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The main event

The tickets have all been handed out fairly and efficiently. No one has grumbled about crashing websites or foreign tour operators snaffling the best seats. There are no snatch squads of lawyers and police ready to pounce on inappropriate signs and seal off London’s A-roads for a few VIPs. Yet the overall crowd figure will

The Queen and I

Well it’s all too terribly, terribly exciting: 60 glorious years on the throne of England and almost more than that in my consciousness. I first became aware of the then Princess Elizabeth when I was a young evacuee in Ilfracombe. In my parents’ sudden mad rush from London to escape the Blitz, unnecessary things like

The Silver age

I was ten years old during the Silver Jubilee in 1977. That perfect, daft summer formed and cemented my view of the country I live in, and still makes me feel a wave of unconditional affection every time I think back to it. Social historians seem almost contractually obliged to present England during that time

Libya notebook

The battle had the busy, obsessive yet irrelevant air of a point-to-point. It was a social event, held outdoors, a good place to see and be seen. The jeunesse dorée of the western Libyan town of Zuwara were out in force. People had come from miles around. Rather than tweed suits and barbours they were wearing battlefield fatigues

Paving paradise

The gamekeeper at the Surrey farm where I keep my horses has been banned from his local pub for looking too scruffy. Like the two farm workers in Berkshire who made headlines when they were turfed out of their local a few weeks ago, the gamekeeper has been left in no doubt that his muddy

Queen of the world

A Jubilee for the Commonwealth – and beyond Recently I took a flight to my native Malaysia to celebrate my mum’s 79th birthday. I knew that, since I am currently living in London, a birthday present that screamed BRITAIN was in order — a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ notepaper set wrapped in tartan and

Divided we stand

Many Native American tribes would consult a shaman before embarking on a hunting expedition. In one tribe, a shaman would take a caribou bone, carve on it images of the kind of prey the tribe were keen to find (buffalo, deer, trailer-park video-poker addicts) and then place it on a fire. At some point the

Right thinking

David Frum has spoken for American conservatism for a generation – now he despairs of it David Frum has been a major force in American conservatism for more than 20 years. He was a speechwriter in President George W. Bush’s first administration and is said to have coined the phrase ‘axis of evil’. In the

Old Man of Corfu

‘The woes of painters!’ lamented Edward Lear in a letter to a friend in 1862. Earlier that day, he was pottering around his apartment in Corfu Town, when, glancing out of the window, he spotted a troop of soldiers marching past. One of them, a certain Colonel Bruce, spied Lear and saluted. At which, forgetting

Being Blunt

Emily Blunt is jolly busy. This year, she’s in three movies – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, with Ewan McGregor; The Five-Year Engagement, with Jason Segel; and the offbeat My Sister’s Sister. Her fans, I tell her, must be really excited. Emily seems unsure: ‘D’you think so?’ she says, wrinkling her nose. ‘It might be


‘You know, if becoming an MP has taught me one thing it’s respect, admiration for political opponents,’ tweeted Louise Mensch, the Tory MP for Corby, last week. ‘My Labour colleagues best people ever.’ It’s ironic that she should have vouchsafed these thoughts in a tweet, because it is Twitter that is fast destroying whatever respect

Thirty days to live: An encounter with mortality

Death is a beautiful woman, always by my side. She’ll kiss me one day, I know. She’s a companion who reminds me not to postpone anything — ‘Do it now, do it now, do it now.’ Her voice is not threatening, just constant. It tells me what matters is not how long I live, but