Jeremy Paxman was on great form last week, reminding us that when it comes to being rude to prime ministers he has no peers.
Jeremy’s rudeness is, of course, magnificently bipartisan. However elegant the sneer he displayed when asking David Cameron about Stephen Green, it was as nothing compared to the pointed disdain with which he once asked Tony Blair about his faith. Was it true, Jeremy inquired, that he had prayed together with his fellow Christian George W.
When I told my friends that I was planning to attend a silent retreat, they all laughed. It’s true that I am something of a convivialist; my idea of heaven is a big table in a warm restaurant, the table shimmering with the laughter of friends and the glugging of wine, and me picking up the bill.
On the other hand, I was a solitary only child and I look back on those days with great fondness. Before the long stagger up the primrose path of pleasure started, the only companion I needed was a book; I well remember my mother crying because I preferred to sit in my room reading rather than hang around on street corners getting drunk and/or pregnant like a normal teenager.
To the extent that Britain has philosophers, we do not expect them to address issues of any relevance to the rest of us. They may pursue some hermeneutic byway perhaps, but not the urgent or profound issues of our time.
Roger Scruton has always been an exception in this regard, as in many others. He has spent his adult life thinking and writing about the nature of love, the nation state, belonging, alienation, beauty, home and England.
Bored American reporters are pining for a Democratic primary challenger to step up against Hillary Clinton in 2016. We don’t like coronations. It’s not just cynical Republicans who cheered at ‘emailgate’ — the crisis Clinton faced after it emerged she had used a private account for her emails as Secretary of State. It makes matters more interesting, and moves the spotlight on to other, less celebrated politicians.
‘Make yourself a happy bunny this Easter with cheap tickets and egg-cellent deals!’ chirped the Abellio train company advert.
I use Abellio’s Greater Anglia service regularly from London and was looking forward to a nice fluffy ride to Norwich. I was late for the 9 a.m. train but the Liverpool Street station Abellio assistant smilingly informed me I wouldn’t need to pay extra for the later train. I bought a cup of coffee and presented my ticket to the barrier staff at platform 11.
Sloppy Joe’s — which starred in the film of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana — was always likely to wither on the post-revolution vine. As the decadent hangout of unsavoury ‘imperialists’ whom Fidel Castro despised, it never stood much of a chance. Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and local hero Ernest Hemingway all used to call in from time to time, slaking their thirst at the 65ft-long mahogany bar. It closed in 1960 and no one expected to see mojitos and daiquiris being poured here again, at least not until Fidel and his brother Raúl were gone.
Egypt’s revolution of 2011 didn’t just get rid of President Mubarak: it did a pretty good job of clearing out the tourists, too. The political uncertainty since then has made people wary of visiting — meaning more space and lower prices for those who do make the trip. But you’d better be quick if you want to take advantage: this seems to be the year that Egypt is opening up again. BA are resuming their Sharm el-Sheikh flights in September, while Abercrombie and Kent are back up to three boats for their Nile cruises (they had been down to one).