This week an unusual piece of junk mail joined the forest of pizza delivery leaflets and minicab cards on my doormat. It was a white envelope marked with six chunky coloured circles under which was written: ‘Inside: Important Information from HM Government’. I assumed the ‘important information’ would be that I had been specially selected to win a prize draw and almost threw it away. In fact it turned out to be a leaflet from something called the National Steering Committee on Warning and Informing the Public telling me ‘What to do in an Emergency’.
If you consult The Yale Dictionary of Art & Artists on the subject of William Hodges, the brief entry will inform you that he was a British landscape painter, pupil of Richard Wilson ‘and his most accomplished imitator’, and that not finding success in London he joined Captain Cook’s second voyage to the South Pacific as official landscape artist. That was in 1772–5. From 1780 to 1784 he was in India, and in 1790 he visited Russia.
The last time I visited my cousins — three boys between the ages of eight and 13 — they were playing a new video game that their mother had bought for them. The eight-year-old had hooked the computer up to an overhead projector and was cruising city streets in an enormous tank, pausing occasionally to point a flame-thrower in the direction of passing pedestrians, policemen and prostitutes and burning them to death.
I knew Bernard Levin when we both worked on The Spectator at the end of the Fifties, during its uncharacteristically radical period. He wrote a parliamentary sketch under the name of Taper, and was about the first to treat the political scene as theatre — and amateur theatre at that — rather than a court of high seriousness, though the idea of doing it that way came from the editor, Brian Inglis.
Andrew Kenny says that the National party has met its logical end — in the bosom of the racist ANC Last week an Afrikaans man with a plump face, large spectacles and the nickname of ‘Kortbroek’ (Short Pants) announced that he was joining the ANC. Thus ends the 90-year history of the most radical and notorious political party in the history of South Africa. Thus ends the National party of apartheid.