The things you find out from obituaries

She swore that after Tony Crosland, she could never again experience a close relationship. But in the mid-1980s she struck up a friendship with Auberon Waugh that deepened until his death in 2001. She dedicated her novel The Prime Minister\’s Wife (2001) to him. Waugh had no intention of leaving his wife, but the couple of evenings a week they spent together mattered to them both.


The art of bookmaking

Legend had it that he was once been consulted by a Ladbrokes manager who had been asked to make a book on the name of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, but did not know where to start. “You want a start, I’ll give you a start,” Stein replied. “The Chief Rabbi’s 1,000 to one.”

Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug has died. It\’s said variously that 250 million people have been saved from death by his life\’s work or that 1 billion people have been saved from starvation.

By Mr. Toenniessen’s calculation, about half the world’s population goes to bed every night after consuming grain descended from one of the high-yield varieties developed by Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues of the Green Revolution.

I\’m not sure that anyone, ever, has had that effect on the world nor that anyone, ever, will again.

Certainly that\’s one bloody marvellous memorial to leave behind.


If there\’s something good that comes after this life other than eternal rest then there\’s one candidate for the front of the queue for it. One of the few who needs not our prayers but definitely deserves our thanks.

You know what?

i\’m in the uncomfortable position of thinking that we\’ve lost something of a national treasure.

The first time she was mentioned in the press, in May 2002, Jade Goody was described as a "pretty dental nurse, 20, from London". But 24 hours later, as she began her gobby, ignorant trajectory in the Big Brother house, The People went on the attack under the headline: "Why we must lob the gob". Before long it was open season. The Sun called her a hippo, then a baboon, before launching its campaign to "vote out the pig". The Sunday Mirror rejected porcine comparisons on the ground that it was "insulting – to pigs".

Inside the "BB" house, Jade Goody found herself in bed with her male housemate, PJ, who ran away, shrieking. Her drunken striptease in a drinking game rigged by the male contestants ("Me kebab is showing!") forced even Channel 4 to blank the screen. "Here she is: fat-rolled, Michelin girl Jade in all her preposterous lack of glory," thundered the Daily Mirror the next day. "Naked as the day Dr Frankenstein made her." Jade\’s then boyfriend chipped in: "She\’s a sex-crazed, lying, two-timing drunken tart, and I hope I never see her again."

Jade Goody\’s main function, as she put it herself, was to be an "escape goat".

Polls suggested that she was more unpopular even than Saddam Hussein (a boxer, said Jade).

For the next four years it was impossible to turn on the television without seeing Jade Goody on some reality show or other. She even had her own scent, Shh!, ("Not actually a smell of me, like. It\’s not my BO or my feet cheese or nothing") which became a best-seller.


Jade\’s schooling, not surprisingly, was chaotic. She was expelled from one school after her mother hit another mother, and from a second when her mother hit a teacher. "Most of my mates at school would arrive home to see their mum hanging out the washing or putting the dinner on," Jade recalled. "I\’d come round the corner hoping not to see another police car outside the house."

It was not long before Jade began dishing out the bullying herself, once biting off a chunk of another girl\’s earlobe ("It wasn\’t a huge part of her earlobe or anything, just the tip").

She thought that a ferret was a bird and abscess a green French drink; that Pistachio painted the Mona Lisa; that Sherlock Holmes invented the flush lavatory; that East Anglia ("East Angular" in Jade-speak) was abroad; and that Rio de Janeiro was "a bloke, innit?"


She eventually attended Bacon\’s College in Rotherhithe – one of Britain\’s first City Technology colleges. Following her first appearance on Big Brother, the college felt constrained to emphasise that its exam results had improved since Jade left. She then attended a training course at the Bosco Centre, an institution set up to "serve some of the most disadvantaged and disengaged young people in the community". Again association with Jade caused embarrassment as the centre pointed out that some of its alumni had gone on to university.

Jade Goody opened a beauty salon in Hertfordshire. She chose the name Ugly\’s, thinking it would appeal to the woman who thinks: "\’I\’m feeling ugly because I\’ve got no make-up on, no nails and hairy legs,\’ then they come into our salon and we make them beautiful." The venture rapidly went bust.

I didn\’t pay much attention to her when she was alive and I doubt I\’ll be laying flowers for her now she\’s gone. Harsh perhaps, but true.

But I can\’t help but have a not so sneaking admiration for the way she played the hand she was dealt and further think that we\’ve just lost a bit of the gaiety of the nation.


George Carlin\’s Gone

Sad day.

Here\’s the IHT\’s obituary. And here\’s one with perhaps less detail and more information.

At one point in my teens I had several of his sketches memorized. Well, not exactly memorized, as that would imply that I had put effort into trying to remember them. It was more that the cassette tapes were starting to wear out from the playing and replaying.

Humphrey Lyttleton

Has died.

Not sure if this story will make it into the obituaries. Vignettes of VE Day:

"of the Old Etonian trumpeter (and young Guards officer) Humphrey Lyttleton playing "Roll Out The Barrel" as he lurched on a handcart from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square and back followed by a long swaying line of revellers going the conga;"

I know he did much more than that but still, a nice image of the man.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Not all that many of us will be granted an obituary quite so identifying us as good people:

He could be brusque, tendentious and dismissive, but he was also kindly, direct, and both decent and incorruptible to a degree seldom found among those of great fame.

That is what Knights are supposed to be…..