IS my old chum, Alexei Salmonella, really One of Us?
I ask, because he is possessed of the kind of optimism that some might call boundless and others mindless. Whatever it is, it's uncommon hereabouts.
Announcing the referendum to end all referendums, he said his advisors had told him not to appear triumphalist. This he just about managed. But what he could not hide was the belief that come 2014, all will be hunky-dory and that Teuchters will cast off the "90-minute patriot" slur and embrace a bright new future in which Campbeltown Loch will flow with whisky and haggis will once again roam free among heather-clad hills. What a day that'll be.
AS I am sure I do not need to remind readers of this throbbing organ, the world is grievously divided in many ways, not least between those who know how to tie a bow tie and those who don't.
I, alas, am one of the latter. However I have decided to make it an ambition in my declining years to become one of the former. To which end I packed a bow tie for the Booker Prize shindig. It came with instructions, which insisted that tying a bow tie is "simple" and can be mastered within minutes, thus allowing one to move on to other things one should do before one dies, such as skydiving from 23 miles above Tranent.
Paying careful attention to the instructions, I sat in front of a mirror and draped the bow tie around my neck, making sure that both ends were equal. I then put the right end over the left end and tied a knot, as you do when tying shoe laces. Then, with the left end – or was it the right? – I made a loop, taking care to position the narrowest part of the tie over the shirt button, having previously, of course, put on the shirt. At this point I got confused and called in my back-up team, ie the Home Secretary, who set about the task with the scary efficiency which got her to where she is today.
After around half an hour, though, the HS declared that as life was too short to stuff a mushroom it was also too short to tie a bow tie and disappeared in a puff of perfume. Unabashed, I carried on regardless, determined not to allow a mere bow tie defeat me, which the damn thing did. This tale may run and run. I crave your patience.
I fear the Booker has had its day. Much was said by the speechifiers about literacy, Britain having fallen below Estonia in that pecking order, and too little about literature. The chairman of the judges, Sir Pedro Stodgy, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, compared novels to "our great cities and seaside towns" which, he said, we all like to revisit. The man's bonkers.
The audience was composed of has-beens, maybes, grandees, politicians, bankers, broadcasters, celebs and luvvies. Ever gregarious, the Home Secretary complimented a woman on her dress, to which she responded with a battery of hiccups. "It was looking at the paintings that did it," she explained when she recovered. The winner was Hilary Mantel for pretty much the same book she wrote a few years ago.
ANENT – hey ho! – Sir Jimmy Shovel, I wonder what the effect of the scandal has been on cigar sales. Previously, I always thought there was something comical – as opposed to sinister – about men who smoke cigars. The exemplar was Groucho Marx, whose cigar may have been an extension of his snout.
Mr Marx is placed high on any list of cigar smokers, which is invariably topped by Winston Churchill, whose daughter Mary was also a keen smoker of cheroots. Indeed, the pair used to compete to see who could make the longest end of ash.
In general, though, few women smoke cigars. One old aunt of mine did it in the days when even chimneys smoked. But I digress.
My dear and revered friend Joe Farrell, professor extraordinaire, informs me that in a book that I co-edited, The Secret Annexe (copies available from all good branches of Oxfam), there is a diary entry by Auberon Waugh in which he relates how Maggie Thatcher values Mr Shovel's advice. Some may think this unlikely, others that it explains a lot.
BARACK Obmigod appears to have had the edge over Mitt-Romney-Marsh in the latest presidential debate. Good for him!
Meanwhile, our chums across the water are less concerned with content than they are with style, which is why we so admire them. In particular, they are exercised by the impoliteness of the two rivals who, it seems, have been interrupting each other, which in the US is a no-no where much stress is put on civility in public discourse.
Needless to say, this is something of which I approve. Listen, for instance, to our radio and TV presenters, who rarely allow interviewees to finish their sentences. One would like to think this is because the presenters are eager to cut through the bulls*** to get at the heart of the matter in the greater interest of democracy. But more often than not, one suspects, it is because they are in love with the sound of their own voices.
MY old friend, Hoonter Davies, has yet another new book out. It's called The John Lennon Letters, which needs no gloss.
This is Mr Davies's umpteenth book. Soon to be 77, he has published a book a fortnight for the last 100 years. His oeuvre includes the ghosted autobiography of the ghastly Wayne Rooney and the greatest history of Tottenham Hotspur ever penned.
Prior to that he wrote the novel Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, which was set in Carlisle, which not many are. Mr Hoonter also wrote a sterling biography of The Beatles. Such prolificity is a wonder to behold.
Another old friend, Iain Crichton Smith, now sadly no longer with us, was similarly productive. Norman MacCaig once asked if there was anything the matter with him. The reason for his concern? "Iain doesn't seem to have published anything this week."
An ad agency, eager to revive Edinburgh's fortunes, has come up with the slogan Incredinburgh. Whatever happened to Auld Reekie's riposte to Glasgow's Miles Better – Edinburgh's Slightly Superior?
Hilary Mantel won the Booker, again, for Wolf Hall II. Ho hum -
Barack and Mitt are a feisty double act, but which is the funny one?
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