For the past few weeks, British news-papers have been informing their readers about two contrasting battles in the killing grounds of the Middle East. One is Mosul, in northern Iraq, where western reporters are accompanying an army of liberation as it frees a joyful population from terrorist control. The other concerns Aleppo, just a few hundred miles to the west. This, apparently, is the exact opposite.
The exchange of letters this week between Mark Carney and Philip Hammond made it very clear who the supplicant was. The Governor of the Bank of England informed the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he was prepared to extend his term by one year. Carney pointed out that while the personal circumstances that had made him want to limit his term to five years had not changed, this country’s circumstances had.
There are lots of signs at Gatwick about how it is unacceptable to be ‘rude or abusive’ to Border Force staff. One poster warns that losing your temper or gesticulating in a threatening manner could be a criminal offence. Keep a lid on it, is the-message.
My wife Joanna and I recently had plenty of time to study these missives and just about kept a lid on it after returning from a weekend in Spain.
Enrolling at Parsons College in New York the other day, a friend was asked to state her name, subject and PGPs. Her what? Her preferred gender pronouns. In other words, did she want to be referred to as ‘she’ and ‘her’, or ‘he’ and ‘him’, or ‘it’, or ‘they’, or none of the above, and was she a Mr, Miss, or Mx? If she wasn’t sure, a support group was on hand to help, called the LGBTQIAGNC. There was no need — she said her name was Clare and ‘she’ would do fine.
This weekend at the Edenbridge bonfire in Kent, near where I live, an effigy of Donald Trump will be burned. Last weekend, at Halloween, people up and down the land went out dressed up as him, or as a woman being groped by him. It is hard to imagine any American doing anything like this in homage to our own least popular political candidate in a generation, Jeremy Corbyn. And that’s caused me to wonder why, exactly — when we’re so turned off by our own politicians — we are so enthralled by the Donald across the pond.
‘I am a Messianic Jew,’ says the jittery young man at the rectory door. He is pale and drawn, with a close-shaven scalp and several days of bristles on a sharp chin. The bloodshot eyes search for me swimmingly. ‘A Jew, a Messianic Jew,’ he emphasises. I should have a clever rejoinder, but I am assessing if he has a knife so I only manage, ‘Ah yes, and how can I help?’ ‘Is this you?’ is thrown back at me, as he jabs his finger at the screen of his phone and then holds it up to my face like a mirror.
‘Prefabs to solve housing crisis,’ screamed the front page of the Sunday Telegraph last weekend. Can the shortage of homes in Britain really be so bad that ministers are floating plans to encourage the first new generation of temporary, pre-packed houses since the great reconstruction drive which followed the second world war?
The UK is in the midst of a housing shortage that numerous credible experts now describe as ‘chronic’ and ‘acute’.
The mood in California was apologetic. Most people we met seemed embarrassed that their country’s dirty laundry was being aired quite so publicly. Hillary or the Donald? It will have to be Hillary, they sighed. Few seemed stirred by the prospect, but it was hard to avoid the subject. In Half Moon Bay in San Mateo county, we stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, perched on top of the cliffs. While salty mist drifted across the Pacific and pods of whales floated by, the second presidential TV debate rumbled on in the hotel bar.