Theresa May will soon arrive in Brussels with a series of unlikely demands. She must tell the European Union that she wants to re-open a deal that she was hailing as not just the best, but the ‘only deal possible’ a few weeks ago. Parliament has now made her eat her words. It is a testament to her predicament that this counts as a triumph for her.
She has narrowly avoided a far worse fate. Had parliament voted another way — rejecting Graham Brady’s amendment and passing Yvette Cooper’s — she would have been sent into the negotiating chamber with nothing to say.
In Paris in December, I sat with a journalist friend in a café on the Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui and listened to him explain to me why a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for Britain. It had to do with an article his newspaper had published about the Mini. You might think they were typically British cars, he said, but the plant where they were made in Cowley belonged to BMW! The steering wheels were assembled in Romania! The tail lights came from Poland!
So? I asked.
I’ve talked to Denise Horvath-Allan more than my own mother this year. Denise’s son Charles went missing while backpacking in Canada. I see his face — never ageing, entombed within his early twenties — every day on Facebook. Denise’s posts are more desperate each time I see them.
Charles disappeared in 1989, on the eve of his 21st birthday. Denise and I believe he was murdered not long afterwards.
I have always found the parable of the Prodigal Son sickeningly unfair, and I felt this again while driving a close relative down a motorway in a frightful gale at night to a residential rehab.
-That morning I’d had an emergency consultation in London on behalf of the said relative, with the head of the rehab place, who I’ll call Dr X. Throughout, I’d had the uneasy feeling that Dr X was subtly trying to make me feel at fault for not being sympathetic enough to my relative’s situation.
‘Gene test for sale on NHS,’ blared the headlines last weekend, sparking some anxiety and confusion. The story is that Genomics England, a company owned by the Department of Health, has announced that it’s seeking people who are willing to pay to have their DNA sequenced. The fee has not yet been specified but it will probably be around £500, depending on how much the analysis is subsidised. Each volunteer will receive a personalised health report and will agree to share their anonymised genetic data with researchers in the hope of improving genetic prediction of diseases and creating the sort of healthcare that’s fit for the future.
It was a close-run thing for my friend who’s having a new kitchen installed in her house in Chiswick. After a persuasive campaign by her eloquent architect, who has an induction hob in his own house and loves it for its clean lines and hyper-efficiency, she had got as far as ordering one for herself. Having placed the order, she couldn’t sleep. She tossed and turned, worrying about the imminent change to her cooking life that the induction hob would (literally) induce, let alone the need to buy a whole new set of ‘induction-ready’ pans.
A man stopped me in the street in Caracas and grabbed my hand. I was alarmed, but tried not to look scared. This city sometimes ranks as the most dangerous capital in the world. The practical advice we tend to be given by security consultants boils down to ‘Don’t panic’. ‘Gringos,’ said the man, ‘are good people. Thank you. May God bless you.’ And he was gone.
This has been an emotional week for millions of Venezuelans.
There are piles of stones and then there are piles of stones. Anyone can place one rock upon another, but it takes a special endeavour to get the Ordnance Survey to take notice. Once a clutch of cartographers formally recognise a cairn, it will stay mapped for centuries, if not millennia. Wander around Britain’s fells, moors and coastline and you’ll find all manner of rock piles punctuating the landscape.