Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt


I am here to announce a new stage show. When last here I was having breakfast in a harbourside café with a composer friend and I was just telling him about a particularly vile freelance paparazzo who haunted the area.

Suddenly I saw the glint of a telephoto lens across the street. It was him! Emerging from the restaurant at a brisk pace I saw the wretch jogging towards me, grey ponytail threshing and camera rampant. He got so close I could smell the morning drink on his breath. The spirits of Russell Crowe, Sean Penn and Kate Moss suddenly inhabited me, and in trying to brush aside the intrusive Nikon, my knuckles accidentally collided with the photographer's pulpy jowl, causing his trendy wire-rimmed spectacles to skitter on to the road. A not unattractive woman friend was idling in her car to whisk me off for a swim and I leapt into the passenger seat before the creep could regain his feet and get the Mystery Woman shot. Polly gunned the car with astounding skill and we took off through the posh suburbs of Sydney like Sophie Nivea and Robert Langdon (you've read The Da Vinci Code? ) or like a luckier Dodi and Diana.

The ponytail was in hot pursuit, but we lost him at last and I managed an unmolested dip in the Pacific. The bastard didn't make the beach, either because he didn't want to get his hair wet or he knew the sharks were on my side.

Because I'd been offered the role of a hunchbacked albino monk in a Da Vinci-inspired episode of the Australian sitcom Kath and Kim, I had to listen to the talking book as we were driving through northern Italy last week, the sat nav as our guide, but my wife kept disputing its directions rather violently, especially when it recommended that we drive directly over an Umbrian precipice. The combination of some poor American actor wrestling with five French accents, three Italian and assorted British, as well as Dan Brown's execrable prose, and the voice of that know-all harpy up there on her satellite with her binoculars, made it a nightmare journey.

The other day in Waitrose I overheard a housewife apostrophise her friend, 'I have to say the cauliflowers in Tesco's are much nicer.' So, the parliamentary locution 'I have to say' has now filtered down to the humble homemaker. It was originally intended to lend a spurious importance to the politician's utterance as though he were compelled to say whatever it was he was saying out of duty or honesty.

It also gave him a moment to think what the hell he was going to say anyway. Now it's just a bit of verbal fungus, like the teenager's habitual use of the word 'like'. …

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