FLAT EARTH

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
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable