Last weekend, I got into a conversation with the son of an old friend. He’s a nice middle-class boy, mid-twenties, who plays in a band and has lots of tats and piercings. We got into a conversation about summer festivals. I was telling him about a wonderful one I’d been to — the Curious Arts Festival — and then I asked him, ‘You been to anything exciting?’ ‘Yeah,’ he said with a grin, ‘I went to a riot in east London.
Even a reality show needs good plot twists, and Donald Trump has delivered them like the master he is. First the misdirection: a week of publicly humiliating his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, to the point where Sessions would surely quit or be fired. Then the sudden swerve — it was the press shop, not the justice department, that was decapitated. Sean Spicer was out as press secretary.
England won the cricket World Cup for the fourth time. Huzzah! England reached the semi-finals of the European football championship. Huzzah again! Or you can, as some have preferred, say well, it’s not really England, is it? It’s England women — and that’s not the same thing at all.
Ten points for observation, eh? I remember when I first noticed.
But there’s less power, less speed and it’s altogether less thrilling a spectacle than the men’s versions, they say.
Our family holiday snaps used to be slides. We’d gather in the sitting room while Dad clicked through each one. He and my mother are archaeologists, so the pictures were short on people and long on fortifications.
These days we tourists take so many photographs that a slide show would take all day. We record everything. The slightest thing. That promising first glass in the airport departure lounge; the entertainingly bungled English on the local restaurant menu (lol); our toes burrowing happily into smooth beach pebbles.
‘Some wine? How about a beer? Shall we settle into a good old pub?’ I make these suggestions to Ukip’s interim leader, Steve Crowther, as we meet in central London, but he opts for a quiet bistro where he orders a cup of tea. He has a dapper suit, a ruddy, forceful face and a white beard of neatly trimmed bristles. His rat-a-tat laugh resounds across the bar like a well-oiled machine gun. Our intended subject is the Ukip leadership election (hustings this month, results on 30 September), but the n-word elbows its way through and claims our attention.
‘We remember it not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here.’
The Prince of Wales was in good voice on Monday at the centenary commemorations of the battle of Passchendaele — more properly, ‘Third Ypres’. It was a pity he couldn’t say that we should remember it not only for the incompetence of the high command, but because the majority of the British troops were at best only half-trained.
When I heard the government’s announcement that petrol and diesel cars are to be banned from 2040, I resorted, as I often do for entertainment, to the British Pathé news archive. I found a 1967 film showing trials of a prototype electric Mini, as well as a similar experiment from Ford. Then came this rather delicious prediction, delivered in clipped tones: ‘In the next few years there is the prospect of seeing millions of them on the road.
I live in the oldest village in England. How come? Well, in a field below the big house, there is a Mesolithic pit dwelling dating back some 10,000 years. This is the oldest known man-made dwelling in England — at least according to Dr Louis Leakey, who excavated it and wrote about it in The Spectator in December 1950. Prehistoric man instinctively knew that the Surrey Hills are a wonderful place in which to live.