What do the following comedians have in common? Morecambe and Wise, Ronnie Barker, Frankie Howerd, Bob Monkhouse, Peter Sellers. They’re all dead, yes. But something else. None of them was knighted. Instead they were all made OBE, an honour Michael Winner once charmingly described as ‘what you get if you clean the toilets well at King’s Cross station’. Still, they did better than Les Dawson, Tony Hancock, Tommy Cooper and Peter Cook.
The adventures of a wrecked ship can be pieced together from entries in its log book. The last moments of some doomed flight can be reconstructed by consulting its black box. If Dominic and I come a cropper here on the hard shoulder of the Cairo–Alexandria desert road, our iPhones will tell our story in Google searches: 23:30: ‘how do you get out of Cairo airport?’ 00:07: ‘why don’t Egypt drivers use headlights?’ 03:00: ‘Toyota Corolla won’t start’ 03:30: ‘How to deactivate Toyota Corolla immobiliser?’ 04:00: ‘Hertz Cairo number’ 05:00: ‘Hertz worldwide emergency number’ 05:14: ‘What time sun rise in Egypt?’Soon after that, the iPhones’ innards will record that both batteries died, abandoning us to our fate beside the motorway, rocking in the violent wake of passing trucks, waiting for dawn.
Have our governments averted a financial disaster – or paved the way for one?‘The worst of the storm has passed,’ declared Barack Obama at the start of last year, seeking to calm the fearful. For his part, Gordon Brown assured Britain that talk of tough years ahead was ‘simply not true’. Both men spoke of their resolve to cure their economies, and did not seem to mind using the same techniques that created the old bubble.
Why does the American religious right get all the attention: is there not also a religious left? Why is it always on the back foot? Why, though such a basic part of the nation’s history, does it seem un-American? It suffers from the same problem as its political cousin: most Americans think of the left as something for metropolitan elites or angry black radicals. (President Obama is associated with both.