Diary RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS

Share
Related Topics
Interviewed about his health in the London Evening Standard last week, the newscaster John Humphrys remarked: "Glasses are a complete bloody nightmare ... I'm always losing them or sitting on them. I refuse to walk down the road with them hanging on a bit of string round my neck. That is the ultimate admission of getting old, isn't it?"

I would rather admit to getting old than go through what has to be gone through without the string - or in my case, chain. Perhaps it's different for a chap because of pockets, but without having the specs round my neck when I go out I might in the course of a day have to put them into and take them out of my bag 30 times. I accept that they are not a sartorial plus and they get me vexed when they become entangled with a necklace or (at conferences) a name tag on a string - and sometimes both. But that is a small price to pay for having them readily available and not having to buy a replacement pair every fortnight.

"I'm sick and tired of all this speculation," said the Prime Minister last week on Radio 4's Today programme, and I so much agreed with him that I decided I could no longer stand news programmes for the duration of the Tory leadership contest. However, I can't do without chat at that stage of the morning, so I switched over to Terry Wogan on Radio 2 and found myself in the world of TOGs (Terry's old geezers/girls) with their associations, stickers, licences and a passionate interest in such matters as glasses on string and not being able to remember anything any more except your childhood. It was far more entertaining than hearing portentous discussions about the possible implications of a further defection by some fat member of the 1922 Committee, and I may well never go back to Today. Quite apart from liking Wogan's prattle, I enjoy dancing in the shower to cheap pre-1980s music.

It was not, however, a politics-free week. I had a fascinating sunny Thursday afternoon on the terrace of the House of Commons during which the leadership drama evolved before my very eyes. Between 2.30 and 4.00, I met a sequence of peers and MPs, almost all of whom said John Major would undoubtedly lose. But as the terrace filled up for Pimms and gossip after Prime Minister's Questions, the change of mood was palpable for, as one newcomer said, Major's performance had been worth at least an extra 20 votes. When, shortly afterwards, he turned up to chat with backbenchers, he was at ease and walking tall and his reception was warm. By just before six, when I left, the consensus appeared to be that he would win. Truly, an afternoon is a long time in politics.

The tenant of my affections and I share an anthropological bent, and one of our harmless occupations is to watch the rich. On Wednesday, we observed many in their natural habitat when we went to an open evening in Mount Street, in Mayfair, which involved drinking champagne and eating canapes as we wandered around shops full of works of art we would like but most of which cost more than pounds 100,000. (Is it a sign that the recession is over when a shop completely devoted to antique Russian furniture can flourish?) We came away with two memorable lines. A most engaging old man observed: "Whatever you can afford isn't worth having", while a youngish woman in a picture shop explained that her wares were suitable for "forward- looking, unblinkered designer-people" - presumably not TOGs.

I was alarmed by the revelation in the Daily Mail last week that Divine Brown, the woman arrested with the unfortunate Hugh Grant, used to enjoy a life of high-class prostitution "before her looks started to fade". She is 25.

Last week, quoting from a letter describing me as a "tight Welsh git", I remarked: "I do not take kindly to being accused of being Welsh" - and thus infuriated Andrew Lewis, of Dyfed. He fulminated at the editor that he did not take kindly to my "blatant (racist?) anti-Welsh comments ... To her I say then: 'Stuff you, you pompous English trout, and if you have nothing good to say keep your mouth closed.'" It was a joke, Andrew, and I'm a pompous Irish - not English - trout, so there's a fat chance of my keeping my mouth closed. But let me be positive about Wales. Will it make you feel better to know that the leek is my favourite vegetable?

Incidentally, when and why did "trout" become a term of abuse? As fish go, I've always thought them pretty inoffensive. I looked up the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for enlightenment and found only a further conundrum. What the hell was Thoreau getting at when he wrote: "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk"?

Poetry corner goes political this week, with William Elphick's contributions to current Portillophobia:

The Right Honourable Michael Portillo

Is an ambiguous sort of a fellow.

Although he'll insist

He's no Falangist,

He'll have himself called the Caudillo.

And while we're being Spanophobic, here's Bob Pettit's offering:

The battle of Tenerife lasted

Until Nelson's ship was dismasted.

His losing campaign

Gave the island to Spain -

We ought to court-martial the bastard!

Now, although Andrew Belsey rightly objected to "There was a young man from Dunfermline,/Who tried to stop dervishes whirlin' " on rhyming grounds, many of you were not so purist. Here are some attempts: "Having sussed out their need,/He injected more speed/Till they had no dimension to birl in" (Fred Balgarnie); "Amazed at their folly/He charged with his brolly/But was foiled when it started unfurlin' " (Sally Brown); She tried Calvinism/And some magnetism/Then, frustrated, resorted to curlin' " (Mark Hemphill); "By tyin' 'em down/To a stake in the ground/Even offerin' 'em loads of pounds sterlin' " (Alan Street).

Oh, yes. Fred Balgarnie would like a rhyme for ashtray, please.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + £40K OTE: SThree: Recruitment is a sales role and ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'