The Weasel: Goodbye to all that

Related Topics

In their picturesque way, the French refer to orgasm as La Petite Mort. The same term could apply to the termination of a column, though the experience is not quite as pleasant. From an account of being snowed-in at Yorkshire, which appeared on 30 December 1995, to last week's tale of being penalised by H M Customs & Excise for importing an anthology of ancient gospel music, the Weasel has been my outlet for 12 years of vicissitudes. They ranged from a near-death experience in 2005 when a bunch of "arty boneheads" marched me at dead of night to the top of a Cumbrian fell for a chat with Ken Russell (he had left by the time we arrived) to a terrifying ride on a breakneck Big Wheel in the Tuileries Gardens in 1997. "Whataniceview," I repeated in an anguished mantra. "NotreDame-LesInvalides-EiffelTower." But Mrs W had her eyes tight shut.

The editors of this paper have (at least until now) put up with a series of strange obsessions in this space. Recurring themes included pigs, Keith Richards, books on minimalism (they now clog our house), the ingenious Christmas present ideas suggested in magazines (did anyone buy jump leads in Connolly leather for £500?), old telephone exchange names and Dracula. (I discovered these last two happily conjoined in a film called Transylvania 6-5000.) I reported three times from New Orleans, three times from hospital and 36 times from Filey, North Yorkshire. In Patagonia, I saw the fissured cliff of a glacier in mouthwash-blue that might have been designed by Frank Gehry. Two days later, I saw it collapse in a 12-hour live TV programme at Buenos Aires airport (I'd missed my plane).

My columnar campaigns produced mixed results. Though I repeatedly urged the scrapping of the walls round Buckingham Palace gardens, these barriers have been strengthened. For all my rants that Loyd Grossman's puttanesca sauce diddles the public by its lack of capers, his product remains resolutely caper-free. It is, however, gratifying that others are now complaining about the bullying tactics of TV Licensing, an off-shoot of the BBC that cannot conceive how anyone can live sans telly.

Food was the one area where the Weasel came under pressure, at least when this column appeared in the main newspaper. "Can't he write about anything else?" moaned a senior editor. But what else is so interesting, so universal, so funny? Which other column would have pointed out that a "special edition" of "Lover's Marmite", containing 0.75 grams of champagne at a mark-up of 87p per jar, stood to earn £522,000 for those "romantic soppies at Unilever"? Still, La Stampa over-egged the pud when it described the Weasel as the "critico-gastronomico of Il Independente". This happened when I found myself awarding the Golden Truffle for the heaviest fungi (650g) at the Truffle Fair in Moncalvo.

One perk of the last 12 years has been my Thursday morning chats with Lucinda Rogers. Having my suggestions realised by a brilliant illustrator was like playing God. With remarkable regularity, they made me burst out laughing (The Weasel looking in the bathroom mirror and seeing John McCririck), but I adored her dazzling pastiches. Over the years, the protean Weasel was the slightly unlikely subject of Matisse, Monet, Blake (both William and Peter), Beardsley, Hogarth, Degas, Tenniel, Lowry, Scarfe, Hopper, Durer, Caravaggio, R Crumb, Manet and Leo Baxendale (the creator of the Bash Street Kids).

The astoundingly erudite letters to the Weasel were another bonus. "The poltergeist you describe [a mug that swung on its hook for no apparent reason] is almost certainly ground-based vibration at a critical frequency." "What everyone remembers from the handcuffs-and-stockings sequence in Hitchcock's 39 Steps is that Robert Donat's hand glides down Madeleine Carroll's leg holding a ham sandwich." "It's obvious that you're not a seafaring Weasel. My stepfather was in the Royal Navy, so I've known from an early age that the term 'Nelson' for 111 derives from 'one eye, one arm, one arsehole'." "Mrs W was right not to drink gecko in wine. It's a Chinese cure for impotence."

However, Mrs W did sample Rick Stein's stir-fried whelks ("I'm still chewing"), "aphrodisiac jam" from Paris ("Quite nice but not very arousing"), Nourishing Kidney Soup from Wing Yip supermarket ("Disgusting and horrible") and the Provençal shellfish called violet ("Looks like doggy doo and tastes like TCP"). She once discovered a large tentacle of Portuguese salted octopus soaking in the sink ("Not what a girl wants to come home to on a dark night") and was unimpressed by a Futurist dessert called Strawberry Breasts ("I rather hoped you were not going to do that"). In short, the dear girl has put up with a lot. My mail bag was universally sympathetic: "I like the sound of Mrs W." Her real name is Alison.

For those suffering withdrawal symptoms, an archive of Rogers/Hirst material is now available at But before we bid our adieux, there's just space for a farewell cocktail, a Weaselian invention, no less. Per person: 60ml vodka; 20ml undiluted elderflower cordial; a couple of splashes of Angostura bitters. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Sorry, forgot to give you the name: Elders & Bitters. Chin-chin!

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor