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Are we safe to count on Dave?
THINGS we discovered this week: David Cameron can’t count, at least not when it comes to his offspring.
Much amused commentary was stirred up by the revelation that the Prime Minister and his wife left their daughter, Nancy, at a pub at lunchtime. The little girl is said to have wandered to the toilets just when her parents were heading for home. Two or more cars were involved and each parent thought their daughter was in the other vehicle.
This little tale kept the news headlines bubbling for a whole day. It was certainly interesting to the public, but was it in the public interest? Tricky one, that. I suppose it is interesting to note that Mr Cameron has a problem with basic mathematics, and also that his police minders do not appear to be all that observant. And there is a possibility that this incident might stick as an image of incompetence, although that is unlikely.
As it happens, much of the commentary that followed was either sympathetic or satirical. Assorted parents owned up to similar lapses, which was fun, but it did make me a tiny bit suspicious. Do we need one of those “I’m normal, me” alerts here? The super-wealthy, extremely posh David Cameron does seem to enjoy pretending to be as ordinary as anyone else, even now down to leaving one of his children at the pub.
Of course, the old, lower-class version of this scenario would have had the children secured in the car or told to wait outside while the parents went into the pub. In this top peoples’ variant, the parents were said to be ‘distraught’ when they got back to Chequers and realised their mistake.
Politically, there was also a nice sense of timing: the story emerged on the same day that the Government, in the Dickensian shape of Communities Minister Eric Pickles, announced a scheme to deal with 120,000 troubled families. These feckless individuals are costing us untold billions, according to steaming statistics that Mr Pickles rolled out like so many baked goods from a pie factory.
And just along the corridor, busy Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is demanding that primary schools go back to basics with a renewed emphasis on, oh, counting among other skills.
Personal footnote: one of my earliest memories is wandering around a busy street in Bristol having somehow been lost by my mother.
Beery footnote: Downing Street wouldn’t confirm whether or not Mr Cameron had a pint at the pub. Well, I would think even less of him if he hadn’t: nice country pub, lunchtime meal, who wouldn’t want to have a pint?
Another personal footnote: having three children is a bit of a logistical puzzle at times, but fortunately mine are now old enough to go the pub unaccompanied, should they wish to do so.
• THINGS we discovered this week: penguins are sexually depraved monsters.
Well, what we really learnt was that Captain Scott’s scientist, George Murray Levick, was so shocked by the sight of young male Adélie penguins attempting to have sex with dead females, with each other and with under-age penguins that he wrote up his disturbing observations in Greek so that only a gentleman could read them. His pamphlet then disappeared and has only now been unearthed at the Natural History Museum (presumably on a top shelf somewhere).
• THINGS we discovered this week: according to a letter writer to this newspaper, I will only be satisfied when we are living in a socialist republic or something.
Pardon me? That sounds like the dreariest proposition imaginable. Just for the record, I would hate to live in a socialist utopia or whatever it was this letter writer surmised.
A columnist-shaped person can’t even go about making relatively mild observations about the royal family without being accused of all sorts of things.
Oh well, serves me right for being a columnist-shaped person, I guess.
AND, finally, something I discovered this week: Twitter is good fun in a time-wasting sort of a way. Should you have escaped so far, this is the social media whatsit where you have electronic conversations using up to 140 characters. Anyone wishing to follow me can do so: @JulianCole5
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