Michael Heath

Diary - 4 October 2003

The spectator’s cartoon editor looks forward to becoming a billiard ball - but only when it’s legal

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Did you have a nice holiday? I know I did. Did you find yourself in a hotel bedroom in Naples looking after four children between the ages of two and six? Two girls and two boys, while everyone else went sightseeing. (‘Look! There’s a boy stealing that lady’s Prada handbag!’) The two girls have me as a father, the other two belonged to friends. They all wanted to watch something on television. After about three hours, they all agreed that they wanted to watch an animation they knew by heart called Ice Age. I fell asleep, only to be woken by four children screaming and pointing at the television set. Out of the screen came noises that sounded like someone being garrotted. In fact, it was two lesbians chewing away at each other and making orgasmic groans in Italian. The little mites must have been playing around with the zapper and dredged up a porn channel. I had to do quite a bit of explaining about how some people like to be chewed and how one of the women was probably looking for a sock in the bed. I swear to you I’ve nothing against lesbians, but you don’t find advice about this sort of hazard in Baedeker. And in the middle of the afternoon, too!

Walking through Regent’s Park this week dodging middle-aged men on electric scooters, I spied a cute little squirrel burrowing among the autumn leaves and tearing at the earth with his sharp claws. I was as close as David Attenborough and could see everything. The bushy-tailed arboreal rodent had saved a nut, and was burying it for future use. How wise of him! How prudent of him to look after himself and be so self-reliant that he will not be a burden on anyone. The coming winter may be a harsh one, but he will have something to look forward to on the long cold nights, a stash for the lean times ahead. How distressed he will be when he finds that his little nest egg has been stolen by brown squirrel Gordon Brown. Nature can be so cruel.

Richard Hannay looked around him at wild-eyed Kurds who sat hunched, gnawing with yellow fangs at strange sweetmeats. Old tribal leaders babbled to each other in a tongue that even he and his constant companion, Sandy, with whom he had spent years in the Khyber Pass, could not decipher. They who knew all the outlandish rituals and dead languages felt ostracised. There was nothing they could do, so both vowed that the next time they travelled across London they’d go by cab rather than by omnibus. John Buchan’s The Three Hostages was broadcast recently on Radio Four. The actors made a good job of it. But these days how can you have confirmed bachelors trotting about gentlemen’s clubs and asking each other back to their chambers for a sherry without sounding a little queer? Even if you have the most dangerous man in Europe in your sights. ‘Hello! I’m Dick, and this is my friend Sandy!’ The actors had to perform in deepest butch. At least Sandy wasn’t called Bunny, who was the sidekick to Raffles the gentleman thief.

I have been told by a tailor that a well-known brand of designer jeans makes them one inch bigger than the size marked on the waistband. So a 35 puts on a 34 and thinks he’s slim, and keeps going back for the same make. But most jeans are now worn around the knees, so the waist measurement hardly matters.

Here’s a wonderful supersaver way to make British Rail pay for itself instead of robbing you of what little money the government has left you: as you travel in and out of any mainline station you will have noticed that everything is defaced by spray-canned graffiti. Every nut and bolt, every signal box. And nothing can be done about it apparently. You may call it disgusting scribble that is defacing our once beautiful city, but others may write, ‘It is a cry from the urban unheard heart screaming to wrench itself from the ever-deadening hand of conformity.’ In other words it is ART! Now, listen up! You already have a captive audience sitting in stationary trains outside the station. If you charged them, say, an extra £2 for their awayday to Bath, rounding the fare up to £65 more or less, and sold them a catalogue detailing the graffiti in progress, no one could possibly object. The prospect is exhilarating.

Of course you’ve got to know who’s who in the glamorous, sticky moments that make up the pop world, so that when you find yourself next to a young person you can casually chat to them about Elbow, JZ, Korn, ABS, Bowling for Soup. But did you know that there is also a top ten mobile-ring-tone chart? Now you can drop the names of ring-tone boppers like Fancy, Blu Cantrell, F.T. Sean. Ultra Beat’s Pretty Breath is at No. two. Who’d have thought it? Is that Lumidee’s ‘Complete’ on your ring tone? Wow! Also, of course, you would have something to talk to Harold Pinter about next time you found yourself beside him at a dinner party. Surely he would be happy to discuss something other than America’s role in policing the world.

What fun one has in London nowadays, dodging the crack addicts as they hurtle towards you at 100 mph ricocheting off cars and shop fronts out of their (what’s left of them) brains. What a high it must be turning oneself into a billiard ball! A mite antisocial, but what larks, Pip, what larks! I can’t wait for them to legalise it.

You don’t need a gun to frighten people. You don’t need a cosh. If anyone threatens you or treats you badly, just look them in the eye and floor them with the knowledge that you are writing a daily diary that you are selling to a newspaper and that all their horrid behaviour will be displayed there in black and white.