John Walsh: Zara, Mike, and an outbreak of tut-tutting

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The Independent Online

You have to love the Daily Mail for its dowager-ish disapproval of Zara Phillips and her fiancé, Mike Tindall. The front-page picture of the happy couple in Barbours, jeans and zip-fronted hoodies was captioned "Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall in one of their unconventional engagement pictures", which translates as "God, what a pair of yobs they look." On page 3, beneath a snap of Zara's perfectly ok-looking fingers, two women hacks call for smelling salts because "it was painfully clear that Zara had not even had time to have her nails done in preparation for the big announcement". What was "painfully" clear was how far the Mail thought the "almost royal" Princess had fallen in linking up with the rugby star. All was revealed on page 22 in a long piece about the "social chasm" that divides the happy couple. Sweet.

* The South African police have issued a public information film warning motorists that they shouldn't drink and drive. How have they chosen to dissuade drivers from overdoing the sherberts? A picture of a man writing a penalty cheque for £1,000? Footage of the scene of an accident? No, they've gone for something more direct. The film shows hands holding prison bars, with the line "These hands will never let you go", before revealing a cell full of alarming jailbirds lying on beds and mattresses. "They'd love to meet you. Never drink and drive" is the screen message. Is that clear enough? Don't have more than one glass of Stellenbosch wine, or you'll be gang-raped by mad-eyed crims in prison. How will they dissuade people from filing late tax returns? Images of disembowelling?

* Some good news in the depressed, snowbound retail markets this festive season: port is back in fashion. Sales of the sticky digestif have shot up by 30 per cent in Marks & Sparks and 20 per cent in Waitrose. Ten years ago, it was stuck in the oenological doldrums, drunk only by rural deans, or left out in tiny glasses on a table by the chimney for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. A century or two ago, of course, it was the drink of champions. Pitt the Younger used to drink a bottle a day from the age of 14. Lord Tennyson used to imbibe pints of the stuff. For eons, it's been the drink with which the military toasts the Queen at formal banquets. I think that's enough of an excuse to knock back a few glasses at 3pm tomorrow. Merry Christmas.