On Saturday, I was in a public library, waiting for an old guy to finish with the Times. But he seemed to be reading every word of every section, and sort of peering at it frowningly in an annoying way. So I did something I hardly ever do: I picked up the Daily Mail.
I had forgotten that I might find Boris here. I wondered what I thought of him these days. One is meant to despise or at least disdain him, of course. But I’ve always struggled to.
Oh, I often come very close. I came close the other week, when I read Rory Stewart’s memoir. Politicians should obviously be devoted earnest types, I felt, not semi-charming smoothies like David Cameron, or fully-charming roughies, if that’s a word, like Boris. I winced, slightly, when Stewart told of first meeting Boris: though the older Old Etonian was being briefed on the situation in Afghanistan, he behaved as if they were both in on an enormous joke. That’s also how I felt the one time I met him.
Anyway, I started reading his column, about taking down Christmas decorations. We should be allowed to burn our Christmas trees, was his point. But the content’s not the point. The style’s the point.
About one line in he addressed the reader as ‘folks’. I frowned sceptically. Isn’t it getting a bit tired now, all that merry English act? Maybe his appeal has finally worn off, I felt, maybe he’s gone stale. I read on a few lines and you know what? A reluctant smile was forming on my face goddammit. I felt a bit comfy and cosy in his company. The ‘folks’ thing, which I had just seen through five seconds ago, was working.
And it hit me with fresh force.