Editor-At-Large: Viva La Lollo! You're never too old for a toy boy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ageing is something that men are very bad at, and if you really want to pick an occupation that turns you into a grey, wrinkly, unattractive, balding chap with about as much charisma as a dishcloth, choose professional snooker. The most shocking image of the past week was surely the line-up of middle-aged fellows wiping away their tears at the funeral of Paul Hunter. For the first time in decades, this arcane sport had thrown up a world champion who was attractive, sexy and passionate. A brilliant advertisement for the game, married to a beautiful woman, with a small daughter. Sadly, cancer killed Paul Hunter at the tragically young age of 27.

It's tempting to think how he would have transformed the sport, because Hunter had the same appeal as Beckham in his prime. Looking at Steve Davis, Hurricane Higgins and John Parrott standing by Paul's coffin was like watching a still from a 1950s Ealing comedy, or an ancient episode of Only Fools and Horses - they seem locked in a time warp, with thinning hair, expanding mid- riffs and appalling taste in suits. About 30 years ago I made a television programme with Steve Davis - it was his very first time on television - and in those days he was still a shy teenage schoolboy, but already a pool champion. This clip is constantly replayed on digital and satellite nostalgia shows, because I have ludicrous glasses and bright orange hair, and Mr Davis blushes red to match his hair throughout. These days Steve looks like someone who has come round to retune my telly. Jimmy White, once the cute bad boy, now resembles an unattractive potato, and we'll draw a veil over Willie Thorne and Dennis Taylor.

I know that Hurricane Higgins- who, like Paul Hunter, was a magical and iconic player in his day - has coped with alcoholism, gambling, drug abuse and throat cancer over the past three decades, but now he looks 20 years older than his 57 years. How reassuring then, to discover that Gina Lollobrigida, who's pushing 80, refuses to grow old gracefully and plans to marry a gorgeous fellow she's known for over 20 years - and he's still only 45! La Lollo has poured herself into a skin-tight, floor-length sequinned gown, she is dripping with diamonds, and flaunting a major hairstyle as she makes the cover of all the gossip magazines at the ripe old age of 79.

She is a true icon - someone for whom old age holds no fears, and who claims to have many admirers. Go for it girl! In the meantime, her old rival Sophia Loren has been photographed for next year's Pirelli calendar, clad only in a bit of gauze, at the age of 71. Back at home we have Joan Collins, Joanna Lumley, and even Madonna, proving that ageing doesn't mean you give up. So why is it that so many men wear as badly as a cheap pair of shoes, bulging out of shape and splitting at the seams?

Women have far more pride, and tend not to waste their energy on self-loathing or self-pity. They might get dumped by their partners for younger models, but generally they pick themselves up, start exercising and getting fit, and gradually rebuild their self-esteem. Gina Lollobrigida sends out a wonderfully subversive message - you can shag who you want, when you want, no matter what the date on your birth certificate.

Post offices save lives. And sell baked beans

Rural post offices are under threat as the Government is reviewing the £150m subsidy it pays them each year. Over the past few years a third of the branches have closed, and last week the biggest ever petition (four million signatures) was handed in to Downing Street pleading for the Government to continue its support, in spite of the fact that only a quarter of the rural post offices make any kind of profit. The problem is that many of the services once offered by post offices can now be obtained elsewhere - from 2002 the Government has paid benefits and pensions directly into bank accounts, and you can buy stamps in newsagents and grocery stores and pay for television licences and tax your car via the internet.

But rural post offices are like the umbilical cord in small communities - they are where you catch up on gossip, see the neighbours, and buy essentials such as loo rolls and baked beans, eggs and potatoes.

Village life needs a focus, and the post office is the perfect excuse to get up from your computer, leave the television, and communicate face to face with someone else. For the elderly, the young mother and the rural poor, the post office is essential.

Rural post offices should not have to pass some economic yardstick to survive - but should be supported for social reasons. Perhaps in future, post offices could relocate to village halls or pubs, but if they are allowed to vanish entirely, then an important part of rural life will disappear forever. Just as village halls have adapted to survive, so the post office too, will need to change how it operates. But the Government should not assume that everyone in Britain wants to use the internet or the major banks for paying bills and receiving cash. And, at a time when ministers are so obsessed with their "respect" agenda, they might like to consider the one place in a community used by everyone no matter what their colour or religion - the rural post office. It forms a unique form of social glue.

Stone me: George Michael is talking sense about marijuana

George Michael smokes a spliff on camera in Spain and the tabloids seize it as further proof that he's entered a downward spiral into drugs hell. Fact: George actually said something sensible about weed. You can only smoke it (like he does) if you've sorted out what you're doing with your life, if you're successful and your career is on track - because otherwise you're too wasted to do much work. I would have said that was a pretty good health warning.

Blog off Net diaries are self-indulgent twaddle

I've said it before and I'll say it again - blogs suck. I simply don't give a toss what some nobody from the sticks thinks about David Hockney's retrospective or Robbie Williams's new album. Last week thousands of people, including David Cameron, recorded their impressions of one day online as part of a project organised by the History Matters campaign. I don't think that the ramblings of the leader of the Tory party, making his kids' breakfast and watching the telly with a beer at the end of the day, will add anything to our descendants' grasp of life in the 21st century. All the blogs I read seemed to be written by people as anxious as possible to promote the idea they are insanely busy and important. Give me a break! Most blogs are self-indulgent twaddle - and I'd rather have history written by analytical, cool-headed experts, thanks a lot.