Wimbledon is back. The start of the tournament in June marks the opening of the British summer, sending a signal to everyone that it’s time to take it easy: enjoy a glass of fizz, some strawberries and some sporting drama on the grass. And this year, for the first time, we witnessed a roar of applause from the crowd on Centre Court for Britain’s vaccine success. It looks very much like life as normal.
The same was true at Wembley stadium, where thousands of fans cheered on England this week when they beat Germany.
I want to apologise: I have let myself down. I let others down too, and I’m sorry. Not because, Matt Hancock-style, I breached social distancing guidelines with a steamy office affair — but because I missed the scoop. I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship — and I did not believe it was him.
Having never knowingly undersold my ability to break big stories, this is embarrassing to say the least.
Amannisa Abdullah was in the last weeks of her pregnancy when her husband, Ahmad Talip, was arrested in Dubai. ‘He was on his way to buy a dress for our unborn girl,’ she says. Ahmad, who had lived and worked in Dubai for nearlyten years, never arrived at the shop and his family have not seen him since. He was held at a local police station for several days and then was deported to China in 2018, where he is reportedly in prison.
Londoners have had to learn, more than ever before, to master the art of fielding pity. We’ve been on the receiving end of lots of it this year from people living in the country who care about us, which makes it worse because we’re supposed to be grateful. I’m still smarting from a few recent zingers: ‘I do feel sorry for you, being cooped up in that small house.’ ‘It must be stifling there. We’ve got a nice breeze down here.
Perhaps the most absurd thing ever said about Angela Merkel is that she was the de facto leader of the western world. She has certainly been one of Europe’s most successful politicians, if you define success as political survival. But as she comes to the end of her 16 years in office, her luck is deserting her and the mess she has created is becoming horribly apparent. She leaves behind a split EU that is not just unled but might now be unleadable.
I barely recognised my mother when I saw her in the hospital bed the night she died. It had been many months since we were last able to meet, when she was still a force of nature. Now there was almost nothing left of her. The death certificate records that Elizabeth Carol Chamberlain died of dementia and kidney disease aged 88. But it was lockdown that really killed her.
For my parents, like so many people of their generation living out their later years in care homes, lockdown offered not protection but imprisonment.
The other day, I came across a description of afternoon tea written by Alfred Douglas in 1920: ‘Two kinds of bread and butter, white and brown, cucumber and tomato sandwiches, cut razor thin, scones, rock buns and then all the cakes — plum, madeira, caraway seed — the meal had about it the lavishness of a Victorian dinner.’
There are a few things about this feast which I find striking. It includes two kinds of bread and butter.
Pigeon racing isn’t much of a spectator sport. Race birds are driven to the ‘liberation point’, where they’re released to fly back to their homes. Only the liberation and the return are witnessed — what happens in between is a mystery. This is partly what makes pigeon racing so fascinating. It’s also what can make it so stressful.
A week ago, between 5,000 and 10,000 pigeons went missing during a race from Peterborough.