Robin Scott-Elliot: Navratilova's 'snugglebug' blows winds of change through jungle

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The Independent Online

When it comes to light entertainment it would be foolish to argue with Ant or Dec. Last week it was Dec, or Ant, who declared: "Farting is funny."

ITV may well already be working on an idea for a connected talent show, working title, Hum with the Wind. Taking a lead from the jolly Geordie duo, I have a friend who once broke wind while confined in a small room behind a television studio with Martina Navratilova. Funny? My friend begs to differ. She blushed, Navratilova's expression tightened from the everyday wasp-chewing to resemble someone told they would one day meet Timmy Mallett.

Her worst fears – Navratilova's, not my friend's, which were pretty much dealt with back then – have come true. She's met Mallett and has been stuck in the Australian jungle with him and the rest of the celebrity flotsam for the past week. While others, including Ant, or Dec, have wondered why a nine-times Wimbledon winner would get involved with this (thoroughly entertaining) public humiliation in pursuit of a lead in Puss in Boots in Wolverhampton's Christmas panto, Navratilova has greeted each challenge with the same inscrutable expression familiar to legions of opponents on tennis courts around the globe. She was shut in a coffin and had a variety of creepy-crawlies dumped on her. "Oh," she said and held her nose as if someone had just, well, you know.

In camp there was an ill wind blowing, an endless rumble in the jungle. Joe Swash, him off of EastEnders, has a wind problem – he's an 80-a-day man (his own figures) with a habit of cocking his leg to ensure everyone has the pleasure of knowing what he's up to. Joe deserves to be taken deep into the jungle and left there while loudspeakers blast "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" at him day and night. But who is Navratilova's favourite jungle mate? What looked like a smile explored her face. "My snugglebug," said the best female tennis player the jungle has ever seen.

She really did say snugglebug and her snugglebug (really, she did) was Joe off of EastEnders.

The winds of change have been whistling through the England rugby camp as well, but to less startling effect – unless you're the scoreboard operator at Twickenham. Some of the gnarled old pros who fill Sky's pundit roles would have made short work of a week or two in the jungle: Sean Fitzpatrick has no doubt chewed on many a Wallaby testicle in his time. And they were not about to spare England after another southern hemisphere walloping. The king of this jungle, the Christopher Biggins as it were, is Stuart Barnes.

The excellent and entertaining Barnes has a strong claim to be the best sporting pundit on television, which is just as well as he is not averse to the sound of his own voice. He talks a lot, leaving Miles Harrison, his commentator, ample time to pop down and buy the half-time KitKats and pints of best. It doesn't take the wisdom of Barnes to recognise that the All Blacks are the best in the business, although as he pointed out they do manage to choke when the World Cup comes around.

They weren't great on Saturday, but were still a class above their hosts. And they had a secret weapon. While Dan Carter's boot was misfiring, his backside, according to Barnes after one England attack was cut short by a cunningly placed rear end, was brilliant. Which brings us back to where we came in.

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* In these days of belt-tightening, sport has been pretty much untouched. But the bad times may not be far away, with sponsors taking extra care to place their cash where their message will be best received. The sponsors of bowls' International Open in Burgess Hill this week are Co-operative Funeralcare.