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Airbrushing out and filling in

If one ever wonders just how important memory is to our selfhood, consider patients in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The condition as good as demonstrates that there is no afterlife, because if you can be dead when you are alive, then you can certainly be dead when you are dead. Without memory our

A girl’s own adventure

Olivia Joules is born Rachel Pixley, a ‘normal schoolgirl, living with two parents in Worksop’. But after she is cruelly orphaned, sent to live with a batty aunt, and then abandoned by her boyfriend she takes ‘a long hard look at life’ and decides to ‘search this shitty world for some beauty and excitement’. She

The Marxist and the Methodist

Even in his glory days Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, durable president of the Republic of China, had his critics. American liberals derided him as ‘Cash-my-cheque’ in acknowledgment of the monstrous corruption of his in-laws, although not of the abstemious Gimo, as his grandiose rank was usually abbreviated, himself. General Joseph ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell, the American chief

Plumbing the freezing depths

Pretty soon after beginning his two-week descent into the Dantean world of the modern deep-sea North Atlantic trawler, Redmond O’Hanlon, far too old to be anywhere near one of these boats, let alone in January, let alone with a Force 12 Category One hurricane in the offing, not to speak of the burden of being

The butler’s done it now

In all the uproar of indignation surrounding the publication of this book, Paul Burrell’s riveting, hilarious and ultimately rather touching account of his time as a royal servant in general and butler to Diana, Princess of Wales, in particular, one curious fact has been obscured. He was, and appears to remain, so far, the most

Battling for Britain Prussian style

During my first term at Oxford in 1938, when walking down the south side of the Christ Church quad, I passed a large man in a bowler hat and a smart London suit. The only persons in the college who wore bowlers were the porters and most dons followed David Cecil’s advice to dress in

Backing into the limelight

The traditional boffin, as is well known, wore round specs and a white coat, tended to be rather bald, and was soft of speech and mild of manner whilst devising the destruction of thousands. Hammed up, he became the figure of Q, indispensable component of James Bond films; older black and whites show the genuine

It’s the same the whole world over

One has to ask the question: is this, intrinsically, an interesting subject? Personally, I would say not. Homosexual-ity, fairly clearly, is a genetic or innate human variation, comparable to left-handedness and probably occurring, like left-handedness, in about 5-10 per cent of humanity. That is, rationally speaking, about the limit of its intellectual interest: and who