Of Joey Barton’s recent hiatus from Twitter, The Daily Mail’s Laura Williamson dismissed the QPR captain as “Vinnie Jones with WiFi”. A slightly star-struck Alex Clark of The Observer, however, opts to take in a day at museum with Barton, finding comfort in his assurances that the past year’s tweet-explosion was part of a concerted effort to convince the public he’s not merely, “”a monosyllabic Neanderthal who fights in city centres, drunk”. Of Williamson and her ilk, Clark writes, “the bourgeoisie isn’t quite sure what to do if someone working class goes to an art gallery.”
When Barton and I meet for a second time, we decide to go to the National Portrait Gallery and have a look at the Lucian Freud exhibition. “Intriguing character this fellow,” he tweets, ahead of our outing – which, incidentally, we get to on the tube and follow with lunch that costs a grand total of £17.80. I mention it because I imagine most journalists dispatched for a day out on the town with a Premier League footballer would quake at the thought of their impending expenses claim.
If he’s putting on his enthusiasm for art, he’s making a pretty good go of it. On the way in, he tells me quite a lot about Freud I didn’t know (“I’d have thought you’d have done your research, Alex”) and once there, he’s clearly immensely engaged, standing very close to pictures for a very long time. He’s already told me that one of the things he thinks he can achieve on Twitter is to counteract the limitations placed on “kids from working-class backgrounds who’ve been told not to like art”; walking around a gallery with him for hours, I think he’s probably got a better chance of doing that than Sky Arts or BBC4.