Britain leads the world in grumpiness

If foreigners want friendly they should go to America Apparently the rest of the world now sees Britain as a much friendlier place, thanks to the Olympic games. This won’t do at all. We are a cold and remote people whose natural instinct is to spurn friendship as though it were a rabid dog. And I think that, if they are honest, this is how other countries would wish us to remain. They knew where they stood with us before, you see, especially the former colonies. They might even have taken a certain Read more [...]

Always check under the beds before checking out of a hotel

Items left in Travelodge hotel rooms last year included a python and a bucket of live crabs There’s something I’d like to share with you, a piece of advice I was given about packing, but the trouble is, it’s going to sound like a name drop, because it came from Hillary Clinton. I’ve considered various options – “It is said that Hillary Clinton…”, for example – but none works because it is important you know it comes from the horse’s mouth. Not that I’m comparing the US Read more [...]

Excellent advice for office workers

Standing as you write has much to recommend it If William Heath Robinson saw my desk, I reckon he would fold his arms, purse his lips and nod. “Not bad,” he would say. “Not bad at all.” It is resting on four old matching chairs that were gathering dust in the loft, and these bring it up to the correct height for me to work while standing. I also had to slip a book under the keyboard to bring that up to the optimum height, too, but I think I’m there now, and already I find I am stretching Read more [...]

Royal Mail has stamped out our Christmas card habit

I like you, but not enough to spend 50p on you - 36p yes, 50p no The Christmas card may not have realised it yet, but it is dead. Well, dying. Let’s just say it is drifting in and out of consciousness while muttering incomprehensibly to itself. The main reason, this year at least, is the dramatic increase in the price of second-class stamps, from 36p to 50p. The average number of cards sent per person is expected to fall by a quarter as a direct consequence. I like you, but not enough to spend Read more [...]

Dogs are the ultimate companions

Canine lovers never get the hang of cats I’m going to be more careful from now on, because it turns out that my wife sometimes reads this column. Apparently, when I wrote last week that the reason we gave up sending Christmas cards was that it was a vaguely depressing and cynical exercise, I was wrong. The reason is to save trees and/or the planet. Anyway, now that I know that she sometimes reads this, I’m going to take the opportunity to drop a big hint. I really wouldn’t be too upset Read more [...]

The World’s Only Female Chain Gang

Until I watch the prisoners line up alongside the chains laid out on the ground, I have half imagined that the term 'chain gang’ is being used in a loose and euphemistic way. But no. They are wearing heavy-duty work boots and, as the chains are padlocked around their ankles, they raise their left legs up behind them, bending at the knees like well-trained horses obliging a farrier. What makes this scene even more disturbing is the sex of the prisoners. They are all women. This is Arizona, Read more [...]

Why I can’t get away from Harry Redknapp

Some people are inescapable fixtures in the cultural ether I nearly fell out of my chair the other day when I got an email from a barrister friend who is so contemptuous of popular culture he rarely, if ever, watches television – and he probably isn’t sure what Twitter is either. “Sorry to hear you cannot make the 28th,” he wrote, “no doubt you have to go off and interview Tulissa (sic) about her bejazzelling, or some such.” How on earth had Tulisa — at least he had the decency Read more [...]