BRIDGE fans would like it to be recognised as an Olympic sport. And why not? A sport, according to Chambers, my bible, is "a game or activity". Bridge falls into both categories, which is why it should be part of the Olympics.

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Once the door is open, though, through it must surely pass other card games, including whist and rummy, at both of which my father was a master.

He was likewise adept at bowls and dominoes, and would regularly return home of a Saturday ­evening staggering under the weight of prizes he'd won, usually bumper boxes of Quality Street. Now, come to think of it, he could easily have usurped Chris Hoy as our greatest ever Olympian, for he was a canny player of Monopoly and could be devilishly hard to beat at Ludo.

Needless to say, the Olympic gnomes are not likely to give the nod to bridge, apparently because it does not involve ­excessive expenditure of energy. This, I would argue, is precisely why, in these environmentally sensitive times, it should be embraced, as should other energy-less sports, such as chess, draughts and backgammon.

One needs to be open-minded about such matters. Once upon a time, it was possible to win a gold medal as part of a tug o' war team. No more, alas. Ditto caber tossing and teeth flossing. What is the world coming to?


IT'S an old saw, beloved of meeja types in New York: if you want to be a success on TV on the other side of the Pond you can't have a beard or an accent.

Poor Piers Morgan, he doesn't have a beard but he does have an accent. This is one of the reasons why his CNN show has bombed; another is that he kept banging on about America's gun laws, which he doesn't like, but many Americans do, which is their prerogative. If they want to keep shooting themselves, who are we to tell them to desist?

Mr Morgan may now be on his way back to Blighty, a tad older but no wiser.


IN an effort to refloat the Greek economy, I have been consuming as many of that country's beans as I can manage.

Lidl used to supply them but has stopped. For a while Tesco stepped into the breach but it, too, no longer stocks them. Searches in other stores have proved fruitless. The Home Secretary and I are now down to our last tin and you can almost touch the desperation in the air.

Should anyone out there know where such beans can be obtained through legal means please let me know. You will not regret it. Mark any messages "urgent".


NOT one but two musicals in the West End are on the brink of closure. The first is Stephen Ward by Shir Andra Lloyd Webbed-Feet, the other is From Here To Shepherd's Bush by Sir Tim Rice.

Both geniuses now say they may never produce another musical. Cue national rejoicing!

I am not a fan of musicals. For my sins, I have seen Phantom Of The Opera twice; once would have been more than enough.

Sir Tim says musicals have been torpedoed by rival shows, such as Mamma Mia, which give the masses what they want.

That's the trouble with the masses. I was brought up on a diet of spaghetti hoops and The Sound Of Music, which my ­grandmother went to see at the cinema whenever we unclipped her handcuffs. She was the millionth person to see it in Edinburgh, for which she was allowed in free and got her picture in the Evening News.

That's what we called fame in those days.

MY old chum Andra O'Hagan, writer extraordinaire, has a riveting essay in the latest edition of the London Review of Books in which he describes his stint as ghost writer to Julian ­Blancmange, the numpty behind WikiLeaks.

Mr O'Hagan was thrust into the role by another dear chum, Jamie Byng, heidbummer of ­Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate, who paid Mr Blancmange £600,000 upfront for his autobiography.

Reading Mr O'Hagan's account, it is obvious that Mr Blancmange was never likely to fulfil his side of the bargain. Like all geeks, he spent nights awake and days asleep which, unless you are Balzac, is not conducive to literary composition.

Mr O'Hagan was patience personified, but even he began to lose sympathy with his subject, not least when Mr Blancmange couldn't even be bothered to read more than a few pages of the work-in-progress.

Perhaps even more ­alarming, reports Mr O'Hagan, were Mr Blancmange's manners.

He stands accused of not ­holding doors open, never washing dishes and of eating food, including puddings, with his bare hands. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated in a civilised kitchen.

I am pleased to note that Mr O'Hagan thinks it deplorable. He, I'm certain, would never tackle a meal without the aid of what we hereabouts call Western eating utensils.


AS an adrenalin junkie and thrill-seeker I am forever in pursuit of excitement. To this end, I spent a pulsating hour in the National Library perusing the Church of Scotland Yearbook.

Its editor is Rev Ronald Blakey. Like moi, he is obsessed with all things bright and beautiful, all squiggles great and small. High among Rev Blakey's concerns are subtitles and how what often appears on the television screen bears only slight resemblance to what is actually being said.

For example, he recalls: "There was the footballer who was making a more rapid recovery from injury than was expected: 'It is due',' said the subtitle, 'to twice daily fizz yo'." "Was this," ponders the divine, "a new high-energy drink? No, it was subtitle-speak for the popular abbreviation of 'physiotherapy'."

Time for one more? "With mounting trouble in Egypt and concerns for the safety of traffic using the famous canal, our Foreign Secretary was seen to warn Britons to 'avoid all non-essential trips to sewers'."

QUOTE of the Week: Rebekah Brooks, ex-editrix of the Noos o' the Screws, on trial for sanctioning phone-hacking: "I don't think anybody, me included, knew it was illegal."