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Dr Jonathan Miller went to the theatre this week. It was his first time for nearly 10 years. The man who has been one of Britain's most celebrated directors for half a century pronounced he wasn't really very interested in the theatre these days. He prefers being at home with his grandchildren or going to Marks & Spencer.

The British have a great tradition of curmudgeon among their grand old men. It was no less a figure than the Duke of Wellington who described the soldiers who won the Peninsular War as "Scum of the earth, born to drink". It is a mode of celebration which the UK athletics head coach Charles van Commenee has clearly mastered, even though he is only a Dutchman. "The women were a disgrace and the men were not much better," he moaned of Britain's female and male sprint relay performances.

You might have thought he would have found something more positive to focus on after the team's glistening record 19-medal haul in the most successful European Championships for more than a decade. But there are Great British Standards to be maintained, you see – of which none is more important than that of the Grumpy Old Man.

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