To mark World Environment Day this Sunday, Angola will celebrate its zero-tolerance approach to the illegal wildlife trade — the third biggest illegal trade after drugs and arms. Angolans are seeking to rebuild their shattered elephant population in the face of the relentless trade in ivory. But the debate is marked by sharply opposing views, which tend to be centred on such spectacular stunts as the burning of government stockpiles of elephant tusks.
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We British have always had a strange relationship with animals. We spend £5 billion a year on our pets and it is often said that we love our dogs more than our children (perfectly understandable, in my book).
Any parents considering Dollar Academy are invited to take their car along its long driveway and park outside what looks like a palace. When I first did so with my parents, I told them that it all looked ridiculously posh. My mum flew into a rage. ‘Posh’ was a word of bigotry, she said, and one I’d best not use if I was going to survive a day in boarding school. My dad left school aged 15 and eventually joined the RAF, which was kindly paying for me to board while he was posted to Cyprus.
When I was 38, I let a drunk pick me up in a bar. You know, just to see if I still had it. It was raining. It was a November evening, and I was somewhere in the backwoods of the Adirondacks. I was driving from Rhode Island to Toronto, staying in motels. Taking my time. Getting lost.
His name was Billy Ray and he was from the south. The land of Spanish moss and blurred boundaries and antique sentences delivered in a languid drawl.
Blue plaque spotting is one of the mind-broadening pleasures of British life. A walk to the dentist can be transformed into a serendipitous encounter with a forgotten genius from the past. ‘Luke Howard, 1772–1864, Namer of Clouds, lived and died here,’ says the blue plaque on 7 Bruce Grove, Tottenham. Even if you’ve never heard of Luke Howard, you instantly take a liking to him — and never again will you hear the word ‘cumulonimbus’ without thinking of him.
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Another week, another spate of barmy campus bans and ‘safe space’ shenanigans by a new breed of hyper--sensitive censorious youth. At Oxford University, law students are now officially notified when the content of a lecture might upset them.
Is there a more forlornly romantic spot in Britain than the moors east of Inverness where the Jacobite dream died? There is surely no more romantic location from which to explore the area than Brodie Castle, a turreted fortress looking out towards the Moray coast.
Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle allows groups of up to 14 to live like a laird, playing croquet on the lawns, eating in the grand dining room, spotting red squirrels and generally absorbing the dark history that culminated on the moors of Culloden.