- The Guardian, Saturday 26 July 2003 12.09 BST
I have to admit that I thought it would happen sooner. After he hit my colleague Michael White for making a joke about Robert Maxwell, and he monstered Robert Peston, the political editor of the FT, one of the few papers to back Labour in the 1992 election, and son of Lord Peston who was then part of Tony Blair's front bench team, I assumed that he would crack up within a year of entering Downing Street. To be frank, he has done remarkably well to stay the course as long as he has.
· Amid all the unsavoury attempts to apportion, or shrug off, the blame for the suicide of David Kelly, we've tended to forget some curious things about the death itself. I don't join the conspiracy theorists who seem certain it was murder, but I wonder why he did it. The much quoted email to a friend shows a man looking forward to getting back to Baghdad. He would have been able to gather all the information he knew was there but was unable to winkle out while Saddam was in power. It would have been an entirely fascinating trip for an expert like him.
I have had an email correspondence with the psychologist Dorothy Rowe. She says that suicide often follows a sense that we "have not lived up to the standards we have set ourselves. We can find ourselves overwhelmed by shame, so ashamed that we try to shrink, to disappear from the face of the earth."
That sounds as if it might be right. One of the sillier articles, in the Times, suggested that he had been driven to the brink by sudden exposure to the harsh, vengeful, backbiting world of politics and the media. Well, some of the politics must have been a nasty shock, but Dr Kelly knew all about the media, and clearly took satisfaction in briefing journalists. Feasting with panthers doesn't mean you should be eaten, but you know what your companions are like.
And was there a note? If so, we haven't been told of it. One daughter had just got married, another is about to be married. Their new lives have got off to a horrible start, yet he apparently didn't even feel the need to apologise or explain.
This has led some people to guess it might have been a cry for help which went wrong. It would explain the missing note and why he slit his wrist near a popular walking path. I put this to Dr Rowe, who replied: "Not so much a cry for help as putting one's fate in the hands of God. If God or fate has determined that you'll live, someone will find you before too late. The trouble is, God is very absent minded and fate doesn't care."
· People who know exactly what God thinks, No 83 in an occasional series. This week, the gay bishop in New England assured the Today programme that God was all in favour of homosexual sex among the clergy. The other day, a Welsh cleric on Radio 2 who assured us that God wanted us to be merciful even to Uday and Qusay. I think I agree with the first, though I'm more doubtful about the latter. But how on earth do people know? And if you have this hotline to the Almighty, what's to stop you when he tells you to blow up crowded buses?
· The writer Blake Morrison emails me with news of a worrying trend: the summer family newsletter. Unlike the Christmas version, which lists past triumphs, this tells you all the successes to come. He quotes an email he received detailing everything the family is doing, with separate schedules for each: "Annabel being on her residential cello course at Dartington in Week 1, while William goes to the polo induction course in Week 3, and the whole family uniting in a villa in Tuscany in Weeks 6-8, etc. And the excruciating small details of this timetable we, as recipients, are supposed to be fascinated to know..." Other examples more than welcome.
· A shocked reader has sent me an advertising pamphlet from National Rail. "Flower power is back!" it declares. "If you're over 60, you were there in the summer of love. You were the swinging sixties ... so where's it to be? Woodstock? The Isle of Wight? Hyde Park? ... go on your own magical mystery tour! Take a trip down Penny Lane." Yes, it's for an over sixties railcard, and I think it's the most depressing thing I've seen for a long time.
· I was asked this week to go on Ann Widdecombe's radio show. She's been doing the morning slot on LBC while the regular presenter is away. I thought it was probably a bad idea, but it turned out she is an absolute natural.
I was early, and had the chance to listen to her fielding a phone-in. She was polite to almost everyone, though firm with the nutters, while making her own views clear. The reason why she was so much better than most full-time presenters and probably all disc jockeys, is that she had something to say. You don't need to agree with it, but it commands your attention. Most broadcasters in those slots seem to imagine they can get by on "personality", which usually means uttering pointless remarks with a quite unwarranted laugh.
· School is out, and the teachers have taken home the great pile of presents they get given these days: bath salts, chocolates, candle-holders, floral notepads etc. I noticed in the shops, many of which now have big displays marked "Thank you, teacher!" or some such, that the inevitable ratchet is working and they're getting more expensive every year. It must be a bind for poorer families.
And inevitably the middle classes will be jockeying for prestige. "We're giving Miss Parkinson a signed Hockney print this year - I'm afraid an original was rather out of our range!"
"What a lovely idea! We found Mr Hapgood some Armagnac, bottled in the year he was born. It took some tracking down!"
The solution is for teachers to have lists in the stores, like wedding couples. Clerks will say: "I'm afraid everything under £30 is taken now, but you could club together with four other families for the set of Le Creuset pans..."