BEAR NECESSITIES

GOOD morning. How wonderful to see you. May I say, in a wholly non-sexist way, how lovely you look? Would you like a cup of tea, a bun, a foot massage? It is no trouble at all.
Right. That is quite enough of that. It is not as easy it looks, this being polite and kind lark. But try we must. Selfish sorts have probably been too busy elbowing old ladies away from the last pave rustique on the shelf at Waitrose to notice, but good manners and thoughtfulness are having a bit of a moment at the, er, moment.
For that, thank a small bear in a big hat from Peru. Paddington is the name, and world domination is the game as the furry one returns to cinemas this weekend. Sweet, funny, and a teensy bit sad, Paddington 2 is the kind of film that, in the words of Jack Nicholson’s misanthrope in As Good As it Gets, makes you want to be a better person. No, don’t vomit, this is serious.
Perhaps it is the run up to Christmas, the season to be sentimental, or some sort of delayed hysterical reaction to the Brexit vote, but kindness is making the news in a way it rarely does. There is even a special day, November 13, designated as World Kindness Day. Started by the World Kindness Movement, an international coalition of groups dating from 1997, the day has played host in the past to such good deeds as volunteers handing out free flowers and chocolate, and a mass “hug-in” on Bondi beach.
Kindness has fans in all manner of places. A new book published this week, Obama: An Intimate Portrait, by Pete Souza, the former president’s official photographer, reveals that Obama’s oft repeated advice to his daughters is “Be kind and be useful.” Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, a usually serious newspaper published a piece with the headline, “Let’s look for the good in our politicians”.
Even Donald Trump, the ultimate shoot from the lip and darn the consequences merchant, is joining in. Having spent the race to the White House condemning the Chinese government for doing America wrong on trade (“raping” the US economy, as he put it), President Trump, on a visit to Beijing, decided that President Xi Jinping was really rather a splendid fellow after all. Next thing he’ll be apologising to Hillary for that “lock her up” business.
Still not convinced? I don’t blame you. Looking at the world around us, it takes a stout heart indeed to believe that nice guys can cross the finish line first. Sometimes the nice guys are not even in the race, the bad guys having stolen their trainers. Yet the notion that if we behave well others will respond in kind persists. Religions rely on such lessons. Do unto others as you would be done by, says the Bible. Don’t collect bad karma, teaches Buddhism, lest rotten things said and done come back to haunt you. What goes around comes around, right? Such are the security blankets we wrap around ourselves when the world turns cold.
Calls for people to be kinder are usually accompanied by appeals to the media to stop filling bulletins and newspapers with end to end misery. The former BBC news anchor Martyn Lewis famously made the news himself for advocating such as thing, much to the guffaws of his peers.
That is the trouble with being polite and kind: it is not quite enough to do it alone. It is a team sport or it is nothing. It is one thing for Paddington’s Aunt Lucy to tell him that, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right,” but she never had to stand in a Sauchiehall Street taxi queue at 2am. She lives in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima, while Paddington’s London makes Mary Poppins’ idyllic capital look straight outta Compton.
Still. Deep breaths, deep breaths. At the end of the new Paddington film there is a very sweet (what else) dedication to the character’s creator, Michael Bond, who died this summer. Bond once recalled where he got the idea for the label Paddington wore round his neck, the one that said, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
It was from the evacuees he saw at railway stations during the Second World War, children with nothing more to their name than the clothes they stood up in, a suitcase, and a hope that wherever they were going, some nice grown ups would look after them. 
As Bond once told the Belfast Telegraph, “The label is important because it says ‘thank you’. Paddington is a very polite bear. I think we live in an age where politeness has gone out the window in lots of ways.”
Well said that man. So let us hope that the feel good spirit of Paddington lasts. Is tea-time tomorrow too much to ask?

SPLISH SPLASH

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HER Majesty’s media does not get many chances to use a swimsuit shot when reporting a Cabinet appointment, and my goodness they were determined to make the most of it when Penny Mordaunt became International Development Secretary.
Besides once appearing in the learn-to-dive reality television show Splash!, the Royal Navy reservist has a stint as a magician’s assistant on her cv. The various profiles of Ms Mordaunt generally pitch her as a game for a laugh sort, as evidenced by her taking the wheel of the Leave battle bus during the referendum campaign. Nothing says “sense of humour”, after all, like that £350m a week for the NHS pledge.
But before the waves close in over her predecessor, let us not forget her contribution to the gaiety of the nation this week. Not for Priti Patel a short ride in a ministerial car before resigning. She had to fly from Nairobi with thousands tracking her flight via the Flightradar24 website. It sets a high bar for resignations in future. If the next does not involve a parachute jump into Downing Street we’ll be most disappointed.

JACK THE DONALD SLAYER

CURIOUSLY, there has not been much in the way of celebrations to mark one year since Donald J Trump was elected.
Yes, it really has only been a year since millions woke and said to their other halves, “Yeah, right. Do I look like I’m a few stars and stripes short of a flag?”
Since the presidential mammy is from Scotland, BBC1 Scotland felt compelled to air a documentary, Donald Trump: Scotland’s President. There was not a lot new, but presenter Glenn Campbell did manage to tease something out of former First Minister, now Lord, Jack McConnell.
Recalling a meeting in New York with Mr Trump, then just a plain old billionaire businessman, Mr M saw that his companion had a microphone hidden in his tie, left over from an earlier press conference. I like to record the media, Mr Trump told him. But much to Mr M’s consternation he showed no signs of removing the mic for their meeting.
“I wasn’t having it,” Mr McConnell told Campbell. Jack the giant slayer. Who knew?