Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 80

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

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 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

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

Trigger Happy VP

‘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…

Posted: 27th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Jewry Out On Sacks

‘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.

Posted: 27th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Thanks For The Memories

‘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..? ‘

Posted: 27th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Young, Free And Filthy

‘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”?

Posted: 23rd, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Gittin’ Down With The Bitches

”’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?…

Posted: 23rd, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Bowls: A Nation’s Shame

‘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. ‘

Posted: 23rd, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Great Britons

‘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.

Posted: 22nd, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Golden Ballpoint

‘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.

Posted: 22nd, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

School’s Out – Of Fashion

‘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. ‘

Posted: 22nd, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Our Kind Of People

‘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?

Posted: 21st, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Their Kind Of People

‘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!

Posted: 21st, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Welsh Rabbit

”’I FEEL a bit awkward about not being Welsh,” says 22-year-old Cambridge graduate Mark Watson in today’s Telegraph. ”It’s a sort of fabrication,” he admits, although he does have a Welsh mother.

Mark’s hero

While we are familiar with the phenomenon of well-heeled students who like to play down their privileged backgrounds, this seems to be taking things to dangerous extremes.

What drove him to this desperate deception? It transpires that he is an aspiring stand-up comedian – and a good one too, as he has just won the 2002 Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award, impressing a prestigious panel in the process.

The Welsh aspect lends itself naturally to this sort of thing. Mark opens his act with the words: ”I’m from Wales. Don’t clap that, it’s a fact.”

He is philosophical about it all. ”I wanted to make myself into a minority group without lying too much,” he explains. Which makes his choice of the sly, underhand, thieving Welsh as his adopted compatriots curious to say the least. ‘

Posted: 21st, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Can’t Reed, Can’t Rite

‘WHILE Anastasia Fedotova enrols on a crash course in juggling, or learns whatever skills might help her get into Oxford, the Independent looks at the 40,000 pupils who will leave school without any qualifications at all.

A proud member of that five per cent

The Prince’s Trust has published figures which suggest around five per cent of school leavers get no qualifications and one in ten fail to get any GCSE pass in maths, leaving them with numeracy level of an 11-year old.

Estelle Morris, Secretary of State for Education and Skills (the embodiment of the ”anyone can do it – look at me” approach to education) also highlights the problem.

”One in five of the adult population does not have the skills of an average 11-year-old,” she says, ”but they are very good at hiding this from their friends.”

Meanwhile, in Lincoln, the new broom and tea boy at the Lincolnshire National turns to four new friends and tells them how when he was 11, he was captain of the England cricket team, a fully qualified GP and a graduate of Harvard. ‘

Posted: 20th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Best Actor In Town

‘AS Jeffrey Archer might put it in his soon-to-be-aired memoirs: ”Yesterday was the first day of many as I began a season in the West End theatre. I was to star in a production of Hamlet in which I play Stanley Kowalski, muscular, misunderstood and manly foil to Julia Roberts’ Cleopatra.”

”Don’t worry, Jeff, we’ll get you a cushy day-release.”

The Times, though, has a different version. According to the paper, Archer is indeed appearing at a theatre. But it’s the Theatre Royal, Lincoln, not London, and the only time he’ll tread the boards is when he’s giving them a going over with a damp mop.

The swanky pied-a-terre where he’s based for the theatre run is not a glamorous eyrie overlooking London, but a less than deluxe room at North Sea Camp, Boston. And the bars on the windows are not to keep the greedy and villainous from getting in, but to prevent the greedy and villainous from getting out.

But, as the paper reports, Archer does arrive in style, being driven the 40 miles to his new day-release job at the theatre in his own M-registered BMW. He has not hidden his identity to stop the fans from mobbing him, and Prisoner FS8282 Archer is not a stage name.

The theatre ‘fans’ who came to see him arrive at his £8.40 a week job came less to praise him and more to bury him. Speaking to the Telegraph, the exotically named Venice Edwards, who knew Archer from his time as a schoolmaster in Dover, said: ”I don’t think he should be let out. He should suffer a bit for what he has done.”

Lincoln resident Joanne Crowther echoes those sentiments, saying: ”He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t even have been let out.”

But the real opprobrium of Archer’s condition is saved for the Times, where the man who would have been mayor is commented on not by a top Tory, an ex-prime minister or a great author but by Nick Bateman, a man once known as Nasty Nick for his appearance on TV’s Big Brother.

”This is great for Lincoln,” enthuses Nick, ”but it shows kids that crime does pay.” He continues: ”If he were an ordinary person he would be working on a pig farm.”

But Jeffrey Archer is no ordinary mortal. As his Julius Caesar would put it: ”If you prick me, do I not bleed my heart out in my forthcoming book: ‘Jeffrey – My Sabbatical’?”

Posted: 20th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

It Doesn’t Add Up

‘JEFFREY Archer would also doubtless like to pass a few words on the news from his other alma mater, Oxford University.

Now known to hopefuls as the dream-on spires

The place the Archer-inspired novelist Matthew Arnold described as the ”home of lost causes” is under attack for its decision not to offer a place to Anastasia Fedotova, a profoundly deaf student who scored six A grade passes in her A-levels.

