There’s a graveyard inside Henry Marsh’s head, though you’d never guess it to look at him. There he sits in his elegant flat in a small castle on a small island in the Oxford Thames: 67, attractive, restless. There he sits with the world all around him: Persian rugs, French tapestries, Japanese prints and his beautiful blonde wife (the anthropologist Kate Fox) in a separate flat below. But the ghosts of past patients are never far away.
Twenty years ago, Conservatism all but died in Scotland. Tony Blair’s landslide victory made Scotland, at least in terms of its Westminster representation, a Tory-free zone. At no point since has the party won more than a single Scottish seat, and the last time the party won more than a quarter of the Scottish vote, in 1983, its current leader, Ruth Davidson, was four years old. Two years ago, the Tories won just 14 per cent of the vote, an even worse result than 1997.
As the malevolence and incoherence of the Trump administration continue to amaze, Democrats are taking heart from the popular revulsion against the Mad Hatter of Mar-a-Lago. The media class is chattering excitedly about anti-Trump momentum after special Congress elections in conservative Kansas and Georgia resulted in a narrow Republican victory in the former and a run-off in the latter. Last week, Paul Kane of the Washington Post cited this as proof ‘that Democrats have galvanised the anti-Trump activism of the past three months into votes at the ballot box’.
The French election, of unprecedented interest, hazard and potential for violence, has been largely about who is to blame. Blame for what, exactly? For the country’s chronic malaise. But is it the fault of the bankers, the bosses, the bureaucracy, or the immigrants?
Quite often the British press gives the impression that France is in some kind of deplorable condition that we must at all costs avoid, a hybrid, perhaps, of economic Guinea-Bissau and ideological North Korea.
What is ‘far-right’? With the progress of Marine Le Pen to France’s presidential run-off, the term has been liberally used — as it has been over recent years across the West. Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, and the Sweden Democrats are all said to be far-right, to name but three.
The fact that the first two of those groups engage in intimidation, racism and overt displays of political violence would ordinarily distinguish them from a peaceful democratic party opposed to mass immigration like the Sweden Democrats.
It’s not the free movement of people I spend my nights fretting about; it’s the free movement of pests. It’s the thuggy Spanish bluebells invading our woodland and killing our own delicate flowers; it’s the Asian caterpillars devastating our box hedges; it’s the black-winged killer ladybirds from North America wiping out our spotted red ones with a nasty fungal disease. And — particularly worrying for anyone trying to run a household — it’s the tiny webbing clothes moths, thought to have originated from South Africa, their larvae feasting on our favourite cardigans and carpets — probably feasting right now, under the very bed in which we are failing to sleep.
Within a couple of miles of England’s deepest point is its highest. Towering a kilometre above the hidden depths of Wast Water looms the sublime massif of Scafell Pike. From here, the rooftop of England, the whole union reveals itself — Scotland, Wales and those glowering guardians of Northern Ireland, the Mountains of Mourne.
Most visitors to Lakeland know Scafell. For the tramping tourist and charity rambler, lured by the thrill of being atop its 978m peak, it’s a must-see goal.