Since the crash ten years ago, stock markets the world over have been steadily recovering. The Dow Jones, a bellwether index, has enjoyed double-digit growth in five of the past ten years and soared by 25 per cent last year — credit for which, inevitably, has been claimed by Donald Trump. ‘The reason our stock market is so successful is because of me,’ he said on board Air Force One a few weeks ago.
You’re planning a party. You’ve hired the vaults of a former bank, Le Caprice is doing the catering, and a celebrity DJ will round things off on the dance floor — but you want that little bit extra to give your fashionable, jaded guests something to remember. What about a dwarf? It’s a curious fact that even people who think of themselves as modern and caring feel quite comfortable laughing at dwarfs.
‘But what are you going to do with the powers?’ the minister asked, while I negotiated devolution of powers to London when Boris was mayor. The government wouldn’t grant powers unless we explained how we would use them.
And that is what is missing in the Brexit non-debate. We are ‘taking back control’ — but we haven’t really thought what we will do with that control once we have it. It is true there has been discussion of trade deals, transforming the Common Agricultural Policy and the colour of our passports.
Now that I seem to have become a prophet of doom, I wonder whether I should have been a guru instead. Doom doesn’t sell. Bookshops hide my books in back rooms. My recorded harangues and TV appearances reach a few thousand dedicated YouTube enthusiasts. But Dr Jordan B. Peterson, supposedly as reactionary as I am, speaks to millions. His new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos adorns the front table of every Waterstones.
January was a particularly violent month in Sweden. A 63-year-old man was killed in Stockholm by a hand grenade lying in the street. A Dutch exchange student was hit by a stray bullet during an execution-style killing at a pizza restaurant in Uppsala. In Gothenburg, a hand grenade was thrown into a flat and exploded in the kitchen — the same predominantly immigrant-populated suburb where an eight-year-old British boy was killed in a grenade attack less than two years ago.
Returning to the United States a short while ago I received a stern talking to from an immigration officer. Why had I been in Paris longer than usual? I’ve lived in the US for nearly 25 years. I originally moved to be closer to my son, who was being educated nearby, and to my American wife’s relatives in Houston. We bought an old house in a small town about an hour from Austin. Built for his new bride by the only Confederate governor of Texas after he came back from the civil war, it’s rather eccentric.
‘A little corner of England which is for ever France, irreclaimably French.’ That is how the Catholic priest Monsignor Ronald Knox described the Abbaye Saint-Michel (St Michael’s Abbey) in Farnborough, Hampshire.
It was founded in 1881 by the Empress Eugénie, widow of the Emperor Napoleon III. When they were forced to leave France following the fall of the Second French Empire in 1870, the couple, along with their son Louis-Napoleon, the Prince Imperial, settled in Chislehurst, Kent.