In the Independent, the Russian-born swot shows off her results, which were still not good enough to win her a place to study mathematics at Brasenose College, a decision defended by a college spokesperson.

”Our vigorous admissions process enables us to consider each application on its individual merits,” says the spokesman in the Times.

But that hasn’t prevented Anastasia’s MP, Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central, from calling on the university to justify its selection methods ”both in the hope that Anastasia can still be offered a place but also so that in future young people get though a selection process which is at the moment clearly failing”.

As the Indy reminds us, the case has echoes of Tyneside comprehensive girl Laura Spence, who was rejected from Oxford University in 2000, a case that pricked Chancellor Gordon Brown to condemn the institution.

And the case of one J. Archer, who did get into Brasenose College, where he signed up for a teacher training certificate and was above average at running.

Posted: 20th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Dead In The Water

‘AROUND the time of the first great flood, a pair of each type of animal made it through to safety on Noah’s floating menagerie. Now just a random handful of beasts have been salvaged, as Prague Zoo becomes an aquarium.

”Get me outta here!”

Having previously told of the demise of Kadir, the Indian elephant, the Times now brings news of how police marksmen have dispatched lions, rhinos and bears. A gorilla called Pong and 80 birds have also been lost.

Whether they were killed one by one, two by two, or just stood along a wall in long line and picked off at will is not said, but gone and going they are.

Of course, in Noah’s pre-test tube days, survival of a species necessitated a boy/girl pairing. Now, Kadir and his friends can go the way of Dolly the sheep and be bred at will.

But happy news is to be had in the Telegraph, where Slavek, an 18-year-old male hippo, has been found alive and well. Missing presumed dead, Slavek, whose full name Jaroslav name means ”spring glory”, was sighted by keen-eyed spotters leaving the elephant enclosure.

Petr Fejk, the zoo’s director, says the hippo was in ”attack mode”, but soon calmed down when he was given something to eat and told that his female mate Lentilka had been shot.

And while Slavek broods and plots revenge on his captors, the paper asks readers to be on the lookout for a sea lion called Gaston, which swam away with the flood waters and was last seen heading towards Germany. A crack team of animal experts is tracking Gaston, and hope that he will lead them to a second sea lion who is missing.

Gaston’s disappearance is not believed linked to the deaths of Kadir and over 100 people who, by the way, have also perished.

Posted: 19th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Animal Hospital

‘BUT as you post a £10 gift token to Slavek, ask yourself this: ”What would you have done when faced with a drowning hippo?” It’s not a question we spend enough time puzzling over, but in America, they have taken to action over mere words.

She gave her pet frog mouth-to-mouth, and behold…

The Telegraph brings news from the States, and how Red Cross branches across the land are offering courses in first aid for pets. The four-hour long course costs $35 and encourages trainees to practise mouth-to-mouth resuscitation techniques on inflatable dogs and cats.

Animals fanciers who with their own inflatables have their names and addresses circulated to the proper agencies, but for the rest, the course is an invaluable lesson on how to save a life.

Modules include how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a cat, how to stem a dog’s nose bleed and how to see to a pet’s bruise.

And if you want to save a drowning hippo, best way is to remind him that he can swim.

Posted: 19th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Don’t Go Down To The Woods Today

‘FROM one type of rare breed to another now, as the Guardian shines a searchlight on the village of Sawley, Lancashire, venue of the BNP’s annual picnic and rant.

Doing his bit for British nationalism

It was like the Golden Jubilee all over again, as Union flags flapped in the breeze, patriots sang of a land of hope and glory and proud folk fondled the coins in their pockets with something approaching love.

And while the children chomped on sticks of rock with ”BNP – Britain first” writ thought the centre, others played games. There was the patriotic teddy bear contest, which called for teddies to be dressed in red, white and blue.

And the face paining tent was a hoot, with the flag of St George popular, although there were a few patriotic Batmans, tigers and lions too. While they queued in the sun, their faces turning as red as their necks, the gatherers talked.

”I want to save England for my children and their children,” said one woman, looking at her clearly very active pre-teen daughter. ”There have been children’s races, a paddling pool and there was an historical play involving St Cuthbert – it was lovely,” she adds.

So, as they swapped stories about a seventh century son of an Irish king, the sun began to set, allowing them to clamber into their Japanese cars and return home to dream of a time when England was another part of the French empire, Celts ran riot in Scotland and their forefathers were pushing ploughs in Saxony.

Posted: 19th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

La Grande Bouffe

‘WE ALL wish a long and healthy life to St Tony, not to mention nice Mr Major and all the other past prime ministers who are still thankfully with us. But when they are, as Frank Sinatra put it, facing the final curtain, we doubt that any of them will opt for the route taken by former French president François Mitterand.

”If it wasn’t for us, he’d have been eating sauerkraut”

The Telegraph reports that a new film recreates his famous ”last supper”, and it sounds like a homage to La Grande Bouffe – the notorious drama in which various ageing members of the French bourgoisie, driven to despair by ennui, retreat to a luxurious mansion and eat themselves to death.

