Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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?
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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’.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘THE prospect of any country in the Middle East stockpiling nuclear weapons is indeed a scary one – and one we would, of course, expect the United States to take immediate measures to prevent.
|”That’s just what I was saying!”|
Unless, of course, that country happens to be Israel.
Wishful thinking and wilful blindness are so ingrained in the US’s policy with regard to Israel that Washington is regularly at odds with even its staunchest allies, such as Britain.
Many in the Land Of The Free (Regular Coke With Every Big Mac) have even accused Europe of anti-Semitism and raised the spectre of a return to the politics of the 1930s.
So what, one wonders, will they make of the interview Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives to this morning’s Guardian, in which he delivers ”an unprecedentedly strong warning” that Israel is adopting a stance that is incompatible with the deepest ideals of Judaism.?
He professes himself ”profoundly shocked” at reports of Israeli soldiers smiling as they posed for a photograph with the corpse of a Palestinian and says a prolonged conflict and ”absence of hope” are in the long run corrupting to a culture.
The Guardian says Dr Sacks’ remarks are likely to spark outrage among right-wing Jews – and they will no doubt not be lost on Cherie Blair either, after she was forced to apologise recently for using similar language.
‘REMEMBER this name: Andi Bell. At 34, he has just become the World Memory Champion after at last usurping Dominic O’Brien, who has been champion for as long as anyone in the business can remember (which, as you might imagine, is a very long time).
|Ron hoped to compete, but forgot where the contest was|
According to the Independent, ”nearly 30” (no-one could recall the exact number) contestants from around the world gathered in London for the three-day contest, in which players were judged on their ability to remember packs of cards, binary numbers, random words and what it was like to have a life.
In the end, it came down to this – who of Mr Bell (call me Andi) or Mr O’Brien (call me Mr O’Brien) could memorise a single deck of cards quickest. And Mr Bell’s time of 82 seconds was enough to earn him the title and, as the Indy observes, herald ”a shake-up in the memorising world”.
”I might be the person to do it because in a way I’m the first rock’n’roll World Memory Champion,” Bell explained. ”Dominic always wore a bow tie, but I wear jeans, trainers and T-shirt and this is the only week of the year when you are allowed into Simpsons with them on.”
Remember, when the new craze of memorising sweeps the nation, you read it here first. Or did you see it in a paper? Or was it on TV..? ‘
‘DICK Cheney is getting an itchy finger. It is now almost a year since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and in the intervening 11.5 months Uncle Sam has only managed to carpet bomb one solitary country.
|Saddam tries to clean up his image|
Not good enough, says Uncle Dick, his chubby finger hovering over a map of the Middle East before coming down on Iraq. Saddam is going to get his – and soon.
The Times hears the Vice President tell a group of army veterans that a pre-emptive strike was vital to stop Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein acquiring nuclear weapons.
”The risk of inaction is far greater than the risk of action,” he said, referring presumably to President Bush’s falling approval ratings. ”What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or wilful blindness.”
We bomb first, we bomb second and we ask questions later. Even Saddam’s supposed willingness to readmit the UN weapons inspectors cuts little ice with Trigger Happy Dick, who doesn’t want to see another good war lost to diplomacy.
”There is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box,” he explained. ”Meanwhile, he would continue to plot.”
And what a dastardly plot he would hatch, as the Telegraph explains. ”Saddam could be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.”
And all the while stroking a white Persian cat…
‘ONE OF the more intriguing aspects of the court case featuring the Chelsea and Wimbledon footballers, which concluded yesterday with a good result for the lads, was a subtle distinction made by Jody Morris on the etiquette of the familiar instruction to go forth and multiply.
|Not the correct way to greet your interviewer|
When the nightclub manager said that Morris had told her to ”**** off”, Morris corrected her, explaining that he had actually said, ”**** off, what’s she on about?” and meant no offence.
This shows clearly the dangers of misunderstanding to which young people are exposed when they venture out of their own close-knit society. The Telegraph makes the same point on its front page, when it details the unappealing ways in which youngsters dress and behave during job interviews.
There are the usual faux pas, such as dirty fingernails, limp handshakes, body odour, inappropriate touching and so on. But other misjudgements include wearing a crumpled ”Duran Duran-style” suit and piano tie, bringing a photo (for a security card) taken while covered in oil and wearing Speedo trunks, and asking a non-pregnant woman ”So when is it due?”.
One would-be bus driver turned up drunk, while another man sat through his interview with his underpants sticking through his fly. At least he was wearing underpants, which is more than can be said for some of them.
