By taking a 6am dip in the chilly waters of Lough Erne, accompanied by a reluctant police protection officer, while the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, stayed in bed, David Cameron has joined the macho band of political leaders who have sought to reinforce their authority with displays of physical fitness.
The most significant swim in modern times was Mao Zedong’s 10-mile effort along the Yangtze river, at Wuhan, in July 1966. The Great Helmsman was 73 and had been keeping a low profile for some time, giving rise to speculation that his power had ebbed away. His dip in the Yangtze was a brilliant piece of showmanship that heralded the appalling Cultural Revolution.
Mussolini also ardently believed in letting his people know how fit and virile he was, and would swim daily. He commissioned Italy’s finest swimming pool, constructed out of pure marble with stone mosaic decorations, at the foot of the Monte Mario hill in Rome.
The late Senator Edward Kennedy, on the other hand, never lived down the day he claimed to have shown remarkable fitness in the water, on the night of 18 July 1969, when he accidentally drove his car into a river near Martha’s Vineyard. His passenger drowned, but he turned up at his hotel room, though the accident had occurred on the far side of the river, and there was no record that he had taken a ferry. “I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, and returned to my hotel about 2am,” he explained.
Hague’s source of amusement
On having the words of an unnamed “senior Tory source” quoted at him, predicting that the Government will never allow the Commons a vote on whether to arm Syria’s rebels, in case it lost, the Foreign Secretary William Hague, magisterially replied: “There is no Tory more senior than the Prime Minister. Occasionally, one or two might think they are, but there are no Tories more senior than the Prime Minister.” Whom could he have had in mind?
Culture clash is short and sweet
Mr Cameron has been asked in writing by Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, whether he has any plans to abolish the Department for Culture, to which the Prime Minister has supplied a one-word answer: “No.” I can’t see much wriggle room there, so that seems to put that rumour to rest.
My extraterrestrial affair with a Cat Queen
Simon Parkes, who lives in Whitby, North Yorkshire, is an unusual fellow. He is a driving instructor. His middle name is Bard. He is the welfare officer of the Norwegian Forest Cat Society, raising money for veterinary care and the other needs of distressed members of that little-known feline species. He is a Labour town councillor for Whitby.
Moreover – and this is arguably the most interesting bit – his mother was a 9ft-tall alien with eight fingers. Or so he says. He has also scandalously been having sexual intercourse about four times a year with an alien called Zarka, whom he calls the Cat Queen, and has apparently had a child by her.
“My wife found out about it and was very unhappy, clearly. That caused a few problems, but it is not on a human level, so I don’t see it as wrong,” Mr Parkes tells a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary. You can see why his poor wife might be distressed, though I am not sure which would be worse: to discover that your husband is half alien, or that he is half bonkers.