The Grey Cardigan 23.06.06

WE'VE ALL suffered the embarrassment — our star columnist fires from the lip without knowing all the facts, leaving Scotch egg on face and tartan pants around ankles. So who can this week's unlucky wordsmith be?

Step forward, Mr Peter McKay of the Daily Mail. On Monday the motorbiking Mr McKay unloaded both barrels of the bagpipes onto Prince William, shockingly absent from the balcony at Buckingham Palace during his granny's 80th birthday celebrations. His decision to be elsewhere is debated at extraordinary length and even sparks onanistic debate as to the reverence with which our future King regards his pivotal role.

Worse than that, after a meandering diversion during which scurrilous suggestions are made regarding possible flatulence on the part of poor old Phil the Greek, Mr McKay turns his McDisdain upon hapless BBC commentator Huw Edwards, berating the poor chap for neglecting to alert the nation to the young Prince's supposed abrogation of duty and depicting his fellow Celt as a mere "forelock tugging serf". Solidarity indeed.

Of course, all of this unpleasantness could have been avoided if someone had alerted Mr McKay to the story on page nine of the same day's Daily Mail. There, amid a tale about girlfriend Kate Middleton walking around holding a police radio, it was exclusively revealed that Prince William had in fact been playing polo at a charity event in Surrey, during which £150,000 was raised for the Prince's Trust and homeless organisation Centrepoint.

A better use of the lad's time, surely? And a better use of Mr McKay's, definitely. And perhaps something the duty editor at the Mail might have spotted, even if it was a Sunday night?

IT'S EITHER a clever, self-mocking spoof or an embarrassing attempt to embrace popular culture, but Gary Younge's Ethical World Cup mini-column in The Guardian has become unmissable.

The premise is simple: every day, Mr Younge takes on the hefty mantle of Guardian morality and advises the lentil-eating classes on which countries it is safe to support in that day's World Cup matches. Hence, for those impaled on the horns of an ethical dilemma, Tunisia's record of "torture, political imprisonment and suppression of dissent" is hardly a handicap when compared with Saudi Arabia's status as "the nation that brought us most of the 9/11 hijackers and bin Laden… the Bush administration's most trusted ally… [and] that's before we get to the lack of democracy, women's rights and capital punishment".

For the record, the game ended in a 2-2 draw, a late equaliser from British-based Tunisian Radhi Jaidi allowing a gleeful Jon Champion to point out: "He's the first Bolton player to score in a World Cup since Nat Lofthouse in 1954." Match that, Motty.

ELSEWHERE WITHIN The Guardian, no open goal is missed in an attempt to cover all World Cup bases (and yes, I'm aware that's a mixed metaphor). So here comes Delia Smith with her recipes for "meals you can cook at halftime".

I was prepared to buy into this preposterousness until last Friday, when seared tuna with salsa verde was on the menu. I ask you, what self-respecting football fan would prat about preparing that at halftime when a pie and several pints would suffice? Has the woman learned nothing from Norwich?

NOW HERE'S a funny thing. The number of pictures of men in Observer Woman magazine: 26, including eight chaps in their underpants and a half-naked cover shot.

They might have dispensed with the services of the agony columnist who had a penchant for bottom sex, but the similarities to a female version of Nuts, Zoo and Loaded linger on.

COVER LINES Of The Year update: Yes, it's Mr Murdoch's loveit magazine again, with the probably unbeatable "Cancer Ate My Colin's WILLY!"

Let's see the redesigned New Statesman beat that.

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