No easy cure for ham-fisted Nato

WE'VE ALWAYS thought that Nato, for all its woes (imagine losing your Willy because of corruption in helicopter circles), is still devoted to the armed defence of democracy. But it seems to be straying far from its brief, to judge from a report in El Pais which says that Nato has launched a crash project "to improve the taste, aroma and nutritive value of serrano ham and to reduce its curing time". Quite apart from the question of what on earth that's got to do with the Alliance, I turn for expert reaction to Dorothy, famous curer of hams at the St John restaurant in Smithfield, where a ham takes seven and a half months to prepare. When I tell her what Nato are cooking up, she goes pale and has to sit down. "Who are these people?" she asks. I tell her a little about Nato, then try to explain what happens to perfectly ordinary bureaucrats in Brussels - years of loitering along those infinite corridors is so bad for the human spirit that they assuage their griefs and boredom in gluttony. "I don't care," she says fiercely. "Tell them to keep their paws off ham."

Hard to bear

JUST TO KEEP you abreast of the crisis in Ottawa which has been invaded by gangs of homicidal black bears. A plan is afoot to bribe the beasts by setting up a huge mound of apples in a remote corner of Gatineau Provincial Park, pouring a lot of delicious fish offal over them, and then waiting for the aroma to waft through the woods. The expectation is that this will lure the bears of lower Canada to the feast and away from the deep- sleeping suburbs of Ottawa. I ask our North American correspondent to go to the park at dusk, climb a tree and secrete himself among the pine needles in order to observe this important event in natural history.

To my amazement, he refuses. It's an extraordinary thing: here's a man who has covered wars of revolting cruelty in Central America and Natal, who stared down Winnie Mandela in her worst temper and was not afraid. And will he do a little bear story? No.

And why not, one asks.

"Because bears can climb trees too," he complains.

Slowly I replace the handset in its cradle and gaze into the middle distance. Whither British journalism?

Savoy truffle

IT IS universally admitted that a lovely young prime minister shooting through London on a 24-hour trip stands in need of a Reception. And that Reception will require the presence not only the Great and Good, or even just the OK and the Not Too Bad, but also a crowd of total nobodies to provide the impression of general thronging about and vague buzzing. Thus we found ourselves down the end of a stygian corridor at the Savoy, watching the gorgeous Benazir Bhutto work the room.

Now we have to say we were pretty knocked out by Benazir. Has any woman since Thatcher so dominated a gathering in London? It was quite the oriental court: Benazir looks left - everyone glances covertly in the same direction to see who she's looking at. She strolls 10 yards to the right - the whole roomful moves with her. Now girlish, now imperious, her eye glitters above the crowd. The fact is there's just more to Benazir than most people. Indeed there's more of Benazir as well, since she's become quite, well, statuesque. Among the Labour Party folk who were flocking around her to pay her their respects, it was hard not to think of Snow White besieged by the Seven Dwarves, what with Robin Cook as Grumpy, Gerald Kaufman as Sneezy, Claire Short as Shorty - hang on, that doesn't sound right. Still, you get the picture. . .

Effing and blinding

IT'S A TRICKY business at the best of times, diplomacy, what with punching above your weight, putting national interests above all (including principles), playing double bluffs and so on. But when two countries in negotiations won't even mention one another's name, surreal effects emerge. Greece and Macedonia, for example, after 29 months of squabbling over Macedonia's right to its name, have finally reached an accord which will at least allow minimal contacts. But since Greece still cannot bring itself to utter the word "Macedonia", and so Macedonia in return won't speak the word "Greece", the document reads like a game of Blind Mans' Bluff with all players hooded and groping about.

"The Party of the First Part," for example, "will not return documents of the Party of the Second Part on which this Party is designated by a name which the Party of the First Part does not recognise," reads one par. And at Greece's insistence, Macedonia has only been admitted to the UN as "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and, though pining and casting longing glances at the "M" section, has to sit under the letter "F" in the General Assembly.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor