Diary

Click to follow
The Independent Online
I had a thoroughly enjoyable VE Day. Of the 14 or so of us who spent hours drinking champagne and rejoicing that we were not under Nazi rule, three were born respectively in Australia, Germany and Poland and three in Ireland. Several of us had been told by English friends and acquaintances from the literati/media that there was nothing to celebrate, with myriad reasons being cited from Dresden to the NHS cuts. It was also, some critics had explained, implicitly xenophobic to wave a flag. And, my dear, the vulgarity!

But if there was a bit of a frost among the chattering classes, in my west London village the event was greeted enthusiastically. The knitting shop had an elaborate window display constructed in red, white and blue wool; the florist made up patriotic bouquets; and I found no one unmoved by the Queen Mum, Vera Lynn and all the rest of it.

However, what I found the most stupendously inappropriate reaction came not from Hampstead but from the East End, an aged denizen of which announced on television: "Oh, I dunno, 'oo's to say we wouldn't 'ave been better off if the Germans 'ad won? I mean, look at their pensions!" That's as sensible as those Irish republicans - like my late granny - who would have liked Hitler to win on the incontrovertible grounds that he would have abolished partition.

On reporting to a friend the suggestion from another that there was a marketing opportunity for spray-on mud for Sloanes who drive Land Rovers in London, she immediately went into entrepreneurial orbit. What about spray-on smells, such as manure (so you can pretend you're an organic gardener), hen droppings (to help push free-range eggs) and freshly baked bread (to help sell your house)? As a sideline, Una suggests we sell a modification of a paint roller for applying sun-tan oil to the back, but I feel it might be unwise to diversify so early in our new career.

Can you imagine a literary prize-giving at which the winner's rivals cheer him loudly and take genuine delight in his success? This extraordinary event happened at the House of Lords last Thursday, when the Crimewriters' Association/Cartier Diamond Dagger was presented to Reginald Hill.

The corporate happiness was not just because Reg is as much fun as his books, but because people who produce crime fiction are notoriously much nicer than any other group of writers. Arnaud Bamberger, managing director of Cartier, claimed in his speech to have heard that "in France all crime writers are important, in the US only the successful crime writers are important and in England no crime writers are important". So perhaps being kept in your place is, after all, good for the soul.

Musing about the European unit of currency, Claire Simpson reached for her dictionary, looked up "pean", and selected from the several definitions "the end of a hammerhead opposite the hammering face". After hours of research into the key words, she designed the Pean, "depicting a cottage room (Scot.), occupied by a hammerhead shark opposite the striking surface of a golf club, with space for the face of the president of the EU below!"

James Challis opted for the Europa, which the Germans could call Euromark, the Dutch Euroguilder, the French Ecu and the British Eurine. He suggests as a symbol "the legendary daughter of Agenor, with her bull, which would give the Europhobes something further to fulminate with and about". Thanks a bunch; those suggestions certainly take the debate forward.

So farewell then, lady from Bantry/Who kept her false teeth in the pantry. From Frederick Balgarnie's poem, I have extracted the following:

False teeth in Bantry are tiresome.

This lady, when out, just hires some

In Glengariff or Bandon,

With reckless abandon,

Then goes home to her own, and admires them.

All her chums like her gums as they are,

And her teeth in an ould pickling jar.

She's admired in Killarney

And Cork, close to Blarney,

And fted in gay Mullingar.

It's not some ould sweets she'll be bitin',

Or "rock" from Tramore with through-writin'.

More likely she'll munch

A banana for lunch,

Or whatever her gums find excitin'.

I have stopped here, for I felt that Fred's account of the lady's descent into sexual promiscuity and alcoholism was too sad for a Monday morning. In any case, I have become fond of her and prefer to dismiss his allegations as scurrilous rumour.

Having last week announced loftily that my readers didn't need to be bribed to correspond, two of my fellow diarists have sneakily offered prizes. I'm damned if I want to be known as the Stingy Diarist, but I am not to be bounced into a U-turn. So I intend giving an occasional unsought award for exceptional merit. Step forward Fred Balgarnie, poet and currency designer, and Susan Wheatley, who introduced us to the popular masticationally challenged lady. Suitable books to you both, and a long life with no need of dentures! And those of you who missed your VE Day Independent need to know that I am anxiously awaiting new challenges for limericks, clerihews, haikus and other distracting verse.

Dropping into a New York bookshop recently, I was presented with a leaflet telling me that "May is Personal Growth Month". Those giving seminars included the author of I Could Do Anything, If Only I Knew What it Was (discussing "a very pertinent and timely issue of our time - maturity"); the creator of How to Meet a Mensch in New York (demonstrating her willingness "to share with you her personal advice"); a "relationship expert" who had written True Love: The Men We Never Knew (who would "take you on a journey through love's varied and beautiful corridors"); and a chap (What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America) reporting on his five years of meeting mystics, psychologists, philosophers, physicians and scientists to find out "what is a truly meaningful and complete life, and who could show him how to live it".

I fear I do not share the American passion for self-improvement; the only seminar I felt excited about was that offered by someone who, by claiming to be able to teach "how to eliminate desk mess", plugged into one of my favourite, though admittedly unrealistic, fantasies.

Comments