FLAT EARTH

Romans don't get

the Rifkind effect

WHAT with the lottery, snobbery and yobbery, the organisation of the cultural life of Britain is not an easy thing to understand. They certainly haven't got the hang of it in Italy: there we were the other day in Rome, having our capuccino and pastry on the pavement, when there was sudden clamour and the tramp of marching feet. A procession hoved into view, consisting of agitated young Italians on their way to the British Embassy to demand that Britain prevent the departure of Robbie from Take That.

Well, it's true, it's a big question . . . should Robbie stay or should Robbie go? We can never make up our minds, because just as we're on the point of working out which one Robbie is, our attention wanders. "He's the good-looking but useless one," a brilliant colleague tells us, but even this straightforward description has been no use.

In a way the Italians are right - at any rate the Foreign Office should at least make its views known. On this desk we have reached a point hitherto unknown to ethics: a moral dependency on Malcolm Rifkind. This means being unable to make up your mind on any topic until Mr Rifkind has spoken. No sooner has he done so, his eyes - and vowels - bulging with strange asperities, than we hurriedly embrace the opposite view. This is proving such a useful route through the moral maze that Malcom should be drawn out of himself more, and encouraged to give his opinions on the widest range of issues - arts, letters, gangsta rap, what's up on Bodmin Moor - so we all know immediately what to think.

Nordic sports

AWAY from these Italian fevers, and in search of something cool, we spent last week hunched over the catalogue of an exhibition of European Decadent Art held 300 miles north of Oslo at the Trondheim Kunstforening. Ah, Trondheim. "What's Trondheim like?" I ask our old friend, the Swedish Iceberg. "Horrific," she snaps. "The bloody birds start singing at two in the morning and - well, an hour is quite long enough to spend in Trondheim." It seems an odd place for the children of Huysmann to foregather but the catalogue displays a Scandinavian gloom which perhaps is fitting.

"If God is dead and you cannot just unflinchingly stare death in the eye - and you cannot do that, if for no other than for the fact that it would lead you away from life: if this is the case, then moving inwards must nowadays mean evading death, without however entertaining any hope of eternal health," it says, puzzlingly, then snaps "What

does that mean?" as if the reader was somehow to blame for any confusion.

Still, the works themselves seem harmless enough, even rather likeable. Admittedly there are several menacing pots, but the curators have managed to locate a completely inoffensive Mapplethorpe self-portrait, and most other things on show have a daffy charm. We liked this figure in wrinkled tights (above), who, long study reveals, is the Female Aspect of Mr Murdoch Acquiring another Bit of the Media.

Uncivil servants

AFTER four decades of proletarian bluntness, China has launched a national campaign for polite discourse. The Guangming Daily lists 50 rude phrases commonly heard at airports, train stations, hospitals, department stores and post offices across the land: "Ask someone else." "It's none of my business." "Can't you see I'm busy." "What's your hurry?" You get the flavour. We have rushed copies to British Rail, Paddington, and the Home Office in Croydon, to its splendidly named Lunar House, which deals with immigrants to the UK mostly by shouting at them, and which always seems to me to be the place where the sun really did set on the British Empire.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried