Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 74

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Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers

The Winds Of Change

‘AS long as he has his beer and whisky, the average Scotsman isn’t too choosy when it comes to solids. A passing pigeon or a discarded bag of chips will do him nicely.

Asylum seekers complained the caviar wasn’t beluga

But others are more picky. Asylum seekers, for example. The Times reports that these ungrateful interlopers are so disgusted by British staples such as baked beans, that the Diocese of Gloucester has asked worshipers at 400 churches to refrain from donating them at harvest festivals.

”Although baked beans are our national dish and we enjoy them at least three times a week, to most people from abroad they are a strange phenomenon,” says Canon Adrian Slade. ”A tin of peas or ham would be more welcome.”

Whether Muslims would appreciate ham, tinned or otherwise, is a theological question that will doubtless be debated elsewhere, but we must in any case take issue with the basic gastronomic thrust of this statement.

Here at Anorak, we can categorically state that we do not eat baked beans three times a week – in fact, we never touch them.

On the rare occasions that we open a tin (for the cat), it will contain foie gras, or possibly tuna. Perhaps the asylum seekers would find this more agreeable.

Meanwhile, local councillors are queuing up to criticise the church.

Brian Calway (Tory) thinks the asylum seekers should be grateful for anything they are given. Peter Clark (Labour) thinks people ”give out of kindness of heart and what they can afford”.

”They are being very presumptuous,” he said, before excusing himself and settling down to his favourite dinner: tinned ham, tinned peas, baked beans and gravy.

In the distance, a moaning sound could clearly be heard coming from the disused air force base, as 200 asylum seekers trooped disconsolately into the dinner hall.

Posted: 9th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Vlad All Over

‘IT’S not easy being the wife of a head of state, you know. Especially in Russia, where Lyudmila Putin, wife of the President, is using the good offices of the Times of London in order to detail her complaints. Vladimir, it transpires, is a male chauvinist, and something of a picky eater too.

”Stop your whining, woman. You’re lucky. In England they make their wives sit here on their own”

”He is extremely difficult to cook for and will refuse to eat a dish if he does not like the slightest thing in it,” grumbles the ungrateful first lady. ”He never praises me and that has totally put me off cooking.”

This uncompromising attitude is the consequence of Putin’s two golden rules: ”A woman must do everything at home” and ”You should not praise a woman, otherwise it will spoil her”.

Formal equality under the old regime meant that women worked all day, then worked all night in the home, and it seems that this firm-but-fair system survives to this day. The post-war feminist movement made no impact on the East, and there is little sign of it today.

In her husband’s favour, Mrs Putin admits that he is an excellent father to their two teenage daughters, neither of whom were available for comment, due to domestic commitments.

Posted: 6th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

A Squirrel’s Tale

‘RETIRED engineer David Griffith and his wife Heulwen were looking out at the garden of their home in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, when they saw a gang of squirrels burrowing away into their lovely lawn.

”Ruddy grey squirrels. Come over her, steal OUR nuts, dig up OUR truffles…”

”They had been nibbling at something,” remembers Mr Griffith, who went out to investigate. But whereas most people would have discovered some old nuts or a tennis ball, Griffith was pleasantly surprised to unearth a summer truffle (Tuber aestivum, since you ask).

Truffles fetch up to £400 in France, but the Griffiths prefers to consume them themselves. ”I believe the squirrels smell the scent just like a pig or a dog,” he tells the Telegraph. ”We use the truffles for cooking grated on to scrambled eggs, or with potato cakes.”

The next day, the family dog discovered crude oil under the birdbath. Which was nice.

Posted: 6th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

A Burning Issue

‘LOOK at that woman over there. Disgraceful isn’t it? Shouldn’t be allowed! Look at her, holding her baby the wrong way round! Let’s kill her! Come on! KILL HER! BURN HER!…

”Who needs hands?”

Come on, what’s the matter with you lot? Don’t you read the Telegraph? Haven’t you heard the news? Normal women cradle babies in the left arm, and witches, psychos and other disreputable types hold them in the right.

