Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Under the disguise of fixing lobbying, this Bill will crush democratic protest (Independent)

There is no question that British democracy is at the mercy of wealthy and corporate interests, but the Lobbying Bill takes aim at our hard-won freedoms instead, writes Owen Jones.

2. Our Westminster elite isn't up to dealing with Syria's crisis (Guardian)

Britain may no longer have a political establishment that can credibly speak to the public about the gravest affairs of state, writes John Harris.

3. Obama risks more than his credibility (Financial Times)

The US president may be getting into a game he cannot control, writes Edward Luce.

4. What the bully boys of broadcasting today could learn from Frost (Daily Mail)

David's hallmark characteristic was his affability and niceness, writes Melanie Phillips. And it was this good-natured quality that encouraged people to drop their guard.

5. Once Washington made the Middle East tremble – now no one there takes it seriously (Independent)

Our present leaders are paying the price for the dishonesty of Bush and Blair, says Robert Fisk.

6. The delayed attack on Syria is good for Britain – and the PM (Daily Telegraph)

By postponing military action, MPs did the right thing – and paid tribute to David Cameron, says Boris Johnson. 

7. How to end the silly season (Guardian)

MPs can save us from the media monster eating itself – by cutting short their long holidays, says Helen Lewis.

8. Lessons for Greece from derelict Detroit (Financial Times)

The US city symbolises modern industrial decline, writes Wolfgang Münchau. There is no reason to think it could not happen elsewhere.

9. Our reputation is in your hands, Mr Miliband (Times)

As Barack Obama awaits Congress’s vote on Syria there is one man who could restore Britain’s status as a key ally, writes Malcolm Rifkind.

10. Calling in SNP’s best communicator is sign of panic in 'Yes’ camp (Daily Telegraph)

The separatists’ campaign is coming apart and Kevin Pringle is not a miracle worker, writes Alan Cochrane.

Getty
Show Hide image

I dined behind the Houses of Parliament in my sexually connected foursome

My wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple. We did not always check the significance of the date. 

I am self-employed and find that working from home, setting your own schedule, the days generally blur into each other, with weekends holding no significance, and public holidays, when those who are employed in factories, offices or shops get time off, meaning nothing. I am often surprised to go out and find the streets empty of traffic because it is some national day of observance, such as Christmas, that I wasn’t aware of. I find myself puzzled as to why the shops are suddenly full of Easter eggs or pancake batter.

Growing up in a Communist household, we had a distinct dislike for this kind of manufactured marketing opportunity anyway. I remember the time my mother tried to make me feel guilty because I’d done nothing for her on Mother’s Day and I pointed out that it was she who had told me that Mother’s Day was a cynical creation of the greetings card monopolies and the floral industrial complex.

Valentine’s Day is one of those I never see coming. It’s the one day of the year when even the worst restaurants are completely booked out by couples attempting to enjoy a romantic evening. Even those old-fashioned cafés you’ll find still lurking behind railway stations and serving spaghetti with bread and butter will tell you there’s a waiting list if you leave it late to reserve a table.

In the late 1980s my wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple, he a writer and she a TV producer. One particular place we liked was a restaurant attached to a 1930s block of flats, near the Houses of Parliament, where the endless corridors were lined with blank doors, behind which you sensed awful things happened. The steel dining room dotted with potted palm trees overlooked a swimming pool, and this seemed terribly sophisticated to us even if it meant all your overpriced food had a vague taste of chlorine.

The four of us booked to eat there on 14 February, not realising the significance of the date. We found at every other table there was a single couple, either staring adoringly into each other’s eyes or squabbling.

As we sat down I noticed we were getting strange looks from our fellow diners. Some were sort of knowing, prompting smiles and winks; others seemed more outraged. The staff, too, were either simpering or frosty. After a while we realised what was going on: it was Valentine’s Day! All the other customers had assumed that we were a sexually connected foursome who had decided to celebrate our innovative relationship by having dinner together on this special date.

For the four of us, the smirking attention set up a strange dynamic: after that night it always felt like we were saying something seedy to each other. “Do you want to get together on Sunday?” I’d say to one of them on the phone, and then find myself blushing. “I’ll see if we can fit it in,” they’d reply, and we would both giggle nervously.

Things became increasingly awkward between us, until in the end we stopped seeing them completely. 

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

0800 7318496