The cabinet meeting this week turned into a surprisingly frank conversation about the National Health Service. Rishi Sunak was asked to give his thoughts on the future of health and social care. He gave a candid assessment of the dangers of being blind to the NHS’s many shortcomings. It’s political blasphemy to criticise the NHS. But once Sunak started, others joined in. Jacob Rees-Mogg added his concerns. Steve Barclay, the new Cabinet Office minister, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, also contributed.
I had been cross enough about having to go to Sennen Cove. Aside from the fact that I don’t care for the place — what is the point of a Cornish beach if the sand is too coarse-grained for sandcastles? — I resented the fact that I would not even be able to park near the place I hated. The car park on the beach is full from nine in the morning; I would have to drive up to the town — which is so far away that some of the houses aren’t even second homes — and walk.
Back in the 1960s, a senior Pentagon official would greet incoming recruits to his department with a cheery announcement: ‘Welcome to the world of strategic analysis, where we program weapons that don’t work to meet threats that don’t exist.’ The recent media excitement over Chinese tests of a hypersonic nuclear weapon which, anonymous Pentagon officials told credulous reporters, overcomes even the ‘constraints of physics’ shows that not much has changed.
I’m avoiding the village pub. Since Clarkson’s Farm I constantly get asked: ‘Are farm economics really as bad as that?’ They’re worse. For anyone who is not a multimillionaire TV star with vast tracts of prime Cotswold acres, the figures are grimly red. Half of British farmers earn £10,000 or less annually, which is why so many have gone into yurts or yoghurt. My own diversification is scribbling. Presently, any spare moments I have are spent at my kitchen table, checking the proofs of a book I’ve written in defence of sheep.
Sixteen years after Angela Merkel became Chancellor, Germany will have a new leader next week: Olaf Scholz. We might expect Scholz to enact a few domestic reforms but do little to change the country’s foreign policy — as is the tradition for a new German government. But this time, the consensus behind the country’s foreign policy has broken down. Relations with Russia are at a delicate phase and things might be about to change rather a lot.
‘If I needed a guide to go up a mountain, I’d choose someone who knew the way,’ says Nigel Kennedy. ‘So if someone is telling me what to do, they’d better know a little bit more than me.’
In September, Kennedy’s Jimi Hendrix tribute at the Royal Albert Hall was cancelled after organisers Classic FM deemed it ‘unsuitable for our audience’. It still rankles: ‘I reckon I know more about my particular art form than some guy sitting behind his desk,’ says Kennedy, ‘and so I can’t quite take it when people start saying what is classical music and what isn’t.
David Hockney has just endorsed a series of specially designed beer mats, created by an artist called Mr Bingo, that display a cigarette in an ashtray with the slogan: ‘Bored with wellness.’ He went on to declare he found the very idea of wellness ‘ridiculous’ and ‘too bossy’.
Hockney is a verification of that urban legend often cited but rarely seen: the granny who ‘smoked like a chimney’ and ‘drank like a fish’ and lived to be 100.
For many, the first Baileys of the year heralds the start of the festive season; to others, it’s a drink to be consumed only when the temperature drops into single digits. A bottle lasts up to 24 months — opened or unopened, refrigerated or not — and it is an essential component of any worthwhile drinks cabinet. A few weeks ago, Morrisons announced a Christmas deal: Baileys at £10 a litre. To a Baileys fanatic like me, it was quite the call to action.