We'll just have to put it down to a sense-of-irony failure

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The Independent Culture
I JUST don't get it. I know that part of the deal of appearing in print every day is that one licks a finger, holds it aloft to the breeze of change; that one skims the froth of daily news and attempts to establish a light, coherent pattern. Heaven knows, I do my best.

But more and more often, sometimes several times a day, I find myself shaking my head like poor Ronald Reagan used to do. Nope, sorry, nothing there. I don't get it.

I don't get Margaret Cook. I understand that she was a bit cheesed off when, at the very moment when big cars, a government house and posh state dinners were in her sights, Robin fell for Gaynor. I can see that writing a book might have seemed a good way of making things better - she is not the first to believe that spilling your guts on paper is good therapy. And when she boasted in an undignified way about having pulled a tour guide in Ecuador, we blushed on her behalf, but the embarrassment faded as quickly as her book made its way to the remainder shelves.

But now here she is again. In the pages of a once-respectable daily broadsheet, she has been sharing details of the really rather tremendous sex she's been having with her new lover, a retired financial director who is 60 but has the body of 50-year-old. It is so much better, apparently, than sex with Robin which (no, no, no, Margaret) was for years rather half- hearted and ill-tempered.

At first, I thought I understood. This is what we call a mid-life crisis. Normally only men are stupid enough to have one in the public gaze, but in this age of gender equality there is no particular reason why Mrs Cook should not pull back the sheets and treat us all to a sneak peep into her intimate life.

But then the fog descends once more. Woman's Journal magazine has just hired this angry, deluded, innocent, sexually satisfied woman to provide regular advice to the emotionally needy and vulnerable. No, sorry, I'm utterly confused again.

I just don't get the Marquess of Blandford. I had thought that, after countless squalid, crack-related escapades and appearances in court, he could safely be forgotten as just another self-indulgent, over-privileged pinhead with a junk problem. But no, Jamie's back. Now apparently straight, he is to be found in the pages of a once-respectable middle-brow tabloid, pronouncing weightily upon the dope story of the week. If he were Darren Blandford from Crackhouse Mansions, Brixton, the same paper would have rolled out the "PURE EVIL" headlines and condemned anyone paying him for his waffling, predictable opinions.

Or Howard Marks. What on earth is going on here? At the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, from where I'm writing, they were fighting to see this zonked- out former smuggler while, in a nearby tent, a rare appearance by the brilliant American satirist Carl Hiassen was scantly attended. One writes superb, morally attuned fiction about those who live on and by drugs; the other has written a single, plonking memoir about his life with dope - and it's Marks who becomes the adored public figure. Someone explain, please.

I really don't get Richard Whiteley, the grinning charisma bypass who presents a TV quiz. Is he witty? Is he pretty? Has he ever said anything of interest? Is he not the sort of amiable buffer whose bashful facetiousness could clear a room like mustard gas? Yet suddenly - am I going mad? - he's a cult figure. He has a chat show on which his stunned dullness appears to be part of the package. He has been given a diary column in a never- respectable Sunday broadsheet where he fills in the few missing spots in a blank life.

Hang on, I think something's coming through. Could this be our old friend irony? Are we having a vast, sophisticated laugh at Richard's expense? Perhaps it is his very lack of interest that is supposed to be interesting, just as Margaret's emotional confusion make her an expert on the emotions and the druggy life of Jamie and Howard give them moral authority. I think I've got it - it's all just harmless fun.

Like Vinnie Jones. Here's a man whose mad-eyed thuggery on the pitch turned out to be reflected in his knucklehead dealings with a neighbour. What happens to him? He takes his reputation for nastiness into advertising and films, exploits the very loathsomeness of which any sane person would disapprove - and becomes a lovable rogue, adoringly portrayed in respectable broadsheets as the embodiment of good old British spirit.

Sorry, it's gone again. You're on your own. I just don't get it.

Miles Kington is on holiday