We spent part of the last two weeks – as has become a family custom – mooching round Siena. And although, like Venice, the place can absorb a huge number of visitors before becoming unpleasantly crowded, we were by no means the only ones. That's because, of course, Siena is just about perfect – an intact mediaeval town, with hardly a building later than the 16th century, but a living community, not a mummified museum.
Whenever I have a patient who belongs to the first generation of Jamaican immigrants, I cannot help but ask myself what England has done to the Jamaicans. How has such a charming and humorous community been turned into the sullen, resentful people that so many of their children (or grandchildren) seem to be today – particularly the males, possessed as they are of an arrogant sense of radical entitlement that renders them almost extraterritorial both to the laws of the land and the laws of good manners? What has England done to them that they should turn out thus? Of course, there is still a strong strand of church-going respectability among the Jamaicans.
Is the taxpayer about to stump up another £16 million for the Duchess of Northumberland's pet project, Alnwick Garden? Mary Keen investigatesTo him that hath shall be given, and to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland hath been given quite a lot. We are talking public funding here. The £11.5m Lottery sum awarded to secure the Duke's Raphael for the nation is a record for a work of art. This could be chicken- feed, however, compared with the funding the Duchess hopes to bag for her pet project, the Alnwick Garden, which by the time it is completed will have cost an estimated £42m.
In more tranquil times, before the Gilligan storm broke over his head, the BBC's admirable and honourable director of news, Richard Sambrook, contributed a foreword to one of the corporation's periodic attempts to remind its journalists of their responsibilities towards the English language. 'Clear storytelling and language,' Sambrook wrote, 'is at the heart of good journalism.' These are words which, given subsequent events, have acquired an ironic resonance.
NairobiOne evening in the Kenyan capital late last year, my friend Sean Culligan endured an experience that, in several instructive ways, can be compared and contrasted with that of the Norfolk farmer Tony Martin. Sean is a mild-mannered man who, after retiring from the British military, settled in East Africa. He works for a medical charity that is held in high esteem. For a pastime he likes target shooting.
Since it is always helpful to blame the government for most things, it might be some consolation to those of us who sat shellshocked at Lord's last weekend, and watched South Africa obliterate England, to reflect on how politics has brought about the decline of English cricket. Such an analysis will bring no short-term comfort to those who must prevent further thrashings of the national side; but only by understanding the causes can we hope, in due course, to eliminate the symptoms.
Miss Busby's room – room five – had a westerly facing seaview. Latterly, if it was shaping up to be a particularly beautiful one, and there was nothing on telly, I'd go and sit with her and watch the sunset. We'd sit side by side in a pair of her comfortable high-backed antique chairs and watch the sun going down in flames over the sea. We didn't say a lot. We'd just sit there in appreciative, companionable silence.
If the Archbishop of Canterbury does not crown our next monarch, then who will? The president of Europe? A multi-faith collective? Nobody at all? In which case, what sort of country will we then be and where will ultimate authority and legitimacy come from? Perhaps the prior question is why there should now be serious doubt about the Archbishop's role at the heart of our constitution.It says something about the state of the worldwide Anglican Church that it seems more interested in homosexuality than in anything else.