Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 81

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

Ant Rap

‘HUMMING can be really annoying, can’t it? So annoying, in fact, that in today’s Times guide to office life, it is listed twice in a section on things from which considerate colleagues should refrain at all times. And it’s not just office workers who don’t like it – particularly when the hum is aggressive rather than passive.

”I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention”

We are all familiar with the effects of the sarcastic hum or whistle – the ”Laurel & Hardy” theme whistled at passing policemen, the judicious use of the Rupert Bear song directed at the hapless man in tartan trews… So when drinkers in the Prince of Wales pub in Kentish Town saw a portly middle-aged man in cowboy gear walk in, they knew the correct form and acted accordingly.

Unfortunately, their spontaneous rendition of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly didn’t go down too well with the silent stranger who had just entered the saloon. He was carrying a gun, with which he had intended to pistol-whip a man he expected to find in the pub. Instead, as the Guardian reports, he ”threatened onlookers” with his shooter (actually a starting pistol) and then threw a car alternator through the window.

When arrested the ”stocky, bespectacled and balding” 47-year-old told police he was Adam Ant – a claim that was greeted with hoots of derision. Yet he spoke the truth. This was indeed the former Prince Charming and Dandy Highwayman, not to mention King of the Wild Frontier.

Today he is plain old Stuart Goddard. Yesterday in court he wore a wide-brimmed hat and dark glasses, and spoke only to plead guilty to using or threatening unlawful violence. All charges of crimes against music were dropped.

The judge promised him he would not be jailed, and the defendant walked free, crossing and uncrossing his forearms rhythmically as he went.

Posted: 14th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Duty Free In France

‘YESTERDAY we told of Tony Blair’s smart-but-casual photo-call with the French prime minister. The event took place at a chateau belonging to one of the Blairios’ friends, for Tony likes to spend his holidays in the homes of the rich and famous and can usually be found in Italy or France at this time of year.

”Right, Euan’s got 50 cartons of fags, Nicky’s got 200, Leo’s got 90 and Cherie’s got the brandy. And I’ve got the videos, the flick knives and the bangers.”

The only problem with this year’s choice is that Tony’s host is Alain Dominique Perrin, a businessman with a large financial interest in British American Tobacco, a company currently under investigation for tobacco smuggling.

No doubt Ton ”What signal is this sending out?”

How about this: ”I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine such persons, which need no repenence.” (Luke 15, verses 4-7)

Posted: 14th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Home Entertainment

”’I WAS fiddling with the video recorder and just pressed the wrong button,” says Stéphane, one of the alleged victims in a curious case that is currently before the French courts. ”All of a sudden the TV screen started showing the girl from the room next door in the shower.”

Appartement cam

Most of us would put this down to sheer coincidence and leave it at that, but Stéphane for some reason grew suspicious and began fiddling about in the bathroom of his rented accommodation (surely in breach of the tenancy agreement) and soon discovered a video camera hidden in a false ceiling.

The Guardian reports that he found further cameras in an alarm clock by his bed and a fake fire extinguisher on his wall. Police later discovered another 14 around the premises. The landlord, a married couple in their sixties, were found to have ”several hundred cassettes” of material covertly filmed in this way. Their lawyer said that the cameras had been installed because they were afraid for the safety of their niece, who had ”suicidal tendencies”.

He would not confirm that one of the tapes, filmed using an infra-red camera, appears to show a male lodger shaving his chest in bed under cover of darkness.

Posted: 14th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

One Door Closes, Another Opens

‘YOU know the situation – you’ve just opened the door to a shop or a restaurant and you see a pretty woman coming the other way. What do you do?

An easy solution to a common dilemma

Do you a) stand aside and let her walk past, do you b) move slightly to one side so she has to brush up against you as she goes past (and say ”Nice hooters, love” as she does so), or do you c) barge her out of the way and walk through yourself?

It’s a tricky business being a man in the post-feminist age, as the Daily Telegraph recognises. A survey by the Future Foundation found that, while only 22 per cent of women are happy for a man to pay for dinner and most find it ridiculous that a man would stand up if a woman walked into a room, 90 per cent expect him to hold open a door.

But even that’s not clear-cut, as the foundation’s Melanie Howard observes. ”Although the figures for holding doors open for women seem pretty non-contentious,” she tells the paper, ”it still means that every tenth woman a man steps aside for is probably going to take offence.”

So, in other words, the advice to men is to keep count – stand aside for nine women and then punch the tenth one in the gob.

Posted: 7th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

No Leg To Stand On

‘FINE words butter no parsnips, as a wise man once said.

New Zealand celebrate their goosing gold

We’ve heard a lot about how this year’s Commonwealth Games is an inclusive event, to which all are welcome, and it is the first occasion upon which disabled athletes have been included in a major sporting tournament. (Athletes disabled before the event, that is, rather those like England’s sprinters, who disable themselves during it.)

Yet for all the fine words, what do we find? Persecution of the disabled, that’s what.

The case of 60-year-old John Davies is typical. John has a prosthetic leg, and has come all the way from his native New Zealand – hopping much of the way – in order to compete in the bowls.

Now, the Guardian reports, he is on his way home following an ”incident” in which he ”commented on the size of a volunteer’s breasts and then touched her bottom”.

Where does one begin when dealing with such a blatant example of political correctness gone mad?

Such behaviour is of course completely acceptable in New Zealand, which still has an agreeably 1950s mind-set when it comes to social affairs.

Here, however, things are different, and the team’s chef de mission David Currie has accepted that it was behaviour that ”falls within the domain of sexual harassment”.

He added that the fact that it took place in a public area was a serious error of judgement.

”The New Zealand team cannot condone what has happened,” he concluded.

Indeed not. But questions remain. Are we to take it that a quick goosing is OK, so long as it is not administered in a public area?

And what are we to make of the fact that the lady in question was a ”volunteer”? Does the phrase not suggest some basic level of availability when it comes to this sort of mildly lascivious overture?

With such a profusion of mixed messages, it’s hardly surprising that Mr Davies was confused. But as he has learned to his cost, when it comes to the PC police, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Posted: 31st, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Knickers V Nickers

‘IS that a mobile phone in your pants or are you just glad to see me? Not the most obvious of chat-up lines, but remember: you heard it here first.

And you can even park you car in these ones

But why would people be keeping their phones in their pants? Because of crime, stupid – it’s just one of many innovations in the exciting world of anti-theft clothing.

This is not a new idea – a century ago satirical cartoonists were depicting huge spiked anti-garrotting collars – but there is no reason why the new innovations should not succeed where others have failed.

One of the cleverest is the ”stealth belt”, in which money, mobiles, etc can be stored.

The belt is designed to resemble lingerie, and the Independent’s picture shows the belt stuffed full of implements while doing its best to look like the waistband of a pair of underpants.

Of course, the picture also indicates a possible flaw in the plan.

Maximum security pants are all very well, but how effective will they be as long as the nation’s fashion-conscious youth persist in wearing their trousers at half-mast, displaying their smalls for everyone – thieving community included – to see?

Posted: 31st, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Welcome To Becks Country

‘WE are always being told that the British tourist industry is in crisis, so it’s good to report one area that is booming.

Becks hid when Posh started getting a bit frisky

The Telegraph reports that the Japanese are flocking to Britain, and a good many of them are doing so to follow in the footsteps of Golden Balls.

As with John, Paul, George and Ringo, the tourists are keen to revisit the humble origins from whence their hero sprang, and this throws up some curious scenarios.

What will our Oriental friends – the majority of whom are women – make of the pilgrimage to Leytonstone, where the boy David was born? Or the school in Chingford where he worked diligently to master Latin and Greek?

Perhaps they will be more interested in his £2.5 million home on the Herts-Essex border or the view through the gates of his £850,000 mock-Georgian house in Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

”I would say David Beckham has had an impact,” says a spokesman for the Japan Travel Bureau.

But before David gets big-headed, we should remind him that world domination is still some way off.

The spokesman adds that a large number of those coming to these shores are visiting Beatrix Potter’s home in the Lake District to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Peter Rabbit.

Posted: 31st, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Monky Business

‘IF HISTORY teaches us anything, it is that religion is rarely a force for love, peace, understanding and tolerance.

”HQ? Send reinforcements. I repeat, send reinforcements.”

Indeed, like sport (on whose behalf similar claims are often made), its track record suggests the complete opposite. Just think of Islamic jihads, Christian crusades, and all the other religious wars down the centuries.

And internecine struggles are even worse. One need only look at the way Buddhist monks (you know, Buddhism, the loved-up religion) fight amongst themselves over the ownership of their temples to get an inkling of the potential for out-and-out war.

So no-one will be particularly surprised to learn in today’s Telegraph that it all kicked off down Jerusalem way when a dispute over control of the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection) got out of hand.

Two groups of monks – the Ethiopian Orthodox mob and the Coptic Church of Egypt crew – clashed with spectacular results when an argument started about the position of a chair where one of the Egyptians traditionally sits.

The monk moved his chair out of the sun, and this was interpreted as a violation of the status quo, as documented in 1757. Tensions rose, as the Egyptian monk was allegedly teased, poked and finally – most insulting of all – pinched by a woman.

At this point all hell broke loose, as they say. Eleven monks were treated in hospital, and ”an uneasy stand-off” now prevails.

One historian is quoted as describing the area, which is a mass of rival sects, as ”the most unchristian place in the world”. It’s just this sort of thing that gives irrational superstitious beliefs a bad name.’

Posted: 30th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Out Of The Norm

‘IF it’s tolerance and ”live and let live” you want, then forget the birthplace of Christianity and head for the Tory heartlands of Surrey. Today, the Guardian visits Reigate to sound out the locals about the decision of Alan Duncan to come out as the first openly gay Conservative MP.

Oscar was roundly defeated at the Reigate by-election

”I come from an older generation where this sort of thing was deemed unspeakable,” says 55-year-old Colin Vaughan, and many agreed.

”I would not be happy if we had a gay candidate here,” said Tony Collinson, chairman of the Reigate Conservative Association. ”I would always go for someone from a normal background.”

The problem, of course, is that a ”normal” background is no guarantee of anything these days, least of all red-blooded heterosexuality.

But attitudes seem to be different among the younger generation, particularly those at the Redhill Constitutional Club, which shares a building with the Reigate Conservatives.

Club secretary David Barclay was for ”tolerance”, as was council leader Joan Spiers. But if any of those gays was to come around and poke them, or get a woman to pinch them, you can bet your life that the good folk of Reigate wouldn’t take it lying down.

Local hospitals have been warned.

Posted: 30th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Nuisance Caller

‘THERE’S nothing more irritating than a cold call from a salesman on your home telephone number. Except, that is, for a series of calls from the same salesman.

The stuff of Gareth’s nightmares

So when Gareth Evans got repeated calls from a man selling mobile phones, he wasn’t best pleased, especially when the salesman responded to his repeated refusals, and eventual remark ”Listen pal, I don’t want your mobile phone” by ”blowing a fuse”.

The Times reports that the salesman, Adam Stansfield, was fined £250 for making nuisance calls and ordered to pay £50 costs. In his defence it was explained that there was a fault with the automatic dialling equipment, and he didn’t realise that he was talking to the same person.

The company that Mr Stansfield worked for has gone out of business. Readers will be pleased to hear that he is now selling insurance. ‘

Posted: 30th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

It’s The Pits

”’THEY were hauled out of the earth one by one, covered in a black sludge of coal dust and dirty water, raised to the surface in a yellow metal cage amid cacophonous applause,” writes the Independent.

”I know there’s beer in here somewhere”

It’s not a description of the genesis of New Labour – that never would have earned applause – but a report on the heroic rescue of nine miners who spent three days trapped 240ft underground in the Quecreek Mine in Pennsylvania.

They’ve been dubbed the ”Miracle Miners”, and considering that ”the drama that had taken place above ground since the men became trapped” sometimes bordered on farce, it truly is a miracle that all of them made it out of the pit alive.

”We were told at first that the rescuers were making good progress, then we learned that the bit on the drill being used to bore a rescue tunnel had broken,” says the paper.

”We were told that the rescuers had located the broken bit and were lifting it out, only to then be told an hour later that the broken bit had been dropped.”

The near tragedy only occurred in the first place because the miners ”inadvertently broke into an abandoned, water-filled mine that maps they had been given showed to be 300ft away”.

Eventually, however, all nine were winched out of the mine safe and sound, to the relief of their tearful relatives, the rescuers and the watching world.

”What took you so long?” one of the miners joked, before he and his colleagues were taken to hospital to be fed on doughnuts and coffee.

”Several asked for beer,” writes the Indy, ”but doctors would not allow it because of the danger of dehydration.” Homer Simpson would have been proud.

Posted: 29th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Out On A Limb

‘BACK on home soil, another figure has emerged blinking and spluttering into the media glare after spending most of his life in a closet.

Alan Duncan became the first MP to admit he was short

”Alan Duncan, the Tory party’s Middle East spokesman, last night confirmed what has long been an open secret at Westminster by admitting he is gay,” reports the Telegraph.

”He becomes the first Conservative MP openly to declare his homosexuality.”

But eagle-eyed observers have been picking up on the signs for years and the Telegraph, for one, was not fooled for a second.

”From his address in Gayfere Street, to his tightly tailored suits, bitchy wit, expensive tan and retinue of young assistants, Mr Duncan has cultivated an image that left no one who knows him guessing about his sexual orientation.”

It was in an interview with the Times that Mr Duncan first made the declaration.

”People can see you’re short, but are you also gay?” asks the paper. ”The answer is ‘yes’, an absolutely honest, unequivocal and straightforward ‘yes’,” he replies.

He disagrees with the Tory view on homosexuality, which ”has always been ‘we don’t mind, but we don’t say”’.

He also claims that ”the only way to behave these days, particularly if you’re a politician, is to be absolutely honest and upfront, however inconvenient that may be at first” – another respect in which he strays from party policy.

Posted: 29th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

In The Long Run

‘THE question leveled at rescuers by the disgruntled miners who spent 77 hours underground – ”What took you so long?” – could just as easily be asked of Jamie Donaldson.

Jamie’s next ambition was to be Heavyweight Champion of the World

Yesterday, the Times reports, the marathon runner ”trailed home with the slowest time in the history of the Commonwealth Games”.

”All other competitors had finished, showered, changed and eaten Sunday lunch when Jamie Donaldson crossed the finished line one hour and 19 minutes after the winner,” notes the Times. ”He was so late, he disrupted the men’s 200 metres.”

Jamie eventually crossed the line after 3 hours, 30 minutes and 20 seconds, a time which easily broke the 64-year record for the slowest marathon and which would only have earned him 4,909th place in the London Marathon.

With a performance like that, you’d expect him to be British. But Jamie actually hails from Norfolk Island, the notorious former penal colony off the coast of Australia, now largely populated by descendants of the Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian.

As a short order chef, Jamie gets little time to train, and running a marathon is somewhat difficult on Norfolk Island, ”a rocky, five-mile by three-mile outcrop with little flat ground”. Besides, Jamie was suffering from a calf injury during the marathon.

But his ”heroic failure” may yet be outdone in this week’s triathlon – in which Norfolk Island will be represented by Jamie’s 54-year-old father, Graeme.

Posted: 29th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Better Things

”YOU can walk my path/ You can wear my shoes/ Let her talk like me/ And be an angel too.’

Bernie takes a test drive on the new bypass

Words we all agree are an inspiration and sum up how things could only get better under Tony’s Blair’s aegis. But for whom did things really improve?

Peter Cunnah, lead singer of D:Ream, the band that gave us that new Labour ditty, earned some nice royalties, and he did donate a cut of the booty to the Labour Party. So look out for D:Ream providing the next Labour off-the-peg anthem.

Richard Desmond and Lakshmi Mittal have also seen things get better since Tony rose to power. But the Independent recalls that before Porngate and Steelgate there was the not-so-small matter of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s £1 million donation to the cause for improved things.

And, sure enough, things got better. Plans to ban tobacco advertising from European sport got better, and so did the state of the roads around Silverstone (no relation).

According to the Indy, Tony Blair and his former number one lickspittle, Stephen Byers, intervened to enable a bypass to be built near the racetrack in time for this year’s British Grand Prix. So an extra £8 million was found to facilitate an ’emergency pay-out’ to get the job done on time.

And the deal gets bigger when readers hear that the bypass is now closed to enable contractors to finish it, and that the road’s ‘completion’ was hurried up in return for a guarantee that the British Grand Prix would not be scrapped.

So that’s £8 million of additional monies spent to not yet finish a work that people like Sir Richard Mottram, the most senior civil servant in what was Mr Byers’ department, said ‘could breach normal financial criteria’.

For its part, the Government denies allegations of a deal and wishes Euan Blair well in his upcoming battles with Michael Schumacher. ‘

Posted: 26th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Rocking The Boat

‘THERE was a time when we were promised referenda on all manner of things.

