Editor-At-Large: Agassi's tennis boot camp woes

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This year, Ascot introduced a dress code, but Henley and Wimbledon have a long history of ruthlessly enforcing arcane standards of dress. Last year I fell foul of the rules at Wimbledon by daring to wear a new pink pair of canvas shoes to the members' dining room. An official told me they were "sports shoes" and were on the banned list of clothing. This year, I took no chances and queued with the public for my baguette and sauvignon blanc. Between matches, I spent an hour sparring with Richard Bacon on Five Live, and we touched on Andre Agassi's painfully honest autobiography, Open.

In it, Agassi describes the miserable years he spent as a teenager at Nick Bollettieri's tennis camp in Florida – the man who has coached stars from Jim Courier to Monica Seles, including the new Brit wondergirl Heather Watson, who crashed out of the tournament on Friday. Agassi recalled the time he shouted at Nick: "Do you have any idea what it's like to be here … 3,000 miles from home, living in this prison, waking up at 6.30, having 30 minutes to eat that shitty breakfast … going to that lousy school for four hours … only having 30 minutes to eat more crap before going on the tennis court day after day … This place is hell and I want to burn it down!" He was 14 at the time. Nick B was in the BBC commentary box, heard our conversation and came on air, claiming that Andre and he are the best of pals these days. He told me he loves an opinionated woman and did I fancy a week's free coaching at his ranch? I might ask Heather if the food has improved first.

Male pride

Paxo wasn't the only alpha male sinking his teeth into the hapless Chloe Smith, top, the government minister charged with the unenviable task of selling another George Osborne U-turn (he scrapped the planned 3p rise on fuel duty) as a new policy. Her interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News was excruciating, featuring the same piffle about "one-off factors" and "evolving figures". As a television professional, I rate Chloe's performance as piss-poor. She lacks any authority, veering from patronising boffin to nodding puppet repeating the same mantra 20 different ways. Has Chloe been promoted above her capabilities? That is not the issue. This sorry episode proves that politics remains a boys' club. Cameron and Osborne cooked up this latest bit of "policy" without discussing it in Cabinet, and decided to trot out a docile female to sell it to the media.

The PM claims his government is female-friendly, but our cowardly Chancellor used a 30-year-old woman (elected to Parliament in 2009) to sell the indefensible while he, the architect of this piece of economic conjuring, lurked out of sight.

To be taken seriously in politics, women still have to emulate Maggie Thatcher – behaving like men, immaculately groomed in a suit. Louise Mensch even has the power handbag. Chloe Smith might have the statement necklace and the tailored jacket, but sadly not the imperious manner necessary to silence the likes of Paxo. One critic called her "clueless" – she is not stupid, but lacks the ability to spout bollocks convincingly, essential for a front-line politician these days.

Mr Osborne must have a cynical view of the public. The UK has a huge financial deficit. To reduce it, we've been told to accept massive cuts to pensions and put up with reductions in public services. Faced with a massive slump in popularity, Osborne decides that some government departments have "underspent" and he finds around £550m – to fund cheaper petrol, and placate us. The Chancellor's problem? His fragile ego has to be protected – he must be seen as a macho man, master of his brief, ready to make tough decisions. That is why he sacrificed a young woman's career. Ugly behaviour.

Silver tops

Last week I judged the Theo Fennell awards, given to Royal College of Art graduates in silversmithing and jewellery. Their work, on show in the main building on Kensington Gore, ranges from the wearable to the sculptural, thought-provoking and intensely personal. My favourite: the fake money created by Dutch designer Laurie Schram, who has cleverly doctored coins and created a unique coinage, merging the Queen and George Washington. The British Museum has already bought her silver-plated dollar bill. Afterwards, I realised that every one of the 25 graduates in the department was female – unlike politics, jewellery is a profession where women excel.

Sound of silence

The Olympic organisers, like the National Trust, want to attract a wider audience. They have announced that music will be played at venues and that musicians from the Chemical Brothers to Dizzee Rascal have been asked to compose music to vibe up the more esoteric sports, such as Greco-Roman wrestling and handball. Locog claims that generally the music will be played before, after and in the breaks of events, but why turn a celebration of sporting excellence into a rock concert? Last week I was filming at a stadium near the Olympic site, where hundreds of teenagers were playing football and hockey, without music to spur them on. I love a bit of silence in a big stadium before an event, a chance to listen to the buzz of excitement and the sense of expectation. Does everything in modern life need a soundtrack?

'Appy in Soho

Ann Widdecombe has been dismissive about the National Trust's latest attempt to entice younger members – not a guidebook, but a free phone app. Widdie claims it will never work – I disagree. Downloaded on to a mobile phone, the app enables you to wander through Soho using GPS technology, listening to entertaining stories about the area's colourful past from the Second World War to the present day. Today, Soho is in danger of eradicating the quirky shops and drinking holes that made it such a fabulous place as chain stores and coffee stores invade this precious village, but it is still packed with Georgian gems and a rich mix of buildings. Barry Cryer introduces the aural tour and I've made a small contribution.

My relationship with Soho spans 50 years – at 14, I belonged to clubs such as the Marquee, the Scene and the Flamingo and, as a journalist in my twenties, graduated to lunchtimes in the French pub and finally lost afternoons in the Colony Club up the road, where Francis Bacon told me he used Pond's face cream and dyed his hair with black boot polish. There was late-night boozing in Gerry's Club (nicknamed Loser's Lounge) with Jeffrey Bernard and, more recently, riotous nights in the Groucho club – I sold them my snooker table. Damien Hirst told me the other day that he thought I'd had a naughty moment with a famous actor on the baize. Sadly, that's an urban myth.

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