sure you don’t unnecessarily offend those in a less privileged position than you.
Back in the winter of 1996, I think it was, she and Jennifer Paterson visited the bookshop I worked in. About six of us had stayed on late, I don’t even think we were on overtime, to arrange and host a signing of their newly published first book, Two Fat Ladies. It sold well and, as usual, we then retired to the shop to sticker up the signed stock and have a cuppa and talk to the authors for a bit. Ms Paterson was rather polite and funny. Apparently, though, it would have been far too “PC” for the other cookery book writer to even say hello to or thank the staff, so she shooed us out of our own office.
When I moved to manage the first Edinburgh branch of the same chain, for years we made a point of sending customers who wanted hard-to-find cookery books to her shop in the Grassmarket, often phoning to check if it had stock. Eventually, in a gesture of bookseller community building, I popped in one day to say hello. She wasn’t there, but the woman running the shop said she’d leave a message. I now realise that a reply or polite acknowledgement of this gesture must have been far too “PC” for her.
I think now of the very PC adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. OK, then, I’ll leave the last word to the press release as published in The Scotsman.
“Loved dearly by her friends and many fans all over the world, Clarissa was utterly non-PC and fought for what she believed in, always, with no thought to her own personal cost.
“Her fun and laughter, extraordinary learning and intelligence, will be missed always, by so many of us.”