In November, when cases were surging and a second lockdown was under way, Boris Johnson made a big promise: things might look bleak, he said, but the ‘scientific cavalry’ would arrive. It duly did, with a vaccination programme that became the envy of Europe. The mood of the country lifted. Today, Britain is still on course to become the first country in Europe to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic — and lockdown. The economy can reopen in time for summer: truly a great escape.
‘I loathe the idea on principle. I never want to be commanded, by any emanation of the British state, to produce evidence of my identity.’ From the ‘personal notes’ on Boris Johnson’s website, February 2005
‘There is the loss of liberty, and the creepy reality that the state will use these cards — doubtless with the best possible intentions — to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim, and so on.
When Mao’s Red Guards first got to work in China, they defaced statues before they tore them down. It was common to find a statue of Buddha, for example, with new signs saying: ‘Destroy the old world! Establish a new world!’ Boris Johnson’s government isn’t keen on statue removal, but it is offering a compromise. Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, has adopted a policy of ‘retain and explain’, whereby the statue remains but with a plaque giving more historical context.
Prince Harry is now chief impact officer for BetterUp, a Californian corporate consultancy whose ‘mission’ is to sell online life coaching with — in his words, — ‘innovation, impact and integrity’. Harry may not realise it, but he is the latest celebrity frontman for the rapidly growing, broadly unregulated and frequently dubious corporate ‘coaching’ industry. And you might not realise it, but Harry, Duke of Malibu is your future, because California’s today is America’s tomorrow and Britain’s next week.
The vaccination centre where I got my jabs was in the cavernous foyer of the Jerusalem Arena, Israel’s largest indoor sports venue. Through the locked glass doors, I could see the seats where my 15-year-old and I spent so many hours cheering on our basketball team. Putting my ear to the door, I could hear the players practising.
Last week, we were finally back in the stands after a year’s absence. Fans were allowed in, at quarter of the arena’s capacity.
I hadn’t heard of Everyone’s Invited until a few weeks ago, despite being mother to a 15-year-old girl. I was a little surprised to learn that the forum making the front pages, on which predominantly teenaged schoolgirls share their experiences of every-day sexism, sexual harassment and worse, was actually founded in June last year. The site received no prominence until it went viral following the death of Sarah Everard.
Do you remember the first wave of hygge, in 2015? It seems a long time ago — back in the freewheeling technicolour of a pre-Covid world — but at that time hygge was the hottest thing to come out of Denmark. The country already attracted envy for its vigorous welfare state, covetable knitwear and high rating on the international happiness index, but the new export outshone them all. It roughly translated as ‘cosy’, people said, but the English word was frail and puny next to the soul-feeding, friendship-cementing, quasi-spiritual force that was hygge.
When I arrived a month ago, one wouldn’t believe LA was suffering a major pandemic. The roads were still busy with fast cars, the freeways choked when we ventured on to them, all vehicles seeming to be dodgem cars, zooming across the lanes with ferocious abandon. There was a major accident recently in front of my building. I looked out of my window at a speeding sports car, which had been careening down the boulevard at 120 mph and had crashed into another expensive car (as well as a few others on the way).
St Tiburtius’ Day, on 14 April, is traditionally when you will hear the first cuckoo. Since at least the Middle Ages, cuckoos have been seen as heralds of spring. They are also often associated with romance, and yet they are some of the cruellest birds found in Britain.
The adults arrive in this country at the end of March or the beginning of April and depart in late July or August. They return to central Africa and fly, either via Italy, resting near the River Po and continuing over the Sahara, or stopping in Spain before entering Africa from the far western end.