While he was on the campaign trail, Donald Trump was asked an intriguing question by Bob Lonsberry of WHAM 1180 AM, a local radio station in Rochester, New York.
‘Is there a favourite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life, sir?’ Lonsberry said.
Trump’s answer? ‘An eye for an eye.’
If you wanted a quick glimpse inside Trump’s brain, that quote’s as good as any.
Before the horrified gaze of its militants, the French Socialist party — which has been a major force in French politics since 1981, and forms the present government — is falling to pieces.
There are many reasons behind this catastrophe. They go back to 2005 and the dithering leadership of the then secretary-general, François Hollande, at a time when the party was dangerously divided after the referendum on a European constitution.
Alexander Chancellor’s ‘Long Life’ is over; but it was not nearly long enough. I was feeling rather gloomy last Friday, having just had our old terrier put down, when I opened The Spectator and was immediately cheered up by the first paragraph of Alexander’s column.
It was so typical of the way that he often looked at the world, and of his delightfully quirky sense of humour, that he should relate a children’s song to the new President of the United States.
Another day in northern Nigeria, another Christian village reeling from an attack by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen who used to be their neighbours — and who are now cleansing them from the area. The locals daren’t collect the freshest bodies. Some who tried earlier have already been killed, spotted by the waiting militia and hacked down or shot. The Fulani are watching everything closely from the surrounding mountains.
An old acquaintance died recently. A friend of mine, who was closer to him than I was, rang to tell me. She’d known him for 40 years and looked after him at various times when he fell ill. He was diagnosed with cancer three weeks ago and died suddenly in hospital last week. She tried to find out what happened, but as she is not next of kin (he had no relations) she will probably never know. Within the monolith of the NHS, patients, particularly the elderly, are able to disappear from view as effectively as prisoners in the Soviet gulag.
Paul Johnson once wrote that the ability to say ‘really’ in 12 different ways was the birthright of every true Englishman, or woman. Really rather awkward. Really dreadful. Really good effort. Really went to town. I know him really well. Did she really mean that? I mean, really! One word, many meanings.
‘Ghastly’ is another thoroughly English word, in tone and application. Its meaning is implicit, rather than explicit.
Did Winston Churchill, like Donald Trump, also like to ‘grab them by the pussy?’ Last week at the Jaipur Literary Festival, I was on a panel discussion entitled ‘Churchill: Hero or Villain?’, where the Indian biographer Shrabani Basu told a large crowd that at a suffragettes’ demonstration outside Parliament in November 1910, Churchill, then home secretary, had ‘given instructions for police that they can batter the women and assault the women and sexually assault them as well’.
British placenames are so good you can read the map for entertainment rather than navigation. Hardington Mande-ville, Bradford Peverell, Carlton Scroop — they sound like characters in a novel. In fact, P.G. Wodehouse often raided the atlas when writing: Lord Emsworth is named after a town in Hampshire, while a village in the same county gave Reginald Shipton--Bellinger his surname. There’s plenty of silliness out there — Great Snoring in Norfolk, Matching Tye in Essex, Fryup in Yorkshire.