x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Philippa Kennedy: And another thing

How Northern Irish grit won the Ryder Cup for Europe in a week of triumphs, some not before time.

Graeme McDowell with the Ryder Cup after his match-winning round in Newport, Wales, on Monday. Timothy A Clary / AFP PHOTO
Graeme McDowell with the Ryder Cup after his match-winning round in Newport, Wales, on Monday. Timothy A Clary / AFP PHOTO

How proud am I that once again an Irish golfer has secured the vital winning points to claim the Ryder Cup for Europe? I was at the Belfry in 2004 when Paul McGinley clinched it and wept with the best of them watching the recently bereaved Darren Clarke's heroics at the K Club in 2006. There's something about that Northern Irish stoicism – and I include the Donegal man McGinley in this, even if Donegal is across the border – that makes them the obvious choice as reliable back marker. As his team-mate Ian Poulter said: "There is a reason why he was put there."

The Northern Irish character is sometimes seen as dour, but there's a grit and black humour honed by years of adversity that defines us as a nation, and never was it more evident than on Monday afternoon as Graeme McDowell began to realise the match depended on him. When he won the US Open I predicted a riotous party in his hometown of Portrush, County Antrim, that would go on for days, and so it did. They've only just taken down the bunting and put away the party hats.

After four days of rushing home from work to watch the drama unfolding I feel bereft. I sat in front of the television, clucking disapprovingly at overexcited blondes running on to greens, criticising the tight-fitting US suits teamed with brown shoes, or the Europeans' navy Argyle-pattern tank tops that do no favours to a man's figure, enjoying the banter of the crowds and good-humoured responses of men like Jim Furyk, predicting when Tiger's face would crack into a smile, as it eventually did after a blistering final day, shouting "Luuuuuuuke" when Donald won a hole, laughing at the white-haired old starter trying to pronounce Hunter Mahan's surname and Padraig Harrington's first, and shouting at the Dubai Eye radio newsreader who insisted on calling the US captain Corey Pavin, rhyming with havin' rather than raven.

Above all, I love to sit back and marvel at the skill and sportsmanship of the world's finest golfers on both sides of the Atlantic. My fellow countryman Rory McIlroy, who once described the Ryder Cup as "little more than an exhibition match", now describes it as the best golf tournament in the world and hopes he'll be playing in it for the next 20 years. I hope I'll be watching too. Hadid's Riba award may go a little way towards undoing previous slights

Zaha Hadid has finally won the Riba (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize for the best new building of the year, and not before time. The 59-year-old Iraqi-born architect has been shortlisted three times for the prestigious prize, but her brilliant, futuristic designs sometimes frighten people used to more traditional architecture. Personally, I think she's wonderful with her tough, uncompromising attitude and occasionally fierce demeanour. I had the great pleasure of interviewing her a couple of years ago and had been warned that she didn't suffer fools at all. As I arrived she was delivering a forceful dressing down to a prominent Parisian on her mobile. It was awesome.

As one of the world's "starchitects" she has always been ahead of her time and for that reason attracts criticism. One of her darkest hours was the Cardiff Bay Opera House fiasco in 1994, when she won a competition to design the building but was then rejected for funding by the Millennium Commission after lobbying from small-minded Cardiff politicians. It was a crushingly public blow and although the wounds healed, they were not forgotten. Hadid, who designed the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, says: "You don't forget them but you forget the pain associated with them."

Let's hope that this award, for the Maxxi Gallery in Rome, eases that pain a little. Nobel recognition for IVF pioneer is not before time They've finally given the Nobel Prize for Medicine to the man who has brought happiness to millions of women who thought they would never bear children. Professor Robert Edwards, the shy geneticist who pioneered IVF treatment for infertile women, is now 85 years old and in poor health. He could so easily have died before being so publicly recognised, so one can only wonder what took them so long to honour him.

Perhaps it's because he has always shunned the limelight, unlike his flamboyant research partner, Dr Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988. Their work together resulted in the world's first "test-tube baby", Louise Brown, born in 1978 and now a mother herself. In the past 32 years there have been more than four million IVF births. Just think of that in terms of the happiness it has brought to the parents and extended families of those babies, not to mention the children themselves.

When Edwards was trying to raise the necessary money to fund his research, he met with bitter opposition. He persisted, fired by the pain and sadness he witnessed in childless couples desperate to conceive. Both men were appointed CBE but many thought it wasn't enough. Steptoe, who would surely have shared the prize along with the 10 million kroner (Dh5.5m), is no longer with us and Edwards is too ill to enjoy the money.

Chinese clue to Clinton's Bill reduction Bill Clinton has revealed the inspiration behind his dramatic weight loss: a diet book called The China Study. The former US president, who has always loved junk food but is now almost vegan, was under orders to lose weight both from his daughter Chelsea, who wanted him to look his best for her wedding, and from his doctors, who were worried about his clogged arteries and high cholesterol level.

Since reading The China Study by Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist at Cornell University, Clinton, who had heart-bypass surgery in 2004, has converted to a plant-based low-fat diet free of dairy products and meat. The professor set out to prove that the western rich-in-protein diet was "the best", but after studying Chinese nutrition he made a dramatic turnaround and now claims that plant-based diets reduce the chances of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

Clinton now lives on beans, green vegetables, fruit and protein drinks, has cut out meat and only rarely eats fish. It doesn't sound like much fun to me although he looks slim and healthy. He just seems a lot less dashing and a bit wrinkly and gaunt. That irritating copycat really fancies you… On the telephone recently, I heard myself using the phrase "wait one" instead of what I might normally say, which would be something like "could you wait a minute". It's one of those short, sharp expressions that military folk use, not surprising as my husband is an ex-army officer.

Apparently it means we are well-suited and on the same psychological wavelength, which is a relief after 35 years of marriage. It seems that well-matched couples mimic each other's language during conversations and it's a pretty good indicator that your relationship will last if you find yourself speaking like your loved one. The more you copy your spouse's little phrases and speech patterns, the more psychologically connected you are, according to American researchers. When students were set an assignment couched in stuffy, serious language, they responded in similar vein, and when a question was posed in a casual manner, their prose was punctuated with street slang.

Letters between famous writers such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were analysed using this technique and researchers were able to chart their early days of friendship to their later enmity. Further research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, assessed the romantic relationships of literary figures such as Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning and Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, and it was possible to pinpoint major changes in their marriages through the language used in their poems.

Sooner or later they'll be able to gauge from everyday conversation whether a relationship is going to work out. It could save time and a broken heart or two. Top form It's not often that you leave a government office after yet another bout of form-filling with a smile on your face, but it only took two words in the space marked "Health" to cheer me up. "Good condition," the pleasant clerk in the DNATA building typed into my application form for a travel E-Card, and it made me irrationally pleased.

She didn't even qualify it with "for her age" or ask if I was suffering from any illnesses or ailments or if I was a smoker. The whole process took little more than 10 minutes and will hopefully save me waiting in a long queue at immigration in future every time I travel. It will also save me from more form filling because my passport has so many stamps that I am in danger of running out of pages.