John Daly: 'Elbow grease is a must to be a gentleman'
Marooned in a doctor's surgery the other day, I found myself rifling through a stack of ancient magazines to distract from the infernal din of two toddlers plundering the waiting room's box of toys. He can't be that sick, I thought, if he's got the strength to repeatedly whack poor old Thomas the Tank Engine with hammer blows that wouldn't be out of place on the Children's Hospital building site. Across the room, another tyke terrorist was gaily mutilating Dora the Explorer, and roaring like a charging Bengal lancer at the Battle of Megiddo.
I resisted the urge to demand the receptionist fetch a large sponge soaked in chloroform and instead flicked open the pages of 'Country Life'. Landing on a feature entitled 'Gentlemanly Commandments', I learned that the modern Sir Galahad is always on time and makes love on his elbows. News to me. In addition, an individual of good breeding will never allow himself to drink Malibu or write with a biro, and he wouldn't be seen dead in fuchsia-coloured trousers or a clip-on bow tie.
Still puzzling why elbow placement is apparently so integral to the intimate act, I read on to find that the 21st-century gentleman must never own a cat or ever use Twitter. There goes just about everybody in my circle, I thought. One of the contributors, Jilly Cooper, opined that "a gentleman is never unkind, puts people at their ease, and is always honourable and gallant".
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She added he "would never jump on one without asking first and will always drive you home after he's been to bed with you". Gazing into the middle distance as the terrible twins continued to render the waiting room into a mirror image of the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake, I pondered what makes a man of breeding in this complicated 2019 universe of ours. Regardless of whether you'd give your #1 to charm-barons like Cary Grant and George Clooney, or roguish cavaliers such as Jimmy McNulty in 'The Wire' or Don Draper in 'Mad Men', chances are they'll all share effortless good manners and a common courtesy that never goes out of fashion. Look to our fathers' generation and the era when a real gentleman knew instinctively the thin line between confidence and arrogance, had a constant willingness to help others in distress, and was a decent exponent of the dance floor gyrations required for the Charleston or the Locomotion.
George Bernard Shaw defined a gentleman as someone "who puts more into the world than he takes out" - and even in this blink-fast age of Instagram and WhatsApp the age-old virtues of discretion, decency and loyalty are just as precious now as they were in the epoch of Edmund Burke or Daniel O'Connell.
And, as to the secret of how to become such a rare man of honour, King James I pretty much nailed it when he observed: "I can make a Lord, but only God can make a gentleman."
Got that right, Jimmy.
Hand it to Maradona
There are many famous football goals, but surely none more memorable than the infamous one scored by Diego Maradona in the Argentina v England 1986 World Cup quarter-final.
Admitting later that the clear handball had been scored "a little with the hand of God", the boy born in the worst slum of Buenos Aires ensured his place in the annals of soccer history. The new documentary out this week by director Asif Kapadia is a perfect antidote for those suffering early withdrawal symptoms from the Premier League.
Guided by history...
Next weekend I'm lacing up my hiking boots for the newly opened Cork Rebel Way trail, guiding visitors to iconic sites from the War Of Independence and the Civil War - Kilmichael, Béal na Bláth and Crossbarry. These are places that still teach us that indelible, universal truth - those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.