I used to be addicted to Wimbledon; now I can't stand the mental torture. Last year, British players managed their worst performance in the history of the tournament. This year they've triumphed by equalling that appalling record. We've been left pinning our hopes on Andy Murray, a curmudgeon whose people skills were acquired at the Gordon Brown school of diplomacy. I'm trying to find inspiring qualities in Andy, but it's not easy to warm to someone who couldn't decide whether to bow to the Queen (in the end, he managed that simple act of courtesy successfully, thank goodness) and who announced during the 2006 World Cup he would be supporting "anyone but England".
Millions of pounds have been poured into developing tennis in the UK, and yet we can't breed winners. The Lawn Tennis Association says "expectations are too high" – it said the same thing last year and the year before that. There's always someone coming up through the ranks, but in the final showdown, our young players lack the killer instinct. As Murray admitted, some of our girls had a chance to win their first round matches this year, but didn't take it. So what breeds a champion?
Our coaches seem to have run out of ideas – and armchair pundits are not much better, some claiming that Murray's success isn't down to brilliant ground strokes, but the fact his girlfriend has returned and that maybe regular sex has a positive impact in his game. Complete baloney.
It's the same with our footballers: their tortuous progress at the World Cup has led sporting experts such as former England cricketer Mike Atherton to conclude that they don't need a football coach but a life coach. Atherton reckons there's nothing fundamentally wrong with their game, but work is needed on their mental attitude; exactly like our tennis players, they are unable to deal with the pressure of high-level competition.
We make all sorts of feeble excuses for their lacklustre performance, because we don't want to admit they don't know how to win, which takes a combination of intelligence and team spirit. You can't succeed in team sports by putting yourself first and behaving like a self-centred prima donna. The behaviour of John Terry (mouthing off about having a "showdown" with Capello) demonstrates what stunted individuals these blokes are. We were told they suffered from boredom; they missed the electronic toys they had last time, their girlfriends, their wives. They were annoyed that their use of mobile phones was restricted. When Capello relented and allowed a few beers the night before the critical game against Slovenia, spirits soared.
Doing well at a sport you already play at world-class level and are amply rewarded for shouldn't depend on playing on a computer console or drinking. But we shouldn't be surprised these lads are so simple. It's how we behave as a nation. The truth is, the World Cup is a huge opportunity for the whole country to get legitimately sloshed, with sales of beer and wine up over 30 per cent. If we make it to the last 16, total retail sales will be worth a whopping £987m.
We don't just hope our footballers play well – we will be drinking and stuffing ourselves in a massive guzzle-fest of solidarity. Before the Budget, 14 senior executives from the drinks industry wrote to George Osborne, begging him not to raise the tax on booze. They claimed 28,500 jobs have been lost in the alcohol industry over the past year. Guess what? The Chancellor didn't increase the duty on booze – or, as Labour planned, raise the duty on cider. Now, the jobs lost in the brewing industry will seem like small beer (pardon the pun) compared with the number that will be shed in the public sector. Drink is far too cheap in this country; do we need to be swimming in the stuff to enjoy sporting events? And how do our footballer heroes celebrate when they're back in Blighty? They hang out in nightclubs and make fools of themselves.
It's probably too late to change the mental attitude of our leading footballers – after all, they are pretty typical examples of the English male, in all its glory. But to produce sporting champions in the future, life coaching in primary schools, which is becoming more popular, would be an excellent idea.
Mommy dearest: Lourdes needs space to strike out on her own
The relationship between a teenage girl and her mum is complex, but if you've got the most famous mother in the world, who prides herself on keeping ahead of every cutting-edge development in fashion and music, life must be very complicated. In my day, Mum seemed like a prehistoric creature – in fact, she was in her early forties. Every day she moaned about my clothes, my make-up and my hair dye. Now the generation gap has shrunk at an alarming rate and mothers dress like their daughters, listen to the same music and wear the same shoes. Mums are on Facebook and out clubbing, refusing to get old. Where on earth can kids go to grow and be different?
Madonna and her daughter, 13-year-old Lourdes, have launched a clothing line together called Material Girl. The budget-priced range for teenagers will go on sale in the US department store Macy's in August. With frilled skirts, tight jeans and crucifix earrings, it's eerily reminiscent of Madonna's Like a Virgin era. And although mum might claim it's Lola's (her nickname for Lourdes) own work, there's no doubt that selling clothes to young girls is a brilliant way for 51-year-old Madge to reinvent herself to a new audience of tweenies. Lourdes is said to want to attend acting school. What she really needs is space. A course on a different continent from her mum might help.
Drop the royal icing, Ma'am
His wife wore Dior for pictures in London last week, but back home President Sarkozy has been forced to make some very public savings to placate voters and prop up his popularity. His ministers have been criticised for wasting money on their travel arrangements, so he's cancelled the lavish Bastille Day garden party and the public pop concert, saving over €4m. Before the election, the Queen claimed she couldn't afford to repair her palaces, and last week George Osborne froze the civil list. Perhaps Her Majesty should copy Mr Sarkozy and scrap her garden parties. She won't have to pay for hundreds and hundreds of iced fancies or meet Nick Griffin. Taxpayers won't have to pay for policing. Thousands of women won't have to buy hats they won't wear again. And traffic in central London will flow more freely.
Charles gives himself away
What do you think the Prime Minister of Qatar made of the long and convoluted letter he received from Prince Charles begging him to rethink Lord Rogers's modernist plans for Chelsea Barracks? Charles not only signed his name in Arabic, but went through the waffling prose underlining key words in heavy black ink to hammer home his message.
In my book, underlining to make a point is a bit like overuse of the exclamation mark – a sign of impotency and frustration. Words such as "want" "timeless" and "beauty" are all picked out, with the final flourish, " I would LOVE you to come [to Poundbury]".
This letter tells us more about HRH's state of mind than his proficiency as a meddler. We knew about that, but what we didn't realise was quite how desperate he is to feel important.Reuse content