When Greek democracy was restored back in 1974, some ‘democratic’-leaning newspapers tried to criminalise my writings, so much so that I got 16 months in the pokey for ‘anti-Greek’ comments, whatever that meant. I did not serve the sentence, which was eventually thrown out on appeal, but left for London instead, and the Greek media’s gain became The Spectator’s loss. Greek authorities do not seem to have changed much since the martyr Taki was given 16 months for writing certain truths.
Five of us, standing in a semi-circle on a varnished wooden floor facing the yoga teacher, breathing deeply in concert. In through the nose, hold, out through the mouth. Easter Sunday morning. Christ is risen. We slowly inhale and exhale to the sound of distant church bells and the cheeping of a pair of sparrows nesting somewhere in the eaves.
We’re learning Kum Nye, a type of Tibetan yoga. An all-day beginners’ ‘workshop’.
Eighteen months into my car injury battle with The Slobs, I slump over my kitchen table and throw my head into my hands. Through bitter tears, I email the ‘customer experience’ people at Aviva the following cri de coeur: ‘Right, that’s it. It’s official. I can’t take any more. I can no longer fight this Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
‘Nearly two years this has been going on and yet again I am about to be screwed for more money than I owe for my car insurance.
According to a new survey commissioned by the BBC, Britain is now divided into seven different social classes. The good news, dear reader, is that you’re almost certainly at the top of the pyramid in the class the BBC calls the ‘social elite’. Members of this group own houses worth, on average, £325,000 and their mean household income is £89,000 a year. The bad news is that it’s not a particularly exclusive club. The social elite accounts for 6 per cent of the UK population, which means you’re sharing the distinction with 3,790,920 others.
Always on the lookout for new heart-wrenching tales of animal suffering, the press has seized upon the news that a great many British horse-riders are too fat for their mounts. In the quaint words of the Sunday Telegraph, this puts horses ‘at risk of several welfare conditions’, including back pain, lameness and general bad temper. Research published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour had found that a third of all recreational riders weighed more than what their horses could comfortably carry.
Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It listed an unusual character in the credits, a swearing consultant. And no wonder, for he must have been one of the busiest people on set. Lively on-screen swearing has been largely absent recently — until mid-afternoon on Easter Sunday, that is. Commentators Andrew Cotter and Dan Topolski were amiably rhubarbing away on the radio about this year’s Boat Race being a masterpiece of unbelievable tension (though anyone could see, even on the radio, that only a torpedo attack would prevent an Oxford victory) when Oxford’s diminutive cox, the Colombian Oskar Zorrilla, made his pitch for immortality.
Q. My mother lives in a fine old house in Jersey and has a lovely garden. Unfortunately her Portuguese gardener has contrived to make the place look as though it belongs to the seafront in Llandudno. He has placed a large plastic owl on top of a bush in the centre of what was once a lovely circular rosebed in the front of the house. What is more, he has rigged, around said bush, fairy lights in the shape of butterflies that change colours and wink on and off.
The Ten Room is the -restaurant inside the new Café Royal Hotel, which occupies the curve of Regent Street from Air Street down to Piccadilly Circus and its bundles of mad tourists, who stare like Doctor Who extras at the nothingness in the sky and the greater nothingness beyond; it is neat advertising, neat capitalism. Soho on Easter Sunday is pleasingly empty and sinister and these great white buildings seem, as ever, to have landed on London from a planet of horror: pure unadulterated money, greed, sin and doughnuts, which can be purchased from Dunkin’ Donuts on Glasshouse Street, the most convenient gateway to hell in the whole metropolis.
Why has behalf so rapidly collapsed into misuse? Everyone says things like ‘On my behalf I don’t want money’, or ‘The car crashed through bad driving on your behalf’. Rather than attributing the action to a vicarious agent, they simply mean ‘for my part’ or ‘on your part’. I should like to see what the Oxford English Dictionary has found out about this usage, but it has not updated its entry for behalf since 1887.
Even then, it was bemoaning the ‘loss of an important distinction’ between in behalf of and on behalf of.
A sample of things people should know about,
or have heard of, whether they’re 12 or not:
George Washington, George Gershwin, George Eliot,
Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley, Jane Austen,
Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale,
the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali,
Roger Federer, Queen Victoria, Snow White,
Bing Crosby, Saint Paul, Emily Bronte, the dromedary,
the Wall Street Crash, William Gladstone, Franklin D.