What a penitential slog that was…

THAT wasn’t such a good run. Some weeks the feet fly along but not today. More of a penitential slog this morning.

The truth of it is that I felt old and fat. Now in fairness to myself, I am not either of those things, or not exactly. The weights and measures account goes like this: five foot eight inches when last set against a ruler (a very long time ago) and 11-and-half stone when last weighed (not so long ago).

It is possible that I weigh a little more than that. Our bathroom scales are ancient and not entirely accurate, but I don’t mind. My wife keeps saying we should replace those scales, but who wants to know exactly what they weigh? A little ignorance can he a happy thing.

As to the calendar, people are kind enough to tell me that I don’t look the age I am. My wife is kind enough to tell me that I am slim. My own estimation would be slim but with a bit of a belly. Or slim for an ordinary person but not for a runner. Or not as slim as I was ten years or so ago when I ran those half marathons.

We are made of many parts, good and bad. The running is the healthy side of me, always on a Sunday and occasionally once more. The Sunday run generally takes place after the unhealthy side of me has had a night in on the wine. Some Sunday mornings are less bright than others, but a run does wonders.

Last night’s late whisky was barely more than a tot, but wasn’t perhaps the best race prep. Not that it was a race this morning, or if so only with myself. Two other runners, younger than me without being freshly podded, ran past at different times, going at quite a pace. I went at my pace.

The running is part of my routine, something I have always tried to fit around whatever else is going on. My new work days are Friday and Saturday, then part of Monday, with the other days left free for freelance work and writing. Sunday runs can therefore remain sweaty sacrosanct.

Normally I play squash twice a week too, cycle here and there and have a badminton session with friends. Last week one squash game was off and I skipped badminton to go and drink beer with two writer friends. That wasn’t so good in the health sense, but very enjoyable in other ways.

The good part of me would do more, but the bad part likes beer and wine and the occasional whisky, generally leaving a few alcohol-free days in the week. My slim self thinks I could do with losing half a stone. A half doesn’t sound so bad. A half is doable and sometimes drinkable. And doable and drinkable sounds like a reasonable motto.

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Well, zip me out of that snip… thoughts on the V-word…

Yesterday the Daily Mail front page had a blurb saying that it was every husband’s duty to have a vasectomy. This made me wonder if I should have mine reversed just to spite the Mail.

Then this morning, a glance online reveals that today’s front page of the Mail warns: “Why the snip was the cruellest joke.”

This is a typical bit of Mail flailing about, saying one health thing and then going off and saying the opposite. The original article was by a staff writer who’d had a vasectomy after having three children, feeling that it was his duty and responsibility to his wife (and fair enough).

Today’s riposte sees men complaining that they wish they’d never had one, with sample headings saying: “Left me in agony for 20 years”, “The op made me go right off sex” and “It failed – and we had a fifth baby.”

I did glance at a supposedly serious medical story online in which a man said it wasn’t natural as it was like tying a knot in a fire-hose and could only lead to trouble. I make no comparisons between myself and a fire-hose, but feel that this concern can safely be dismissed.

Vasectomies are in the news because there has been a dramatic decline in men having the snip – reportedly down 60 per cent in the past ten years. Bad publicity seems to be to blame, with men being put off by scare stories and worries about their sex life. Allied to such fears are cuts in NHS funding for the procedure. Yes, the snip has been snipped.

I had mine after three children and a strong suggestion from my wife. This was 23 or 24 years ago and I have no complaints (not in that department; other complaints are available by appointment). I wrote a column about having a vasectomy at the time, and that caused some comments

It is fair to say that I was apprehensive when I went for the mini-op. A vasectomy in truth involves no snipping, more a spot of soldering, and I seem to recall a passing smell of burning. There was also an undignified degree of tugging in the anaesthetised area.

The details are blurred now, although I do also remember the hospital gown, and wearing Paisley-patterned socks with what in that moment seemed to have a sperm-like design. I wore loose boxer shorts that suffered some incidental post-op blooding and had to be thrown away.

There was a fair bit of swelling afterwards. I had a day off work, and walked like John Wayne for another day or two.

In thinking about this, I remembered that the journalist Michael Parkinson had a vasectomy a long time ago, and often used to talk about this. I looked this up and Parky did indeed have one, even giving an interview in 1972 to the first edition of Cosmopolitan in which he described a vasectomy as “the most beautiful thing a man can do for a woman” – or at least he said so in the headline.

Another memory insists that the chat show host used to wear a tie advertising the fact, although evidence to back this up cannot be found. There was a design of some sort, unless it was that the tie had the end snipped off.

Some men like to keep their tackle intact, as it were, in case of later-life romance with a younger woman. But I was happy to surrender my reproductive capabilities. Women spend so much of their lives worrying about their bodies that it seems only fair for men to do their bit.

So, no, I won’t be unzipping that snip, whatever panic the Daily Mail stirs up or doesn’t stir up, depending on the day of the week.

Brexit means because I say so…

“Brexit means Brexit” always has been a puzzle to me until now. At last the devalued penny has dropped. Theresa May is falling back on that old stand-by: “Because I say so.”

Now it may be unfair and gender stereotypical to characterise a woman politician as sounding like a bossy parent, but I will live with that because she does. In the same way that a stressed-out mother might fall back on that old formulation, what Mrs May is saying is: “Oh, please shut up and let the grown-ups get on with the job.”

Brexit means Brexit is just another way of telling the children to stop going on about things.

When Mrs May became prime minister, she got the job because she was the last sensible Tory standing. The other candidates had disgraced themselves by stabbing each other in the back or due to the unbearable burden of being Andrea Leadsom.

On Tuesday, Mrs May’s reputation as the sensible one took a serious knock thanks to revelations in the Guardian that she had told a meeting of Goldman Sachs bankers in private a month before the referendum that there were great dangers in leaving Europe.

As the former Home Secretary said almost nothing about those risks in public – and was criticised by Tory Remainers for her silence – this revelation is embarrassing for her. And well done to the Guardian for bringing the matter up.

Here is part of what Mrs May said to the bankers who were privileged to hear her express an opinion on staying or going (something denied those of us who were not rich bankers at the time): “If we were not in Europe, I think there would be firms and companies who would be looking to say, do they need to develop a mainland Europe presence rather than a UK presence? So I think there are definite benefits for us in economic terms.”

The tenor of her speech was all in line with remaining in Europe, yet she uttered hardly a peep in public, much to the reported frustration of David Cameron. A man sitting on a ledge can only speculate, but is it reasonable to wonder if her reticence on saying anything about Europe was a tactic? She kept her head down to improve her chances of becoming prime minister if the yes vote won.

That was just what did happen, and Mrs May stayed upright after all the other Tory leadership skittles had tumbled. So, what does the prime minister think about Brexit? She probably thinks Cameron left her a stinker of a bequest in his political will.

Faced with this difficulty, she decided click her kitten heels and utter those now infamous words: “Brexit means Brexit.” But if she didn’t believe that before she nipped into Number Ten while no one was paying proper attention, why should we believe what she says now?

This matters for many reasons connected to the future of our country – dear me, almost sounding like a politician there – and it matters because the Leave vote seems to be changing Britain in ways that many of us don’t welcome.

The referendum was a simple yes/no vote on whether to remain in Europe. Many other issues became wrapped up in the pre-vote quarrels and slanging matches, but “yes or no” was all we were being asked.

As prime minister, Mrs May has seemed eager to pursue a hard Brexit stance, and has been much keener to talk about cutting immigration rather than staying in the single market. Beyond that, her plans for taking the UK out of the EU remain a mystery wrapped up in her favourite nonsense saying.

Now we are no nearer to understanding what Brexit means than we were when she first uttered those words. But at least we do know that when Mrs May says what she means, she might not mean it at all. Does she believe what she says now or what she said then?

Final cry of ‘bake!’ as GBBO has its last spell in BBC oven…

A SMALL programme about baking has its last spell in the BBC oven this evening, a valedictory bake before being transferred to Channel 4. The ingredients for the new version of the Great British Bake Off remain unknown, apart from bags of flour and bags of Paul Hollywood, the celebrity baker.

Many things upset me about this – not least that I should be upset by it at all. Part of me wants to say: “It’s a show about baking – get over yourself.” But the thing is, Bake Off is both that and more, a floury hymn to Britishness if you like, or to icing sugar-speckled version of England that fits the way we like to see ourselves.

It also irks me that Hollywood is the only survivor, after Mary Berry, that sainted queen of the sugar bowl, refused to jump ship, along with Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who declined to take their squishy cream-bun puns over to Channel 4.

Basically, Hollywood irks me, so the thought of watching him doing his baking bully act without Mel and Sue to take the mick out of him is dispiriting

Part of the pleasure in watching Bake Off lies in the way this show has slowly risen to doughy dominance, from being a smallish BBC2 show to the biggest programme on British television, a monument to the art of baking, a good art.

