Diary

I've had little sleep this week owing to heat, midges (I feature prominently in all their gourmet guides) and Irish novelists, whom I am reading incessantly because I am a judge of the Irish Times Literary Awards and my shortlists (fiction, non-fiction and poetry) are due by 1 August. I had assumed that among the 30-plus novels there would be quite a lot of discardable dross, but alas, no: all deserve to be read. Since many are deeply gloomy, my nights are dominated by images of characters enduring various kinds of mental and physical anguish. When I've been through the lot I'm going to spend a couple of days reading nothing but PG Wodehouse. (Meanwhile, I'm glad of your limericks.)

In the Sun it was an important week for sport. First there was great excitement because Gazza is to become a Dadda, followed the next day by the sad news that, nonetheless, he had been dumped by the pregnant Shezza. (Fear not, the latest word is that they are to be reunited for the sake of what will no doubt be known as the Babba.) Then there was the necessity to mark the British Open Golf championship appropriately. "Doll in one" was the headline to the caption for the Page 3 girl on the opening day. "Wood you believe it? It seems all the hunky young golfers have got their iron [sic] lovely Lisa Bangert, 22. And why not? Our Mansfield swee-tee is the only birdie many of them will ever see." (Two days later I checked again and found "Putterly gorgeous Angela ... with pins like hers they're queuing up to be her sugar-caddy".) Truly the Sun is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Koloss, the American food group, has launched a takeover bid for Red October, the Moscow sweet factory, purveyor since before the revolution of such legendary Russian delicacies as Clumsy Bear chocolates. Privatised last year, the firm's shares are mainly held by its workers, who are being urged by management to hold on to them. Has anyone suggested to the Russians the Chancellor Clarke method of deterring the small fry from selling their shares by harshly taxing their modest profits?

I was fascinated to learn how the royal-watcher Ingrid Seward could manage to cobble together a full-length biography of young Prince Edward. Having perused an extract last week in the Daily Mail, I now understand that the trick is to omit no detail, however slight. We read, for instance, that Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Prince's inamorata, was discovered by Debrett's Peerage to be the sixth cousin once removed of the 11th Viscount Molesworth. This reminded me of a German academic, who when someone dismissed a piece of information as unimportant, reared up in Teutonic horror and cried passionately: "Everyzing is of importance."

Now to bring you up to date with complicated happenings in the insults department. Mike Cox, who accused me of being "a tight Welsh git", now writes: "Sorry you were upset about the Welsh thing; deceptive things, photographs", thus compounding his offence. It was Andrew Lewis who denounced me as a "pompous English trout" and thus bears the responsibility for all the ensuing erudite discussion about trout as abusive epithet, trouts in milk and so on. Two addenda. My friend Roger Leclerc points out that in 1483 "to trout" meant "to curdle", which has implications both for milk and for insults. And the tenant of my affections, who having been abroad has come to the debate late, went to the heart of the matter with his explanation that "trout" was used as a term of abuse for the simple reason that to the human eye it looks particularly fat, stupid and ugly.

Meanwhile, in the immigrants' newspaper, the Irish Post - where I come frequently under stern criticism for being a lickspittle to the British Establishment - Padraig O'Conchuir wishes to find an Irish equivalent to "Uncle Tom" to apply to the Professor of Peace Studies in Bradford for offences to do with speaking well of the English language. Having proposed "Uncle Pat", Padraig continued: "Judging from your correspondence columns, Ruth Dudley Edwards is the feminine example which would spring to the lips of most readers so she would qualify as an 'Aunt Patricia'" - although he offers "Aunt Biddy" as an alternative. "What," he ends disarmingly "does Ruth herself think?"

What I think is that I have to find some way of making money out of being insulted. After all, Alan Bryans, a college lecturer at Northumberland College of Art and Technology has just won a claim for racial discrimination mainly because a colleague called him an "Irish prat". Mind you, I have to admit in his defence that another colleague dubbed him "Gerry Adams". Now that's an insult that might upset even me.

Those of you newcomers who are in agony about the meaning of "listowel" need to know that it derives from a small town near Limerick and refers to the opening two lines of a limerick that the author cannot finish. I'm awash in limericks and related correspondence, but this week, to salute the end of the parliamentary session, Poetry Corner goes exclusively political. First, Mike Bradshaw:

The Right Honorable Michael

Portillo,

Affects a tonsorial billow.

This Iberian whim

May look fetching on him,

But not on an ordinary fellow.

And to show we're even-handed as between Tory Michaels, here is Diana Brazier's "Gathering Clouds":

Michael the archangel,

On cloud of principle he,

Came flying down from Westland,

And made us Thatcher-free.

Michael avenging angel

On cloud as black as pitch,

Drove the miners into hell,

And made our rivals rich.

Michael innocent angel,

Hovering on cloud Scott-free,

Waits in the wings of Major's play,

And "Me-PM" will be.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones