The charitable giving of Sir Paul Getty always had a deliciously quirky element to it – one thinks of the elegant replacement of the hideous old Mound Stand at Lord's, the funding of the National Film Archive's work in housing and restoring their immense collection of historic films, the saving of the Mappa Mundi and Canova's 'Three Graces' for the nation, and so on. These apparently random choices, in fact, reflected some of the most passionate interests of the man himself – he was a cricket fanatic (he owned Wisden), a dedicated collector of old films, and, as his father before him, a connoisseur of the fine arts.
There have been far more hangings in British prisons since the abolition of the death penalty than ever there were before. I suspect – though of course I cannot actually prove – that in the old days of what was affectionately known as the topping shed the infrequent official executions acted as a kind of catharsis for many of the inmates' suicidal feelings. War, be it remembered, reduces the suicide rate famously.
One hundred years ago, on 1 May 1903, King Edward VII arrived in Paris on the last stop of a European tour. It had already sparked some controversy: His Majesty's Protestant subjects were not happy that he had dropped in at the Vatican to see the 93-year-old Pope, Leo XIII. What came next, however, was to be far more radical, and would have unimaginably deep consequences.Not even the King's most senior ministers had more than an inkling at the time of what he was up to.
Phew! Made it! Just in time, mind. And not without a rather costly rearrangement of the flights back from the Far East, I might add. And a holiday cut short as a result of a lamentable slip of the memory. But all worth it, in the end. Like you, I suspect, I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd missed the chance to vote in this week's crucial local government elections.As with most people, rarely a day goes by without my pondering what, exactly, is the best formula for calculating the amount which should be raised through rates, or the council charge, or council tax, for provision of our local services.
We could go and invade some country none of us has yet thought of and destroy the regime there while leaving the rest of the country intact. That is not quite how Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, put it when I interviewed him on Monday afternoon in the presence of three members of his staff, but it emerges clearly from what he said. Mr Hoon sees a world in which warfare has changed far more profoundly than most opponents of the Iraq campaign have yet understood, and in which amazing possibilities have opened up.
BaghdadWe could tell something was up as soon as we approached the petrol station. There was an American tank parked amid a big crowd of jerrycan-toting Iraqis. Unusually, the soldiers were down and walking around, guns at the ready. Then I heard shouting and saw the Americans using their carbines like staves to push back some of the customers, who were evidently trying their luck. Just then a black sergeant near me started shouting at an Iraqi.