Wednesday 12 March 2008

Daughters, the arms trade and a potential terrorist

Not the foggiest; 10.0 units of alcohol; 1,423; South Bank.

Whenever the press covers a story that one knows a bit about, one cannot fail to be struck by their inaccuracies. Incidental pleasures in this morning’s cuttings on my client included one paper (which, fortunately, nobody reads) interpreting “a year of progress in 2008” as a profit warning, and another printing a picture of completely the wrong person. Not a bad result, then. Give self a modest pat on back.

I had lunch at my club with one superannuated stockbroker and another who is continuing to work at a most unfashionable age. Both have grown-up daughters and spent some time comparing notes on the cost of weddings. One (quite rightly, in my view) considers them to be a colossal waste of money and has set both his daughters a maximum budget, adding that they may elect to accept a cheque for that amount rather than splurging it all on a big party. This is clearly intended as a major test of their prudence, and I can foresee a significant rebalancing of his will if they jump in the wrong direction.

We had two very fine bottles of Puligny-Montrachet and the man who did not have an office to return to headed off into Pall Mall, perhaps ever so slightly unsteadily, at 3.30 p.m. I myself closed my eyes for an instant and found that it was time to walk to the National Theatre for tonight’s performance of Major Barbara, a play with much contemporary resonance given that it was first performed in 1905. That, no doubt, is why the National chose to resurrect it. Various Shavian aphorisms about the purchases of peerages and the powerlessness of politicians in the face of capital set heads nodding in agreement, though the line that got the whole row in front of me performing like the back parcel shelf of a 1970s Cortina was “A father’s love for a grown-up daughter is the most dangerous of all infatuations.” Which took me neatly back to the conversation over lunch. Not the best play I have ever seen, by any means; not even the best Shaw play I have ever seen, but a worthwhile evening of top class acting, notably by the peerless Simon Russell Beale.

Walking back across Waterloo Bridge, I noted that someone had been stencilling on the paving stones: “Life is Boring”. Well, I suppose it might be if you could think of nothing better to do than applying ink to the pavement. On the other hand, it might be some form of viral marketing: a subtle, consciousness-raising campaign for an oil exploration company, perhaps? Traversing Trafalgar Square, I was surprised when a swarthy man in a small red car suddenly mounted the pavement and drove at a fair lick across the pedestrianized area in front of the National Gallery. He was wearing one of those woolly hats that I always associate with Benny from Crossroads, and take to be an infallible badge of a total moron. I wondered whether he was a terrorist planning to destroy the traditional Heart of the Empire. It then occurred to me that, if anyone in the area was a moron, it was me for standing around gawping to see what would happen next. What certainly did not occur is the sequence of events that would undoubtedly have unfolded if I were to attempt to drive across Trafalgar Square, namely being surrounded by armed police, dragged from my vehicle and disabled with a Taser gun. Still, no doubt his image and car registration number will have been captured by at least a couple of dozen CCTV cameras, and I consoled myself with the thought that this would greatly assist the subsequent enquiry if an atrocity did take place.

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