Oh, for Graham Taylor

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The Independent Online
To Chipping Norton, in the Cotswolds, to visit John Minihan, the world's most accomplished portrait photographer. I introduced him to Sam Beckett with strict instructions to discuss no topic but cricket or gossip. The consequence was a series of portraits that has toured the world.

I believe Minihan's son, Emmet, was conceived under my roof in Kinsale, but he no more gives me credit for that than he does for introducing him to the Nobel laureate. Why should he?

Minihan drives like a demon, but places great confidence in the Virgin Mary, to whom he expresses a special devotion. I asked him once, as he used a garage forecourt as a short-cut, had she ever appeared to him in dreams? She had. Was she, by any chance, about 6ft tall, bearded, horned, cloven-hoofed and covered in fur? She was not, said he.

The Anglican church at Chipping Norton is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. It is in Minihan's back garden, which can be no coincidence. It is a most beautiful place. This black papist heart was certainly warmed by it.

In 1549, the vicar, Henry Joyce, was hanged from the rafters of his own bell tower. He had led a rebellion aginst plunders inflicted by the new magnates. A Joyce, I thought, leading an insurrection? Surely one of us. If the schism in Anglicanism proceeds to its logical conclusion, we may hope to get our church back. 'It would be convenient,' says Minihan.

Before I leave, I request several copies of the snap he took of myself, Van Morrison and Seamus Heaney. We all want one, and so does Mick Jagger.

I HAVE BEEN pondering the question of cohabitation. No house I have ever lived in has been able to contain myself and the beloved without friction. The answer is obviously a house sufficiently large to contain studios, guest quarters, libraries and so on in either wing. I might then visit her when she so fancied it in the central apartments, but having always our own boltholes.

I was wondering by what system traffic control might be effected, when the simplest answer occurred to me: why not actual traffic lights, a set in her apartments and a set in mine? I might, when I wished to call on her, discreetly turn on the green light and she might, according to her mood, signal back green for acquiescence, red for a bad headche, or orange for maybe.

It is a system which might, to great profit, be taken up by many households. I had an aunt who used to draw a chalk line down the middle of her house when she had no desire to set eyes on her husband, so I suppose the instinct is hereditary.

I NOTICED nothing but hilarity in London when the Republic of San Marino went one up over the England. Our lads were meanwhile struggling to secure a draw against Northern Ireland in Belfast, and complaining at the uncivil reception given them by the Protestant population of that beleaguered province. Harsh words were exchanged, I believe, but our northern brethren did not oblige me by thrashing the southern team.

The consequence is that I shall have to suffer our progress through the World Cup next summer, while the other four nations on these two islands enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Football is a form of barbarism relatively new to us, but the ability of a Geordie to scrape together a team from the English leagues, composed of persons with English accents and barely tenuous Irish connections, has led to an upsurge of spurious national pride (there is little else to be proud of).

The government is urged to put pressure on the Americans to allow in thousands of our unemployed to attend the festivities, as similarly they urge the Americans to put pressure on the British to pull out of Northern Ireland. This leads to a certain embarrassment at the United States Embassy here, as the Americans are aware that many of our indigent patriots would choose not to return home. It poses a nightmare also for our diplomats in the States, as they will have to deal with the consequences of drunken hooliganism, lost passports and the repatriation of penniless fans. So it was in Rome four years ago, as our then ambassador there tells me.

It also means that the country will be shut down entirely for every match. You do not know how lucky you are not to have qualified.

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