Not the ideal location for a polling booth

We were to be asked if we wanted to adopt the euro, what name would be best for Tony and Cherie’s newborn and if the drinking age should be raised to 21 in light of Euan Blair’s antics. But we are still waiting to be asked.

Unable to wait politely in silence any longer, one section of the British populace is set to take matters into its own hands. The Telegraph leads with news that plans are afoot for Gibraltarians to run a referendum on the Rock’s future.

While Tony splutters something incomprehensible about five tests, Peter Caruana, Gibraltar’s chief minister, outlines his plans. And they are that by late October the colony’s 30,000 subjects will take a vote on the matter.

The portents for a pro-Spanish vote are slim as the Times recalls the last such vote. In 1967, Britain held a referendum on whether the British Pillar of Hercules should remain British or become part of Franco’s Spain.

A whopping 44 Gibraltarians voted for Spain, with others arguing that a decision would be made when the economic conditions were right and not before.

Posted: 26th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Cooking Up A Storm

‘OF course, there are other ways to skin a cat, and chef Gordon Ramsay knows a few of them.

The chef made sure Mr Wood would write no more unfavourable reviews

The Guardian reports that the man in the apron and the tall hat is threatening legal action against the AA Restaurant Guide after a restaurant he co-owns was not given a maximum score.

The upmarket Petrus eaterie was rocked when the expected number of rosettes was not awarded, and argues that they were slighted because Roger Wood, managing director of the AA guide, argued about which table he should sit at.

Simon Wright, the guide’s editor, has resigned over the incident, saying that he had intended to award the restaurant a full quota of rosettes until Mr Wood stepped in.

Mr Blair has called for a referendum on the restaurant’s future, and will fix a date for it just as soon as Mr Ramsay has answered the five tests: hors d’oeuvre; entrée; main course; cheese; and dessert.

Posted: 26th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

What A Racket!

”THERE is only so far you can get standing in front of your mirror with a tennis racket,’ says Billy Bragg. ‘You’ve got to get out there in front of an audience to see if any of it works.’

Fender Stratocaster

And here Billy is, singing away with his guitar, surrounded by an audience of jovial – and somewhat portly – middle-aged men with beards.

But this isn’t an ordinary audience, as the Guardian explains. It is a group of MPs who are campaigning against the law that forbids more than two people to sing in a pub that doesn’t possess the necessary licence.

Normally, licensing officers turn a blind eye to minor infringements, such as Madonna and Guy singing cockney favourites over a couple of bottles of stout.

But recently they have been clamping down, as part of what the Musicians’ Union believes to be a revenue-raising exercise by local authorities.

A Greenwich pub was threatened with prosecution when punters stamped their feet to folk music in a Greenwich pub, and the landlord of a pub in Dorset was given a formal warning after pensioners went mad and sang Happy Birthday.

‘This ludicrous situation has gone on long enough,’ says Kevin Brennan, the MP for Cardiff West, and all sensible people will agree.

The solution is obvious. Ban folk music outright, and make an example of the ring-leaders with stiff jail terms. Pensioners should be allowed in pubs only under supervision.

Then issue cheap licenses for Billy Bragg-style entertainment at clearly marked venues, which the rest of us can avoid like the plague.

Posted: 25th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Culture Vultures

‘WHAT makes illegal immigrants spend all their money on a one-way ticket to Britain via the back of a lorry?

Mr Benn welcomes the new arrivals from Kosovo

Is it the food? Is it the weather? Is it our fabulous bed & breakfast hotels, with their ‘We welcome DSS’ signs and their formica furniture? Or is it the rich cultural life with which our nation is associated in the foreign imagination?

The answer, of course, is all of these factors. But a Home Office survey of 70,000 asylum seekers indicates that British culture is the clincher.

For although the UK has slipped out of the Top 10 in the UN’s newly-published ‘quality of life’ table, our nation is still regarded as a desirable destination by many of the world’s poor and dispossessed.

However, this positive image may be somewhat misleading, as the Independent reports.

Many foreigners still cling to visions of foggy streets and pin-stripe suits. Baroness Thatcher and The Beatles are widely cited, albeit as two separate entities, rather than one bill-topping attraction, and the Spice Girls are another popular choice.

The fact that all three of these phenomena are now consigned to history should not blind us to their continued significance. Nor is it all a question of history.

