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My wild success

I’ve just tripped over the damned hedgehog for the second time in as many days. He has retreated into the greenhouse and is glaring out at me from under the workbench, rigid with indignation. I suspect he has learnt this expression from my cats. Truth be told, after 14 months’ acquaintance, with time out for

Blood and soil

A declaration of nationality is a profound statement. To say ‘I am British’ suggests that somehow I am composed of Britishness — that my fabric, my very being, is British. Except I personally, apparently, am not particularly British. The results are back from my DNA ethnicity test, and I am 63 per cent Irish, 20 per

Clueless in Syria

The other day I was speaking to a Kurdish journalist who was held in Isis captivity for ten months. He and a colleague had had the bad luck to run into an Isis checkpoint in Syria. ‘How do you perform the midday prayer?’ they were asked after their car was waved to a halt. Unable

Zero tolerance, zero sanity

For 20 months, I stood accused of a hate crime: homophobically motivated common assault. The British Transport Police pursued my case with extraordinary zeal. So too did the Crown Prosecution Service. I was plunged into a world where common sense withered and died. The nightmare began when I was travelling home to London after a

We are not a hateful nation

Britain is in the grip of an epidemic, apparently. An epidemic of hate. Barely a day passes without some policeman or journalist telling us about the wave of criminal bigotry that is sweeping through the country. It’s been bad for years, they say, but has become worse since the EU referendum. Police forces tell us

Brexit means sovereignty

We know what people voted against,’ say half-clever ­pundits, ‘but it’s far from clear what they voted for.’ Actually, it’s very clear: the ­British voted to leave the EU and take back control of their own laws. They didn’t ­dictate precisely what kind of deal we should have with our neighbours after leaving: that is


Munich notebook

It has been a strange week in Munich; a week of deceptively cool mornings, afternoons hot enough to fry eggs and thunderstorms at twilight that have turned streets into streams. A week of reflection, too, capped last Sunday by a service of remembrance in the cathedral, attended by Chancellor Merkel, to honour the nine young

Notes on...


Glamour. It’s Marcello Mastroianni drinking negronis on the Via Veneto; it’s Audrey Hepburn, George Clooney, Sinatra on the Vegas Strip in ’59… and a composting toilet on the west coast of Scotland. The latter was the only one available when I went glamping in Skye. Glamping is a neologism, an awkward portmanteau word that seeks