Diary

On Saturday I idly observed to Kuku, my newsagent, that the world was a better place without Ronnie Kray. As he nodded enthusiastically, a customer said: "You'd better not let my girlfriend hear you saying that." Now, this is west London, not the East End, and he was in his twenties, so we gazed at him incredulously and asked why.

Him: " 'Cos she's a great fan of the Krays. Has all the memorabilia and that." Me: "What does she like about them?" Him: "Just thinks they're really great." Kuku: "But they were murderers." Him: "Yeah, well I'm not saying they weren't out of order sometimes, but they never did proper people no harm." Me: "Ronnie was a psychopath. He carved people up." Him: "Only the one. And they done anyone what mugged old ladies or raped children. Looked after their own. You gotta admire that."

Kuku and I, having failed to make any headway during the next few minutes, tried another tack. "What's wrong with you that she likes you?" I inquired. "How do you mean?" "Well, if the Krays are to her taste, what attracts her about you?" " 'S'only her hobby," he said comfortably, and left me to peruse headlines like "OK, he was an evil killer but he never swore at old ladies" and photographs of Ron on the town with the young Barbara Windsor.

It all reminds me of Edna O'Brien and Bianca Jagger gazing mistily into Gerry Adams's flinty eyes, while in Northern Ireland ordinary people from both tribes say things like: "Sure, the lads overdid it breaking that 14-year-old's arms and legs, but you got to admit that'll stop him joy- riding for a bit."

I have two crumbs of comfort for anyone who found the US lionising of Gerry Adams hard to bear. First, my American sources tell me that local press coverage of his visit was sparse; celebs may have queued up, but for the general public Adams proved to be last year's novelty. Second, for most of the time he was dogged by a quartet from the Belfast-based Families Against Intimidation and Terror, whose banners urged him to have the beatings stopped. Adams waved and smiled at the tiny picket the first few times, which demonstrated remarkable chutzpah considering he knew the IRA had blown up the wife of one of them in 1993 and last December had caused the suicide of the son of another, following a vicious assault for glue-sniffing. Later, however, he took to dodging them and he cannot have been pleased when Bill Clinton unexpectedly included in one of his speeches an appeal for an end to beatings.

Susan Wheatley sent me a postcard with a PS: " `There once was a lady in Bantry/Who kept her false teeth in the pantry ...' but who can complete this limerick?" I instantly rang my expert, who confidently promised a response within 48 hours. When I rang after 49 to remind him he pleaded sickness, wife just out of hospital and difficulty with the rhyme, so I'm throwing the knotty problem open to the public.

I've always had difficulty with St Patrick's Day. As a child in Dublin I was annually downcast by the rain-sodden, Eastern European-style parade of sad floats advertising Jacob's biscuits and Bear Brand nylons. At the time I would have given anything for the American "faith-and-begorrah" vulgarity of pipe bands, leprechauns and drum majorettes that as an adult I loathe. I blame my late mother for turning me at an impressionable age against anything smacking of Oirishness - "ersatz", she used to say, with a shudder. She had a tremendous talent for invective, so I regret she has not been around to comment on the St Patrick's Day merchandise that has recently burgeoned in Ireland. Kitsch-minded Irish friends send me the most tasteless offerings they can find. A particularly fine example this year was a large clump of living shamrock in a plastic lapel-holder decorated with the tricolour, accompanied by the usual explanatory baloney about how Patrick used the plant to explain the Trinity to "the Ancient High Kings of Ireland". These days it could more usefully be deployed to explain the modern scholarly view that Patrick is a composite of three different chaps.

I affixed the shamrock to the English friend who insisted on taking me to the Imperial Arms in the King's Road for a celebratory lunch of the best Irish food in London. During the excellent meal I felt a misplaced twinge of compassion for Newt Gingrich's guests, who were fed - for some reason that eludes me - on corned beef and carrots.

A few more choice selections from my Church-of-England-and-stuff correspondence: "It depends what you mean by stuff" (Anthony Faulkner); "Now, there are three points I'd like us to consider about stuff" (Desmond Gudgin); and "Stuff is good for you. Or perhaps not" (Pat Gulliford).

While on matters theological, I must take issue with the woman who last week on Radio 4's Thought for the Day regretted that no one ever walked around graveyards any more. This was a singularly ill-timed remark, for I was just embarking on one of those periods in my life when I spend some hours every day tramping around the fine specimen across the road, muttering into a dictating machine the first draft of a crime novel. Apart from being able to walk up and down and talk to myself without interruption, there is in this cemetery the added bonus of being able to get names for characters from sources that won't sue. Victorian headstones have in the past provided me with such magnificent names as Buckbarrow, Runcible and Wristbarge. And you'd be surprised how quickly one ceases to be embarrassed by being overheard saying crossly to a machine things like "The trouble with you, young feller-me-lad, is that you've no respect for your elders and betters."

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices