We have long been familiar with foreign players coming over here and speaking better English than the natives (or in the case of Jan Molby, the Dane with the Scouse accent, the same English as the natives), but we blithely assume it is impossible to return the compliment. Italy is, after all, according to Ian Rush, just like a foreign country.
Yet there was David Platt, the England captain no less, conducting the press conference announcing his transfer from the Genoese club Sampdoria in flawless Italian. It was not just the accent that impressed, it was his brilliant translation of the full footballer's vocabulary: the half- dozen euphemisms for wanting more money; the use of the word "challenge" when he meant the opposite, the platitudes of his trade, as it were. Platt is, clearly, a bright boy. Which begs one question: if he's so clever, how come he's signed for Arsenal?
At 5.30am on Tuesday I was woken up by a caterwauling from the back garden so high-pitched and insistent I thought at first that the entire Take That fan club had set up camp in the shed. Peering groggily through the window I saw that the squawking was centred on the hutch occupied by our rabbit, an unfriendly creature called Peter.
This was the first noise I had ever heard him make; he remains, even under the close attentions of the large grey cat who makes a weekly assault on his quarters, surprisingly phlegmatic for a rabbit. Perhaps he realises that the cat is unlikely to succeed in entering his cage unless it comes armed with a pair of wire-cutters.
But there he was squealing in terror. And no wonder, because slinking liquidly and purposefully, all around and all over his hutch, was a fox.
You might not be surprised by this sort of incident at dawn in the country, or even the suburbs. But in London N1, within a forceful spit of the Ball's Pond Road, it seemed a little excessive: we are more used to predators with two legs, reversed baseball caps and a taste for car stereos. Moreover, when I opened the window, assuming the noise would be sufficient to scare off the vulpine intruder, it stopped for a second, looked up at me disdainfully, and then continued its attempt to extract its breakfast from the hutch. I threw the first thing that came to hand at it - a hairbrush, pathetically - and it trotted away, pausing to cast an "I'll-be-back" glance in the pitiful lagomorph's direction.
As if it were not bad enough being woken up, or having to attend to the rabbit which, in a feeble attempt to escape from the one place it was safe, had ripped all the skin from its nose, I read in the paper that morning a report from the British Medical Association detailing how urban foxes could become a significant rabies risk. Rabid individuals bite domestic pets, which, if they survive, in turn bite their owners. Far from being a delightful wildlife cameo being conducted on my lawn, this was potentially life-threatening: within weeks I could be foaming at the mouth like a Tory Euro-sceptic.
So now I propose to found the Hackney Hunt. We will, of course, reflect the local conditions, and will thus use rollerblades rather than horses, sniff out our quarry with Staffordshire bull-terriers rather than hounds, and corral the pack with disco whistles rather than hunting horns. And, naturally, when we corner the sly interloper somewhere round the back of the Dalston Rio, we will not tear it apart, but will instead invite it to a workshop to discuss its aggressive feelings towards domestic pets, and then introduce it to the joys of a vegetarian, wholefood diet.
Failing that, I'm getting an air rifle.
Fortunately, the rabbit doesn't read (I imagine it went to the same school as my son), otherwise a story in this week's Ilford Recorder would have finished it off. John Donohue, a local man, let his boa constrictor, Indi, out in the garden to bask in the heatwave. As he watched it, he heard a knock at the door and left the snake, to discover Jehovah's Witnesses on the threshold. It took, as you would imagine, some time for Mr Donohue to convince his guests he was less interested in eternal salvation than in attending to his boa, long enough, indeed, for Indi to disappear. He reassured his panic-stricken neighbours that there was nothing to worry about, they were in no danger: Indi was not big enough to constrict anything bigger than ... a rabbit.
They may have reached the age when it is more appropriate to sing "(I Can't Get No) Sanatogen"; "I know it's only HRT but I like it"; and "Gimme Sheltered Accommodation". But on Tuesday at Wembley the Rolling Stones proved they still provide the finest rock'n'roll show in the world. They were simply magnificent. There was Mick Jagger, in a series of short shirts lifted from Andre Agassi, spending the evening flashing a midriff so flat it makes a washboard look like the Peak District; there was Charlie Watts pulling off the unique trick of driving a two-and-a-quarter-hour performance while remaining a stranger to sweat; and there was the king himself, Keith Richards, louche and scowling, a model of consideration. As is traditional at Stones' gigs, his three-song solo slot enabled half the audience to leave the auditorium and relieve aching bladders.
As you might expect at such an occasion, the audience was awash with celebs. Jeremy Clarkson, the noisy car man with the Kevin Keegan memorial perm, was there, bouncing around like he had just test-driven a new Ferrari - and you don't get more celeby than that.
Just behind Clarkson sat Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates (discreetly preserving her anonymity as always behind a gold micro-dress and satellite dish-sized sunglasses.) It must have been a poignant night for Paula: 10 years previously she had been at Wembley for Live Aid, when she had a saint rather than a large tattoo on her arm. Presumably, it was the overwhelming memory of that occasion that made her slip away before the end, her departure soothed by a thoughtful Hutchence placing a supportive hand on her bottom.Reuse content