Is France on the brink of a political revolution? Already, four established candidates for the presidency — two former presidents and two former prime ministers — have backed out or been rejected by the voters, and another, François Fillon, is on the ropes. The campaign is being taken over by outsiders, principally the Front National’s Marine Le Pen and a youthful former banker, Emmanuel Macron, while the Socialists have chosen an eccentric radical, Benoît Hamon.
Just before Christmas, Sajid Javid performed a ritual he has observed twice a year throughout his adult life: he read the courtroom scene in The Fountainhead. To Ayn Rand fans, it’s famous: the hero declares his principles and his willingness to be imprisoned for them if need be. As a student, Javid read the passage to his now-wife, but only once — she told him she’d have nothing more to do with him if he tried it again.
There aren’t many toy companies that could make headlines in the business press merely by expanding their London offices — ‘Lego blocks out Brexit concerns’ — but Lego is not like other toy companies. Last week it was named the world’s most powerful brand by the consultancy Brand Finance; this week the second Lego movie is opening in cinemas; the University of Cambridge will shortly be appointing its first Lego professor of play.
You know the old designation NSIT — Not Safe in Taxis? Well, we need a new one: TSIU — Too Safe in Ubers. I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of Uber, whether the gig economy puts more money in the pocket of the taxi driver from Wembley or benefits only the San Francisco app-ocracy. I don’t have strong feelings about Ubers vs black cabs and whether the former are undercutting the latter, doing them out of their Knowledge and their livelihoods.
F. Scott Fitzgerald got it wrong; it’s not the rich who are different from you and me — it’s the posh. There is no social act so rude or outrageous that it cannot be explained and then excused on the grounds that the perpetrator was posh.
I was recently at a drinks party and saw a man scratching his bottom in front of the buffet table — a full, hand-down--trouser buttock-scratch. With the very same hand that he’d used on his bottom, he picked up a sausage, examined it and put it back in the pile.
In typical theatrical style, the outgoing Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, he of the sonorous voice and imposing beard, ‘never knowingly underdressed’, ‘the last of the great prince bishops’, attended his final service as bishop at last Thursday’s liturgy at St Paul’s Cathedral for Candlemas — the day on which Simeon spoke the words, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.’
Some say Chartres has become rather too fond of dining with the royal family recently and has neglected the duller duty of getting to know his lesser clergy; but the general consensus is that, in his 21 years in the post, through sheer charm and force of character, he has brilliantly managed to keep the almost impossibly polarised diocese of London together.
Henry, our springer spaniel, has died, suddenly and prematurely. With the passing weeks, we are becoming accustomed to the strange stillness his absence has left behind, and I no longer expect to meet him hurtling around the house in motiveless delight or to find him sidling against my leg as I sit in the kitchen. We do adapt quite quickly to life post-dog, though the sadness lingers.
Sir Walter Scott knew this.