But an unlikely defender of modern youth comes in the shape of Drusilla Beyfus, the author of Modern Manners. She blames the schools for not giving young people adequate preparation for the world of work. ”Even simple things like practising saying ‘hello’ are important,” she says.
Very true, of course, but let’s not run before we can walk. What’s the point of learning even simple phrases like ”hello”, when some young adults have yet to master the niceties of ”**** off”?
”’HEY JOE, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand? He-e-ey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand? I’m goin’ down to shoot them foxes, you know I caught ’em messin’ round on my land
|Nothing but hound dogs, crying all the time|
That, courtesy of the anorak historical recreation unit, is how sixties rock god Jimi Hendrix might have adapted his smash hit Hey Joe, had it been he, and not Samuel Samson Joffre Payne, who met James Barclay during a Countryside Alliance vigil outside the Houses of Parliament.
Payne is an American rapper known as The President. Barclay, the Telegraph tells us, is a small-holding farmer from north Lincolnshire whose family has provided Masters of Foxhounds to the South Wold Hunt.
Payne fell into conversation with Barclay, who explained why he was there, and invited him to come and visit the kennels during a forthcoming open day. To Barclay’s surprise, The President turned up, and in the course of further discussions, agreed to write a song setting forth the views of the Countryside Alliance.
The result, entitled ”Balance”, has been hailed by James Stanford, the 65-year-old director of the forthcoming Liberty and Livelihood march, as ”rather groovy”.
The President said that he had been stirred by the passion of Mr Barclay – ”the quintessential English gentleman”.
When he delivered the song to the offices of the Alliance yesterday, he was accompanied in his silver Jaguar by his trusty side-kick, who rejoices in the quintessentially English name of ”The Noble Archer”.
Surely not. It couldn’t be. Could it?
‘WITH PARANOIA rampant concerning the safety of children, the Times publishes a worrying story about 10-year-old James Price, who spends all his spare time ”playing bowls” with men many years his senior.
The Times picture shows James flanked by two such men, both of whose faces are cropped out, although the crest on their shirts reveals that they are representatives of the Cambridgeshire county team.
The paper refers to James as a ”bowls prodigy”, a phrase that applies to anyone below retirement age who displays an interest in this perverted pastime. The idea that kids as young as ten are being drawn in is sick beyond belief.
At long last, the authorities have now stepped in to prevent James from competing in the Skegness championships. This has been done on a technicality (he chose to compete in the English Bowling Association over the English Bowling Federation) but it is obviously a blessing in disguise.
Not everyone sees it that way, though – including, sadly, the boy’s own mother. ”It seems very strange when we should be encouraging people to bowl,” she said, seemingly unconcerned by the kind of tragic life her son seems destined to endure. ‘
‘ROBBIE Williams. Michael Crawford. Boy George. What do these three have in common? There’s their gender of course, though even that is a little suspect in at least one case. Can’t guess? Come on, it’s obvious. All right, we’ll tell you – all three have made it into the BBC’s list of the 100 greatest Britons.
|”What’s this I hear about The Beatles being more popular than me?”|
A poll conducted late last year elicited 30,000 votes – most of them, apparently, from teenage girls, ageing New Romantics and TV viewers with dubious senses of humour. The Guardian struggles to hide its disdain as it publishes the list in full, and is not pleased to see that Julie Andrews, Cliff Richard and John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) have made the list, while such luminaries as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Byron, Constable and Turner, and Gielgud, Guinness and Olivier, have been left off.
”Royals, pop stars and military figures feature highly in the list but poets, artists and women are woefully under-represented,” it says. The Queen, her late mother and Princess Diana all made it into the list, but their deserving male contemporaries have been sadly neglected. Three Beatles – Lennon, McCartney and Harrison – are included, but there are no Rolling Stones.
There is, however, one Tony Blair. But even he, at the height of his glory, could not topple Sir Winston Churchill, who is believed to have been voted our greatest ever Briton.
The Guardian writes that the top 10 subjects will each be the subject of one-hour documentaries on the BBC. ”A new poll for the ‘greatest Briton’ will be held throughout the series, and the results announced in a programme hosted by Anne Robinson,” it says.
Those not making the cut will be voted off as the weakest link, and consigned to historical obscurity.
‘NATURALLY our greatest living hero, David Beckham, has made the BBC’s list of 100, though his wife Victoria has, incomprehensibly, been omitted. And now, Golden Balls has been offered a sizeable chunk of cash to tell us all about his greatness, in his own words.
|”What’s this I hear about you having another spokeswoman, David?”|
”It was announced yesterday that David Beckham, at the tender age of 27, has signed a multi-million pound deal to pen his autobiography,” reports the Guardian. In it, ”Beckham promises to reveal details of his career and private life ‘in my own words for the first time”’ – words such as ”lovely”, ”wicked” and ”thong”.
HarperCollins have offered Becks a sum believed to be in excess of £2million, which works out at roughly £250,000 per three-syllable word published. ”This will be the publishing event of 2003,” promises Amanda Ridout, the managing director of HarperCollins General Books. ”David will give us a fascinating insight into the private life of a man whose every move is followed on the world stage.” But doesn’t Posh already do that every time she gets within six feet of a microphone?
For those who are a little sceptical about Becks’ literary talents, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins ”confirmed that Beckham would be getting ‘professional help’ with the writing”. His Manchester United team-mate Roy Keane is thought to be lined up for the job.
‘WHEN you’re destined to be a footballing legend, there’s probably not much point in studying, which explains why David Beckham is in need of professional help with his autobiography.
|”Je suis un idiot”|
Unfortunately for the future of English football, most of the nation’s teenage boys cannot claim this as an excuse for their poor performance in the GCSE exams.
”Girls increased their lead over boys for top-grade passes in today’s GCSE results to nine percentage points,” reports the Times. Girls achieved more passing grades in all subjects apart from biology and physics, while at the very top A* grade, boys only did better than girls at maths and physics.
The Independent writes that ”Ministers have blamed cultural factors including boys’ belief that it is ‘uncool’ to be seen to be working hard” for this underperformance. But there is one area in which teenage boys are guaranteed to put in a decent effort. ”Subject choices are still based on sex,” reads the Indy headline, implying that male students decide what to study according to which subject will offer them the greatest opportunity to score.
Hence their keen interest in biology, and a surge in the number of them studying French. ‘
‘AH, HELLO there! Welcome to the agreeable world of Broadsheet Corner, where the top 32 per cent of society come for their daily infusion of culture, wit and hard news.
|Head of your ordinary working-class family|
(The other 72 per cent can be found getting their cheap-and-cheerful ”fix” in the tawdry Tabloid Tenements down the road – you may have seen it on your way here.)
You may be wondering how can we be so precise about our clientele. How do we know that they constitute 32 per cent, rather than, say 31 or 33, or even a reassuringly exclusive 1.2? Because the Times tells us so, of course.
”Two thirds of Britons are ‘working-class and proud of it”’, the paper reports. This is the finding of a survey by MORI, which divides people into two categories: middle-class and working-class (translation: ”our kind of people” and ”scum”). And one defining criterion for membership of the middle class is reading broadsheet newspapers.
Another middle-class qualification is owning a house worth more than £100,000, which seems dangerously low for two reasons. Firstly because any house in London costs at least that much these days, thus (theoretically at least) allowing all sorts of undesirables to join our ranks, should they choose to spend their scratch card money on a broadsheet instead.
Secondly, and equally worryingly, property inflation now means that sheds and other such constructions in the better parts of town are being pushed onto the market. A garage in Kensington came on the market at £150,000 recently – well within the range of any costermonger who chooses to sell his two-up, two down in Hoxton.
Clearly we are going to have to rely on the third criterion – a university education – to keep them out. But 50 per cent will be going to ”uni” soon, so even that won’t work.
So before we let you in, forgive us for asking, but didn’t your father go to our old school?
‘THE TIMES isn’t the only institution where class matters. They take it very seriously in the Welsh Labour Party too – although in the valleys it is the working class that carries the cachet.
|Rhodri disguised as a scruffy member of Welsh society|
”Ron Davies attacks ‘scruffy’ rival for hiding middle class roots,” announces the Guardian.
Former MP Davies, you will be pleased to hear, has now recovered fully from his ”moment of madness” on Clapham Common (where you meet a better class of cruiser).
And he now feels sufficiently confident to pronounce on the social pretensions of his Labour colleagues – in this case Rhodri Morgan, first minister for Wales. Davies covets Morgan’s job, and there appears to be no love lost between the two men.
”I think part of his dress and mannerisms, wanting to go to the pub for a drink with the boys, is a bit of over-compensation for the fact that he actually comes from a very well established, very middle-class family,” says Davies in an TV documentary to be shown on Friday.
”He wants to reconnect with what he imagines to be the authentic voice of the working class,” Davies continues. ”Of course, Rhodri would not recognise the authentic working class if he bumped into them en masse.”
So, for Mr Morgan’s benefit, we list some key characteristics that will help him identify fellow Welshmen of his own social station, in the hope that he will find pleasure in their company: 1) Own house worth more than £100. 2) Read foreign-language broadsheets (Times, Telegraph, etc). 3) Have attended school beyond age of 11. 4) Live in England.
Glad to be of service, Rhodri. Welcome aboard!