David Aaronovitch: My lingering fondness for Fidel
'My world has always had a happy corner in it populated by the beard, the fatigues, the hat and the cigar'
11 July 2001
Fidel Castro is ill again, according to the rumours. The Comandante is 75 next month, and apparently last weekend turned up to make a speech that lasted no more than 10 minutes. In modern Britain or America a political address that long is considered to be an epic. A fortnight ago the BBC reported, without a hint of self-reproach, that the average length of a political sound-bite on the TV news had gone from something like 30 seconds down to 25 seconds. By the time Michael Portillo becomes Prime Minister political points will have to be made in no more than six words. As in "I've changed, he hasn't, vote me."
In Cuba, however, where no one tells him to shut up, Castro has been used to speaking for anything up to seven or eight hours. "How?" asked an incredulous friend, yesterday, "What does he find to say?" I looked up a rare example of Castro orating in English