Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year Dishonours

As Christmas recedes in the rear view mirror, it is fair to assume that the spirit of peace and goodwill to all men (and women) is diminishing also. Thus we can all get back to normality, hating our neighbour, coveting his wife or his ass ( please don't misunderstand me here), whichever one is the better looking, and behaving like rational human beings once again.

I rather enjoy the moratorium on everyday life that occurs between Christmas and the New Year hangover in Europe. In America, I always resented the back to work on the 26th. habit that prevails there.

Newspapers are forced to recycle old news and articles, usually resorting to quizzes of what happened during the year, something most of us would prefer to forget, and regurgitating that perennial piece of nonsense, the New Year resolution. I suppose for those who are less perfect than you or I, this might be a reasonable, if over lofty, aim, but in our case I feel it to be superfluous. Thus I propose not to make any resolutions for the coming year bar one, which is not to say to everyone I meet prior to the 15th. of the month or so, “Happy New Year.” Since, on a global scale, each succeeding year seems to get more miserable, I propose amending it to be “Better New Year.”

There’s no doubt about it, when you’re down nothing goes right for you, even if you’re the Prime Minister of a nation. And for A. Blair and family, trying to sneak off for yet another freebie vacation with the rich and famous, British Airways managed to put another crimp in their happiness by clipping a few runway lights at Miami airport. “Prime Minister in airport drama,” ran the headlines (it was a slow news day) and thereby deposited another blob of dirt on the Blair escutcheon.

Nobody, I think, begrudges them a holiday. But why do they always have to be sucking up to the celebrities, especially those that have desirable residences. Are the BeeGees in line for a knighthood one wonders? Or is it just a matter of some delicate negotiations (started last year at the home of Cliff Richard in Barbados) to extend the payment of royalties?

From what I’ve heard, BeeGee music is less objectionable than most that pollutes the atmosphere, but I doubt that Messrs. Gibb and Co. provide much in the way of sparkling conversation. I once had lunch with the late Maurice Gibb, nice enough fellow, although I suppose my admitting that I had never heard any of his music put a bit of a damper on the conversation, but I never lusted to spend a week with him.

It must be admitted that Blair is not the only Prime Minister to lunch with show business personalities. During the war, Winston Churchill expressed a desire to lunch with Isiah Berlin, the noted economist and philosopher. Now Churchill was notorious for not getting names right and, by one of those strokes of fate, the songwriter Irving Berlin was visiting Britain at the time, entertaining the troops. Nobody has ever admitted whose mistake it was but Irving got the invitation to lunch with the great man. Predictably, things did not go well. After receiving some rather unsatisfactory answers to his questions, Churchill asked “What do you consider to be your most valuable contribution?” Irving Berlin considered for a moment and said “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” The meal was finished in icy silence.

On hearing later of the mistake, Churchill thought it hilarious but I doubt that Berlin felt the same. However, at any rate, Berlin was an excellent writer of song lyrics and, as Churchill appreciated such things, had he known who his guest was, things might have gone much better.

Which brings me, a segue, as they say in the music business, to the case of W.S. Gilbert. My daughter having given me DVD’s of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” and “Pirates of Penzance,” I was struck by the fact that Sullivan got a knighthood and Gilbert a raspberry. Seems very unfair to me, but then so do most of the New Year Honours. Bracketing Sullivan with Elton John shows just how far things have got out of hand, so who’s up for it this year? Kate Moss and Pete Doherty, I predict.


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