Jan Moir's diary

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

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’. Perhaps he has a point, but — I reply — by overstating my case so lavishly, I did not expect anyone to take it so seriously. All R&A members cannot possibly be tweedy! Summer linens and unnatural fibres have their place on the links. Not everyone drinks whisky, is boring and old, or a combination thereof. And as my correspondent pointed out, ‘most of us love women’. It is the ‘most’ that I love the most.

My octogenarian mother, as spry and energetic as a teenager, reads the Mail on her iPad. I have noticed that she now bypasses my articles completely and goes straight to the reader comments, which she adores. The more brutal and rude they are about me, the deeper her enjoyment. I think this is hilarious, yet wonder if there is an age limit for invoking the Cinderella Law.

I have seen a lot of her lately as my father is ill. This has meant regular trips on the Edinburgh shuttle. The weather differential between the cities has been marked. The south is all dappled sunshine, cherry blossom, the slow unfurling of riotous wisteria. I fly north into darkness, dripping trees and the gloom of a winter that never seems to end. I imagine this will be what independence will be like, except worse. At 6 a.m., Edinburgh airport is boiling with thousands of commuters boarding flights south, the great weekly McDiaspora on the move. Soaked from the rain, businessmen and women in dark suits and jackets sling briefcases and black bags on to trays as they pour through security; as sleek and organised as a romp of wet otters. What will border controls and bureaucracy do to this weekly surge of energy and efficiency? Nothing except slow it down.

In hospital, the minister from the village church comes to see my father. Given that Dad hasn’t set foot in his church for years, this is remarkably generous, but they are friends. I admire his superb bedside manner; cheerful and fluent, with just the right note of assiduous concern. He tells us that the church started serving lunches for older parishioners, simple affairs of broth and cakes, made by the ladies of the congregation. At first, the women came, but the menfolk stayed at home. So he introduced men-only lunches and now the place is rammed. As my R&A correspondent and I agree, sometimes a wee bit of segregation of the sexes is no bad thing.

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