When London radio news is being sponsored by a firm of bailiffs, you know something bad is happening. ‘Helping landlords get what they’re owed’ runs the cheery slogan at the end of the bulletins. As bad as the financial headlines are, this tells a bigger story than anything captured in the headlines — proof that the credit crunch is not an abstraction confined to the financial markets, but a bitter reality, already claiming victims and leaving tens of thousands to wonder if they will be next.
No foie gras was served at the banquet for Nicolas and Carla Sarkozy at Windsor Castle last week, which was hardly surprising, since the Prince of Wales, who was very much in evidence, had recently joined the swelling ranks of those who regard the force-feeding of ducks and geese as a barbaric practice. In February it was revealed that Prince Charles had banned foie gras from his table and had even decided to review the royal warrant given to his local delicatessen, the House of Cheese at Tetbury near Highgrove, because it offered it for sale.
Venetia Thompson dislikes the resignation she finds in the most quiescent of Russia’s Muslim states. But other republics will be less apathetic in the face of Moscow’s provocationsKazan, TatarstanThe 12-hour train journey from Moscow was a blur of vodka, of only visiting the bathroom in pairs for our own safety and, most frustratingly, of being told repeatedly to ‘calm down’ in Russian by our formidable escort, Natasha.
Twenty years ago, when I ran the Hong Kong branch of a London investment bank, one of our most important London-based investor clients for Asian stocks was only ever referred to, in whispers, as ‘Orange’. It operated — so I was told — behind unmarked doors somewhere near St Paul’s Tube station; it dealt with us only on condition of absolute secrecy; and it had nothing to do with Orange mobile phones, which had yet to be invented.
They shut our Post Office yesterday. For the first time in living memory there is no early morning light in that end of the ancient cottage and the little shop that went with it. The stacks of newspapers and magazines with unlikely titles have disappeared overnight. No longer can a letter be weighed to go to the ends of the earth. No more the postmaster, with one elbow on the counter, turning the thick cardboard sheets with the bright-coloured stamps of all prices lurking between them, painstakingly adding them up to the right amount for a letter to Easter Island or Nizhny Novgorod.
Another terrible night spent tossing and turning, racked with worry over whether or not I have ever had sex with Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democratic party. It is not something I remember doing and on the face of it, both of us being heterosexual, it seems highly unlikely. But one can never be too sure. Given Mr Clegg’s singularly ectoplasmic tenure as leader of his party it seems to me possible that we may have had some desultory form of intercourse without my even knowing about it.
Like, I suspect, most Spectator readers, I saw no need for Lords reform in the first place. The old chamber functioned perfectly well, as even Labour was forced to admit. But the party took the view that, while it might work in practice, it didn’t work in theory. The hereditary principle, Tony Blair declared, had no place in modern politics: a strange argument, striking as it does directly against the monarchy and indirectly against all property.