The nation fails to grieve for Saloon Bar Man

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The Independent Online
MARK THATCHER claims he's short of money, despite a reputed pounds 40m fortune. Mark Thatcher is short of any number of things - perspective, irony, dress sense - but this is the first time I'd thought he might have money troubles. It proves, I suppose, that ordinary people can't begin to understand what it's like to have to support a butler, constant first-class travel, a house in Texas with sunken library (whatever that is), jacuzzi and Porsche, and a rarely visited pounds 2.4m house in the Boltons with gold taps.

I feel sorry for Mark, not because of his financial difficulties, acute though these may be, but because I fear he may be one of the most loathed men in Britain. We can be interested in Carlos the Jackal, but frankly, he hasn't committed a crime for about 20 years. Saddam's gone quiet for the time being, and we're still not clear about Zhirinovsky. There's no one left to hate except Mark Thatcher. And there are so many good reasons for doing it.

At Harrow, Mark made a habit of jumping in the air, clicking his heels and shouting ' 'Allo sunshine]' at anyone he considered to be his social inferior. In California, he told Walter Annenberg, former US ambassador to Britain, 'You have the wrong sort of claret glasses. They should be tulip-shaped'. He also observed that Annenberg's brand-new, Jack Nicklaus- designed golf course was 'a bit Mickey Mouse'. Worse than this, he has no style. He is Saloon Bar Man, chest puffed up under his blazer. He's all that's most smug and tedious about Englishmen when they get a bit of wealth and position (but not quite as much as they think they should have). A nation does not love him.

DESMOND Morris's attempt to explain love in purely biological terms last week reminded me of what passed for sex education at my school: rabbits. We knew a lot about the habits of rabbits, which would have been fine if we'd spent our Friday nights down a burrow. At discos, it wasn't much help. Morris's attempts to reduce a complex cultural and psychological phenomenon to the workings of our insides resulted in a programme of sententious banality. 'Human females remain attractive to men the whole year round' was among Desmond's revelations, along with 'eye-to-eye contact is the first stage in human courtship'. Well, surprise, surprise. To banish the disbelief that must have been flooding living rooms everywhere, Italian boys on scooters were filmed ogling girls. When the camera found one in hotpants, it zoomed in on her bottom and followed it until she disappeared from view.

Desmond was clearly enjoying himself, but he may have been alone. Bringing everything down to biological function made him seem crazily obtuse. Men seek women with high-pitched voices, who make them feel protective, and eye up girls for their child- bearing potential. Women choose men they think will look after them. And I've spent all these years thinking it was about pleasure.

It seemed somehow appropriate that when he got a real couple to make love, their bodies didn't do any of the things he purported to be showing us. Wendy Duffield later revealed that her breasts didn't swell up, so the producers filmed her doing arm exercises and just pretended it was sex. Her 'nipple arousal' was actually nipple deflation reversed. Her lips didn't change colour so she had to suck an ice lolly to stain them. And the sweat at the end came from a garden spray. (What does Desmond Morris get up to? I've only ever seen that much condensation in a Turkish bath.) Does he know much about human beings at all? It is probably not irrelevant that for the three weeks Wendy and Tony Duffield were filming, Morris was in a cage of chimps.

HAVING failed to plumb the mysteries of love with Desmond Morris, I thought I might do better with The Secrets Of Meeting Men, a video guide which is coming soon to a shop near you. (Can you imagine handing one of these over the counter? It would be like shouting to the whole shop: 'I'm a saddie.') Of course, I am not sad, not at all, and I watched it purely in the interests of research. 'Relationship experts' (what does this mean?) Yvette Powers and Robert Beckwith assured me that by doing so I would no longer miss opportunities when all those men passed me by. What men, I kept thinking?

They also told me that men love long hair, which is hopeless because mine's short; and that fingering my hair 'would give me an advantage over other women'. My hair is so short that if I finger it I look as though I am picking spots in my head, which wouldn't give me an advantage over anyone. But apparently there are many men out there who are dying to meet me, and I should help them along by saying: 'You always look so happy. How do you do it?' (Most of them, I should think, would throw up.) I should also try to pick them up at bus stops, especially by asking a favour, which will appeal to their protective instincts. (I think they've been talking to Desmond. I don't think they've been talking to the police, who would probably warn that wholesale picking up of men at bus stops can get a girl murdered.) Most importantly, if I do get into conversation, I shouldn't 'drag it on so I lose my sparkle'. Thanks, Yvette and Robert; I feel much better now.

SOMETIMES I wish I lived in America. McDonald's has just been ordered to pay dollars 2.9m ( pounds 1.9m) damages to Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque. Stella put a cup of coffee in her lap to remove the lid while riding in a car, and it spilt and burnt her legs. Now, who is in the wrong here? Is coffee supposed to be hot? Emphatically yes. Should you squeeze it between your thighs in a moving vehicle while removing the lid? No. But McDonald's still have to pay the damages. What next? Lawsuits against washing-up liquid manufacturers, on the grounds that drinking their product could make you sick? Or against knife companies whose products could kill you if you use them to slit your wrists? The possibilities for getting as rich as Mark Thatcher are endless.