Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Credit: Jan Moir

Sunday afternoon brings the bomb squad to South Kensington. From my third-floor window, I see them fan out through the garden square, scrutinising leaf and bud, lamppost and compost bin. Drains are peered into, postboxes eyed suspiciously. Although Windsor Castle is 23 miles to the west, the Queen's state banquet for the Irish President Michael D. Higgins has brought them here. A high-ranking contingent of Irish banquet-goers are staying at a nearby hotel. Including, local rumour has it, Martin McGuinness himself. In their smart blue caps and hi-vis vests, the cops rifle through camellia bushes with the diligence of devoted horticulturists. If the irony of their situation affects them, it does not show.

At Waitrose in Kensington High Street, an assistant scans my copy of the Daily Mail . 'I love the Mail !' she cries, unexpectedly. This plunges me into columnist conundrum. Is she saying this because she recognises me? Unlikely, I know. Especially as I have just had a facial and look even more like a beet-faced Fred Flintstone than usual. So I am torn between being pleased if she does and being appalled if she does. Yet if she does recognise me and I say nothing, will she think me rude?

'I work on the Mail ,' I tell her.

'Do you?' she says, looking thrilled. I nod, supremely ready to be hosed down with some luscious, piping-hot flattery.

'Do you know Richard Littlejohn? He's my favourite,' she says.

That's nice!

'Do you know what I love most about the Daily Mail ?' she continues.

Dare I dream?

'It is that the ink doesn't come off.'


'And as I keep snakes, it is just the best thing for lining their cages.'

'That's great,' I croak. Then shuffle off home, a broken woman.

Readers are so bracing. You never know what to expect. In ye olden days, reader relationships were, like the best affairs, fleeting and furtive. Thoughts were shared via letters, not all of them in green ink. You wrote, they wrote, sometimes you wrote back, relationship over. Now they are in your face, their emails beep-beep-beeping relentlessly on my iPhone. This is a source of joy -- and consternation. Beep! A missive from a member of the R&A golf club in St Andrews, demanding a public apology. Last week I wrote about its reluctance to admit females, wondering why any woman would want to join an institution so clearly full of 'tweedy, whisky-tooting, Cro-Magnon uber-bores'. …

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