The Sunday Times published some stupid article the other day about how hip and trendy it was these days to be a young Conservative. I’m not going to link to it, partly because I have despised the Sunday Times ever since the days of Andrew Neil/Carmen Proetta, partly because I don’t think it gives free access to overseas readers, and partly because I think the articles only hang around for free access to UK readers for a short while. (These last two beliefs may be false; I don’t care). But I saw this piece mentioned over at Harry’s Place, where it has prompted some discussion.

The best intervention, however, has come from Matthew Turner, who rather punctures the claim that the Conservatives are the Party of Youth (how I dislike that word) by listing the products that are being advertised in the current edition of the Tories’ own magazine for loyal members, Heartland:

Retirement investment advice
Vitamins ‘for a healthy lifespan’
Savile Row shirts
Medical insurance for the over 50s
Retirement homes on the South coast
Leg ‘relaxa-stool’ supporter
Margaret Thatcher books
‘Back-care’ chairs
‘Easy-bather’ bath aid
Pensioner’s hearing aid
Branded ‘comfort stretch’ trousers
Reproduction antique gramophone

In 1994 Whiteley, Seyd and Richardson reported in their book, True Blues that the average age of Tory party members was 62. Do we have any more recent information than that?

Diana and Dodi

I mentioned Rene Delorm’s excellent book, Diana and Dodi: A Love Story, the other day. I’ve now got it in front of me, so here’s a representative passage:

At about half past ten, as the two of them sat on the couch sipping their pre-dinner champagne, Dodi signalled me.”I think we have the soundtrack of The English Patient“, he said. “The Princess would like to listen to it”.

I slid the CD into place, pushed the button and the hauntingly beautiful music began to swell, spilling over the decks of the Jonikal and surrounding two people who were rapidly falling in love. Looking out at the pair of them I felt that all was right with the world.

At that untimely moment, the telephone rang and I had to tell Dodi, “Sir, you have a phone call.” While he took the call inside, I stayed close to the Princess.

“Rene, have you seen The English Patient?” she asked.

“Yes, Madame, I saw it twice. It was a wonderful film, but I never noticed how beautiful the music was.”

“Well, that’s probably because the story is so beautiful and the music is in harmony with the images”, she said. “You get totally absorbed in the film, hearing but not noticing the music.”

She put her feet up on the nearest chair and was reclining almost horizontally as she sipped her champagne and waited for Dodi. Seeing that she was enjoying the music, I quietly retreated, and after a few minutes Dodi returned to her side… [p.75]

I may post some more of this fine book if I get bored over the next few days. It’s good stuff.

It’s Such a Boring Song / It Goes On, and On, and On

I managed to watch the second half of the excellent Australia vs Ireland match in the rugby World Cup this morning in Melbourne, Australia winning 17-16 after an agonising drop goal miss in the 73rd minute or so for the Irish — one of those balls that spent an improbable amount of time in the air before narrowly missing the posts.

But it was a smashing game, and I was delighted to learn from the commentators — because I don’t pay as much attention to Irish rugby as I ought — that the Irish captain Keith Wood’s nickname is “the raging potato“, which is marvellously apposite.

So Australia will now have an easy quarter-final against Scotland; Ireland will have an altogether tougher fixture against France — and, to paraphrase the fans’ preferred song, we can all now live and hope and pray for a rematch in Botany Bay in the final of the competition on 22 November — which would be hauntingly appropriate, if a little unlikely…

Trivia point on invented traditions and all (my friend Dan likes it when the Virtual Stoa deals with music trivia): “The Fields of Athenry” was composed by Pete St John in 1979, though most people I run into seem to think it’s a lot older, trad. even. It may do a good job of passing itself off as older than it is owing to a lyric that is based on an old 1888 ballad, or just because of a hefty dose of wishful thinking. Though quite why Danny and Jenny became Michael and Mary for the 1979 version seems unclear, unless PStJ just thought Danny and Jenny weren’t stereotypically Irish enough, and was writing the song for export to the New World.

And it’s now only 140 days before I qualify for citizenship…

UPDATE [5 minutes later]: I’ve just stumbled across this fine parody version, over at, which I’ve lightly repunctuated and spell-checked:

FIELDS OF ATHENRY (alternative version)

By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling,
“Michael, they are singing it again!
If I hear it one more time, I think I’ll lose my mind:
I’m so fed up with the Fields of Athenry.”

Oh no! The Fields of Athenry,
If I hear it one more time, I think I’ll die;
It’s such a boring song; it goes on, and on, and on:
I’m so fed up with the Fields of Athenry

From within the prison wall, I heard a young man calling,
“Mary, why do you think I’m here?
In here we all agree, transportation’ll set us free,
Free from the Fields of Athenry!”


By a lonely harbour wall, I saw the last star falling
As the prison ship sailed out against the tide
“Hold on”, that girl did say, “I’m coming with you to Botany Bay,
To escape from the Fields of Athenry!”


A little clunky in places, but basically very good, and funny.