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Calvinists inclined to be everybody's friend while things get worse for Nobody's Darling

FOR reasons best known to Jon Snow, Channel 4 sent Jacob Rees-Mogg - "the most English man you'll ever meet" - north to see what in the name o' the wee man is going on beyond The Wall.

Mr Rees-Mogg, a Dodo MP, clapped a couple of cows and chuntered: "I've always said cattle are essentially conservative." Though he may have meant Conservative. The beasts having no vote, Mr R-M went first to Arbroath, then Dundee.

In the latter he was likened to Where's Willie/Wally and asked by a wired-up youth: "What is it a' aboot?" Which, now one comes to consider it, is not such a bad question. Then Mr R-M ate cake, complimented a fisherman on his lobster, and quoted Churchill. He was next seen in the Channel 4 studio, having, in the words of Mr Snow, returned from "the wilds" of Scotland. Ye Gods!

AS you may well imagine, following the launch last weekend of the Calvinist Brotherhood, I have been inundated almost to the point of drowning with expressions of interest from right-minded - and I don't mean politically! - punters wishing to know more and sending blank cheques.

Some have asked if the CB is compatible with the Anent Preservation Society. Of course it is. One can hardly imagine the existence of one without the other. Others, however, would like to know how the Brotherhood differs from the Masons, which grieves me.

The CB is to the Masons what water is to fire. Members of the Brotherhood do not wear their trousers rolled or indulge in funny handshakes. Nor do we lodge in Lodges. Our big idea is ideas, the bigger the better. If, perchance, we see a box, we are determined to think outside it. Nothing is outwith our compass. We think, moreover, that only the thinkable is unthinkable, to think which is unthinkable to right-thinking Brothers. That, in a nutshell, is what we think. The lines are now open to anyone eager to join.

POPE Francis, doubtless concerned that his flock may become extinct, has told them to stop keeping cats and dogs and have weans instead. In short, he wants Catholics to go forth and multiply like rabbits.

But are the two incompatible? Can't we have it all, cats, dogs, children, canaries, geckos, you name it? Meanwhile, the Italian birthrate has fallen to a new low. Last year, a little over half a million bambinos entered Pizzaland. This may seem a lot but it isn't. Year on year, more Italians are dying than are being born. Something, says the Pope, must be done, but what? Allow priests to become more than metaphorical fathers?

HAS my dear friend Alistair Dahling mislaid his marbles? I ask in all seriousness. Mr Dahling, as every teuchter knows, has been languishing this past wee while in No-man's land, desperately trying to defend the redundant Union. And what does he get for his pains? Pelted by rotten fruit not from cybergnats and claymore-wielders but from those in his own camp who insist he lacks lustre and thrust dirks into his back.

It has all obviously gone to the poor fellow's head. In an interview in the Noo Statesperson he has compared Alexei Salmonella to Kim Jong-Il, erstwhile leader of North Korea. Not surprisingly, the Yes folk took umbrage at this slur, to which the No bodies replied: "It was a joke and should be treated as such." Ho-ho! Who, one wonders, does Mr Dahling remind one of? Neville Chamberlain, who'd do anything for a quiet life? Joey Goebbels, the renowned propagandist? A human punch bag? I jest! I jest!

TO the Oxfam bookshop on Glasgow's Byres Road where I acquire yet another book featuring my hero, Harold Ross, founding editor of the New Yorker magazine. Like moi, Mr Ross, who was of Irish-Scottish extraction, was a hick who liked to ask simple questions, which led some people to think he was as daft as a brush. Like moi, aussi, he strove to hide his intelligence and ignorance by pretending he knew nothing. Unlike moi, his hair stood up as if he'd been electrocuted.

He was a great chum of another of my heroes, HL Mencken, aka the Sage of Baltimore, both of them shared a predilection for boobery. Put any smutty thoughts from your filthy minds! "I'm the boob," said Mr Mencken, "who asks the waiter what is especially good on the menu." "I'm the boob," countered Mr Ross, "who says 'Fine' when the barber holds the mirror so I can look at the back of my neck."

SO faretheeweel Harry Stopes-Roe, son of Marie Stopes of birth control fame, who has shuffled off this mortal coil, aged 90. Thanks to his fruitcake mama, Mr S-R had a somewhat unconventional upbringing.

For example, she forbade him to read books lest he pick up "second-hand thoughts". She also insisted he wear skirts until he was 11 because she did not believe in the "ugly and heating-in-the-wrong places garments which most men are condemned to wear". For the same reason she did not want him to ride a bike.

Ms Stopes was 44 when she had Harry and, deciding he needed a companion, advertised for "a little boy between the ages of 20 months and two-and-a-quarter years" with a view to adoption, adding that the candidate should be "absolutely healthy, intelligent and not circumcised".

In view of all of which it will be no surprise to learn that Ms Stopes was an ardent anti-Semite who campaigned to prevent poor people having children, believed that selective breeding could save human things, and who once sent Adolf Hitler a volume of her poetry.

Who knows what he made of it? My dear friend Muriel Spark doubtless read it. She knew and much disliked Ms Stopes when they duelled at the Poetry Society. Mrs Spark always thought it a pity that it was Ms Stopes who pioneered birth control and not her hapless mother.

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