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In love with economic disaster

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

Bum rap for Jamaicans

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 –

Gardener’s question time

Is the taxpayer about to stump up another £16 million for the Duchess of Northumberland’s pet project, Alnwick Garden? Mary Keen investigates To 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

The rising tide of clichés

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

How to kill a burglar

Nairobi One 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

Collapse of England

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

Sleeping with Freda

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

God save the nation

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