The paper reports that the greedy former leader summoned his closest friends to his house near Bordeaux, and, ”stretched out on a chaise longue, devoured plate after plate of oysters until he felt sick”. Then he sent for the ortolans. These songbirds – which are ”kept in a darkened barn for two weeks, force-fed millet and then killed with a shot of Armagnac” – are apparently prized above fois gras.

Their consumption is also illegal, but this doesn’t seem to have caused Mitterand any pangs of conscience. On the contrary, he ”sank his head into the napkin surrounding the bird to breath in its aroma”. His head then remained hidden as he ate the bird whole, crunching through its bones and innards. According to the book upon which the film is to be based, he eventually emerged ”Capsized with happiness, his eyes sparkling” and ready for death.

We contacted all the living former Prime Ministers of the UK, but only John Major’s people replied. They said he had no special plans for his last supper, but they imagined it would be his usual light choice, as heavy food tended to impair his sleep. A poached egg on toast and a glass of milk was the most likely choice, they said.

Posted: 16th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay

‘TIPPING is a notoriously difficult business – at least, that’s what we are always being told by newspapers keen to create still more anxieties among their troubled readership. Yet for those at the top of society’s pile it is simple.

”I gave her a few tips, Gawd bless her”

The Queen Mother was one lady who could always be relied on to ”make it look so easy” (as Sir Alastair Burnet memorably remarked, while watching her unveil a small plaque). So it is no surprise to learn that she had a typically no-nonsense attitude to tipping.

”Can’t pay, won’t pay” was her position, as newly-released government papers reveal. ”Queen Mother quibbled over half crown tips,” says the Telegraph, reporting that when visiting Tunisia in 1961, she refused to cough up for the daily expenses of bandsmen, stewards and other staff. The total cost came to a mere £762 11s 6d, which is the equivalent of about £5,000 today, hardly a king’s ransom.

Nevertheless, five thousand pounds is five thousand pounds, as the QM might say if she were still with us, and five thousand pounds buys a lot of gin. Of course, the QM didn’t pay for her gin either, preferring as she did the free stuff sent in lorries by the manufacturers.

But the point is that, like Mrs Thatcher, she knew the value of money, and she understood the importance of never spending it. And if more people shared her frugal instincts, the country wouldn’t be in such a frightful mess today.

Posted: 16th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

The Roaring Forties

”’COMING soon: the age of the fortysomethings.” Now that’s better, why can’t we have a few more headlines like that one, which comes courtesy of the small but beautifully put together Independent.

Models show anorak’s new ‘Comfi-slaxs’ range of clothing for the more discerning male

Who could possibly disagree that the world would be a better and more agreeable place if the majority of the population wore sensible ‘Comfi-slaxs’ (anorak own brand) and listened to music with a proper tune? The only problem is that the average age won’t reach 40 until the year 2007, and that may be too late for some.

Elsewhere, the Indie reports that 41-year-old Mark Goodier has been removed ”by mutual consent” from his post on the Top 40 chart show – a job that his illustrious predecessor Alan ”Fluff” Freeman was still doing perfectly well at the age of 93.

Meanwhile, the Times says: ”It’s now or never to cash in as the King’s lustre fades.” Profits for Elvis-related products are on the slide, it seems, and the present 25-year anniversary of his final, toilet-ridden wriggle of the pelvis could prove to be his last hurrah.

So it seems that for five more years we’ll have to put up with news reports backed with house music and documentary commentaries by graduates of the Dani Behr School of Narration.

But don’t be alarmed. The beers are stored away in a nice warm cupboard, the jars of chutney are in boxes under the stairs, and all the other relics of our way of life have been secreted to safe houses in the suburbs.

Our day will come. And when it does, there will be no mercy. ‘

Posted: 16th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Prague Springs A Leak

”’IN Josefov, the old Jewish quarter, police started banging on residents’ doors at 4am to tell them to leave their homes,” writes the Independent.

”Come on in, guys! The water’s lovely!”

It wasn’t the Germans this time, but a flood of Biblical proportions that was causing the inhabitants of Prague to flee. And they would have been advised to move fast, as more than 90 people have already perished in some of the worst floods to hit eastern and central Europe for an age.

The papers show pictures of Prague’s swollen Vltava River, and of people laying down sandbags in a bid to protect the city’s glorious Baroque architecture.

But the one picture that is sure to epitomise the suffering of the city is of Kadir, a 35-year-old elephant. Like the Lion of Kabul, Kadir seems to embody the suffering of a city as he wallows in a pen that soon became his private wading pool. And, like that one-eyed lion, Kadir is now dead, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.

Efforts were made to move the stricken beast, but they failed, and that meant Kadir had to be taken outside and shot. On a brighter note, the Independent watches as a sea lion escapes the zoo and swims down the swollen river.

And if he swims really hard, he might make it to Germany, and to the flooded city of Dresden. There he can float in and out of the Semperoper opera house and take a genteel backstroke though the magnificent Zwinger Palace, once home to Saxony kings.

But he needs help. So we hereby announce the drive for money to save Pelt – The Sea Lion of Dresden. Send cash and letters of support to the usual address.

Posted: 15th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment