Exclamation marks and sighs all around. The signings up and down the Riviera – from Cannes to Monaco - were fun, with the occasional funny moment. Like the American lady who came across me signing books in a Valbonne store and said, “What’s it about?” Drawing myself up to the full 1.70, I said it was about the lives of writers.
“I’ll take one”, she said, “I love trivia.”
Five years of research encapsulated in three words.
Curried pronoun We’re expecting guests for lunch and she’s in the shower. The oven timer goes off. So I shout “The timer’s gone off”.
“Just turn it off”, shouts shimmering shape from shower.
So I turn off the timer.
Some time later, there’s a scream from the kitchen. “Eeeek! You didn’t turn it off. The lunch is ruined!”
“Yes I did,” I say.
Things were tense. My attempts to point out that according to such distinguished authorities as Strunk and White, Lynn Truss and Fowler, a pronoun always replaces its most adjacent noun, did nothing to calm the situation. We got ready in chilly silence.
Among the many great curries that she has made, I would have to say that this was by far the most memorable. Jamie Oliver would slaver in envy. Michael Winner would have called it ‘historic’.
I swear it was those few extra minutes cooking time...
White lies, damn lies… Statistics - you either love them or hate them. I’m addicted. I don’t mean statistics the way politicians use them: Tony Blair’s famous ’45 minutes’, for example. Or the way they use them to get out of embarrassing corners, adding in a decimal point or two to give them an air of authenticity.
No, statistics can be used for useful things, like proving that the signs of the zodiac are a load of cobblers – or that John Terry passes back to the goalie 3.6 times more frequently when playing for England than he does when playing for Chelsea - or that Alan Shearer shouldn’t be a candidate for England manager just because he scored a lot of goals, since 62.4% of them were from the penalty spot.
Or the fact that the percentage of left-handed people being born in the world increases every year and if it continues we’ll eventually all be left-handed. Or that the percentage of boys to girls being born to Inuit mothers is decreasing every year, so that there’ll soon be no male Inuits.
Yesterday, The Times, as if to prove my point, ran a story about a Mr Beane who has taken some hickie baseball team, Oakland A, to victory against major league teams – with statistics. They’re the new steroids – and they’re legal.