Bayern or Borussia? It’s time to take sides. Surely Gisela Stuart, the Bavaria-born Labour MP, can offer expert guidance on which team the neutrals should support in the all-German Champions League Final clash at Wembley.
Sadly the match brings back only bitter memories. “I haven’t watched a game since 1966,” says the Birmingham Edgbaston MP, who was a schoolgirl in West Germany when England briefly asserted footballing dominance. “I organised a friendly between Bayern Munich ladies and Aston Villa ladies. Bayern won 16-1. I gave up completely after that. I am the worst person to ask about football. It’s a blind spot in my psyche.”
Fortunately, Professor Martin Roth, the German director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, has his eye on the ball. “I’m a Bayern fan. They way they took apart Barcelona in the semi-final was unbelievable,” he enthuses. However, the Prof warns that “German football can be too strategic, like watching chess compared with English games”. So what will the score be? “3-1 to Bayern”. You read it here first.
The breaking of an ‘unspoken agreement’
The eye is irresistibly drawn to the chapter headed “Squalid Sex Under a Table” in Richard Bacon’s entertaining memoir, A Series of Unrelated Events. The broadcaster was an unwilling voyeur of disgraceful scenes which occurred at his own wedding. “All I can summon in my mind’s eye is an image of an old colleague drunkenly rutting under a table with a woman he’d said a maximum of 30 words to in his life.” The incident broke the “unspoken agreement regarding weddings: none of the guests will engage in sexual intercourse before the bride and groom have been afforded a chance”.
Time for the BBC to give credit where its due
Will the BBC give credit where it’s due? In a Standpoint magazine article entitled “The shabby deceit of BBC journalism”, Nick Cohen blasts the corporation for airing a Times scoop without attribution. Today used the formulation “it has emerged” when it reported that the former Archbishop of York covered up allegations that a senior clergyman had abused choirboys.
“Emerged? Does the BBC think that stories appear like rocks at low tide?” asks Cohen. “Does it imagine that passers-by can point their fingers and say, ‘Oh look, evidence of corrupt political donations has emerged’?
“If the BBC were to report honestly, its viewers and listeners would realise how few stories the corporation breaks.” James Harding, the BBC’s new director of news and current affairs and former editor of The Times, will no doubt ensure that his alma mater is given recognition in future.
Take a leaf from Brown’s book
The US writer Stephen King has said that his latest novel, Joyland, must not be sold digitally to encourage readers to “stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore”. Dan Brown sympathises. “It used to be I could walk down the beach and know what everyone’s reading.
“Now they’re all reading the same black ebook,” he told me during his London visit. He believes “publishers are going to be more important than ever, to curate... the vast quantity of electronic material. The public is gonna need somebody to say ‘this is good’”. When I suggest that critics, who savaged his latest bestseller Inferno, already play this role, he was less inclined to concur.