One of my favourite newspaper headlines of the last year or so is "It's Clarke v Davis!" from The Daily Telegraph. This was on the front page, lead item, introducing the prediction by their chief political writer (take a bow, George Jones) that Ken Clarke and David Davis would be going head to head for the Tory leadership. He was wrong, of course, insofar as he did not even mention the eventual winner by name, but I do not suppose for a moment he was embarrassed by this for more than a day or so, any more than racing tipsters are humiliated by the failure of their hot tips to finish in the first three. Forecasts come and forecasts fail. News comes, news sinks. There's always more coming up behind.
This shallow philosophical mood has been brought upon me, at least indirectly, by my wife threatening to divorce me if I don't clear out those old newspapers. Which old papers, dear? Ah, those old papers. Yes, there do seem to be rather a lot of old papers over there. Hundreds of them. And as I skim through them before taking them to the paper bank, I realise forcefullyjust how quickly news which once seemed breathtakingly important now seems incomprehensibly trivial.
One story which ran and ran at stupefying length was the protracted death of George Best. George is a fighter, said his friends. George can pull through. George can bounce back. It wasn't what the medical profession was saying, though, and finally they were proved right, but, heavens, it took a long time, and I was reminded of the words that Richmal Crompton's William addressed to his ill Aunt Jane when he and his mother had gone to stay with her: "Aunt Jane, would you please either die or get well, 'cos mother and I want to go home..."
Here's another story, about Germaine Greer either curtseying to the Queen or not curtseying to the Queen. What was all that about? I have no idea. Here's little Carol Thatcher, who became briefly famous for, I think, eating nasty things in the outback. (I am not sure of this either, as I have never seen Celebrity Big Brother.) Here are pictures of Felipe Scolari, the next England football manager, except that he wasn't. (I treasure a memory of the football veteran Brian Glanville being asked to comment on Scolari's "appointment" a week ago, and saying, "Well, at least it means we are spared having Steve McClaren...")
Here is David Blunkett, who used to be the last Home Secretary, but isn't even that any more. Here is Padma Lakshmi. Here is Sienna Miller. Here are Sean Doran, Ariel Sharon, Norman Kember, Hwang Woo-Suk, Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira... Who on earth are all these people?
Well, Hwang Woo-Suk was the Korean cloning scientist who was in the forefront of research one day and exposed as a cheat the next. Ah, it's coming back now, is it? And Sean Doran? Head honcho at the English National Opera one day, and out on the street the next. Ariel Sharon? In charge of Israel one day, and at death's door the next. Sienna Miller? I have not the faintest idea who she is, except that she is trendily named after a city, rather like Paris Hilton, and I have no idea who she is either.
Which brings us to Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, who turns out to be a pro-independence leader in Catalonia, the region of Spain that thinks it should be a country. The Catalans always insist they are Catalan, not Spanish, and go on and on about it. The rest of Spain usually suffers it in silence, but, when Josep made some rude remarks about Madrid's aspirations to stage the Olympics, Spain finally said "Right! Enough is enough!" and started to hit back at Catalonia. One way of doing that was by boycotting Cava, Spain's sparkling wine, which comes from Catalonia, and already the bubbly industry has been heavily hit by falling sales...
Fascinating. And I didn't even know that, until I started going through this pile of old papers. I wonder if there are any other stories like that? Better keep the papers, just in case... No, perhaps not. I should hate there to be a headline in The Independent, "Wife Batters Writer To Death With Old Papers" and me not be there to cut it out.Reuse content