Something funny is happening in this country. Our comedians are becoming politicians and our politicians are becoming comedians — and public life is turning into an endless stream of jokes. Last week, the comedian Al Murray announced that he would be standing at the next general election in the constituency of South Thanet, the same seat that Nigel Farage is contesting. Al Murray performs in the persona of ‘The Pub Landlord’.
Peter Mandelson’s famous quote about New Labour being intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich has a suffix that is often mischievously omitted: he added ‘so long as they pay their taxes’.
But there are a few more things which many Labour members would have put on the end: so long as you don’t earn it by advising Central Asian dictatorships, so long as you don’t hang around with Russian oligarchs, so long as you don’t make it from the Saudis.
It’s a new semester and a new start at the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder, once encouraged America’s youth to ‘come and drink of the cup of knowledge and fraternise with us’. But this term, any student who fancies a swig from the cup of knowledge had better be sure it doesn’t contain any unauthorised alcohol — in fact he should beware fraternising at all, especially in a ‘frat house’, for fear of breaking the strict new rules.
A week before the attack on Charlie Hebdo, France’s leading gay magazine, Têtu, announced the winner of its annual beauty contest. His name was Matthieu Chartraire, and he was 22, doe-eyed and six-packed, with perfectly groomed hair, stubble and eyebrows. A pin-up in every way — until he started talking.
To the anger of many of the magazine’s readers, the Adonis of 2015 turns out to be an outspoken supporter of the Front National.
Could the current generation of parents be the first ones who won’t want their children to go to university? Until now that mortarboard photo on the sideboard has always been the dream, visual proof that your offspring have munched their way to the top of the educational food chain. Advancement by degree. But that was before tuition fees. Now there’s a price tag attached to your little one’s ‘ology’ (to quote Maureen Lipman in those BT ads), how many people will automatically see it as a good thing? Perhaps more of us will refuse to prostrate ourselves before the great god Uni? If so, that can only be a good thing.
Typical mother-to-mother email, January weekday, 2015: ‘Thanks so much for helping out yesterday, Jamie had a great time with you all, thanks also for bringing his games kit home, let me know if you need me to help tomorrow… xx’
Emails and texts like this, flitting across the ether in their thousands, demonstrate the free-flowing currency of helpfulness — mother going the extra mile for mother, in her Volvo, every day — in school-run land.
The Go Galway bus from Dublin sounds an unlikely pleasure, but it is both comfortable and punctual. There is free Wi-Fi if you want it, but it would be criminal to do anything other than gawp at the view. Two and a half hours pass quickly when you are travelling at sunset, passing between rain clouds with rainbows falling out of the sky.
While my trip was, as they say, for ‘the craic’ (a good friend’s 40th), I couldn’t come to Galway without making time for a W.