one a fair amount of solo performing throughout my career – in fact, I started out as a stand-up comedian, and from time to time I revisit that sort of shtick, doing little gigs in the upstairs rooms of pubs. But mostly I do “shows” of one sort or another to support the publication of my books. Time was when these public readings were convened in the big chain bookstores: Waterstones, Blackwell’s and – before its demise – Borders. Audiences might be relatively small, but they had usually chipped up because they were interested in the writing; the live act was just an add-on.
Justin Welby still looks like exactly what he is: a superannuated Old Etonian oil executive from west London with a sideline in religiosity
The most important thing about Justin Portal Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, is that he’s not Rowan Williams. How we all miss Rowan Williams! The whole point of the Established Church is that its ministry is for all Britons, not just confessing Anglicans; and Dr Williams achieved this difficult task brilliantly. That he did so was, in large measure, due to his appearance: the most fanatical adherent of sharia law hearkened to his fluting emollience, because, resembling as he does a fictional wizard straight out of central casting, they assumed he was either Gandalf the Grey, or Albus Dumbledore, or possibly both.
‘I’d done it once before with impunity; but to go there twice smacks – as Lady Bracknell would no doubt agree – of carelessness’
Guernsey Airport is pretty weird; but then, so is the rest of the island. I was standing in the queue on the stairs leading up to my Gatwick-bound flight, when the young man in front of me – a player for the Guernsey Tigers, according to the patch on his navy tracksuit – jerked his thumb up at the fuselage and exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call a proper plane.” I guffawed, then explained myself: “I certainly hope it’s a proper plane, or else we’re all fucking dead!”
Yup, you read me right: one of the “names” the Kellogg’s website actually suggested that punters might like to personalise their free cutlery with was . . . Butt Munch.
There was, for a while, a certain amount of tension; then it faded, as tension does. We’re all experimental animals, really, subject to vivisection by means of a scientific method we ourselves promulgate. The electric plate is charged, we yelp and try to struggle over the wall – but once we realise our struggles are futile we collapse, and lie whimpering as we’re subjected to shock after shock.
The atmosphere in the Red Ochre Grill is distinctly chilly – not exactly what you would expect in the middle of a desert. There was an early-bird discount of 20 per cent for guests of the attached hotel, if you booked before 6pm for a table before 7pm; but we screwed up by 15 minutes and the maître d’ was emphatic: we’d have to pay full whack. Now I’ve been sitting over the remains of my kangaroo and macadamia salad for a full half-hour, waiting to pay the inflated bill, and my temperature has been plummeting the while. There’s nothing more real than this sort of tourist gouging – and Alice Springs is a tourist town, among other things. A tourist town serviced by tourists: mostly backpackers, most of whom in turn are from Britain.
A friend of a friend comes by to pick up some fags I’ve obtained for him – Gauloises filters. Global markets being what they are, you can buy cocaine (DOC Colombia) and heroin (DOC Afghanistan) on the street corners of almost any British city, but when it comes to child-murdering nicotine, certain varieties are tightly contrôlés, in particular those whose denominated origin is that faraway land of which we know so little: France. I picked up a carton for him at La Cave au Tabac by the Gare du Nord in Paris, because his normal supply line was being disrupted by “hordes” of migrants and asylum-seekers trying to board lorries and trains bound for the Channel Tunnel.
‘Instead of checking their privilege, these .99-calibre twerps are more likely to check their wing mirror and overtake at speed, chortling all the while.’
During the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s, the sight of Tony Blair’s snake hips, cinched by the waistband of his black Levi’s 501s and wiggling their way between displaced Kosovans, impacted on me in much the way the ordinance dropped by USAF bombers did Slobodan Milosevic. He was forced out of office: I dropped my trousers. Up until that point, I had considered black jeans a reasonable bridge between the dandiacal excesses of my youth and the soberer sartorial realities of middle age, but Blair eradicated my false consciousness. Indeed, looking back, I am hard-pressed to think of any more significant “legacy” of the Blair years than this: from that day on I’ve been unable to contemplate such strides without nausea and uncontrollable shivering.