‘Write about the best English gardens,’ says the email from the deputy editor, ‘or what makes a good garden?’ That’s a bit like saying, ‘write about the best paintings, or the best music.’ Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we now behold so many varieties of English garden that it is hard to tell what Englishness is any longer. But it is probably safe to say that the trend is no longer lavender and roses and formal enclosures of yew and box, nor grassy parks with statues and studied references to high learning.
The decapitation of a British soldier on a street in London is the latest disgusting new low in this country’s experience of Islamist terror. But everything else in the aftermath of the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby is hideously familiar. What the country has gone through since last Wednesday is the same endless turning over of clichés about terror which we have now heard for years. But one thing is clear.
Never mind all this gay stuff — when is parliament going to get on with the marriage legislation we really need? I’m talking about the law banning men from proposing to their girlfriends in public.
It’s been happening for years. Local radio was always the worst offender. ‘Gareth, I think you’ve got something you want to say to Julie, haven’t you?’ the vapid Simon Bates wannabe would leer. In fact I blame Simon Bates for the whole phenomenon: he legitimised this mawkish sharing of supposedly private emotion.
The section of the A83 that runs between Loch Long and Loch Fyne in western Scotland is known as the Rest and Be Thankful. It would be better described as the Get the Hell out of Here. For this, as far as I can tell, is the British trunk road most afflicted by landslips.
The soil on the brae above the road is highly unstable. There have been six major slips since 2007, which have shut the road for a total of 34 days.
The best argument in favour of state funding of the arts was made in the middle of the 18th century. In 1753 an Act of Parliament established the personal collection of Sir Hans Sloane as a national resource, ‘to be preserved and maintained not only for the Inspection and Entertainment of the learned and the curious, but for the general Use and Benefit of the Public’.
But a dark cloud looms over the British Museum today.
Peering over my son’s shoulder as he forced himself through a pile of practice IGCSE maths papers in readiness for this week’s exams, I was shocked both by the absence of pounds sterling and by the ardently international imaginary first names dreamed up by the question-setters. That ‘I’ stands for ‘international’ — and goodness, you’re not allowed to forget it.
‘Nyali paid $62 for a bicycle.’ ‘Alejandro goes to Europe for a holiday.
Phyllis has gone to Tottenham Court Road, but Ada is having a day off. In fact she’s slumbering deep below us, just south of Bond Street station with her head under Grays Antique Centre.
Phyllis and Ada are twin sisters, 140 metres long, weighing 1,000 tonnes each. I’m imagining them as domesticated versions of those monstrous sandworms on the planet -Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s Dune, with their crystal teeth and ‘bellows breath of cinnamon’.
It was my first taste of free love — for the brain. A first visit to what Bill Clinton dubbed the ‘Woodstock of the Mind’. With just one afternoon at the Hay festival, I rolled up at the first thing that caught my eye — a distinguished prof talking about nanotechnology. Bear with me here. I was soon learning that making things nano-sized changes their essential properties. Surfaces can be made which repel water.