Of course, the paper doesn’t use those actual words. It says that in Sweden, right-cradling mothers are said to take longer to bond with their children and be more prone to psychological problems.

”But there might be a simpler explanation,” it cautions. ”Apparently many women who hold their babies to the right when they are being photographed do so to encourage the baby’s attentiveness.”

We offer a different interpretation. Women who hold babies the wrong way round are left-handed, and thus, as ancient tradition has it, by definition witches. And women who are frequently photographed with their babies are celebrities. Ergo, celebrities are brides of the Lucifer.

All together now: Burn that celebrity witch! Burn that celebrity witch!!…

Posted: 6th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

More Posse-Footing

”’WE is roundin’ up a posse to git that varmint outta town,” says the leader of an armed band of predominately white American avengers.

”Hey, Dick, is this my happy face or my grumpy face?”

”As Win-stone Church-hill once said, ‘Let’s fight those bitches”’. (”Yeeha!”) ”Arm yerselves and be men of valour.” (”Yahoo!”) ”This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning of the end of the end.”

It’s rousing stuff, and when it comes to the matter of Saddam Hussain, George Dubya Bush (for it is he) grows ever more loquacious.

To mutilate some more Churchillian rhetoric, the USA might well be the linchpin of the English-speaking world, but in the throat of that country’s 43rd President, the pin resembles that pulled from a ready-to-explode grenade.

The Times and Guardian have pictures of the moment Bush met congressional leaders to talk of war with I-raq, but the Independent has excerpts of what was said.

And it was a lesson in language as the President added two new words to the political lexicon. Bush said that Hussain had ”stiffed” and ”crawfished” the international community.

For those not versed in Lone Star English, stiffed is, as you might have guessed, to cheat someone, to take them for a sucker. And perish the thought that anyone would do that to a man who nearly kills himself with a pretzel.

The crawfish part is a nice touch and, according to the papers, means to ”retreat from a position, to back out, to fail to stick to a statement made”.

Good stuff, and a twist on the language of Bush’s one remaining ally, Tony Blair, whose ”polenta-ing” (mashing together grains of ideas to form an insipid, barely constructed gloop) is the dish of the day in the UK.

Posted: 5th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Morris And The Minors

‘BUT what would war mean for the inhabitants of this island? Would our transport system crumble? Would our hospitals be unable to cope with the numbers of ill patients?

”Tony Blair’s behind you…”

Would our farmland become poisoned with the fall-our from millions of diseased animals? Perhaps. But for now the biggest threat is to the nation’s schoolchildren.

Having been kept off school while the Criminal Records Bureau checked their teachers’ records, the same schoolchildren are now heading back to class with many of their teachers as yet unapproved.

As the Telegraph reports, teachers are now allowed to teach at the ”discretion” of the head teachers.

The Government’s too swift reaction to the threat of paedophiles in our schools means that some teachers have been checked and some have not.

But don’t worry, because the latest news from the Government is that children being sent home from school were at more risk on the streets than in a supervised class, even if sir is a lag formerly known a ‘Fingers’ Malloy.

But the best part is that played by Estelle Morris, the humanoid lettuce that passes itself off as the Secretary of State for Education.

Smiling out from the Independent’s front page, in a way that could invoke violent thoughts in the most ardent dove, readers are forced to return to the hawkish Telegraph to hear the woman speak.

She calls herself a ”customer” of the CRB, and a ”very dissatisfied customer” at that.

”I will be asking questions,” she adds.

As will we. Such as: how does something so simple as checking records turn into another utter shambles – or polenta, as Tony might have it.

Posted: 5th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Flat chance

‘IF Tony does want some good advice, he could do worse than turn away from his Cabinet and towards his new set of self-assembly wardrobes.

”Hmmm. We seem to have a couple of bits missing”

Thanks to the work of researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, as reported in the Times, microchips imbedded in flat-pack furniture could help shoppers construct their new tables and shelves in the proper fashion.

Stavros Antifakos, who leads the team of scientists, hopes that in future an LED display built into the merchandise will say whether an item has been constructed correctly or not.

He also found that there were 44 ways to put together an Ikea PAX wardrobe, although only eight ways would make the piece stable.

Speaking to the Independent, a spokeswoman for the Scandinavian retailer says: ”That’s our best-seller. Our experts reckon it’s probably one of the easiest to put together.”

And a lot easier than assembling a coalition to fight terror.

Posted: 5th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Wurd Upp

”’MIS-TEEQ casts evil spell on youngsters,” warns the Guardian today. Mis-teeq? What’s that then? Presumably a case if the Grauniad living up to its formidable reputation for typos.

Wrong! It’s ”Tony Blair – he doesn’t care!”

But no, in this case it is the Guardian kettle that is calling the pot black, as it reports on a poll conducted by Mori at the behest of the Oxford University Press that purports to show how Britain is producing a nation of ”tabloid spellers”.

If so, surely this is cause for national rejoicing. Tabloid newspapers employ teams of sub-editors to ensure that copy is impeccable, and the Sun would certainly not tolerate the spelling mistakes and poor grammar that characterise the Guardian. But it’s the punning headline style, rather than the actual writing, that is under attack. This, coupled with the ubiquitous txt-mssg, is the future of our language it seems.

And if you are not of text-messaging age, and don’t read tabloid newspapers, then we should tell you that Mis-teeq is actually the correct spelling of a pop group’s name, rather than a phonetic stab in the dark.

The fact that 37 per cent of 10 to 12-year-olds chose Mis-teeq over mystique is no cause for alarm, although the 53 per cent who got neither spelling correct might well be.

Thirty years ago, there were complaints that the misspelt titles of Slade songs would have a disastrous impact on the nation’s youth. Now those same youths are themselves up in arms – every time they read the Guardian.

Posted: 4th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Signs Of The Times

‘HANDS UP anyone who knows what Washington Pride is… The in-house journal of US government staff? A mass-produced American sliced loaf? No, it’s a voluntary organisation in Washington New Town, Tyne and Wear, and the Independent reports that it’s at the forefront of a campaign to replace local road signs with text messages.

Ft mn wltm wmn 4 fn & gd tms

But before you groan and bury your heads in your hands, we should explain that in this case, the change is a return to traditional values. The new town’s road signs used numbers instead of names for each of the local districts – a system that has caused confusion and annoyance for visitors ever since.

Now, thanks to Washington Pride, the numbers are to be scrapped, and old-fashioned words brought back. Councillor Colin Galbraith hopes that the change will encourage more people to visit. Washington has a reputation as a social laboratory, having been the first British town to install cable TV, not to mention pioneering double glazing, central heating and pedestrian shopping areas.

Of course, the north-east also pioneered more recent developments such as wearing nylon football shirts 24/7, obsessive parochial patriotism (accompanied by mawkish Pavlovian ”greetin”’), and a host of other disagreeable alcohol-fuelled trends that have subsequently spread to the rest of the country.

Perhaps they should keep their numbers: the fewer impressionable visitors, the better.

Posted: 4th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Happy Families

‘THE ROMAN Catholic church has seen better days in this country, even if most of them were before the Reformation. Now the Times reports that a senior priest has outlined a ”malaise of demoralisation and depression afflicting the priesthood in England and Wales”.

Elderly male seeks single spirited woman for very good times. Sunday service a must.

The problem, as Father Timothy Radcliffe sees it, is that priests can only preach good news if they are fundamentally joyful. ”You can be a good and depressed banker and taxi driver, a gloomy but effective accountant or lawyer,” he argues. ”But one cannot be a preacher of the Gospel and be plunged in gloom.”

OK, we take your point. But what’s his solution. ”I am not referring to a happy-clappy jollity, going around slapping people on the back and telling them to be happy because Jesus loves them,” he insists. Rather, he is referring to the joy inherent in the priestly vocation. He urges priests to develop a passion for the lives of others, with all their ups and downs.

His most radical suggestion is that priests should be allowed to marry, and he thinks the case is pretty much ”overwhelming”. After all, you never see an unhappily married banker, taxi driver, accountant or lawyer, do you? ‘

Posted: 4th, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

‘WHEN Lord Archer was a free man, as opposed to a weekly boarder, he used to hold regular parties at his ”penthouse” flat by the Thames.

Has she not fragrance? Has she not generosity?

Here, his guests were served the trademark shepherd’s pie and plied with vintage champagne. Or rather, they were plied with liquid served from vintage champagne bottles, for his lordship would instruct the caterers to refill the grand bottles with cheap stuff, which would then be passed off as the real thing.

And at the end of the day, when the last guests had gone home, the dregs would be rebottled for future use.

At least, that’s the most likely explanation for Lady Archer’s latest public embarrassment.

The Times reports that she is appearing at an employment tribunal in Suffolk to defend herself against allegations made by her former personal assistant Jane Williams, who is claiming unfair dismissal after being fired by the fragrant Mary last year.

Williams says that Lady Archer gave her a glass containing an inch of flat champagne as a joint Christmas and birthday present.

While an optimist would see the glass as half full, the ungrateful Williams regards it as half empty, and as an example of her boss’s ”bizarre” behaviour.

She also complains that Lady Archer gave her a fake Calvin Klein watch with a ”Made in China” sticker on the back.

Fragrant Mary contends that Williams sent rude e-mails about her, downed tools at five o’clock, and became rude and sullen.

”When she came to me she was a bright and happy girl,” lamented her ladyship. Later, she became ”an unhappy woman”. Oh dear, ladies, how did it ever come to this?

If only Jeffrey had been around to smooth those ruffled feathers. Without his bubbly presence, life quickly loses its sparkle.

Posted: 3rd, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Loony Toon

‘THE Adelphi pub in Newcastle, just half a mile from the St James’ Park stadium, is a shrine to the local football team, with signed shirts and photographs covering the walls, along with a scarf bearing the legend: SUNDERLAND ARE SHITE.

Sunderland’s players were all very one-footed

It was this item that attracted the attention of police officers during a routine check for asylum seekers, plastic explosives, counterfeit bank notes, illegal pornography, home-made drugs, rare birds’ eggs, stolen paintings, seditious literature, pirate DVDs, fake watches, smuggled cigarettes, and priceless medieval books.

The licensee, Yvonne Mann, was told to remove the scarf and report to the police station, where she was charged with ”displaying any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress”.

The Telegraph reports that Mrs Mann was fined £400 plus £180 costs yesterday, and ordered to destroy the scarf.

The aptly-named Simon Worthy, prosecuting, said that while some people could make light of the rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland, there were others who ”take it far too far”.

John Wesencraft, defending, described the prosecuting case as ”political correctness gone mad”.

Sunderland fanzine editor Peter Daykin said he didn’t know of a single Sunderland supporter who would have been offended by the scarf.

And why should they? The way the team is playing these days, it’s practically a compliment.

Posted: 3rd, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Any Old Irony

‘AMERICANS and irony – where would newspapers be without this staple?

What easier way to appear superior than to trot out the old line about how the Yanks just don’t get it, and how our sophisticated sensibility is wasted our literal-minded colonial cousins.

Ben in search of irony

Of course, the same papers run endless articles extolling the virtues of such irony-free sitcoms as Frasier, Seinfeld and the rest, but this doesn’t seem to detract from the appeal of the basic prejudice.

But now the Guardian has bucked the trend – albeit in the form of a slightly sarcastic backhanded compliment.

”Quotes prove that American do have a sense of irony” it declares, having perused the new Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations.

And it gives examples. ”We don’t just have egg on our face. We have omelette all over ours suits” – Tom Brokow on Bush’s election.

”The American people have spoken – but it’s going to take a little time to determine what they said” – Bill Clinton. And so on.

All very interesting, but what does it prove? Nothing much – except that the Guardian’s idea of the meaning of irony is somewhat at odds with our own definition (not to mention that of the Oxford Concise Dictionary).

