'We are used to death,’ said Ismail. He had been to the funerals of four friends in a single week, all killed by aerial bombs. ‘We’re used to bloodshed. We’re adapted to the situation and this style of life now. It’s normal. If you lose someone, then the next day you say, OK, life must go on.’
Ismail spoke to me from eastern-Aleppo, where as many as 250,000 people are under siege by the Syrian regime and ‘living on rice’, as he described it.
The make-up lady at the BBC’s Millbank studio in Westminster has noticed a change in Boris Johnson’s look. ‘His hair is much smarter now,’ she told me as she slapped anti-shine talc on my pate for the Daily Politics show. ‘But he still messes it up a bit after I’ve combed it.’
Boris Mark II has entered the fray. As his conference speech this week showed, he’s still making the gags but they play second fiddle to his more serious aspirations — as a successful Foreign Secretary and, ultimately, PM.
Last week more than 130 right-wing thinkers put their names to a defiant document — a list of ‘Scholars and Writers for America’ in support of Donald Trump. It includes the editors of five of the country’s leading conservative journals of ideas: R.R. Reno of the Christian conservative First Things; Roger Kimball of the New Criterion, the right’s leading journal of the arts; Charles Kesler of the Claremont Review of Books; the American Spectator’s R.
A study came out last week that should have caused great alarm. For 13 years, researchers at the University of Copenhagen studied more than a million women between the ages of 15 and 34 who were taking a type of drug — one that is popular in all developed countries. Taking this drug, the researchers found, correlated with an increase in the risk of depression. The correlation was particularly strong in adolescent girls, who showed an 80 per cent higher chance of being diagnosed with depression.
Last week, students at York University staged a walkout from the sexual consent classes organised by their student union women’s officers. A quarter of the freshers decided they didn’t want to be lectured to by union worthies about when it’s OK to have sex. So they got up and left.
‘These talks are inherently patronising of both genders,’ said Ben Froughi, a third year accounting student at York, who had stirred up sex class dissent by handing out leaflets telling students the classes were optional and they didn’t have to attend.
Something strange is happening in the long decline of Christian Britain. We know that church attendance has plummeted two thirds since the 1960s. Barely half of Britons call themselves Christian and only a tiny group of these go near a church. Just 1.4 per cent regularly worship as Anglicans, and many of those do so for a privileged place in a church school.
Yet one corner of the garden is blooming: the 42 cathedrals.
A year from now, 60 million Germans go to the polls in the most important general election in mainland Europe for a generation. The result will define German — and European — politics for the next four years. There are huge questions to be resolved, from the refugee crisis to the financial crisis, but right now the question in Germany is: will Mutti run again?
Angela Merkel’s nickname, Mutti (Mummy) is a memento of happier times.
Down a lane in Keighley, in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, they brew the greatest ale in the world. Timothy Taylor, the brewery is called, or Timmy Taylor’s, should you feel sufficiently familiar. And if you are not familiar with the ales brewed by these modest Yorkies, you’re clearly not an ale-drinker. And if you’re not an ale-drinker then you’re not properly English.
Modest Yorkies, you may say: that’s a new one.