A diplomacy lesson from Basil Fawlty

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The Independent Online
POOR OLD Queen. I want her to pay taxes and to shed some of her hangers- on, but I don't want her to have to go traipsing round Germany being pelted with eggs. Whose wizard wheeze was it? My knowledge of foreign affairs is pretty rudimentary but even I could have foretold that some of the citizens of Dresden might not feel entirely well disposed towards the British monarch, especially after her Mum had just unveiled a statue to Bomber Harris.

All this forgive-and-forget lark is so phoney anyway. Why should we forgive them for killing six million Jews, and why should they forgive us for fire- bombing Dresden? It would be a morally abysmal world in which we did forgive such things at the drop of a state visit or a politician's say-so. That doesn't mean we have to go on stoking the fires of hatred for ever, like the Irish, but certainly while there are still people alive who lost relatives in the war, a certain shamefaced wariness of reviving memories seems not only prudent but proper.

As for the supposed public relations advantages of the exercise, it can be measured in headlines like the Star's, 'Screaming Kraut louts lob eggs at the Queen'. I stand with Basil Fawlty on this one: don't mention the War.

DELIGHTED to read that Greater Manchester police have arrested five children, aged between eight and eleven years old, for begging. They were supposedly asking for a penny for the guy but, judging from the photograph in the Star, their guy represented all of five minutes' creative effort and was not worth a penny from anyone. Of course I'd prefer the police to arrest the parents but I suppose that might be impractical.

Meanwhile, my own genteel neck of north London will be terrorised next Saturday by supposedly well-brought-up children running round playing trick or treat, in other words learning the art of extracting money by intimidation.

I wish all the police who currently spend their time not catching burglars would spend from now until Bonfire Night catching child beggars and generally causing their parents as much annoyance and embarrassment as possible, for instance by circulating their names to the local press, schools and social services.

Allowing children to beg is wicked, is appallingly dangerous and needs only a short sharp blitz from the police to stamp it out.

THE PHOTOGRAPH at the top of this column shows me naked, bending over a bondage machine and being whipped by an American basketball team while David Mellor sucks my toes. Unfortunately reproduction rights are sold by the square inch and the Independent on Sunday could only afford to buy the little bit that you see, but if you want more, send me pounds 25 immediately . . .

I suppose I should have a view on Madonna's book but I'm too mean to buy it. What I do have a view on, though, is the Madonna interviews - Andrew Neil's in the Sunday Times and Jonathan Ross's on Channel 4. I recommend Neil's to students of journalism everywhere as an example of how not to conduct an interview. It told us nothing new about Madonna but a great deal about Andrew Neil, or at any rate about the posturing attitudes that pass for his beliefs. He hectored her like the star of the school debating society for destroying 'family values' and being in some bizarre way responsible for 'the social liberalism of the Sixties'. (Remind me to write a column some time about people who have a grudge against the Sixties and what it tells us about their character.)

Yet Neil, so far as I am aware, has never espoused family values enough to marry or to father children, though he is 43; he has, on the other hand, spent many years 'escorting' obscure model girls to and from nightclubs.

Jonathan Ross, on the other hand, is an elocutionally challenged young husband and father who is a joy to watch on television and to meet in real life. With no sermonising, no attitudinising, but by the quaint old device of asking questions, he charmed Madonna into giving a superbly revealing interview. (He also taught me something I didn't know, that the practice of toe-sucking is known as 'shrimping'.)

Unlike Pamella Bordes's ex-boyfriend, he didn't find it necessary to preach against promiscuity; nevertheless by referring to Warren Beatty's 'depressing' reputation as a womaniser, he lightly and effectively let us know where he stood.

The sweetest moment of all was when he reproached Madonna for not being sufficiently nice to her father: 'Be nicer,' he urged, 'because you only have one Dad.' And at the end of the interview, when she asked if he wanted to suck her toe, he politely declined. Would Andrew Neil have refused such an invitation? I wonder - but if I ever need a lesson in family values, I'll take it from Jonathan Ross.

AT LAST I have found the answer to something that has puzzled me - babies' dummies, the prevalence thereof. I don't mean babies' dummies attached to babies (in fact they seem to be in decline), but babies' dummies attached to teenagers in the shape of ornaments. I first noticed them in Italy the summer before last, where they were sold as earrings or necklace pendants, but recently I've noticed them cropping up here.

Anyway I now learn from the Star's Rave page that they are related to the drug Ecstasy, the way razor blades and spoons are to cocaine. One fan of The Shamen, of 'Ebeneezer Goode' fame, explained to Rave: 'When you're on E you like to have something to chew on to prevent grinding your teeth.' Fancy.