Gastric distress

I fail to see how viewers could be expected to believe in a heroine who wouldn’t fall for a man with

Well, that’s the next book done, then… It’s always a complete anti-climax when a book’s finished. You’ll pootle about your flat afterwards with a numb/emptied feeling, then send if off before beginning the enormous wait for anyone to get back to you.

The pause left at this point always being far too long – even if it’s only a few hours (not that it ever is only a few hours, you’ll understand – despite that fact that it is physically possible to read a book in a few hours…)

Sadly, even though your new volume has been pressing on your brain like a venomous tumour for months and months, no one else is really that bothered about it – even if they’ve been expecting it, have paid a bit in advance for it and made mumbly nearly interested noises when you’ve ranted on about it. (That’s what your agent and editor are for – to provide mumbly noises.) The level of caring about my books tends to drop off from

ME – 347 per cent

My readers – between 100 per cent and 102 per cent - but there are only 12 of them. And some of them scare me. And some of them only touch/stroke the books, they don’t actually read them…

My agent and Editor – between 75 per cent and 76 per cent apportioned in rotation between authors according to alphabetical arrangement, height and availability of biscuits.

Other readers – 6 per cent

My pals – 4 per cent (They have a lot of other things on their minds.)

Other comics in clubs – 2 per cent (And they’re faking that.)

Other people I meet as I go about my life – 0.8 per cent

Other people in the world – 0.0 per cent

As it happens, I hammered the book’s last sentence into place while an Austrian camera crew fiddled with lights, set up for an interview and then looked on politely as I growled into my laptop and waggled my head twitches in combination with a hearty – I’LL BE WITH YOU IN A MINUTE, YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS BUT I AM ACTUALLY JUST NOW FINISHING A BOOK, EXACTLY AS I SPEAK – AM I SPEAKING ? – ANYWAY, I’LL JUST DO THIS – AND THIS - AND THEN THAT. DEAR GOD, WHAT WAS I THINKING ? I MEANT THIS ! OH, JUST AT LEAST LOOK INTERESTED COULD YOU ? THIS IS THE CULMINATION OF THREE YEAR’S WORK, YOU KNOW. AND KEEP WELL BACK, I MAY CRY.

To celebrate, I purchased – through the interweb – a pair of splendid electric blue and black suede shoes. I’m not generally much of a shoe person, but performing shoes are a good thing to have and these got two outings of comedy this week and managed to propel me across the stage with ease and stylishness.

This was a more than usually miraculous achievement given that my ear infection has returned (my body really does want me to just lie down for a while) and I am now on industrial strength antibiotics which are causing my digestive system, shall we say some distress. Suddenly doing a 20 minute set had to be carefully coordinated with the onceeveryfortyminute episodes of gastric distress. Ah, me – showbiz is so dandy.

And now I am waiting to hear about a book, a film and any number of BBC thingies – which is more waiting than my frame can stand. Frankly, my regular sprints to the bathroom are proving a healthy distraction. And there’s always the telly,,, which I rarely get to see unless I’m both at home and exhausted. I continue to enjoy the bewilderment and gallopy shouting which is The Devil’s Whore – although I fail to see how viewers could be expected to believe in a heroine who wouldn’t fall immediately for a man with a large facial scar, several mental difficulties and a metal hand.

Of course, many people in the days before thermoplastics, grafting and Hello had to settle for prosthetics made out of slightly unsuitable materials. George Washington had wooden teeth and Tycho Brahe had a metal nose. A potentially helpful mobility aid like a walking stick might be rendered attractive and yet dangerous by being made of glass. I imagine many period conversations running thusly:

“Why are you lying down there, my good man ?”

“Oh, you know… first I snapped my walking stick and now my toffee legs have melted. D’you think you could carry me home ?”

“I’d love to, sirrah, but my spine has been replaced with these bottle tops and strips of gingham so I’m not really up to heavy lifting.”

“I quite understand. Give my last regards to my lady wife – you can’t miss her, she’s the one with the paraffin ear and the woollen face.”

Wikipedia.
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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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