The king of the caper yarns: I followed the little 'Memsahib' into our local library the other day. I try to avoid libraries because the pile of 'to-be-read' books that I have purchased is becoming something of an embarrassment. Most of them are somewhat abstruse and were I suddenly to drop off my perch the person tasked with clearing my study would think that I was an old bluffer (don't bother, Larry!) who bought high falutin' books and never actually read them. Anyway, I entered the library with iron determination but the first thing that met my eyes was the 'Just Returned' trolley and with my usual unerring accuracy I instantly spotted a Donald Westlake. I haven't read one of his for ages; I seem to have been seduced by the new (to me) kids on the block - Harlen Coben, Michael Connelly, and the like. Anyway, my determination turned from iron to jelly and I'm now one third through it whilst my copy of "The Politics of Grand Strategy: Britain and France Prepare for War, 1904-1914" remains closed with a wilting bookmark hanging out of one side. I'm pathetic - but Westlake is terrific, no one tells 'em the way he does!
'Shock-Horror' ignoramuses: Talking of pre-war diplomacy, Sky News and their young reporters have their knickers in a twist because some one has discovered an old file in the Public Records Office indicating that "Old Etonian and fascist sympathiser James Lonsdale-Bryans" had attempted to contact the Germans in 1939/40 and 'negotiate' a deal in which Germany would be given a free run in Europe whilst we, er, ran the rest of the world! (No mention is made of what the Japs or the Yanks would have had to say about it.) The FO, or, the 'Foreigners' Office', as we fondly think of it, became very agitated because of possible links between this Old Etonian twit and Lord Halifax, then our Foreign Secretary and possible contender as Prime Minister. All tosh, of course, because everyone knows that Halifax was minded to see if a deal could be cut with Germany and the history books of the period point to various, usually self-appointed, emmissaries who claimed to have the ear of the Fuehrer. They were usually allowed a free run with minimal support from London just in case they turned up anything interesting. In any case, it was the duty, then as now, for the FO to keep links with our enemies even if they had to wear rubber gloves and a peg on their noses!
The nobbiest Roman of them all: I have a special technique when it comes to watching 'footie'. I sit reading a book facing in one direction, whilst the TV, with sound off, plays at an angle of 90 degrees. This has the advantage of not interfering too much with my reading, but the dis-advantage of me missing most of the goals! In a particularly tedious pair of matches this afternoon there were only two goals and I missed them both, but I was immensely cheered to catch a view of Mr. Roman Abramovich, the Russion 'zillionaire' owner of Chelsea Football Club, upon which he has lavished millions and millions of his ill-gotten gains. I just hope all those elderly folk in Russia who were laid off and saw their pensions rendered worthless, whilst the likes of Mr. Abramovich became richer and richer, appreciate that the overpaid, over-fed and over here fancy boys who proudly play in Mr. Abramovich's colours, are a bunch of cloggies who couldn't kick their way out of a paper bag. The doleful expression on Mr. Abramovich's disconsolate face was worth a few roubles. With his worried frown and rueful smile, all he needed was a bowler hat and a fat friend who would twiddle his fingers and mutter, "This is another fine mess you've got me into, Stanley!"