Two frequently cited features of the UK are Manchester United Football Club and sympathy for asylum seekers. Both of which have never been stronger… Right?

Posted: 25th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Acourt Case

‘OF course, in order to reach the promised land, asylum seekers need wheels.

Going down

So they will be alarmed every time another immigrant transit operative is sent to jail for illegal ‘trafficking’. And they will cheer every time such idealistic entrepreneurs go free.

One such man is Neil Acourt of Greenwich, whose close friend was jailed for concealing seven people from India and Ecuador in a van bound for Dover.

The case against Acourt was dropped because there was insufficient evidence to prove his involvement, but, as the Independent reminds us, he has had his fair share of brushes with the law, including convictions for theft and for carrying an extendable metal baton in his car.

The baton, according to Acourt, was for his own protection, as he fears that he is a likely target for revenge attacks after his most famous court case: the Stephen Lawrence murder trial, which collapsed in farcical fashion, leaving the main suspects to walk free.

Why Acourt would be suspected of smuggling Asians into the country is unclear. Perhaps he was planning to mutilate and kill them, since this was the option favoured when he and his pal David Norris discussed in the surveillance videos made by police after the Lawrence murder.

And judging by their subsequent behaviour there’s nothing to suggest that their views have changed.

Yesterday the pair were found guilty of a racist attack on a black off-duty policeman in Eltham, not far from the site of the Lawrence stabbing.

They have been refused bail and are awaiting sentencing, which could mean a two-year jail sentence. ‘Fit up!’ shouted Acourt when the verdict was announced. If so, he is unlikely to get much sympathy.

Posted: 25th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


‘AND you thought the asylum problem was under control.

Coming soon to a zebra crossing near you

According to the front page of the Times this morning, Britain is such a popular destination that it is going to have to build six new runways to cope with a predicted 500 million passengers a year.

In fact, such is the shortage of capacity in the South East that parts of the M1 and M4 are to double up as runways (with a contraflow in operation when planes are coming in to land); anyone with a big enough garden is likely to be asked to handle short-haul flights; and the 100m track at St Alban’s Roman Catholic Primary has been permanently requisitioned to handle the overflow from Stansted.

In fact, such will be the increase in air traffic over the next few years that the Green Cross Code is to be updated from ‘Look left, look right, look left again’ to ‘Look left, look right, DUCK!’ as most of the South East disappears under tarmac.

‘Doing nothing is not an option,’ Transport Secretary Alistair Darling tells the Times. We fail to see why not – after all, it’s worked a charm with the Wembley redevelopment, selling the Dome, improving the Tube…’

Posted: 24th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

O Tempora! O Mores!

‘YOU can almost feel the pillars of the Establishment creaking as more news reaches us of the decline of the ruling classes.

The Earl corrects Louis’s frightful Latin grammar

It started with the MCC agreeing to admit women, continued with the decision to take roast beef off the menu at the Carlton Club and reached its apogee when it was revealed that Prince William doesn’t buy his underwear at Marks & Spencer.

But can it survive this latest shock – the news (as brought to us by that harbinger of bad tidings, the Telegraph) that Earl Spencer’s son is to become the first holder of the title in almost 250 years not to attend Eton or Harrow?

O tempora! O mores! You can almost hear the old Earl (Princess Diana’s father) choking on a rather nice glass of port.

The Telegraph reports that the new Earl and his ex-wife have decided that son Louis should stay in Cape Town.

‘Surely it’s an archaic idea that Louis should have to go through a certain system to become equipped to run Althorp,’ Victoria, Countess Spencer, told Hello! (who told the Telegraph). ‘We’re modern parents in that we’re genuinely putting the children’s needs first.’

Bolshie talk, the lot of it. No good ever came of not being able to conjugate your Latin verbs. Mark our words.

Posted: 24th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

A Latin Lesson

‘EVERY 50 years or so since time immemorial, we Brits have had to stir ourselves from our leather armchairs, put down our cup of tea and copy of the Telegraph sport section and cross the Channel to give one of the Continentals a bloody nose.

‘Look, guys, this is the way you should run Europe…’

If it wasn’t the Frenchies, it was Jerry; if it wasn’t Jerry, it was the Eyeties; if it wasn’t the Eyeties, it was the Spanish… We don’t relish it, but you have to keep them (especially those overexcitable Latins) in line.