And another part lies in that horrible old TV term of ‘chemistry’. Who’d have thought that an elderly cook, a cocky baker and two relatively low-flying comedians would have been ingredients to react so well to each other. But they did.

It was the BBC that encouraged this show, gave it space to grow in the airing cupboard, only to see the independent producers behind the show flog it off to Channel 4 (all those millions for a format, a tent and one up-himself baker).

The way a show can be kidnapped from one channel by another still seems strange, one of those ‘modern life is rubbish’ things. Netflix regrets not bidding for the show, reports the Guardian, while ITV rather wisely noticed that their millions might not secure any of the presenters, so stepped away from the cake-laden table

The thought of Bake Off on Netflix is frankly bizarre, and yet saying that does dust me with hypocrisy: we have Netflix, thanks to our son signing us up, and watch dramas often. Sometimes you can disapprove of modern life while slyly taking advantage of it.

Anyway, three bakers will assemble tonight for the last BBC edition of Bake Off. Jane Beedle, Candice Brown and Andrew Smyth will square off against each other, butter cream gladiators with a chance to be the last proper winner. No guesses from me, although I have favoured Candice all the way through – at least in part thanks to her baking skills.

A tabloid speaking sense… Well done to the Mirror (if not the Mail)…

THE national tabloids are often berated here for their intransigence with regards to migrants, so it is only fair to stop amid the rush of inky meanness to praise one such newspaper (other publications may receive a kicking in a paragraph or two).

The dismantling of the migrant camp in Calais is featured on many pages this morning. The Daily Mirror celebrates the arrival of the child refugees, pointing out in its editorial that they are likely to grow up to be engineers, lawyers and entrepreneurs of great benefit to the UK. “The Jungle is a stain on humanity and must close, so it is right a country as great as ours does its bit,” the Mirror concludes.

Meanwhile, a leader in the Daily Mail argues that the incoming refugees are likely to grow up to be rapists, murderers and con-merchants (well, I haven’t looked but it would hardly be surprising).

What the Mail does say is delivered in one of its shouted front-page headlines, stamped out in black capital letters – “YOU PAY £36M FOR CALAIS CLEAROUT.” As is usually the way, the Mail turns its headline into a bellowed accusation. I don’t know who this unlucky person – “YOU” – might be. Your country needs YOU to stump up 36 million quid to sort out a load of foreigners. Of course, it is not a single ‘you’ but a massed ‘you’ designed to make readers feel aggrieved about the rotten unfairness of the world. Using the pronoun of the second person in its plural sense is a typical Mail tactic, setting the sainted us against the massed hordes of them.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express opts for its own pained exclamation: “NEW MIGRANT SHAMBLES IN CALAIS.” The basis for this headline lies in fears that other migrant camps may spring up when the so-called Jungle is taken apart. The inhabitants are being bussed around France with some ending up in small rural villages, as seen on the BBC news last night.

Governments of all persuasions waste money on many things, with untold billions recently being promised for Trident missiles of little practical use or benefit. So, it seems fair enough that we should do our bit to sort out the human mass of suffering in Calais. This is Europe’s problem and chipping in to help sort it out is a civilised act.

Far less civilised has been the sniping about the age of the young arrivals, as much reported last week – and much regretted on this here ledge

The squalid camp is being dismantled by the French authorities today. This is a good thing, although even a squalid camp can become home, and while many refugees are glad to be leaving, others are said to be distraught. In many senses, France is doing this for symbolic reasons rather than humanitarian ones. The camp wasn’t only a humanitarian nightmare: it was a highly visible symbol of the problem, whereas portioning up the migrants could be seen, in image terms, as a piece of tidying up.

The problem of people from poor or unstable countries wishing to move to wealthier and more stable ones isn’t going to disappear by breaking up one camp. In that sense the Daily Express may be factually right, if morally in the wrong, as usual.

When Julian the writer had to get off his wordy arse…

SOMETIMES I wonder what happened to the life I was meant to lead. Perhaps someone else walked off with it.

This is not a complaint about my life. Mostly things are good, and certainly less rocky than a few months ago. I’ll spare you the details, but basically I now have a this-and-that portmanteau career/means of survival comprising a part-time job, a spot of guest lecturing and some freelance writing

This is good but it does put my head in a swirl as one spinning plate is swapped for another. Sunday is a day off between the two jobs, and here I am doing what I do, which is sitting down at the laptop.

Post-redundancy that was my world, bashing out words on the Toshiba. Now I like that world and I like that version of me, the man who can sit at home making a living from writing. What a splendid version of me that is, Julian the writer. Now this template is a true one, the truest one perhaps. Yet Julian the writer is a broke sort of fellow, not penniless or even pound-less, but impecunious all the same.

Something must be done. I get in the car and go off to work, leaving Julian the writer behind. He is usually there when I get home. Perhaps he has been there all day, staring at the screen, then tapping out sufficient wordage to be allowed time off for a coffee, a strum of the guitar or lunch with something subtitled on Walter Presents.

I think we all have different versions of ourselves, and the person we are follows one track while the person we thought we were going to be traces a route higher up the hill. This is me and here I am. Up there where the air is thin you will find the other me.

It is good to have various versions of yourself, so long as the different parties don’t fall out. That is my thought for this Sunday. Julian the writer is still working on two novels someone might one day publish (optimism is sometimes in short supply but never runs out). And Julian the blogger still sits down four or five times a week to reflect on life, have a rant or share a thought.

But Julian the husband now must slough off his sweaty running clothes and have a shower before popping over to see the in-laws. Later, Julian the baker had better set to kneading for there is no bread in the house.

Now that’s a version of me I like, someone who writes a bit and bakes a bit. That yeasty man does for me, although one sort of bread doesn’t translate to the other. Hence the need for Getting Off His Arse Julian to go out and do some proper paid work occasionally

A hounding in the Commons for Sir Shifty…

BOTH Sir Philip Green and Gary Lineker suffer the indignity of having rotten fruit thrown at them this morning. One of them is more deserving of the smelly honour.

And, yes, it’s the shifty knight with the yacht as long as a street. As for Gary, he should pick up the rotten fruit and throw it back at the Sun newspaper.

Let’s begin with Sir Shifty. MPs were lining up to be rude about the former owner of BHS in the Commons when they voted for his knighthood to be removed. In a two-hour debate they urged that Green should be de-honoured. It was a strange discussion, a little sanctimonious in a sense as everyone present, and not that many were, agreed that Green was a rogue and a scoundrel.

MPs cannot remove a knighthood, as that task falls to the honours forfeiture committee, but the message was given strongly. Sir Philip is likely to wake up a plain mister one morning unless he comes up with a quick donation to cover that massive hole in the BHS pension fund.

I cannot think of a kind word to say about Green, and neither could the assembled MPs, who dismissed him as a “billionaire spiv” among other stinging epithets. Yet it did seem odd for one man’s reputation, such as it is, to be so roundly thrashed without anyone being present to put up a case for the defence.

And weren’t all those MPs being naïve? It was as if they had only just noticed that Green was the worst sort of capitalist and not the Co-op and John Lewis rolled into one generous bundle of caring and sharing.

Tony Blair is blamed for many things nowadays, and not always fairly I’d say, but what was he thinking when he honoured Philip Green with a knighthood for services to retail? That really was one misguided ennoblement. Bair should have left Green to carry on being the worst sort of grubby capitalist without doing him such a thoroughly undeserved honour.

But Green was knighted and snatching that honour back probably feels like the only punishment MPs can suggest. Perhaps we should just be a lot more careful about who with give knighthoods to. Why in God’s name, or Tony Blair’s, does anyone need to be knighted in the first place? It’s all a nonsense and sometimes it lands us in this sort of a mess.

Gary Linker was last in the headlines for promising to present Match of the Day wearing only his underpants if Leicester City won the Premier League. They did and he did, too.

Today he is on the front page of the Sun next to the headline: “Out on his ears.” A smaller headline adds further explanation: “Calls for the BBC to fire Lineker as he peddles migrant lies.”

Earlier this week, Lineker tweeted: “The treatment by some towards these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless.” And good on him for showing sense and compassion amid the acrid flurry of nastiness that greeted the arrival of young migrants to this country.

Yet now Lineker is being paraded on the front page of the Sun because a couple of Tory twerps want him removed. One of those twerps, the MP Alec Shelbrooke, said that Lineker “needs to decide if he’s a political activist or a BBC sports journalist – he can’t be both”.

And there was me foolishly thinking that someone could be a BBC sports journalist and a human being.

I can’t remember a nastier media fuss than this week’s hounding of migrants – well, not since whatever the last nasty media fuss might have been.

Sometimes we should take a long, hard look at ourselves. Do we really want to be a country that greets vulnerable young people with derision and demands that they have their teeth tested? That’s even worse than living in a country that bestows knighthoods on shifty capitalists.

It looks like the post-truth Trump worm has gone in deep…

THAT post-truth worm just won’t stop chewing through Donald Trump’s brain. Yesterday I suggested that this burrowing invertebrate had gone so deep inside Trump’s head that he will probably claim he has won even after he has lost.

And in last night’s final presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, he did just that. Or something very similar. It’s hard to tell with that weird flyaway nicotine-tinged thatch Trump has, but I could have sworn I saw that worm emerge for a moment, briefly illuminated in the studio lights. Perhaps it came up for air before again disappearing and going deep undercover, possibly in search of fresh brain cells to chew.

That worm seems to have turned Trump completely. For he declared in the most striking exchange that he would keep the country “in suspense” over whether he would accept the outcome of next month’s election.

During an ill-tempered debate, Trump indicated that he might refuse to accept the outcome of an election most people now believe he will lose. “I will look at it at the time,” he said. The Fox News moderator Chris Wallace suggested that he was breaking with centuries of peaceful transitions of power, and Trump responded: “I will keep you in suspense.”

For a Republican nominee to refuse to endorse the results of an election would be unheard of in modern American political history.

An ill-tempered debate saw clashes over abortion, gun rights, immigration and foreign policy. Some commentators believe that Trump had a fairly good debate, although all people will be talking about now is his possible refusal to accept the result.

What an odd, bizarre and thin-skinned election race this has turned into: a ranting, rude and virulently insolent billionaire businessman set against a manically smiling Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s policies, such as they are, are spitting Twitter-spats of ideas tossed out at random, such as saying that women who have abortions should be punished by the law.

Political policies are usually worked on to a degree. Candidates discuss ideas with their teams and come up with something that might look good. Trump just fires them out like bullets from a machinegun stuck on the maximum destruction setting. Bam-bam-bam! Take that. And here is another splattering of thoughts grabbed from the top of my head.

Mostly he has preyed on fear – and mostly fear of otherness, which is to say foreigners. He has tapped into dissatisfaction and promised a return to greatness, but don’t go looking for a use-by date on that promise. And he has been betrayed by his own disgraceful behaviour towards women.

From this distance I can’t work up a deal of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, but she’s our only hope. But it seems there is a danger that even if she wins, she will lose. This is because Trump could rouse the rabbled millions of his supporters by feeding them conspiracy theories about how the election was fixed by the liberal establishment. And plenty of them will swallow every intemperate, stupid word. Scary stuff, really.

 

Further evidence of our nastiness… and the post-truth worm in Trump’s brain…

I HAD not thought so soon to return to this matter, but a day is a long time in front pages.

Yesterday the Daily Express and its guttersnipe cousin the Daily Star were casting doubt on the ages of the child migrants arriving from the camp in Calais. Today’s development in the happy valley of news sees a Tory MP demanding that these entrants to our country should have their teeth tested to prove their age.

David Davies, MP for Monmouth, is on the radio right now saying that “we need to be hard-nosed here” and insisting that these migrants should have a dental exam to verify their age.

And perhaps this Tory MP should have his body scanned for evidence of a heart. The British Dental Association maintains that such tests on the teeth of migrants would be unethical. Perhaps they might also consider the ethics of reducing the anaesthetic a little the next time Mr Davies needs a filling.

In this latest display of our compassion, 14 young migrants have been admitted into the country. Yes, 14. From the pernicious noise in some quarters, you’d have thought we’d just waved in a million.

Many things about this matter either surprise me or cause the tattered flag of my liberal soul to go limp. The nastiness is the worst of it. And the readiness to believe that we are being had in some way or other. Also surprising is that these mean calculations appear to have been made from looking at faces in photographs that have been blurred to protect the identity of the young migrants. Yet these photographic smudges for faces are enough to unleash nastiness from the usual suspects; then again their compassion was pixelated a long time ago.

All this is by way of a vile distraction, a sleight of hand from a conjuror up to mean tricks, and a way to deflect the eye from what will happen to all the child migrants.

“Fury at ‘soft checks’ on child migrants” rumbles the Express today, while the Sun, following the Davies line, prefers: “Tell us the tooth” and maintains that some of the child migrants “look 40” – citing as evidence an almost entirely blurred face on which a bristle or two can be seen. The Daily Mail says that one of the child migrants “looked 38” according to a facial recognition programme.

