For my many faithful readers, you may have been alarmed and perturbed by my recent absence, and you are wondering why.  I suspect you are feeling lonely and unloved, and crave an explanation.

The explanation is somewhat mundane, although you may feel, as I do, that sinister forces are at work. Three weeks ago, my wife and I decided to take a short break in the Algarve, where, according to the promotional blurb, the sun spends the winter.  Not this winter!

We chose Squeezijet as our preferred carrier, although, if the truth be known, we were not exactly spoiled for choice.  It was either that or Ryanair, better known as FlyinFear, and the only airline with outside lavatories.

We arrived to grey skies, a cool wind and steady rain, but we comforted ourselves in the belief that it would soon blow over, with blue skies and sunshine just round the corner.  Not so.  The word on the beach was that a belt of cold air was coming from east of the Urals, and immediate suspicion fell on Vladimir Putin.  And like a bad smell, it hung around for days.

I was amazed that Putin found time to interfere with the weather when he was in the middle of a re-election campaign for president, and by all accounts, it was on a knife edge.  The only credible candidate was Alexei Navalny, a brave yet foolhardy man who stood up to Putin and for his temerity, was subsequently barred from standing in the election following a trumped up charge  of fraud.  In passing, if fraud were a sound basis for disqualifying a candidate, why was Putin standing?

In the absence of Navalny, the next best candidate to unseat Putin was Bozo the clown.

It’s a strange business being a dictator.  You seize power for the good of the people, you suppress all opposition, again for the good of the people, you starve millions of your fellow countrymen, again for the good of those who survive, always ensuring there’s more than enough for you, your cronies and the army, and to legitimise your oppressive behaviour, you call elections from time to time which are rigged, so that you can declare to the world and his dog that your government is for the people and by the people.

But what I want to know, why bother?


Over the years, I’ve rather fancied myself as a wordsmith, hence the pleasure I get when writing blogs, or articles (much the same thing), or books.  I also like to think I bring pleasure to many of my readers in these uncertain times when monosyllables rule, together with monosyllabic grunts, and literacy is going down the pan.

But fear not, every now and then the mould is broken and along comes a wordsmith worthy of the title.  I was browsing through the Culture section of the Sunday Times (special request to Rupert Murdoch from David Attenborough and me, stop wrapping your supplements in plastic), and I came across Camilla Long.  No, that’s not right, I came across Camilla Long some time ago, I can’t remember why, but she was one of those writers whose names are familiar for no obvious reason.  She is also very easy on the eye, but that might be interpreted as a sexist remark, so kindly disregard it.

Anyway, back to the plot, which is more than she can say about McMafia, the jewel in the crown of BBC’s Sunday listings, starring James Norton, the former vicar of Didley, or some such place, and now going head to head with the Russian Mafia, whose very existence is vehemently denied by no less a personage as President Putin, and let’s face it, if you can’t trust Putin, who can you trust?

I watched ten minutes of one episode, so I am hardly an expert.  It reminded me of that very disappointing series with Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, sadly I can’t remember its name, but I have an overriding memory of the seriously emaciated Hiddleston running up and down a beach, and that was it!  Who he was running to, or from, was never satisfactorily explained, but I might have nodded off.  Whatever else, not my idea of a good night in.

Camilla’s review of McMafia is worth repeating. She describes Norton as obviously bored by his character as a “drippy, dull  and unimaginative hedge-funder and clearly uninspired by his rictus-grinning, lollipop-headed “ethical banker” girlfriend.”  Camilla cannot endure another minute of pillow talk between “these oxygen thieves” [a wonderful expression, and one I have set aside for my next court hearing] and if this is not enough, she goes on to describe their house as dull, their dinners are dull, they wear dull clothes, they have dull friends and talk about the weather in bed.  She concludes her withering review with the comment that McMafia is supposed to be a sexy Sunday night drama, but try as she may, there’s absolutely no sex on offer.  Even the prostitutes are told they can take the night off!

So should we!