Flat Earth

Nelson's saint

Nelson's saint

I shook Nelson Mandela's hand, mainly because I had the opportunity (at the press conference after his Trafalgar Square appearance) and in the course of last week I had seen so many others who desperately wanted to but could not.

The desire to set eyes on him is eminently understandable. Who else can rank with Mr Mandela among late 20th-century politicans? But the near- frenzy to touch him took one back many centuries, to a time when men of his stature were reckoned to have healing powers. It is not surprising that so many commentators have yielded to the temptation to label him "Saint Nelson".

If one looks at his history - emerging as president of post-apartheid South Africa after 27 years in prison - it seems he must have prayed to Jude, the apostle and patron saint of lost causes. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints tells us that "St Jude enjoys great popularity as a powerful intercessor for those in desperate straits, as students of the publicity columns of the Times newspaper are aware."

Blair everywhere

YOU can feel a little cut off from the mainstream in the mountains of Afghanistan, so perhaps it was not surprising that when my colleague, Robert Fisk, found Osama Bin Laden in a remote corner of Nangarhar province, he discovered that the Saudi radical was eager for news of the outside world.

Did he want to know about the health of King Fahd, or whether Bill Clinton was still ahead of Bob Dole in the polls? Not a bit of it. "Tell me," he demanded of Fisk, "about this man Tony Blair. What are his opinions? Is he important?" It's official: there is now no escape from talk of New Labour.

It was not like this when I was in Afghanistan in 1992. I explained to the group of mujahedin I was with that it was election day in Inglistan, and they obligingly tried to discover the outcome on a portable radio. Sadly, Tehran Radio's results service was poor to non-existent, and it took me another two days to find out that John Major was still in Downing Street. I can't say I was any poorer for not knowing this - and in Mr Bin Laden's shoes I would do my best to preserve my ignorance of Tony Blair.

Guilt-free zone

THERE will be sniggering over the sauerkraut in Strasbourg this week. As members of the European Parliament gather for their monthly plenary session, the British have much to celebrate.

Their salary is based directly on those of British MPs; so when Westminster voted itself an extra pounds 9,000, their counterparts in the mother-in-law of all parliaments pocketed an extra 7,000 ecus a year. British MEPs are still among the worst-paid in Europe, but at least on this occasion, nobody can call them greedy, venal or corrupt. They got a present, given to them without even having to ask. Perhaps those accommodating chaps in London will be kind enough to hand over a few more of their parliamentary powers, while they're in a generous mood.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'