Oh for a handsome hero on two wheels

The really quite extraordinarily attractive young woman swung round. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Emerging from the dynamic, go-getting traffic of London – universally renowned as the planet’s numero uno city for business, banking, nightlife, tourism, architecture, culture, restaurants, transport, weather, girls, romance and basically everything except airport construction – was a figure known to every man and more importantly woman in the capital. And he was cycling straight towards her.

“Can it really be…?” she gasped. “The most famous cyclist, panel show guest, author, newspaper columnist and future prime minister in the country? Rushing to my rescue in this, my hour of need? Why, yes! Yes it is! It’s him! It’s really him!” She could hardly contain herself. “It’s Horace Thomson!”

“What ho,” said Horace Thomson smoothly, as he squeezed his brakes, stopped, flew headlong over the handlebars, landed helmet-first on the pavement, got up, tried to take off his bicycle clips, got his watch-strap caught in one of them, and managed to free himself only by wriggling his left hand out of his watch. “What seems to be the trouble, madam?”

“Oh, Horace,” sighed the desperately pretty young woman. “I’ve got a puncture, and I simply don’t know how I’ll make it to The Most Tremendously Fruity Young Woman of the Year competition, which incidentally, I am the red-hot favourite to win.”

“This, madam,” declared Horace, “is your lucky day. You say you want to go to The Most Tremendously Fruity Young Woman of the Year competition. As fate would have it, I happen to be on my way there. For I, naturally enough, am the judging panel. In point of fact, it is the most important of my mayoral duties. Hop aboard my trusty Horace Bike and we’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s jiffy.”

“Oh, Horace!” cried the damned near eye-poppingly exquisite young beauty, as they clambered on to his bicycle, her arms wrapped around his sinewy albeit suit-clad torso. “You’re my hero! How can I ever repay you?”

“Gosh, steady on!” replied Horace. “I’m a happily married man!”

And through the thrusting London traffic, off the two rode towards City Hall.

The strange world of hack-speak

‘Hurry up and get ready for school, Charlie, or you’ll be sensationally blasted by sirs!” No, nobody talks like that – except, of course, tabloid newspapers, which use a mysterious but fascinating form of English all their own. The journalist Robert Hutton likes it so much that next month he’s publishing Romps, Tots and Boffins, an amusing dictionary of arcane hack-speak. For example, “slapdown”, which means “a member of the Cabinet whom we like has disagreed with a member of the Cabinet we don’t like”. It reminds me of the day The Sun reported that Wayne Rooney had flown abroad after having hair implants. Headline: ROO HOL AFTER BONCE OP.

He wasn’t always the Real thing

As the reported £93 million transfer of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale to Real Madrid nears completion (I hope, because the story’s been dragging on for ages), it’s worth recalling that the young Welshman hasn’t always been highly valued. I quote from a story in this newspaper’s sports pages, December 15 2008. “Tottenham will have to part with Gareth Bale as well as £15m,” we revealed, “if they want to land Stewart Downing.” That remarkable deal never went through, which is a pity, because in hindsight it would have been very entertaining. If you’re unfamiliar with Downing and Bale, imagine that Man A wants to buy a second-hand Vauxhall Corsa from Man B. Man B says, “All right, as long as in exchange you give me a Ferrari F40. Oh – and £15 million.”

Who cares about Europe?

‘The message is clear: people want their say,” said Nigel Farage after a poll by Saga showed that three quarters of people over 50 want an EU referendum. But the trouble with polling is: which poll to trust?

In another new survey, by Ipsos Mori, people were asked to name the most important issues facing the UK. The results were as follows. Number one: the economy. Two: immigration. Three: unemployment. Then the NHS, crime, education, poverty, housing, pensions, inflation…

Eventually, in joint 14th, level with drugs, came the EU. It was named “the most important issue” by 1 per cent of people, and “an important issue” by seven per cent. Meaning, presumably, that 93 per cent don’t think it’s important. Or that they don’t see a connection between the EU and, say, immigration or unemployment. So do we really care about the EU or not? Maybe the message isn’t clear after all.

When apostrophes go missing

As Tom Chivers noted in yesterday’s paper, some people are upset that The Apprentice’s Luisa Zissman has dropped the apostrophe from the name of her business, Bakers Toolkit. Still, she’s hardly the first. In 1968, Kingsley Amis wrote to the house magazine of the teaching profession. Its name: Teachers World. “Shouldn’t that name have an apostrophe?” suggested Amis. “But I suppose it is safer to drop it if you aren’t too sure where it should go.”

In reply the editor called Amis “a bit of a pedant” and said the apostrophe was dropped “for modern design reasons”. Thereafter in the Amis household, any instance of illiteracy was dryly attributed to “modern design reasons”.