It’s a few weeks after the election of Pope Francis, and a notoriously leaky church source is talking about the revolution to come. The new leader of the faithful is a sharp operator who finds himself surrounded by ‘a medieval court system of hopeless characters, each jealously guarding their own silos of activity. There’s lots of crap people in key positions.’ Meanwhile, away from the court, bureaucrats churn out windy memos.
It was day 19 of the Nelson Mandela death watch, and my char, Mrs Gladys Dhladhla, had brought her grandson to work with her. Mlungisi is a stout little chap, 14 years old and bent on becoming a professional rugby player. His granny was counting on me to broaden his mind so Mlungisi and I drove to Mandela’s home in the suburb of Houghton and spent an hour or so chatting to the international TV crews camped on the sidewalk outside.
It may be pushing it to compare Philip Bobbitt with Indiana Jones, on the basis that a constitutional lawyer will never have the exotic and uncommercial appeal of an archaeologist adventurer, even if he does look remarkably similar. Then again, a profile of him in the New York Observer called him the James Bond of the Columbia Law School, which also suggests impossible glamour.
But you can see why his students and reviewers come over star-struck.
Nicolas Sarkozy is angry — a ‘caged lion’, one of his closest friends told Le Monde last week. He is angry about the state of France, the state of his party, his perceived persecution by the courts, but perhaps most of all about the fact that he isn’t in the Élysée Palace to clean the mess up. If the French were to clamour for his return, he is reported to have told a Goldman Sachs conference in London this month, he would come back ‘for duty’s sake’.
You remember the climax of Jaws — the primeval moment when Quint the crazed Ahab-like fisherman goes mano a mano with the monster of the deep? He comes to the rear of the listing boat and straps on a leather belt with a phallic protrusion: a metal receptacle into which he shoves the haft of his puny fishing rod. And you look at this terrifying mismatch between a man’s tackle and the might of nature, and you think, ‘How the hell is that going to work?’ Such were my feelings, amigos, on a blustery day in the Indian ocean when I realised I had a whopper on the line.