Hit & Run: Relax, it's only politics
Thursday 14 January 2010
To be fair to David Cameron, it was Holly Willoughby who asked him how the demands of the top job might affect his family life. What was he going to say? But, never one to miss out on a bit of Brown-bashing, Cameron took the opportunity to land an easy blow from the safety of the This Morning sofa. The wheels of any government he leads would spin a little more slowly, he said, to leave more time for R'n'R – something as familiar to the workaholic incumbent as R'n'B.
It's not the first time Cameron has suggested Brown's approach is counter-productive. "If you immerse yourself from 5am until 11pm, it so affects your balance, family life, your sense of who you are," he said last year. So, bedtime reading aside – Cameron is known for arranging work around his young family – how might a new leader fill his Prime Ministerial downtime?
Let's take a look at what history can tell us. What about a bit of light painting? Churchill and Hitler liked to put bristles to paper when they weren't at war, both producing surprisingly similar landscapes and still lives. Eschewing formal training in favour of a freer style, Churchill once described his favourite hobby as a "joyride in a paintbox."
The wartime leaders are among dozens of world leaders past and present whose sometimes unexpected leisure activities might inspire Cameron. Bill Clinton was a whiz with a saxophone, having briefly considered a career in music before plotting a course to the White House. When he played on late night TV, critics dubbed him the "MTV President" – a lesson to Cameron not to over-indulge.
Clinton, of course, was also fond of cigars, all but one of which he smoked. Harold Wilson liked a nicotine hit, too, so much so that the Prime Minster was voted Pipe Smoker of the Year in 1965 by the British Pipesmokers' Council. Not that there's any chance clean-cut Cameron will bolt an ashtray to the wall outside No. 10. He'd probably prefer to be a sporty leader in the mould of his would-be stateside counterpart. One of Barack Obama's first jobs on entering the White House was to install a basketball court (rumoured, it should be added, to be used as often for sneaking cigarettes as it is hoop shooting).
Or why not look across the Channel for inspiration? Nicolas Sarkozy is a big cyclist and jogger but, when he's not grappling with les affaires d'état, he likes to indulge in a bit of light philately. A stamp collector since childhood, Sarko now uses his considerable contacts to boost his increasingly valuable albums. It's not sure what Mrs Cameron would make of such a dorky pastime, but apparently Carla Bruni approves – Sarko was known to have previously enjoyed karaoke.
Do electric cars dream of being horses?
You're walking down the high street, minding your own business, when a sudden whooshing noise, like a crashing waterfall, assaults your ears. You flinch in alarm - but it's just a car going by. Turning into a petrol station, you hear the noise of horses' hooves thrumming close behind. You turn in terror – but it's just another flipping car. When you fail to notice that the lights have turned green in a side-road, a Japanese voice behind you shouts, "Get move on, you blurry irriot!" You look round in annoyance – but...
It was 25 years ago this week that Sir Clive Sinclair introduced the electric car, to general scorn. Who'd have thought that, in 2010, we'd be trying to decide what noise the things will make when they take over the world? Concerned that silent cars may increase accidents among young and old pedestrians, the Japanese government is working on guidelines for a minimum noise level in every vehicle. Car companies such as Nissan say the noise needn't be mechanical, so the general public have been asked to suggest interesting sounds. Waterfalls and horses' hooves are only some of the crackpot suggestions. Should the cars go "beep-beep-beep," growl like the MGM lion, play "Born to be Wild," impersonate the rustling of leaves, make a ticking noise like an unexploded bomb or employ a human voice saying, "Excuse me... electric car coming through... sorry... electric car...mind your backs"? Or should they do something totally crazy, and make a noise like a car engine?
Wrinkles with pedigree
Hoping to benefit from the post-Christmas boom in abandoned puppies, by rehoming one? Then perhaps, like me, you're scouring breed guides with bafflement.
How did so many varieties spring from the grey wolves humans first domesticated 14,000 years ago – and why?
Thanks to genetic research published in the US this week, one canine conundrum may at least be explained, as the study was able to isolate features arising from natural and artificial selection.
And the Sharpei's what-on-earth-are-they-for wrinkles? Rather disappointingly, for natural selection detectives at least, "There was probably a genetic mutation that led to a really wrinkly puppy," explains Joshua Akey, one of the scientists involved. "A breeder said, 'hey, that looks interesting, I'll try to make more of these dogs'."
Inside the mind of Stephanie Beacham
One woman has all the best lines in the Celebrity Big Brother House. For instance:
1. On greeting a fellow housemate for the first time: "Are you LA?"
2. On the subject of travel: "Do you use a Lear?"
3. When asked by a little-known glamour model whether she is "like, an actress": "Yes, darling, I'm just like an actress."
4. On the Big Brother house's bathroom: "I'm surprised the loo doesn't shut and the showers are so small. On those levels it's been different from expected."
5. On home comforts: "I don't miss glamour. But I can see already that I'll be missing my thousand percale sheets." Genius.
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