People generally like Americans. I do myself. But I have never thought that we were at all alike. Having visited the US a few times I have come to share the view of G K Chesterton that "nowhere in the world does an Englishman feel so much a stranger as in America".
Such, however, is not the view of the Tories' defence spokesman, Dr Liam Fox, who says: "We look at the world in the same way, share the same roots, nourish the same aspirations, thrill to the same ideals."
So readers will not be surprised to learn that Dr Fox has always been a wholehearted supporter of the disastrous invasion of Iraq by George Bush and Tony Blair. Here, he would argue, were two men who nourished the same aspirations, not to mention thrilling to the same ideals, etc, etc.
And even now as Iraq slips into chaos and violent anarchy with hundreds of civilians murdered every day, the Doctor maintains his position. The other day he was even criticising the BBC for broadcasting "unrelenting negative reports" about Iraq without giving adequate coverage to what were called "more positive developments".
Precisely what these positive developments might be was never explained. Perhaps he will tell us at some later stage.
But in the meantime he seems quite unaware of the fact that Iraq is now such a dangerous place that it is not safe for any journalist, BBC or otherwise, to travel about in case they are killed or kidnapped. For all we know there might be positive developments but nobody, it seems, is too keen to risk their life trying to find out what they might be.
Some creatures merit no mercy
You do not realise just how many snails there are around until you start killing them. Recently a network of slimy, shining trails leading to a batch of now leafless seedlings filled me with such rage that for the first time in my life I laid down a minefield of little blue pellets guaranteed, according to the manufacturers, to rid the world of these unwanted pests.
The next morning I was amazed by the sheer quantity of dead snails - so many that it was difficult to walk around without crunching the corpses underfoot.
Environmentalists may accuse me of a disproportionate response. But I am afraid I felt only a perverse sense of pleasure at the sight of all the victims. Nor will I feel a jot of sympathy for the Desmoulins Whorl snail whose plight was described in yesterday's Independent. So small that it is almost invisible, this creature is said to be on the verge of extinction, despite having been removed to a place of safety at a cost of quarter of a million pounds during the construction of the Newbury bypass.
The number of people who could actually recognise one of these tiny snails must be almost as few as the snails themselves. Yet, the possibility of their extinction, judging by all the publicity, is treated as a matter of great concern. Save the Snail. Expect to see the T-shirt shortly.
* The only time I saw Margaret Beckett was when she was holidaying (as I was) this year in a very posh hotel in Madeira. Usually, it seems, Mrs Beckett prefers to take her holiday in a homely caravan, and this she now intends to do, even though it means being accompanied by two bodyguards, given her new important post as Britain's Foreign Secretary.
As usual when a politician goes on holiday at a time like this, there is a certain amount of muttering about the irresponsibility of doing so with a crisis on hand. And Mrs Beckett is chastised for not giving her continuing attention to the war in the Middle East.
But heading for the open highway like Mr Toad, Mrs Beckett is at least making it clear to everybody there is little she can do about the situation in Lebanon. Or, alternatively, the message is that this country has no separate foreign policy to distinguish it from the US - so why worry?
It's true that Mrs B seems to have taken exception to American planes carrying bombs and missiles to Israel being allowed to stop and refuel in Scotland. One paper even used the word fury to describe her reaction to the news.
The sad reality was reported later - that she was merely considering making a protest to the Americans. After sleeping on it, however, wiser counsel prevailed and the public was told that it all amounted to just a procedural matter. So the only fury on display is likely to be that of motorists who get stuck behind a caravan and the detectives on their motorbikes.Reuse content