According to my computer, which does not lie because it is made by a Mr Dell, this is the 100th of these letters. That ought to denote something auspicious.

If you score a century at cricket, you may wave your bat at the crowd, if there is one and it is not preoccupied drinking tea (as it was when I scored one against a British foreign office team). If you are British and live to be 100, you get a letter from the Queen.

In America, presidents are measured by their first 100 days. Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 points in a basketball game (though it was against the New York Knicks when they were even worse than this season).

Mind you, becoming a centenarian is not entirely without obligations. My friend and neighbour, John Hodges, whose father died recently at the age of 99, reports that his old man was getting computer-generated letters from his alma mater (Harvard, naturally) suggesting that reaching the mark might be a suitable occasion for a further donation to the university endowment.

Just this week, Stephen Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University, said that “money is the mother’s milk of academic quality”. Poor innocent me – having again seen Alan Bennett’s The History Boys in New York, as good on Broadway as in London, I thought education was all about inspiring, underpaid teachers who rode motorbikes and felt up their students.

I suppose I ought to use this 100th letter to reflect on all the errors I have made in the previous 99. David Broder, the Washington Post columnist, does this annually but I am not as sainted or honest.

In any case, the first 42 were written on a long-defunct computer, preserved only on a floppy disk that its replacement cannot accommodate. Thus if I ever wrote that George W. Bush did something right or the New York Yankees would win every baseball World Series, there is no record of it.

If memory serves, I did observe that all purveyors of public and commercial services should be hung, drawn and quartered. That includes banks, cable companies, immigration officials (and even, once, Mr Dell).

That may have been too severe a judgment. I think my mailman is wonderful, the garbage collectors great and the Frenchman who cuts my hair and the other one who services my Japanese car nonpareil. Banks still stink, though.

I do recall that Chris Matthews, of MSNBC’s Hardball programme, was lumped in with the rest of the loudmouth media ranters who are destroying the quality of political discourse. I take that back. He talks too loud and too fast but he has a functioning brain and a well of knowledge.

That cannot be said of the rest of the crew, led by Loony Lou Dobbs of the Chief Nativist Network, who seem to be most currently intent on having the US invade Mexico or arrest President Vicente Fox on his trip this week for not stopping the influx of illegal immigrants. This does not strike me as a good idea, though it may be less harmful than going to war with Iran.

Fox does speak passable English, probably as well as those senators who have voted to make it the “official language” of the US. This presumably will not apply to Hispanic baseball players, now the sport’s most shining lights but often not easy to understand in post-game interviews (but, then, neither am I while heading for the liquid sanctuary of the 19th hole).

I am quite convinced that Dobbs, whipping himself into a fine indignant lather over everything foreign, will end up running for public office, perhaps even the highest in the land – like Ross Perot who did not think Texas was big enough. I will enjoy cataloguing his failure in future columns.

And I do derive both information and understanding from your reactions to those columns already published – and they show a trend. A political letter two years ago would have generated supportive or vituperative responses from both left and right – and little in between – but recently the conservative voices have gone mostly silent.

Of course, they may have given me up as a hopeless lost cause, unworthy of engaging. But it strikes me as more likely that their anger has turned on those of their own persuasion, who have led them down a primrose path to war, deficits and incompetence.

It is too early to tell if this translates into the Democrats regaining full or partial control of Congress in November – or, if they do, whether the party will grasp the bull by the horns and ditch its current inadequate congressional leadership (I doubt it).

But it does suggest that the American pendulum is on the move again, no longer locked in place by the trauma of terrorists bringing down the Twin Towers so early into the new century. This is encouraging.

For myself, my main dream about reaching 100 is to be able to shoot my age at golf (I’m still about 15 strokes over, you do the math). The chances of this rise exponentially with the passing years and the improvement in golf technology. That’s worth writing about, too.

onohana@aol.com

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