Last Friday I went to the birthday party for the UK's Queen Mother. The lady in question wasn't there, of course, because I was in Bratislava and she was in Uck, as I like to call it.
It was a very nice do indeed at the British ambassador's house just below the Slavín monument. Lots of familiar faces and other notables, including Monika the silent barmaid, Justin Justinian, and a Police Superintendent whose steady stare made me feel guilty as charged, although I don't know what for. The food was magnificent, and would not have shamed an Italian embassy party. So, too lazy to write a letter, I'd like to thank His Excellency and his lady for their hospitality and enthusiasm.
There's only one small note of surprise. No gin and tonics - the Queen Mum's favourite drink. Maybe there was champagne, which the old lady refuses to accept as an alcoholic beverage, but I didn't see it. No wonder she's lived to be 100.
The next day I flew to Birmingham. The last time I was at the airport was 10 years ago, and it's now much bigger. Lots of families returning home from package holidays in Spain. All very pink, tired and depressed. All the women looking the same, more tired and more depressed than the men and children, and most of them the shape of water boilers (not that the men are a whit more attractive). I wonder why they stay together, and how they ever started the process of procreation in the first place.
The train that took me west to Shropshire was covered in trash, including a used nappy (diaper) under the seat opposite mine. I mentioned this to my son and he said he thought it was a relic of the IRA bombing campaign in mainland Uck. All the rubbish bins were taken out of the trains and passengers were encouraged to leave all the trash on the tables and seats. It's a habit that's become ingrained, and the chances are that Britain is now the filthiest and most dreary place in Europe.
Apart from my daughter, I saw three attractive females in the 42 hours I spent in Uck, and coincidentally they were all barmaids. The Queen Mother, God bless her, is undoubtedly the most beautiful woman in England, now that Princess Diana has gone.
I'm very much looking forward to my annual holiday in Croatia next week, where there's very little chance of running into pink misshapen Anglo-Saxons.
Meanwhile, the lines outside the UK embassy in Bratislava are as long as ever, if not longer, as young Slovaks flock to Britain to learn English, see the old sights, and take their chances with families who hardly know the meaning of au pair.
I'm told by reliable sources that 96% of visa applicants are approved, but my own experience puts a big question mark behind that figure. A young man I know from eastern Slovakia has been refused entry for reasons unknown. Perhaps it's because he comes from a relatively wealthy family and looks not one bit downtrodden. He just wants to see the Tower of London and drive a car on the wrong side of the street so he can come back and tell all his friends about it. Refused. Why do they do this? Prince Charles is due in Bratislava at the beginning of November. Perhaps His Royal Highness could persuade the embassy people to relent on the visa restrictions, imposed to keep the Roma out of Britain but inconveniencing everybody else.
On another topic, I heard that someone from the Peace Corps would like to talk to me about my excellent proposal for dealing with the Romany problem - which was to promote Roma immediately to top positions in the World Bank, OECD, and so on. Why doesn't she write a letter to the editor?
Or, failing that, I can be found quite often at my favourite pub, where I'm willing to talk about anything at all, as long as I'm bought a large Guinness (I can't say which pub, because the editors are worried about hidden advertising).
Incidentally, why do they call it the Peace Corps when they can't deal with pronouncing it?
I'm happy to be back in Brat for a few days. As I often say without being asked, you can't come back if you never leave, which was the main reason for going to Uck at the weekend. All things considered it's no wonder that the Queen Mother drinks so much. To borrow a saying from W.C. Fields, she drinks to make her subjects more interesting.
14. Aug 2000 at 0:00 | Jeff Daniels