Lord Sterling, the owner of the Swan Hellenic cruise line, is asking for trouble when he makes some outrageously snobbish remarks about the kind of people he wants to travel on his luxurious ships. "We want to create a certain atmosphere, a five-star setting," he says. "I am concerned that customers who are expecting that will be asked to mix with lorry drivers who in the summer suffer from BO and in some cases haven't shaved for days."
Having had some experience of travelling on Lord Sterling's boats, I can say that the main hazard of life on board is not one of smelly lorry drivers, whose company might be quite entertaining, but of class-A crashing bores, most of them with reactionary views.
On board a ship you have no escape. It is a bit like being in a hotel that you can't get out of. Wherever you go, whether on the sun deck or in the saloon, you will be at the mercy of these people. So unless you are a wealthy widow seeking male companionship, my advice to anyone contemplating a cruise is to go with a party of mates. That way you can at least protect yourself from the unwelcome attentions of the bore brigade.
Whatever they say, they are not like us
A correspondent of The Independent on Wednesday compared David Cameron's cuts in the benefits system to the infamous Poor Law which was introduced by the Whig government in 1834. The following day, when the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned poor people not to have too many children, I could hear an echo of the one-man think tank of earlier in that century, the Rev Thomas Malthus, who continually advised what were called "the lower orders" that they should refrain from sexual gratification in order to prevent any further growth in the population.
Of course, it's a bit far-fetched to compare our strange Coalition, as my friend William Keegan calls it, to the even stranger governments of the 1830s. But they do have one thing in common. They are both composed of very rich men with little experience of how the other half lives.
David Cameron is aware of the difficulty, which is why, you notice, that he and his wife go to great lengths always to dress down, flaunting their little baby about whenever possible, to make it look as if they are not much different from any young couple starting a family.
But the public will not be deceived. They know that those like Cameron making patriotic appeals for us all to make sacrifices for the national good will personally not suffer from the cuts in the slightest. And that is what is going to make their job difficult, if not impossible.
A lone voice of dissent over Pixar's latest
I have had a big disappointment this week and am still struggling to come to terms with it. After a month or so of eager anticipation, I finally saw Toy Story 3. And it isn't any good.
Perhaps it was too much to hope for. The first two films were so successful, combining in the best American tradition elements of adventure, comedy and music with a fair dose of sentimentality, that it was asking too much to expect Pixar to do it again.
But there was no reason for it to be so sub-standard compared with the earlier films. Both had clearly defined plots, especially Toy Story 2, which re-created in masterly detail an old black-and-white TV puppet show starring the cowboy hero Woody. But the new film has nothing of the subtlety to compare with this. There is a long irrelevant opening sequence; the storyline is clumsy and unoriginal; there are no good jokes, no songs. Instead, the writers/ producers have introduced elements of horror and sexual innuendo quite unsuited to a children's story.
The difficult thing to explain is why this second-rate film should have been greeted with unanimous rapture by all the critics. The Guardian called it "truly wonderful"; The Observer's veteran film critic Philip French spoke for all when he described it as "brimming with wonderful satire and lump-in-the-throat nostalgia – a fitting end to a classic trilogy". Not for the first time I am left wondering if there has to be something the matter with me, because I just don't see it.Reuse content