I don't seem to be able to stray far from the bookies these days. We have a bijou branch of UBetCha in the village, and last week I was there to place a small wager on the outcome of the Strictly Come Dancing Race-Row. Needless to say, it came to nought, and I lost a fiver, largely due to the intervention of mine host, Bruce Forsyth. This morning I returned: bets are being placed on tomorrow night's Question Time, and specifically at which point one of the panelists will laughingly observe "Well, David, hahahahahaha, I find myself in the.......errrm......surprising.........embarrasing..........hahahaha...........position of agreeing with Nick Griffin". I say it will come as a response to an anodyne question, posed by a matron from Acton, about Transport for London. Others are backing a brouhaha about the Olympics, particularly to do with facilities for canoeists. The most popular - and short odds are offered for this one - is the lighthearted question right at the end: a student from the London School of Home Economics will ask if anyone else has noticed that corned-beef tins have become harder to get into , and there will be backslapping jollity all round. Griffin will observe that corned-beef keys used to stronger and whiter in the old days, and there will be muted applause. Jack Straw will make a crack about not being able to get the lid off a pickle jar and everyone will love him. D. Dimbleby will say "let us defer to the ladies! What are your kitchen bett-nyoirs, Bonnie Greer?" and she will vouchsafe that Mr Obama wants to see a can of CheezeMate in every scullery in the States. Lady Warsi will be trump everyone with an encomium to Doopiaja Loaf and from the back row, an aged scapegrace will shout "Give us a bash of the bangers and mash me mother used to make!" It will end with an excruciating tirade of puns from their Chairman ("I hope this has given you all food for thought, and that you are nourished if not satiated by the strong meat on offer tonight. If you are hungry for more, join me next week when we will be in Melton Mowbray").
Of course, I shall be glued to the box - who won't? - but I fear that the frolicsome picture I paint above may be close to the truth. The only person missing is Mr Blair. It would have been nice to have seen him gazing ardently into the camera to tell us that Mr Griffin is, of course, the people's Nazi.
Of course, Mr Griffin is the Bagoas de nos jours. Scholars amongst you will know that he was of the court of Artaxerxes Ochus, and put in charge of profaning the temples of the Jews. He killed Ochus, fed his flesh to tigers and made cutlery from his bones; but then he dropped a bollock, as the young people say. He made Ochus's youngest son king, and his name was Arses. Yes, as the history books have it, "Bagoas placed Arses on the throne", and that is what we remember of him, if we remember him at all. Goodness, how Mhari and I laughed when we first read that at school! In our view, it was top quality comedy, give-or-take Dick Emery, and the fact that Bagoas was a eunuch made it even funnier. If only we could find a way of making Mr Griffin a figure of fun! It would be too easy to point to his peculiar eyes (well, not that easy: one is off to the shops; the other coming back with the change) and, anyway, it's already been done with Mr Brown. Maybe we should focus on his winsome ways with Nuremberg instead? Surely there is something?
Bagoas was beastly, it's true, but let us not forget the mean-spirited approach of Ochus, Prince of Persia. He refused to visit his native country for fear of having to give each of his women a piece of gold. This cheeseparing behaviour is far more widespread than any of Bagoas's brutalities. Here in the Thames Valley, mealy-mouthed men are tightening their belts and refusing to pay for Pedro Garcia ankle boots or trips to Jumby Bay. Simone Micallef necklaces lay unbought in Bond Street bijoutiers and a 1959 bottle of Grands Echezeaux was forbidden to me on Saturday night. The whole thing is beyond reason.