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Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 11th October 2016

I HAVE heard it said that the big difference between the Tories and Labour is that the former are more efficient at assassinating their leaders. When they decide it’s time to go, they get rid swiftly, whereas Labour drag it out forever.

As the Conservatives gathered in Birmingham this week for their annual conference, and with new leader Theresa May still enjoying what remains of the honeymoon period before the awkward Brexit negotiations commence next March, I could not help but spare a thought for the dear departed, David Cameron.

Just a few months ago, with the vote on Europe still in the pipeline, Cameron could hardly have thought that, come October, he would not be centre stage at conference any more.

How will history deal with Cameron, the man who ran the country for six years before calling the referendum that proved the only thing you can expect in politics these days is the unexpected, a philosophy that gives hope even to the likes of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn?

David Cameron is unlikely to take his place among the great Prime Ministers. But perhaps, in time, he will shed his current failure tag and become a respected voice of the centre-right.

It’s extraordinary how quickly Cameron has become yesterday’s man. It’s almost like he never existed. Suddenly it’s become fashionably easy in political circles to denigrate his legacy. He has been criticised for quitting as an MP, but why would he wish to stay on in the light of some very unfair blame and humiliation?

Goodness knows, he had his flaws. But, years from now, people will probably say of him, he wasn’t bad. you know. A former Prime Minister, in many ways a victim of his own privileged background which even some in his own party resented, destined to be damned with faint praise.

MOURNING AT A DISTANCE

IT was Einstein who said our bodies “are only wilted leaves on the tree of life,” but that doesn’t provide a lot of comfort in the darker hours of loss.

Nearing my own three score and 10, I have been getting all too familiar with the layout of the local crematoriums and the gloomy, heads-bowed trek to the graveside as contemporaries have passed away with sad regularity.

I’m not much good at the professional mourner lark. I get all choked up trying to sing the hymns, frustrated when speakers’ eulogies failed to capture the true essence of the deceased, and hate that empty feeling in the pit of the stomach when it’s all over and everyone heads off for tea and sandwiches. So I don’t do funerals any more.

The latest idea is for crematoriums to install webcams so that mourners who aren’t present can watch the proceedings on-line. A way of allowing grieving friends and relatives who would otherwise miss the occasion to take part.

Useful if you have family living thousands of miles away, or indeed elderly relatives too unwell to attend, but some undertakers are worried that webcam funerals may be used as an excuse for not attending services in person, denying the family of the deceased personal support crucial to the grieving process. Letting people off the emotional hook, in other words.

A recent survey of funeral directors found that 61 per cent. of them had received requests to stream services and a fifth of Britain’s 281 crematoriums already have webcams in place.

Paul Allcock, president of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, thinks it would be a shame if streaming became too prevalent. A few kind words with the bereaved still matter, he says. They can’t be replaced by a web camera and a CD of the service. And, of course, some people do rate a person’s life by a good turnout at their farewell.

Death treats us all, rich and poor, the same. Some might have a flash bash, others a quiet laying to rest. But that only concerns those who are left behind. There is a tendency, as one gets older, to recycle nervous jokes about funerals.

Spike Milligan had it well sussed on his headstone which stated: “I told you I was ill.” Frank Sinatra put death in perspective. “Dying? It’s a pain in the ass,” he remarked.

I think of all the many homilies on the subject attributed to famous people Churchill’s was the best. The great wartime leader told family the time had come and he was ready to meet his Maker. But, said Winnie, “my Maker may not be ready for the ordeal of meeting me!”

WELL DONE, GEORGE

I RECKON the whole of Britain rose up in admiration of three-year-old Prince George when he snubbed the Canadian Prime Minister’s botched attempt at a high five at the start of the royal visit.

Priceless. The expression on the chubby face of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first born told it all. Don’t be so stupid. You are meant to be the grown-up. Now get up off your knees and shake hands with my mum and dad.

What is it with people these days? All that necessity for high fiving and, worse still, fist pumping. I suppose it’s permissible in the heat of something like golf’s Ryder Cup, but let’s have it done in moderation, please.

The worst are tennis doubles players. At Wimbledon, which is just about the only time TV viewers care about who wins doubles titles, they were fist pumping after every rally. So irritating. Matches could finish half an hour earlier if they cut it out and just got on with it.

I’m old enough, sadly, to remember when footballers ran back to the middle after scoring and exchanged a cursory handshake at most. I can’t imagine Stan Matthews rolling in the mud with 10 of his team mates jumping on top of him giving him a kiss. Or Sir Alf countenancing fist pumping and high fiving among his 1966 World Cup-winning team.

As for that patronising Mr. Trudeau and his abortive high fiving with the young Prince, all I can say is good on you, George. Never was a juvenile stiff upper lip so proudly borne. Never was a look of disgust at a politician’s impertinence so brilliantly delivered.

I bet Granny, who herself does not go in much for fist pumping and high fiving with foreign dignitaries, felt right proud of the lad.

RACY HEADLINES

“TEENAGE priest-surgeon in sex-change mercy dash to palace”. It’s the perfect idea of a newspaper headline that all new recruits to the profession come across on their first week in the job. Leastways we did in my day.

Herald readers will be pleased to know that such sensationalism is not something they are likely to accidentally encounter in this publication which is not, for nothing, still known in some circles as the “Fellside bible”.

However, there remain sub-editors, usually found working for the red top tabloids, who aspire to such heady stuff. Take the headline I spotted the other day: “Police launch hunt for lesbian mother who ran away with sperm donor after abducting her young daughter from ex-wife.”

Crikey. And there’s me thinking “Flower enthusiasts led down the garden path” in last week’s Herald held the promise of something racier than bedding ideas — floral, for the garden that is, in case of any doubt.

SOOTY IN TROUBLE

WELL, I suppose it had to happen eventually with so many celebrities being hauled up on historic sex charges. Now that Sir Cliff is in the clear, the Metropolitan Police may be about to turn their attention to Sooty.

Well, maybe not quite, but it does transpire that plans to introduce a female puppet to Sooty’s TV show proved so controversial back in the day that the BBC’s director general announced a “no touching” rule.

Sooty’s creator, Harry Corbett, wanted to give Sooty a girlfriend in the 1960s show, but a new documentary has revealed the DG and a BBC governor were against it, fearing “sex would be creeping into the program”.

Harry was called in by director general Hugh Carleton-Greene and informed the puppets “must never touch”. A pity, one might think, the Beeb was not as scrupulous, later on, in its policing of the activities of a certain Jimmy Savile.


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