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Back from Borat country

Greetings - back in Blighty, where there's honey still for tea and das Betreten's not verboten. Fascinating as Kazakirgiturkbekistan may be, one can tire of mutton, mutton, mutton - not even dressed as lamb.

I'll catch up with the news later; for now I'd just like to say that I was sorry to see Alan Coren has died. Coren was a wonderful humorist. I first heard of him as the man who, on hearing that the most marketable subjects for books were golf, cats and Hitler, wrote a book called "Golfing for Cats" with a swastika on the cover. Michael Bywater, friend and colleague, writes in The Times:

Alan Coren died on Thursday night. The obit pages will do their stuff but, hell, it doesn’t feel right somehow. Some sort of cockup. There’ll be repercussions, you wait. Words will be had. Red faces. Deputy heads will roll . .

Some of his finest “stuff” (we always called it “stuff”, concerned to avoid writerly pretension) would be impossible now: The Chronicles of Magoon (latest of the small African independencies) with its cast of small-time incompetents holed up in the gouting greasy tropical rains but, at heart, no more than a pastiche of a self-important, underfunded parks committee in Coren’s beloved Cricklewood; or The Diaries of Idi Amin, a merciless parody of the abominable Amin as a sort of bumbling innocent with a taste for explosions of irritability. These would be intolerably politically incorrect now...

Al’s life was governed by the principle of family honour, known in Yiddish as yiches. He defined it to me in a row about adultery – he declared it not only wrong but also incomprehensible. “I would never have an affair,” he said, “because I wouldn’t want my children to have for their mother the sort of woman who would be married to a man who would cheat on her.”

He could always find the joke, perhaps the most serious and important of skills in an intolerably earnest age. Last winter he e-mailed me in reply to an invitation to say that he had had a dreadful case of necrotising fasciitis. “All I lost was my left armpit,” he wrote. “Got big hole now, perfect for carrying Walther PPK 9mm should Daniel Craig chuck in the sponge. Also got ulcerative colitis, so, director please note, scenes should not be longer than ten secs. But I will cork up for 14/11, if you send embossed stiffie . . . Yours in the ranks of death, A” There’ll be laughter in the ranks now; but less for the rest of us.

Alan Coren's son Giles, the restaurant critic, has inherited some of his father's wit, and I hope he will carry on the tradition. He will be missed. Sixty-nine is too young.

Overnight flight with long stopover and bureaucratic hassles, so my body clock is shot to buggery. Off to bed, but first I'm going to flush lots and lots of paper down the toilet. Because I can. Oh, to be in England.