January Diary
Tabloids, snooty waiters, and the offside rule.

From the cover of Dinner with Churchill


John Derbyshire

And so on. (There were more; it’s been a long time.) Scanning through the British dailies, I see things haven’t changed much, though of course there’s been a leftward drift. The Express was trumpeting the glories of the British Empire well into the 1960s, when that empire had dwindled down to not much more than Gibraltar and Hong Kong.

The Sketch is one with Nineveh and Tyre, I am sorry to see. Nostalgia moment: There was an old widow in my street who used to beckon over us kids as we passed her house and hire us, for a penny, to go to the general store a half-mile away for a Daily Sketch and three or four “loosies” (cigarettes sold singly — a common thing in working-class 1950s England). The poor old thing must be long dead, as dead as the tabloid of her choice. The cigarette of her choice, Park Drive, is still alive, but only just: It’s mass-marketed now only in New Zealand. Wonder what she would have made of the Mail online?

What Churchill Ate. The other day I was lunching with a friend at a moderately posh restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side. My friend had a pasta dish; I went for steak. The steak was a poor thing, though, not particularly well cooked. It didn’t have much taste. I called the waiter over. Could he give me some steak sauce?

All at once I was in one of those H. M. Bateman “The Man Who . . .” cartoons, in which someone blithely commits a gross social faux pas to the horror and outrage of bystanders. “No, Sir,” snapped the waiter, as if I had asked him to dispose of a half-chewed wad of tobacco.

Fortunately I don’t embarrass easy. In any case I had just that morning read Bernard Porter’s review of Dinner with Churchill, which concerns the great Englishman’s eating habits.

“The Prime Minister doesn’t like his chicken ‘messed about,’” complained his doctor, Lord Moran, when he was once offered it cut into bits and smothered in sauces. He preferred consommés to creamed soups; when served the latter once in America he asked if they couldn’t find some Bovril for him instead.

I bet he liked a nice dash of A.1. on his steak, too, and snooty waiters be damned.

VDH on Obama’s race politicking. Following Victor Davis Hanson’s January 18 piece “Obama’s Racial Politics,” I got the usual sprinkling of e-mails from readers who take me to be the NRO race guy. (Moi?)

Apparently what got these readers’ attention was this, from the latter part of VDH’s column:

In 2012, unlike 2008, there is less novelty in Barack Obama as our first black president. And George Bush is now four years into the past. For Obama, then, we are left with a demonized “them.”

Sometimes “they” are the suspect “1 percent” who enjoy their privileges through ill-gotten gains. Sometimes they are reactionary enemies of big government. And sometimes they are veritable racists — the sorts who stereotype minorities, who are cowards, who turn away voters from the polls, who do not like Americans who look different from them, who object to record debt largely as a way to disguise their own racial bias — and who surely need to be punished.


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