Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 82

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


‘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

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

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

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

Sandcastle Sheikh

‘ALL hail and tidings glad be with you as his immortal majesty the King of Bahrain welcomes you to read his sensational new column in the Independent.

‘Life is, how do you say it, a beach’

Also syndicated in the Times, exciting new writer Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa tells the news like it is, challenging the old ways in his indomitable style.

Or rather his ghost writers do, taking an entire page to applaud the King’s work in championing democracy in the Gulf, creating improved conditions for the Gulf’s women and saying how he thinks Jade is more lovely that an eagle flying into the setting sun, and she WILL win Big Brother.

The King is in Britain for just a few days, and we should try and do more to make him feel at home, and copying the French has never looked so appealing.

The Guardian sees les Francais cover an area of Paris beneath tonnes of sand, thus moulding the city’s first beach resort, Paris-Plage.

A dip in the nearby River Seine might turn the Sheik’s robes an odd shade of green, but he could surely feel right at home among the rolling Parisian dunes, the 80 palm trees, beach huts, bars and boules pitches.

The oasis of sand is the brainchild of Jean-Christophe Choblet, Paris city hall’s ‘creator of events’.

And he plans more. Next year, the beach will come with two swimming pools, some floating scenery and an area reserved for Les Touristes Anglais – a large pen containing a space for 70-a-side football matches, synchronised German baiting and kiosks selling edible Pastisse-sun-cream-jelly.

‘Luv-er-ly,’ as they will soon be saying in Paris.

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

We Dunnae Ken

‘AS Parisians burn, Scots simmer. From the dry side of a pac-a-mac, Scotland’s beaches are every bit as welcoming as the rolling sands of Bahrain or Paris, yet oddly the Scots still fail to seduce holidaymakers to their shores.

Angus was ostracised by the group after it was discovered he was wearing boxers

And it may have something to do with the language they employ. Despite the best efforts of the likes of Robbie Burns and Rab C Nesbitt, the Scottish dialect is going down the shunky.

The Times reports that to the consternation of some Scots MPs, signs at the new Scottish Parliament will be written in the received English dialect.

All signs at the building in Holyrood, Edinburgh, are to be printed in English, Gaelic and Braille.

Oot go ‘Nae waey oot’, ‘Dinna blether please’, and ‘Debaitin chaumber’ and in come ‘exit’, ‘silence please’ and ‘debating chamber’.

Irene McGugan, a SNP MSP, says the move is in breach of the European agreement on minority languages.

‘Scots is one of Scotland’s indigenous languages and is entitled to equal rights, alongside Gaelic and English,’ she says.

She wished the visiting Sheikh well (‘May yer lums reek lang and weil’), revealed her plans for the rest of the day (‘Am gonna redup noo an’gaw fera bevy’) and gave the Times’ journalist in Scotland, the wonderfully named Shirley English, a lesson in Scottish affection.

Kiss, kiss.

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

Foreign Bodies

‘HAS anyone noticed that there are lots of foreigners in the world today? Over in Greece, there are thousands, while in China and India there are positively millions of them.

NHS unveils its requirements for a modern nurse

And sometimes, as in the instance of King Kolomist Sheikh Hamad, they come to Blighty to work.

The Telegraph spots a few such arrivals in the operating theatre at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals, London.

It also spots Mr David Nunn, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, performing an operation that, allegedly, required more instruments.

So, as the story goes, Mr Nunn turned to his team and asked for some help. ‘I was met with a selection of bemused reactions,’ he says.

And as a result of his actions his superiors have accused him of racism and threatened him with disciplinary action.

For his part, Mr Dunn tosses in something about ‘political correctness’ before praising the nurses’ skills, if not grasp of English.

A spokeswoman for the nurses said: ‘Geesa stoockie for the swally in the gutties’. And we’re reet behind her on that.

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

Scum Of The Earth

‘MINUS 44. It’s nothing to be proud of, is it? In fact, as scores go, it’s pathetic. Yet that’s the score awarded to British tourists in a poll of the world’s tourist operator.

The scourge of Europe’s beaches

Brits came bottom, behind Israelis, who managed only a paltry minus six. But most galling of all, is the action at the top end of the chart, where the Germans are sitting ugly with an astonishing plus 41. Americans come second with 32.

This really puts Britain’s achievement into perspective. The Telegraph quotes the survey as describing us as ‘the least wanted visitors in the world’. And we all know what happens when you tell people they’re not wanted.

We are rude, tight-fisted and make no effort to speak foreign languages. The Irish and Danes were also regarded as badly behaved, but couldn’t compete with the Brits across a wide range of negative characteristics.

‘A little effort goes a long way in a foreign country,’ said Dermot Haplin, managing director of Expedia travel agents, who conducted the survey. Indeed it does. The message is clear: anyone wishing to challenge the British are going to have to pull their fingers out – and wave them rudely in the face of their foreign hosts.

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

Aussies In Top Gear

‘THE TIMES continues to plough its own distinctive furrow, and reserves space on its front page for a curious report of the impending journey of Ian Thorpe, aka ‘The Thorpedo’, from Australia to Germany, en route to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Team GB gets ready to make a splash

The 19-year-old swimming champion will not be wearing the usual uniform of sporting teams on tour: blazers with crests, or logo-strewn leisurewear. Instead, he will resemble some kind of comic-book super-hero, clad in ‘humidi-flyer’ mask, ‘jet-skin decompression pants’ and white stockings.

