Galilee: The last time I was here, the kibbutz was filled with sunburnt, muscular, sweaty Israelis covered in dark curly hair, driving Jeeps, so handsome I’d spill my Jaffa orange juice down my white cheesecloth culottes when they spoke to me.
Then, Kfar Hanassi, in northern Galilee, a grenade’s throw from the Golan Heights, had 600 or so members, and cleaved to the lofty-lefty ideals of the collective: everyone gave what they could, in the words of the kibbutz movement, and got what they needed.
It is, by now, clear that Kim Jong-un is madder than his father. He’s blasted off North Korea’s third nuclear test and plans to restart its nuclear reactor, as his people continue to starve. Last weekend his government declared that the ‘time has come to stage a do-or-die final battle’ with South Korea. He has instructed his troops to ‘break the waists of the crazy enemies’ and also ‘cut their windpipes’. For good measure he described Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, as a ‘venomous swish of skirt’ and has severed all military hotlines with Seoul, like a petulant teenager refusing to answer the phone.
Does being gay make you a better historian? ‘Immensely, immensely,’ says Diarmaid MacCulloch. ‘From a young age, four or five onwards, I began to realise that the world was not as it pretends to be, there are lots of other things there. You learn how to listen to what is being half-said or implied, and that’s a transferable skill.’
MacCulloch knows what he’s talking about. He’s Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford and one of Britain’s most distinguished living historians.
When David Cameron proposed toughening the rules that govern foreign nationals being treated for free by the National Health Service, he faced — as one might expect — a barrage of criticism. The Prime Minister was accused of tilting at windmills. The threat exists only in the minds of xenophobes, said his critics. The actual levels of abuse are minimal, so why is he scaremongering? A few weeks earlier, I had written a piece for The Spectator from a different perspective; that of an cancer specialist who has spent his career in the NHS.
When President Jacob Zuma reassures a journalist, as he did last week, that Nelson Mandela’s condition is improving slightly, the entire world sighs with relief. Yet it has become hard to get trustworthy information about the man the world most admires.
Mandela’s wife Graça doesn’t seem to be so involved in the key decisions about him any more. Instead, the occasional morsels of information which the world eagerly seizes on come largely from politicians.
I thought the Haute Route was going to be easier than the Engadin, the cross-country ski marathon I recently completed in St Moritz. I was very wrong. It was sold to me as an 180km ski-touring trek from Chamonix to Zermatt. I imagined lovely powder skiing in bubbly snow, floating down unmarked tracks under blissful blue skies, with the odd sighting of chamois. The reality was a five-day, mostly uphill trek through patchy cloud with a heavy rucksack on my back.