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Brief encounter but no Love Actually for Maybot and taoiseach


Call it a difference of styles. The first meeting between Theresa May and the Irish taoiseach had been scheduled to last for two hours, but due to the Finsbury Park terror attack it was curtailed to just over half an hour. Even that might have been a bit too long, judging by the responses of both leaders at the Downing Street press conference in the afternoon. The Maybot’s account of their meeting was reduced to a few sentences about how they had agreed it was nice Ireland and the UK were physically quite close to one another, and that it would be quite nice if Britain could be simultaneously both in and out of the customs union so the current border arrangements could be maintained post Brexit. Leo Varadkar’s highlight was that he had finally got to see the staircase in No 10 which Hugh Grant had danced down in Love Actually – up until the point when the Maybot ruined his dreams by telling him the scene was filmed elsewhere.


The Child Support Agency is due to close next year and is being replaced by the Child Maintenance Service. Not a moment too soon if their bookkeeping is anything to judge by. A friend of mine recently received a bill of £1,500 for underpayment of support to his ex-partner during the period between 1997 and 1999. This despite his former partner having said the CSA had got it wrong and he didn’t owe her a penny. It would have been bad enough if the CSA had got its figures right as the child in question is now nearly 30. The time when she might have needed the money is long past. But to take 20 years and still get it wrong is taking incompetence to another level. A word of warning to any parent who in 2037 gets a summons for an unpaid amount that was due to be paid this month: check your bill. HMRC only insists you keep records for seven years; with the CSA there is no statute of limitations.


When my wife and I reached the age of 50, I suggested it might be the time to book ourselves on to a Saga holiday, as that way we could almost guarantee to be the youngest and most glamorous couple on show. For some reason, she didn’t seem to agree it was quite as good an idea and we never bothered. Now we are both 60, the Saga option has rather passed us by as we would just blend into the crowd. But as one door closes, another opens. This week we were invited to a concert of Bach’s St John Passion by a friend of a similar age and though the singers and orchestra were both first class and the performance dazzling, I was just as transfixed by the age of the disappointingly sparse audience. We appeared to be the youngest there by some distance. Our friend said this was entirely normal and that while much of the classical repertoire attracts crowds of all ages, Bach invariably pulls audiences with an average age of above 70. Must be something in the music that concentrates the mind on eternity.


Prince Harry has given an interview to US magazine Newsweek in which he suggests none of the younger royals much fancy the idea of being king or queen. As his elder brother now has two children, it’s looking very much like Harry is off the hook but I am struggling to work out which would be worse. Being heir to the throne and waiting for a parent to die to do the job you were born for, or to be one of the minor royals and live a life of privileged unimportance in the public gaze. Judging by her appearance at the state opening of parliament, not even the Queen fancies being queen these days. Throughout the truncated event, she looked so fed up that it wouldn’t have been a surprise if she added her abdication on to the end of the Queen’s speech. Nor did Charles look any less miserable. Maybe the staunchest republicans are to be found in the royal family itself.


It might have been a long way off the 54C (129F) in Kuwait, a temperature the World Meteorological Organisation believes might be a new record for the whole eastern hemisphere, but Britain has felt unbearably hot and muggy for much of the week. It hasn’t been a good look arriving for work each day in a suit that’s already clammy. But it’s been our dog I’ve been most concerned about: Herbert Hound has woken every morning panting with the exertion of opening his eyes and spent the rest of the day giving us reproachful looks for not buying him an electric fan. One of the problems is his hair, which is badly in need of a cut. I phoned to book him an appointment several weeks ago, long before the mini-heatwave started, only to be told that the earliest day they could fit him in was 7 July. So the poor hound is having to sit it out. When I want a haircut, I just get my wife to run some clippers through what remains of my hair and it’s all over in five minutes and costs nothing, but the dog has to wait five weeks and is charged £50. Not so long ago that would have been the other way round. Tempus fugit.

Digested week: Fair and serious – the new strong and stable.