The Republican voters of Iowa could not make up their minds. Months of flirting with different candidates preceded their decision to give Rick Santorum a moment in the sun. Hardly able to believe his own good luck, he could not help knowing, even in the euphoria of his virtual dead heat with Mitt Romney for first place, that he too would probably sink back into the obscurity from which he had only just emerged.
The Magic Kingdom, Disney World, Florida is such a violent battle between cynicism and innocence that a writer’s head may blow off. There are three Disney parks within screaming distance and beyond that, the wastelands of America. If it feels as though it sprouted out of the swamp fully formed, that is because it did. At the centre is Cinderella’s castle, modelled on Mad Ludwig of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein, but madder.
It produced one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. It fought a violent race-based dictatorship and replaced it with the most liberal constitution the world has ever known. Its song, a poignant Christian hymn, became South Africa’s national anthem. Since it came to power in 1994, about two thirds of South Africans vote for it. Yet now, as it lavishly celebrates its 100th birthday this week, it has a reputation for corruption and incompetence.
Last year a single sector of British industry was responsible for generating 12 per cent of government tax receipts, with just 4 per cent of the workforce. You would think the government would be grateful to these hyper-productive worker bees, at a time when it needs every penny of tax. Solicitous even, as it is with ‘clean tech’ firms and Silicon Roundabout start-ups, which deliver nothing close to this kind of tax revenue.
Montserrat, a smoulderingly beautiful volcanic island in the British West Indies, is a 15-minute flight from Antigua. Apart from me, the only passenger on the propeller plane is a birdwatcher from England, who hopes to catch a glimpse of the ‘critically endangered’ Montserrat oriole. After the volcano eruptions of 1995 to 1997, the island’s old capital of Plymouth was entombed in 40 feet of ash, and people air-freighted in their thousands to Gatwick.