In the olden days (we’re talking really old, maybe as far back as the 1980s or early 1990s), a man might have invited a woman to the Royal Opera House to see if she knew her cadenzas from her countertenors. Then perhaps to his draughty house in Leicestershire for a weekend to check that she could ride and didn’t have an allergy to dogs. After that, maybe to the Oban Ball to confirm she could dance a Dashing White Sergeant. Ritual events such as these would ensure that she wasn’t anything weird, like a vegetarian or a Liberal Democrat, and would fit in with his way of life.
So it was that last Sunday I found myself in Tottenham watching a game of football. I’m dating a man (don’t tell my mother, the excitement may kill her) who’s a Spurs fan and invited me along. Football is the new Falstaff, and I knew this was a test. Had I been to Tottenham before, he asked. Er, not sure, I replied, while privately wondering where Tottenham fell on the Tube line. Was it near east London, as I’m fairly bad at going there, too? It’s an awfully long way from Peter Jones, east London.
It turns out, Tottenham is also quite a long way from Peter Jones, and it was on the train journey there that I panicked about what I had chosen to wear. Spurs were playing Newcastle, and I had a sudden notion that the Newcastle colours were black and white, which would make my outfit – black and white jersey, black jeans – fairly unwise. Luckily, in an attempt to blend in, I’d also shoved on a pink baseball hat. This’ll fool them, I’d thought that morning.
“It’s her first game!” David told a steward extremely loudly when we arrived at the stadium, so that was my cover blown with him. I didn’t do much to claw it back at the bar, either. “What reds do you serve by the glass?” I asked an amused waitress who was spending most of her time pulling pints of Heineken.
They did a very nice malbec by the glass, actually. So I had a couple of those and settled into proceedings. The new stadium in Tottenham isn’t that different to the grandstand at Ascot, if I’m honest – lots of escalators, nice loos. Just fewer top hats. Nor was the roar of the crowd totally dissimilar, except this time it was for Harry Kane setting up a second goal instead of Frankie Dettori steaming down the final furlong in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. All right, I didn’t totally get the songs the home side were chanting, and I mumbled merrily along to When the Saints Go Marching In until David pointed out they were singing “Spurs” not “Saints”.
But other than that, I’m pretty sure I got away with it. And Newcastle’s away strip is yellow and black, so the fact that I’d dressed like Alan Shearer didn’t matter. Also, any spectator sport where the queue for the Gents stretches through the door and along a corridor, while the women can skip straight into a cubicle, queue-free, is all right by me. I only hope I passed the test.
Don’t get the wrong end of the stick about Her Majesty, please
Following the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service, it was widely reported that the Queen appeared carrying a walking stick. This is nonsense; it was a thumb stick, not a walking stick, topped with a piece of antler. The two are very different. “A walking stick denotes a requirement to assist impaired walking,” says my eagle-eyed uncle, who spotted this accessory, “whereas a thumb stick is merely an elegant prop.” If you’re after the same, Farlows, on Pall Mall, has a selection for about £100 a go. “They’re very popular,” an assistant tells me, “whether you’re a seven-stone lady or an 18-stone ghillie.” Good for thrashing through things, he adds, demonstrating by waving a thumb stick in front of him like a lightsaber. He also points out that some have whistles carved in the antler handle. Useful for unruly corgis or, er, wayward family members.
This is no time to get bogged down and flush your money away
I don’t (always) mean to lower the tone, but I read last week that Vladimir Putin has £650 lavatory brushes in his Black Sea palace. This is far from his greatest crime, but I do think that’s too much to spend on a loo brush. Except, having learnt this fact and had a quick look on the internet, I’ve discovered that this isn’t even the most expensive bog brush on the market. Harrods is flogging a “diamond-cut toilet brush” for £1,220, and a gold-plated version for £1,030. What has gone wrong in your life for you to believe that it’s necessary to spend over a grand on one of these things? Ikea does a perfectly good version for £3.50, and the brush is replaceable for when that part needs to be, er, retired. Let’s say no more about it.