This outfit is designed to prevent dehydration, aid circulation and discourage deep-vein thrombosis. The entire swimming squad will be wearing this outlandish attire as part of a typically single-minded attempt by the Aussies to sweep the board in the world’s 27th-most-important tournament. The assorted Duckling Club members representing Great Britain will be watching with trepidation.

The outfits are the work of the Australian Institute of Sport and are intended to combat the detrimental effects of long-haul flights. But there are other advantages too. Those jet-skin decompression pants should come in handy if anyone decides to have a crack at former Test cricketer David Boon’s record 50-plus tinnies on the flight to the 1989 Ashes series.

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

Scoth Red Mist

‘TALKING of heavy drinking, Charles Kennedy is in the news today, as the recipient of a rare apology from Jeremy Paxman. The Independent reports that the grand inquisitor was adjudged to have overstepped the mark during a routine ‘Paxoing’ of the red-headed Liberal Democrat leader on Newsnight.

Another stuffing from Paxo

‘How much do you drink?’ asked Paxman, a trifle impertinently. ‘Moderately, socially, as well you know,’ replied Kennedy. ‘I’ll be the judge of that, ginger nut,’ interrupted Paxman, ‘I hear you put away at least a bottle of Teacher’s every night.’

At this point things deteriorated rapidly, as Paxo eventually got off the subject of drinking, and started to quiz the young supremo on his impending nuptials. ‘Why have you decided to get married?’ he asked. ‘Because I’m in love,’ replied Kennedy coolly. Red rag to a bull, that. Paxo was off again. ‘Where did you find her? A blind school?’ he sneered. ‘Bit of a dog is she?’

What followed was too distressing to repeat for a family audience. ‘I am sorry if any offence has been caused,’ said Paxman. ‘Maybe there was one question too many about drink.’ Nonsense. You stick to your guns, man. The public has a right to know. ‘

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

Benny Is Innocent

‘PASSING the buck is nothing new in government, as anyone with a passing interest in our current leaders will know. But the Daily Telegraph carries a story that surely trumps the feeble efforts of Jo Moore and her pals.

No Angel

‘The Government is blaming Benny Hill, the comedian famous for his sketches involving scantily-clad girls, for its failure to cut teenage pregnancies,’ the story begins.

At which point one waits for the weasel words that show that the facts have been twisted for the sake of a delicious headline. But the weasel words don’t come. Indeed, the phrase ‘Benny Hill culture’ comes straight from the mouth of Cathy Hamlyn, the head of the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Unit.

There’s no answer to that, so we won’t bother trying. Instead, we shall devote what little space remains to a curious paragraph tacked on the end of the report. According to his biography, Hill, who died in 1992, maintained a ‘firm distaste for intercourse’.

The paper offers no comment, but adds that his father sold condoms for a living. With Hill setting his cap against carnality, and his old dad in the prophylactic trade, it is hard – though enjoyable – to imagine a less likely scapegoat.

But rest assured, that won’t stop the government trying.

Posted: 18th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

In A Hole

‘THE TIMES has long ploughed its own furrow when it comes to selecting its lead stories. It likes to give space to the arcane, the idiosyncratic, and, occasionally, the downright baffling.

One of them is still a little woosie

But it’s not for us to speculate on their reasons; we are simply here to report upon the news according to Wapping. And today, the former paper of record chooses to lament the fate of ‘Notorious caddie stuck in his bunker at 19th hole’.

The words ‘notorious caddie’ immediately narrows down the field to one name: Miles Byrne. He is the man whose fortunes took a sharp dip when he packed Ian Woosnam’s bag incorrectly, and included an illegal number of clubs – an error widely thought to have cost Woosie last year’s Open.

When he then overslept two weeks later during another tournament, it was the last straw for his long-suffering employer, and he was given a one-way ticket to… Well, to the Boomerang pub in Bray, since you ask. That’s where he goes for his R’n’R, when he’s not earning a living as a labourer.

He occasionally interrupts his drinking to nip round to the bookies’. ‘Locals say he is going through a hard time,’ remarks the paper, a trifle unnecessarily. And that’s it.

Labourer drinks in public house and frequents local bookmakers – news wires will be buzzing all over the world.

Posted: 18th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Never Hurry A Surrey

‘CIVILISATION is continually being traced back to earlier and earlier periods of history, through the discovery of human-style skulls, early tools and metals, and all manner of pots, paintings and other artefacts.

Scientists display new Mayan find

But the Guardian carries news of the most extraordinary discovery yet. ‘Frothy chocolate ‘dates back to Mayans’,’ announces the headline, and the report goes on to say that crusty smears of hot chocolate have been discovered on the bottom of cooking pots in Colha in Belize.

The pots are dated as around 900 – 250 BC. This is clearly the earliest known example of what we now know as Terry and June culture – the agreeably refined rival to the ‘Benny Hill culture’ that co-existed alongside it in ancient times.

‘The discovery pushes back the use of chocolate as food by about 1,000 years,’ the paper concludes. All very impressive, but there’s more. The find also drives back the use of doilies, tartan shortbread tins and laminated hot drinks coasters by a staggering 2,873 years.

Warm salutations then to the agreeable Mayan people, whose solid domesticity has been proved right in the best way possible – by withstanding the ruthless march of so-called ‘progress’ and reaching its apogee in the leafy civilisation of mid-20th-century Surrey. ‘

Posted: 18th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment