No place for hair-driers in the Army of my day

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
NO homosexual, I. Far from it. I have long had an eye for what I used to refer to in my Punch days - delightfully! - as "birds of the unfeathered variety". The lovely ladies bring such dash and colour to all our lives. What would we do without them - aside from the washing up (I jest!)?

In my view, Michael Portillo was absolutely right in his decision to keep "gays" (dread word!) well beyond the perimeter fence of the Armed Forces. Michael is a just man, of resolute principle and firm thighs. He knows as well as I do that it is simply not on to have a crack SAS squad which is meant to be preparing for a breakneck mission against the forces of Saddam all the time worrying about whether their blow-driers will fit in their rucksacks. If this had been the case, then war hero Mr Andy McNab's tome would have been re-titled Yoo-hoo Two Zero, and the audio-cassette narrated by Mr John Inman, with the part of Saddam read in a deep voice by Mollie Sugden.

It goes without saying that homosexuality is profoundly at odds with the British way of life, as exemplified in the finest traditions of our great public schools. As the proud product of Baster's Academy for Boys (Motto: "Baste up, the Basters! Baste Up, Baste Up and Baste the Ball!"), I can vouch that we were all brought up to be defiantly heterosexual, so much so that we would make a point of calling the more effeminate younger lads by girls' names only, thus establishing a strong male ethos throughout the establishment.

This robust practice was bolstered by one or two manly traditions. Throughout the year all but the most senior boys would wear shorts, though prefects were permitted to wear just pants. Cold showers were de rigueur, with a hearty rub-down provided by the Keeper of Towels, a hotly-contested post usually awarded to the senior pupil who had proved himself most handy on the rugger pitch. Outdoor sports were encouraged, including Basters' very own school game, dating back to the early 19th century, of Buttocks. This involved 11 boys per side, each team possessing a minimum of 22 buttocks. Each player would pummel the buttocks of the opposing team for a full hour, and then the game would commence. Hearty outdoors stuff, very energetic and character-forming - but not the sort of thing favoured by the sissy element, for whom patriotic on-pitch nudity was anathema.

I am reliably informed that some of our more permissive educational establishments favour theatrical entertainments, often veering towards the louche. Happily, this is not a tradition followed by Basters', which restricts itself to an annual production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Cambridge University proved equally sturdy. During my time there, one restricted one's passions to the realm of intellectual advancement. I well remember the various male groups that used to meet in one another's rooms to debate matters of the very highest import. A period of heated cut-and-thrust, charged with passion and vitality, would be followed by a brief time for debate. On the playing-field, too, we displayed the very essence of British masculinity, going outside in all weathers to play a round of croquet, just so long as we were well wrapped up and there wasn't a chill in the air. On many occasions, we would encounter female students. I can assure you we took a healthy interest in their indubitable charms - and excellent cooks some of them turned out to be.

After Cambridge, many of us were drawn to a career in politics. Memories of the deprivations suffered by so many millions in the General Strike and the subsequent horror of the Jarrow Marches inevitably drew us into joining the Conservative Party. Before putting themselves up for adoption by local Conservative Associations, many of my more astute contemporaries took the wise precaution of first locating, vetting, investing in and acquiring a first wife, and it was here that they came to know the female sex - with all its infamous wiles! - at first hand. Some were gifted at flower arrangement, others in small talk, still others in displaying great loyalty - but all had what one might call that indefinable "womanly" quality that marked them out as having never been educated at an all-male British public school.

So despite what its left-leaning "gay" (dread word!) critics might have us believe, the British Establishment remains heterosexual to the core - and so say all of us!