But no matter. The Guardian closes the piece with a gem from the comedic colossus that is Ben Elton.

”Uncool people never hurt anybody,” opines Britain’s answer to Oscar Wilde. ”All they do is collect stamps, read science fiction books and stand at the end of railway platforms staring at trains.”

Ironic or what, as Ben would no doubt say.

Posted: 3rd, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Tony Called To Heal

‘FROM men in white coats to men in white shirts, the Guardian carries a front-page picture of a Messianic Tony Blair standing amid a group of black men and black children as he watches a play warning of the danger of Aids.

”And I say to you, did not the black and white minstrels teach us all that colour is only skin deep?”

But Tony’s mission to heal the world is being undone by one man – the dastardly George W Bush. Tony is ecstasy made flesh, and wants us all to love each other (especially him) very much and practise safe sex (unless it’s with Cherie) and breathe fresh air (unless it’s on the London tube) and not be poor or ill or take drugs…

And the Times says, as part of an effort to rescue the Earth Summit, Tony is preparing to play hard ball with his erstwhile friend. ”The Prime Minister staked his environmental reputation [sic] on a promise to ensure that world leaders who have rejected the climate change protocol see sense,” the paper says.

Which basically means getting Bush to see sense – a task that could prove beyond even Tony’s miraculous powers. Walking on water is one thing, but how do you explain ozone to a man who can’t eat a pretzel without passing out?

Posted: 2nd, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Bridge Too Far

‘ECSTASY may be the drug of choice of clubbers, but what do bridge players take to make those hours as dummy speed by? Well, we don’t know because American professional Disa Eythorsdottir sent the game into uproar by refusing to take a drug test at the world championships in Montreal and so forfeited her silver medal.

”I see your cocaine, and I raise you an ounce of opium, two spliffs and a bit of a pill I found in the gents…”

So, what was she hiding? Steroids to allow her to put in those extra hours on the practise tables? A bit of spliff to calm her nerves when bidding a small slam? No, according to the Telegraph, Disa had actually been taking a diet drug connected with a back condition.

As the paper points out, there are no prohibited performance-enhancing drugs for bridge, but as part of a WBF campaign to become an Olympic sport two years ago it introduced random testing against a list supplied by the International Olympic Committee. Which means that funny old men in bow ties are now getting tested for the same substances as the likes of Maurice Greene and Ian Thorpe.

It’s an absurd situation, but not one that will help the Iceland-born member of the US team. Close to tears, she sobbed: ”They have taken everything, my medal, my name.” And when you’re called Eythorsdottir, that takes some doing.

Posted: 2nd, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Es Are Good

‘SCIENCE is not, and never has been, an exact science. One egghead’s theory is another egghead’s omelette – in fact, science can prove pretty well whatever it sets out to prove. So when scientists set out in 1995 to prove that a new drug – ecstasy – was fatal, they did just that. Or did they?

”Ecstasy has never done me any harm, ” says 15-year-old party girl Elaine Evershot

This morning, three leading psychologists provoke an outcry by telling the Guardian that in fact the drug of choice of clubbers everywhere may in fact be completely harmless and some of its ”ill-effects” imaginary.

The conjunction of the words drugs and harmless in the same sentence is more than most of us can bear, but the trio – two Brits and an American – claim that many of the previous studies into the effects of the drug are flawed and accuse researchers of bias.

However, to prove our point about science not being an exact science, three other experts in the drug come to a completely different conclusion. Australian psychologist Dr Rodney Croft claims there is ”strong evidence that ecstasy does cause impairment” and says the most reasonable message for scientists to be broadcasting is that it is a ”danger”.

And, after weighing up the conflicting scientific evidence, Paul Betts (whose daughter Leah died after taking the drug in 1995) concluded that the research was ”despicable”.

So, Anorak contacted three other scientists involved in ecstasy research for a definitive opinion. ”I’m very full of love for all of them right now,” Dr Mikhail Mashed told us from his base in San Antonio, Ibiza.

Posted: 2nd, September 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

This Year’s Black

‘REMEMBER when brown was the new black and stand-up comedy was the new rock ‘n’ roll?

Some people thought Charles was a little artificial

If you do, you’ll probably also remember a time when Prince Charles was the pariah of the western world, the man who had cheated on a princess of hearts and set her, and us, on a course to total ruin and despair.

But today the Prince is the new cool. At least, he is in the eyes of Russian-born artist Alla Tkachuk . And to illustrate the transformation, the Times shows the artist’s rendition of Charles on its front page.

Standing in the mode of a pensive Larry Grayson, Charles can be seen dressed in a dark two-piece suit, purple tie and sunglasses. So cool is he that it can only be a matter of minutes before the handkerchief rakishly furled inside Charles’ breast pocket is aped by the fashion cognoscenti and becomes vital street wear for the country’s youth.

But if ”Prince of Cool” is not to your taste, Ms Tkachuk provides us with a variety of other styles, including a ”black” Prince and a series of Charles talking to himself.

While the Prince and his alter egos argue the toss, the artist explains her rationale behind the black prince. ”I tried to make him look black,” she says, ”but he’s quite recognisable. It doesn’t change the person – it’s still him.”

Quite so, it’s just that now whenever he gets in his Aston Martin, he’s likely to get pulled over by the police.

Posted: 30th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Out Of Africa

‘BUT the Prince’s bonding with the black man within doesn’t end with a portrait. Having been inspired by a trip to the Kalahari Desert in 1987, Prince Charles has learned of the plight of the region’s Bushmen and is now championing their cause.

”Why can’t he just leave us alone?”

The Telegraph says that the Prince is opposed to Botswana’s policy of removing the people from their traditional homelands. And as he introduces organic farming, a civil list and other measures to save the people in the arid expanse of the Central Kalahari, other famous Englishmen are also in Africa to save the day.

Today the spotlight falls on modern missionary man, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. In South Africa for the Earth Summit bargain break, Prezza takes time out from his shuttle diplomacy (buffet to bar to buffet to bar to pool to buffet and so on) to tell us how hard he is working.

”This is a very difficult conference,” he lets it be known. And having told how hard it all is, he then informs us that: ”If we fail here, things would unravel on a scale that we have not seen before in international negotiations. That would be tragic for the whole world and most of all for those who are in poverty and despair.”

Indeed it would, and with the former champion of an integrated transport policy on the case, there’s every chance that it will.

Posted: 30th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Let Them Eat Oysters

‘THE one surprise is that Prezza, Tony and their mobile dinner party haven’t been asked to collaborate on ‘A Table Avec Les Politiques’, a book in which 30 of France’s leaders list their culinary influences and favourite dishes.

And that was just for starters

Having overlooked Prezza’s whole roast sheep and Tony’s polenta and sage stuffing, the French make do with 246 types of cheese, amphibian limbs and adulterated goose fat.

But rather than let the food do the talking, the Telegraph picks out a few choice morsels from the mouths of France’s great egalitarians.

First up is Alain Juppe, a man tipped widely to be the Right’s next presidential candidate. ”I will never forget the chestnut tart with truffles, which I ate one gloomy night, and which reconciled me with all of humanity,” he says of his visit to the L’Arpege, a three star Michelin restaurant.

Jack Lang, once President Mitterrand’s culture minister, moves onto the fish course. Having passed his mornings scouring the Paris fish markets for oysters, he reveals how he and Mitterrand ”had oyster competitions, who could eat the most”.

Even Robert Hue, leader of the French Communist Party, tells how in his not so humble opinion ”foie gras, sauternes and game are the Holy Trinity”.

And while he and his societe des amis tuck into those delicacies, the rest of the country waits for dessert, which is, as it ever was, cake all round.’

Posted: 30th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The History Man

‘IN times of great need, a country needs a great leader. During WWII we had Winston Churchill, one of the most brilliant statesmen of modern times, to steer Britain safely though its darkest hour. America has George W Bush.

