The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: Sic transit gloria Snooty

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The Independent Online
STUNNED, shell-shocked, deeply upset. These are the only words that spring to mind when I am asked by sympathisers how I have been affected by the overnight decision to axe Lord Snooty and His Pals from the Beano periodical.

I am told that Lord Snooty is to become Saleroom Correspondent for the Spectator, but this is hardly the same: for the past 54 years Snooty and his bunch of pals have been entertaining us with their splendid antics, flying the flag for a smarter, more shipshape Britain. A solo spot for Snooty in a downmarket weekly with a frankly less educated type of reader simply will not wash.

Lord Snooty (correctly pronounced Sn'oy) first came on to the scene in the late Thirties. Some claim he was a pseudonym for Quentin Hogg, later Lord Hailsham, others that his lofty manner and resolute quiff make him a 'dead-ringer' - whatever that might be] - for Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, whose weekly adventures have been the mainstay of the Sunday Telegraph comic section these past 50 years.

But Snooty needs no imitators; he has always been very much his own man, as anyone who has witnessed his numerous appearances in the House of Lords will attest. He has long maintained a particular interest in countryside and heritage matters; he will be remembered, for instance, for his resolute attack on 'ramblers' (dread word]) when the question of new footpaths was discussed three years ago, and he is a doughty champion of bloodsports, in particular the marvellously traditional festival of rabbit-squashing that takes place in the Cotswolds on the first Sunday in February each year. My old friend and quaffing partner, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, is a beneficiary of Snooty's prowess at this excellent sport, being the proud owner of a three-piece suit made entirely from rabbit ears.

The editor of the Beano, a Mr Euan Kerr - widely tipped as the next editor of the Times - has claimed of Snooty that 'our readership can't relate to him. His top hat and Eton collar must baffle today's kids. At the time he was created in 1938, it was a more divided society. His axing is very much a part of our new classless society'. What weasel words from Kerr] Perhaps in today's more 'Kerr-ing' society (]]]), 'kids' must be protected from the horrors of sheer good manners, cleanliness and common decency.

I would hazard a guess that the loathly Kerr had a hand in the other great disaster of the week, namely the decision to foreclose that most readable of periodicals, the Victor. Delights galore awaited the reader who was prepared to give the Victor a little of his time and effort. Who can forget its star-turn, the plucky Cockney athlete Alf Tupper, The Tough of the Track? An historical footnote: my sources tell me that Tupper was modelled on the young Norman St John Stevas, now Lord St John of Fawsley, who came to prominence as a first-class amateur sprinter in the early Fifties, much given to expressions such as 'Bloomin' Ada' and 'Lead me to the free grub, mate, I ain't 'alf starvin' '. This fruity language was testament to his experience in the welding trade.

Norman has, I need hardly add, refined such expressions over the course of an impressive political career, though the occasional 'lorluvaduck' can be heard to slip through his net, and some have argued that his impressive six-volume edition of the complete works of Walter Bagehot was marred by Norman's tendency in his scholarly introduction to refer to Bagehot as 'a really brainy geezer'.

Nor should the educational aspect of the Victor be under-rated by the so-called 'experts' (experts at what?]) Over the years the 'It's a wacky world]' column has taught me everything I know. 'In Spain, 12,000 people sat down to eat a mile-long sausage. It took 150 cooks eight hours to cook it, and it weighted 3,300lb' (16 June 1987). Fascinating] Perhaps our sister newspaper, the Independent (dread word]) should take a leaf from the Victor. Does anybody really want to know exactly when Mr Bottomley placed his bun in Mrs Bottomley's oven? Not, methinks, when Alf Tupper has another race to run]