I never thought I’d be defending Prince Philip but his recent outburst has me on his side. Surrounded by other worthy dodderers he impatiently tells the photographer “Just take the fucking picture!”, then smiles thinly. Prince William smirks in the background. It’s a wonderful comic moment. The American press speaks censoriously of his “potty mouth” and his “dropping the F-bomb”–both phrases of such sublime inanity that the only possible response is to tell them to get an effing brain. Then there was his recent question “Who do you sponge off?” uttered in the presence of a sponge cake to a group of women–such sexism! Clearly a man of great evil.


What a pity the neanderthals went extinct!  The world would be a very different place with them and us in it. Would we be at war with them or in harmony? Would we have enslaved them? It would be fascinating to see another version of human nature, possibly superior to the Sapiens version. Given that we interbred with them, would there be a lot of intermarriage now? What would their culture be like? I suspect that a genetic mixture of the two species would have produced a superior hybrid. But we will never know.

Richard Gasquet

I’ve always had a soft spot for Gasquet, who won today’s quarter-final against another favorite of mine, Stan Wawrinka, in a thrilling five-set match. It was a contest between the two best one-handed backhands in the world. But it’s not just Gasquet’s superb backhand that I like; I like the whole package. He is just so understated, so mild, so self-contained–yet brilliant. It’s all about his game, not his shorts or hair or tantrums, or even his good sportsmanship. There is a purity to him that I like. He also seems very intelligent (like his compatriot Gilles Simon). I once stood next to him in Miami and noticed his calm and charming manner. I hope he does well against Novak in the semi-final. Meanwhile, I’ll keep his image in my mind as I hit backhands.

Good Mr. Oover

“Mr. Oover’s moral tone, and his sense of chivalry, were of the American kind: far higher than ours, even, and far better expressed. Whereas the English guests of the Junta, when they heard the tale of Nellie O’Mora, would merely murmur ‘Poor girl!’ or ‘What a shame!’ Mr. Oover said in a tone of quiet authority that compelled Greddon’s ear ‘Duke, I hope I am not incognisant of the laws that govern the relations of guest and host. But, Duke, I aver deliberately that the founder of this fine old club, at which you are so splendidly entertaining me to-night, was an unmitigated scoundrel. I say he was not a white man.’” Zuleika Dobson, 125-6.

Such is the deadpan of Max’s satire here that you might not have noticed the moral stupidity of Mr. Oover till that final utterance of his, which exposes his utter fatuity (not to speak of his pomposity). Notice how eager he is to condemn someone he foolishly blames, rather than sympathize with poor Nellie; but also note the ridiculous use of “Duke” as a term of ostensible respect. Max knows how to skewer a man with his own blade. And is not the type still with us?