”I have nothing to offer except…er…that’s it”

He’s no Winston Churchill, but at least Dubya can call on memories of Churchill in an attempt to justify his unpopular foreign policy. The Guardian writes that Bush and the hawks in his administration are invoking Churchill’s memory ”with ever growing fervour as they plead the historic necessity of a pre-emptive attack on Iraq”.

To Americans, especially Republicans, ”he symbolises unflinching opposition to appeasement”. Diplomacy is for wimps. And besides, it’s so much easier for Dubya to drop a bomb than it is for him to attempt to negotiate with politicians who, like him, can’t even speak English properly.

In the Guardian, historians condemn the ”lazy thinking” of Bush and his cronies. ”Churchill is the only Englishman any of them has ever heard of, with the possible exception of Shakespeare if they were hard-working at school,” writes Ben Pimlott. ”Americans admire Churchill’s brilliance, his language and oratory, his feline style. But Bush is a neanderthal with no knowledge of the world. Churchill had a great deal of knowledge.”

And Bush is desperately trying to tap into some of that. The Guardian writes of ”rumours that Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s most prolific biographer, was called in to the White House to give Mr Bush a private lecture”, believed to have included such topics as Europe: Where Is It?; WWII – A Beginner’s Guide; and Why Tony Blair Is Not ‘His Holiness’.

Posted: 29th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The Pride Of Essex

‘WINSTON Churchill was not from Essex. But the county has been home to other great figures, such as the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, David Beckham and the members of Depeche Mode.

Essex puts its best foot forward

Now Essex wants to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, and emphasise the fact that leopard-print is not part of its county crest. ”Essex, butt of a thousand derogatory jokes, has received Government blessing to spend council taxpayers’ money on a campaign to rid itself of its vulgar image,” reports the Telegraph.

Not surprisingly, it ”wants to change the perception that it is synonymous with brainless blonde ‘Essex Girls’ devoted to sex and shopping” and will launch a cultural drive to entice tourists and improve its image.

This drastic measure comes after research by the county council showed that Essex’s reputation was deterring tourists and investors and proving a disadvantage to skilled workers moving there. ”Generally in England, there’s a bit of mickey-taking at Essex’s expense: the men with white sports cars and the girls with a thousand pairs of shoes,” says Lord Hanningfield, leader of the council. ”This is a great county. Our schools, our countryside, our communications – they are all top drawer.”

Lord Hanningfield did admit, however, that some of the stereotypical Essex traits were accurate. ”They get on with their lives and businesses and make a success of them – that’s why they can afford white sports cars and all those shoes.”

The recent discovery of a 14th century skeleton of an Essex girl with syphilis, the earliest example known in Europe, will not deter the campaign as she is not a true representative of the species – there was no evidence to suggest she had ever danced around a handbag before her unfortunate death.

Posted: 29th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Fish And (Computer) Chips

‘GEORGE Bush may have been accused of lazy thinking when it comes to drawing comparisons between his situation and that which faced Winston Churchill, but it can’t be any lazier than this.

”Don’t worry, be happy – my arse”

In the River Towy in West Wales, regarded as the best sea trout river in Europe, anglers will no longer have to pitch their wits against the fish. As the Times reports, ”cameras and sonic devices installed in the river will now tell anglers how many fish are around, what type they are, and where they are heading”.

”Reports on the number, size and swimming direction of the fish will be published on the Carmarthen Fishermen’s Federation website, giving vital clues to anglers,” it writes.

It’s just not cricket, you might think. Surely this gives the anglers an unfair advantage over their quarry? ”The cameras are not intended to make fishing easier,” says Garth Roberts, secretary of the Federation. But if, as an unintentional by-product of the CCTV surveillance, fishing does become easier, it can only be a good thing for the area – more than 5,000 tickets are granted for tourists to fish the Towy every year, with more than £5 million generated in commercial spin-offs.

But still, there are some people who smell something fishy about the whole scheme. ”They are basically cheating,” says a spokesman from the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling. ”A sport is supposed to be a contest between equals and this technology is really an extra advantage.”

But fish have proven time and time again that they are more than equal to a human being with a fishing rod, and maybe all this high-tech underwater surveillance is just evening up the score.

Posted: 29th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Fashion Disaster

‘TONY Blair is well known for his natty, and expensive, dress sense. If he’s not decked out in a £600 suit in the House of Commons, he’s sporting designer sweaters at Australian barbeques or other casual, yet stylish, knitwear in the south of France.

Tony sports Anorak’s new knitwear range

But this morning, the Independent publishes a picture of the Prime Minister wearing a suit that cost the whole of Britain £1 billion.

Sadly for our fashion-conscious leader, it’s not an Armani. Nor is the yellow plastic creation the work of out-there designer Alexander McQueen.

The ensemble was put together by the Department of Agriculture, and proved to be a very costly mistake.

”It seemed a good idea for Tony Blair to don a protective yellow suit and visit a farm at the height of last year’s foot-and-mouth crisis,” says the Indy.

”But the image proved disastrous in North America, frightening off tens of thousands of potential visitors to the UK.” Guess yellow just isn’t Tony’s colour.

”It was a disaster,” says one source at Whitehall, where ”officials reckon the photograph alone may have cost Britain £1 billion in lost revenue”.

”I admit this didn’t cross my mind,” confesses Labour’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell. ”You get these dramatic pictures of the Prime Minister wearing yellow suits, walking around a farmyard, and in America they think, ‘Christ! He’s got to wear a yellow suit!’.”

And indeed, to a man so deeply concerned with image, that has to be a fate worse than death atop a smouldering pyre of diseased farmyard stock.

Posted: 28th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Follow The Leader

‘AMERICANS are no longer worried about the colour of the Prime Minister’s suits – they’re just hoping he’ll don the combat fatigues and help eliminate that troublesome Iraqi dictator who’s been bothering them for so long.

”Ib dib, you’re hit”

But the Guardian reports that there is ”sharply rising opposition among Labour voters to American military action”.

With 52 per cent now saying he should not support US policy on Iraq, the PM faces ”acute political embarrassment” over the problem.

”This shift in opinion among Labour voters underlines the growing tensions between London and Washington over the issue,” writes the Guardian.

But the Prime Minister is not just facing setbacks at home and across the pond – he is also under fire from across the Channel, where the Belgian foreign minister has attacked him for ”submissively” following the US policy on Iraq.

”Morally, politically, we could take charge of the world,” said Louis Michel. ”But the British are blocking that. They still don’t understand that they could play a pioneer role in Europe instead of submissively following the US.”

Mr Blair was poised to respond to this accusation, but was distracted by a phone call from the White House informing him that President Bush had managed to eat a packet of pretzels at the same time as watching a game of American football, and rushed off to proffer his warmest congratulations on behalf of the British public.

Posted: 28th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Britain Measures Up

‘THERE is one area, however, in which Britain easily leads the rest of Europe.

Best of British

”According to the Department for Trade and Industry, the average Briton stands head, shoulders, girth and bottoms above their continental counterparts,” says the Guardian.

”The figures come in a new edition of the department’s handbook of anthropometric and strength measurements, compiled by ergonomists at the University of Nottingham to help manufacturers design products to fit people’s shape.”

Only the Dutch are taller than UK citizens, whose mean height is 5ft 9in.

And the average British woman has a chest measurement of 39.7in, second only to their American counterparts – although how many of those measurements have been distorted through surgical intervention is unknown.

But the good news ends there. British women also have the largest waists in Europe, and only Italian women have a bigger buttock circumference, outdoing even the Americans in this respect.

”More disturbingly, British men and women are heavier than all the other nationalities except the Americans, averaging 79.95 kilos for British men and 66.7 for women.”

At least we can take comfort from the fact that, if we do go to war against Iraq with the Americans, we’ll be working alongside the world’s biggest heavyweights – in every sense of the word.

Posted: 28th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0