So it is good to see on the front of this morning’s Independent that Tony Blair is once again reading the riot act to our friends from over the water.

The Prime Minister, who made his comments ‘amid a rift with France and Germany over plans to attack Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’, warned that the European Union needed to reform itself and end its hostility towards the United States if it wanted to be considered a superpower along with us and the US.

And it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your irregular verbs while you’re about it. Prosum, prodes, prodest… ‘

Posted: 24th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Archer Misses Target

”ARCHER appeal dismissed within minutes,’ announces the Times. ‘Judges take 110 minutes to reject Archer appeal on perjury conviction,’ says the Guardian.

With Jeffrey out of the way, the Mary Archer appreciation club smell an opportunity

And the Guardian’s accuracy brings to mind a boxing match (or an Audley Harrison bout) in which one protagonist is dispatched comfortably within the first round. The report must then be padded out with plenty of detail, and peripheral details dwelt upon.

Three Appeal Judges ruled against the best-selling author and Tory statesman Jeffrey Archer, and decided that his four-year prison sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice must stand.

More worryingly for Archer, this means that he must pay the Daily Star £500,000 in damages, which, with costs and interests adds up to about £2.9 million. That’s a lot of novels, you know.

The impact upon the Archer family was immediately apparent. The Telegraph reports that Jeffrey waived his right to attend. But his fragrant wife Mary was there, with her two sons, and when the decision was announced, she ‘blinked, but otherwise remained inscrutable’. She then ‘stayed calmly in her seat’ while security staff arranged for her to leave through the judges’ corridor.

And as she squeezed past the waiting judges, they sighed with delight. ‘Has she not beauty?’ said one. ‘Has she not fragrance?’ said another. ‘Who would want rubber-insulated sex with a common prostitute?’ said a third. There was silence, as they looked at one another, then hopped in a taxi together.

Posted: 23rd, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Robbie Fowler Is Innocent!

‘THERE are many ways to get into trouble with Robbie Fowler – not all of them the fault of the handsome scally himself, we hasten to add. But the fact is that the man is a magnet for trouble.

‘I was Robbied’

He can’t even visit his old school without someone ending up in hospital. Admittedly, Robbie once more appears to be blameless, but as we say, the fellow seems to operate as a walking advertisement for chaos theory.

The latest incident involves a taxi driver, but has nothing to do with night-clubs and alcohol. The Telegraph reports that Brian Cromer, the taxi driver in question, ran into a 6-ft wall at the end of a fathers’ day race against the Leeds United striker during the sports day at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Toxteth.

He broke both arms and is now suing the school governors for negligence, claiming that he injured himself because there was no finish line and organisers had failed to mark the track. In court he was accused of losing control because he was desperate to beat Robbie Fowler.

‘It’s immaterial to me whether it was Robbie Fowler or anybody else,’ he replied. Fowler himself said that he had wanted to win the race but had ‘slipped’ – the classic all-purpose answer to any enquiry, as all former schoolboys/borstal trainees/soldiers will know.

Judge David Clarke, QC, asked if other fathers were keen to beat him. ‘No one said anything,’ answered the inscrutable scouser.

Posted: 23rd, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Smut On A Plate

‘NO SNIGGERING at the back, please. This is serious. The Telegraph tells of the perilous future facing an important erotic artefact from Roman times.


The artefact in question is a risqué ceramic plate from the rare school of bawdy Renaissance art. Its historical significance is up there with Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

To the untrained – or very naïve – eye, the plate shows a face in profile with an earring and a hair-ribbon. But look closer, and you will see that, as the paper puts it, ‘the picture is made up entirely of phalluses’. And you don’t have to take their word for it: there’s a helpful colour picture to prove it.

And that’s not all. Follow the cryptic clue to read the inscription ‘as a Jew’ (ie, left to right as in Hebrew) and you will find that it reads: ‘Every man looks at me as if I was a head of dicks.’ Shocking but true.

‘It is both erotic and a joke,’ says Tim Wilson, keeper of Western art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The museum is attempting to raise £250,000 to keep the smutty platter in this country.

And who can disagree that Francesco Urbini’s plate should stay in its spiritual home – the land of legendary seaside postcard artist Donald McGill and other distinguished exponents of erotic art?

Aesthetes from John O’Groats to Land’s End will be wringing their sweaty palms as they await its fate.

Posted: 23rd, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0