Farewell that shows what friends are for, says Anne Diamond

Farewell that shows what friends are for, says Anne Diamond

george bush

LOVED... George Bush's friends praised him at his funeral (Image: getty)

What impressed me most about the funeral of President George HW Bush was the presence of so many very long-standing and loyal friends, who said possibly the most moving words I've heard at such a solemn farewell. Surely the best judge of a person's character is the friendships they made and which lasted a lifetime. To us on this side of the Pond, Bush 41, as he became known, came across as a rather lacklustre politician.

To me he was always simply the guy who had the rather rotten job of following Reagan: the one-term president, the man who promised no taxes and then reneged, the commander in chief who didn't follow through on Saddam Hussein.

He wasn't exactly the most colourful figure. A bit of a grey man who faded fast.

But, judging by the friends who loved him, the politicians from both sides of the divide who admired and worked with him for decades after his presidency, and those who paid tributes, he must have been extraordinary.

The words were truly inspirational, heartfelt, emotional and, most of all, they are resonating now with generations of listeners who need to learn their valuable lesson. 

george bush

George H W Bush died on 30 November in Houston (Image: getty)

That he valued character over pedigree, that he looked for the good in each person and usually found it. That he believed public service was noble and necessary, and that "serving others enriched the givers soul".

I always knew he'd been a pilot in the Second World War. 

There was that famous film of his rescue after being shot down in the Pacific where he bobbed alone in a life raft, praying that rescuers would come before the enemy did. One speaker sent a chill up our spine as he told the story of Bush 41's heroism.

"He told his crew mates to hit the silk, turned his plane so that they could bale out. 

“But when he jumped, the wind propelled him backward and he gashed his head on the tail of the plane.

"He flopped on to a tiny dinghy, bleeding and alone. Sensing that his crewmates had not made it, he wept. Then four minutes shy of noon, a sub surfaced to rescue him and amazingly it was caught on camera.

"He would ask himself almost daily - why was I spared? The rest of his life was an effort to prove himself worthy."

Best speaker of all in a line-up of brilliance was one Alan K Simpson, 87, who looked old and doddery yet was anything but. A former senator, he walked up to the podium, patting those he recognised on the head in a fatherly way.

Very much an elder statesman. He painted Bush 41 as a loyal friend, no matter what.

He said of himself: "I went from the A level social list to the Z and never came back! But George called me early one morning, and said 'Come to Camp David'.

"At that time his rating was 93 per cent, mine was POINT 93 per cent. I said, 'You are propping up your old wounded duck pal'. He said 'Yep. There were staff members who told me not to do this. But this is about friendship and loyalty'."

And he had some good one-liners: "Those that follow the high road of humility in Washington DC," he quipped, "are not bothered by heavy traffic."

Finally the eldest son, and remarkably also a president of the United States (Bush 43) outdid himself. Perhaps he was always a good speaker, an evocative storyteller and a family softie. We never saw it before.

Certainly, after 9/11, we Britons thought he was a public speaking car crash, with talk of "catching these folks who did it".

But, by the coffin, adorned in stars and stripes, he shone. And when he stood down, his face twitched between laughter and pain. Any of us who has lost a parent knows what that feels like.

We learnt Bush 41 "couldn't stomach vegetables, especially broccoli" and had passed that on to his family.

"He taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart, he laughed and cried with her, he was dedicated to her totally. In his old age he enjoyed watching police show reruns, all the while holding Mom's hand.

"After Mom died, all he really wanted to do was hold Mom's hand again….”

We learnt too that Bush 41 was dreadfully affected by the death of his daughter Robyn, as a child, through leukaemia.

And Bush 43 broke down when he bid his final farewell, comforted by the thought, he said, that his father was holding his mom's hand, and embracing Robyn again.

I know, reading this, you may have raised cynical eyebrows. 

You might dislike or even hate the man for his views and policies. 

In the world of politics, what person can please everyone? But in Bush 41's funeral, I saw a family come together to mourn someone they'd loved and lost - and who clearly was a man more rounded and admirable than the president we saw.

OK, some of the tributes were schmaltzy, but why not? So let's leave the last word with a rhyme offered in a breaking voice by his great friend and former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney: "There are wooden ships, there are sailing ships, there are ships that sail the sea - but the best ships are friendships and may they always be…….”


If I had just been offered the amazing part of Doctor Who, as Jodie Whittaker was recently, one of the first things I’d want to know was when I was going to fight the Daleks. 

dr who

Jodie Whittaker has been offered the role of Doctor Who (Image: bbc)

How can you be Doctor Who and NOT fight your favourite nemesis? 

Jodie has made a fine job so far of wending her way through the space-time continuum, but alas without meeting up with any of our old favourite bad guys like the Cybermen, or weeping angels. And there hasn’t been a Dalek in sight this series. 

It was, apparently, all down to the new boss, Chris Chibnall, who wrote many of the Torchwood episodes, and blockbuster series Broadchurch. 

You can understand him wanting to make his mark, and banish the old guard at least for a while. 

But it was a bit of a disappointment to we Whovians (I think that’s the respectful term). 

But now – great news! In the special New Year’s Day episode (controversial in itself as it’s the first time Doctor Who hasn’t been broadcast on Christmas Day) Jodie will be fighting a whole new-look fleet of Daleks. 

The world is restored. And that’s how it should be.


I was in Egypt last week, just on holiday with family. 


Egypt's tourism has taken a hit in recent years (Image: getty)

Everywhere we went, ordinary Egyptians were hugely thankful we were even there. 

Tourism has been hit so hard by political events over the past few years. 

Our concierge noted sadly, as we prepared to leave: “Your government is bad... our government is bad... the American government is bad... what hope do we ordinary people have?” 

He was speaking from his own, pretty desperate, viewpoint. 

He said things were getting better, they were seeing more guests but I still reckon on many days the staff outnumbered us. 

Isn’t it strange how we, from a totally different perspective, in a much more prosperous society, still feel the same way about our governments and our own personal wellbeing? 

Or should we be grateful for what we’ve got? Brexit and all....


I am outraged for the good residents of Biggin Hill in Kent, who’ve had a Turdis plonked on their streets, outside their houses. 

Biggin Hill deserves better. It’s the famous site of the Battle of Britain airfield, for heaven’s sake. A place fit for heroes. 

biggin hill

Biggin Hill is the site of the Battle of Britain airfield (Image: getty)

It’s a permaloo – a toilet – that has been arbitrarily dumped there by TFL for bus drivers who need to answer the call of nature. 

Now I understand that this is a big concern. 

Apparently bus drivers can be asked to fulfil shifts of some three to four hours with no comfort break built in. 

That’s harsh. 

And their very real human need must be addressed. 

But how could a council just do that? Believe you me, if you wanted to put a Wendy House for your children on your front yard, or encroach by one inch on to the public pavement with your wheelie bin store or your bike shed, the council would come down on you like a ton of bricks. 

They’d want you to get planning permission. 

So how come TFL can plonk a bus driver’s loo, an absolute carbuncle, on the face of your much-loved street, right in your way? 

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