The narrowness of mind on display here does no credit to us or our country. But we live in strangely unsettling times. According to interpretation, we are either standing on the Brexit cliff and waiting to fall over the edge and on to the rocks below. Or we are about to soar into the clear blue sky, free at last of those heavy Euro boots that have held us back.

Personally I am still worried about those rocks, but the truth is that we still don’t know, as nothing has happened yet.

The US is living in strange times, too, and I think that the world will miss President Obama, for all that he has disappointed some. Barack is certainly right when he accuses Donald Trump of whining that next month’s White House election is rigged against him. Obama insists that Trump’s wild claims are based on “no facts”, adding: “I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and try to make his case to get votes.”

We expect this sort of anti-politics vandalism from Trump, a vain and egocentric sort of candidate. Yet such ridiculous claims are dangerous as they could undermine the process of democracy, and even many Republicans are appalled by the claims. If Trump loses, as surely he must, then millions of his supporters may well be eager to swallow his conspiracy pill, and could even take to the streets in protest.

Then again, the post-truth worm long ago chewed a hole through Trump’s brain, and if he loses he will probably continue to claim for years that in fact he won.

What a mean way to welcome child migrants…

NOW I don’t wish to spoil your day, but let’s have a look at the front pages of the Daily Express and its downmarket stablemate, the Daily Star. It’s a big ask, but stick with me.

The Express has two European themes. The main headline says: “Cheaper food after EU exit”. The story maintains that leaving the EU will “send the cost of food tumbling, according to economic experts”.

Those experts are to be found in a long-running think-tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a body which sings the free-market hymn loudly, if not always tunefully.

What’s odd about this story is to be spotted in the next paragraph. Here, the Express says the experts it has called on are predicting “staggering” food price rises in Europe “which the UK can avoid through Brexit”. So, logically speaking, food won’t be cheaper than it is now; it will just not be as expensive as it might have been if we’d stayed in the EU (that’s if you swallow the Daily Express diet pills, something which nutritionists advise against).

So what we have here is another story forced into the Brexit template. The Express does like an obsession and is much taken with this one at the moment.

In the blurb box at the top of the page, the Express turns its kindly eye towards the child migrants arriving in Britain from Calais. The faces in the photographs used have been blurred (by the BBC initially, I think) but this is not enough to deter the Express from suggesting that these child migrants look older than 17, the age they have to be to gain admittance. “Calais migrant children start arriving in the UK claiming to be aged 14 to 17,” say the words in the blurb-box.

The Daily Star – honest, I didn’t touch it; I only looked online – takes this unpleasant scepticism further. The front-page headline says: “First Calais ‘kids’ arrive in UK”, while a smaller banner adds: “All claim they are school age.”

As a requirement of admittance, the young migrants must be 17 or under and already have relatives in Britain. In the spirit of offering a warm welcome to these troubled children, both papers rush to suggest that the migrants look a bit old for their age.

The Express seeks the opinion of the UKIP MEP Jane Collins, a woman who is never knowingly reasonable. She lives up to her shabby billing by saying that she hopes the British public “weren’t providing refuge for adult economic migrants trying to pull a fast one”.

Scepticism can be a useful thing, but this is nothing more than rampant nastiness masquerading as scepticism. The Home Office tells the newspapers that the ages of the migrants have been verified, and while you don’t always want to go around believing what the Home Office tells you, in this instance it is preferable to siding with the Little England dullards on the Express and Star.

As for UKIP, thankfully that party appears to be imploding at present, boiled in the melting fat of its own meanness. Steven Woolfe, the UKIP MEP who spent three days in hospital following a row with a party colleague, tells the BBC that he is quitting the party, which is in a “death spiral”.

He also says there is “something rotten” in the party. Has he only just noticed? Perhaps his spell in hospital left him time to play I-Spy with himself and he suddenly realised the true nature of the party he had wanted to lead until only a few days ago.

As for the relatively small number of child migrants arriving from Calais, they should be welcomed by a country with a proud history of showing compassion; a country in which many creeds and races have always lived; a country which should be happy to do the right thing.

And with regards to that other country, the nasty, small-minded, suspicious one; the one that insists on believing the worst of everyone (even child migrants, for heaven’s sake) – well you can keep that mean little country peopled with sniping poltroons. It’s fit for nothing other than a nasty front page.