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Islands fit for Ingmar Bergman

Who would have thought of staying in a factory? My view is of a grey industrial building, a gravel pile and a crane  standing like a metal giraffe at the end of the pier. It’s not your usual picture-postcard hotel vista, but it’s oddly beautiful. Instead of following the masses to the Mediterranean, we had

Havana – a party girl of a city

I have always longed to get on a plane and command, ‘Take me to Cuba!’ Well, the other week I did just that. Sadly, it fell a little flat, the stewardess’s wintry smile telling me that she got a lot of that on the Gatwick-Havana flight. Still, it kept me chuckling for the next eight

It’s a stupid lie to say we’re all bisexual

It was lust at first sight and love after the third martini. Over a get-to-know-you-dinner I discovered all I needed to know: I had found the Perfect Woman. All the boxes were ticked and the taxi was winding its way to my bedroom when she said: ‘You should know that I’m bisexual.’ She must have

A cook’s tour of China without the crispy caterpillars

As I pick my way around the debris in Zhongyi market in Lijiang, our guide points out the yak section. Windpipes, cleaned intestines and huge wobbly magenta livers are neatly laid out on the filthy floor, while the more expensive cuts are arranged on trestles. My eyes are drawn to a row of small boys

High tea in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country

In the bar of the Hotel Suisse, perched above the lake in Kandy (pictured), high up in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country, a driver touting for business smiles to reassure me that the British ‘left us many good things’. Trains, roads, the English language. And cricket, I remind him, ‘Oh yes, sir, cricket.’ I wonder what

Stand up for the real meaning of freedom

When pressed for a statement of their beliefs, conservatives give ironical or evasive answers: beliefs are what the others have, the ones who have confounded politics with religion, as socialists and anarchists do. This is unfortunate, because conservatism is a genuine, if unsystematic, philosophy, and it deserves to be stated, especially at a time like

The great recycling myth

My frail elderly mother has recently moved in with us in Epsom and in so doing has joined the 15 million people worldwide who spend their days sorting through rubbish. Mum, however, does not get paid $1 a day. She does it for nothing. This is because we now have five separate bins and every

A dying estate agent helped me see the light

I recently decided to move house. It started with a resentful yearning to own two bedrooms, but I quickly discovered that to afford a spare room, I must leave my seedy area of west London for a worse one, or leave London altogether. Not easy after 30 years. Since I made up my mind to

Why doesn’t Russia have a Yad Vashem for the gulag?

Yad Vashem, Israel’s vast Holocaust memorial complex, dominates a hillside above Jerusalem, surrounded by bare rock and pines. Vast though it is, it manages to be both harrowing and restrained; both rooted in the times it commemorates and thoroughly modern — not just in style, but in the way it harnesses the most advanced technology

Watch out Eurocrats, here come the Pirates!

I once shared a car to the airport with a French MEP, a member of the Front National (FN). He spoke that very correct French which, across the Channel, serves in place of accent as a social signifier. He casually mentioned that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened, at least not on the scale claimed: the volume of the

Notes on...

The pleasures of the Dordogne

Call me a trencherman or worse, but I tend to think of the Dordogne as a giant restaurant-cum-farm shop, set in a wooded riverside picnic park. And I have a feeling that’s how its native residents think of it too, so central is the well-filled table to their traditional way of life. ‘Dordogne’ of course