Roger Stone — political consultant, agent provocateur, friend and confidant of Donald Trump — arrives for lunch with a bodyguard in tow. ‘I’ve had way too many death threats,’ he explains. He says he’s recovering from poisoning by polonium, a radioactive substance used to kill the Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. Litvinenko, he says, had ‘a much larger dose, probably done by British intelligence’.
On the first Saturday in February, the people of Rome awoke to find the city covered in peculiar posters depicting a scowling Pope Francis. Underneath were written the words:
Ah, Francis, you have intervened in Congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… but where is your mercy?
The reference to mercy was a jibe that any Catholic could understand.
On a Friday evening in May 2018 I am going to see the Broadway show Hamilton. We had to book the tickets two weeks ago. Fair enough, you might say — some theatre tickets sell out long before rehearsals have begun. Nonetheless, it seems a madly long way off and what if I forget about it between now and then?
This week I’ve tried to pencil in the cinema with a group of friends — no one was free until April — and Saturday supper with a couple: they couldn’t do until July.
Osterley Park on the western fringes of London is a rare survival. A Robert Adam house, with splendid Adam interiors, it’s still surrounded by its Elizabethan stables, an 18th-century landscape and classical follies — in the middle of urban Hounslow. Over the past decade, this Georgian gem has been increasingly despoiled and dumbed down by the National Trust.
The Trust is spending £356,000 to turn Osterley Park into a child-friendly leisure centre.
Bill Blair, the former police chief of Toronto, slides into his restaurant chair and twinkles at the waitress. He’s 6ft 6in, white-haired now but perky. Bill has 120 years of policing behind him. He, his father and his grandfather all served 40 years in the force. Now he’s an MP and he’s legalising cannabis in Canada.
The restaurant has been here since early in Bill’s father’s time on the beat. It claims to have invented the bacon cheeseburger.
The other day, I went to a boozy barbecue near Sydney’s northern beaches. The guests were all political mates of mine and we chatted about those insurgent populists who threaten to upend established conservative parties across the globe: Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Beppe Grillo and, of course, Pauline Hanson — Australia’s version of all four. We put our wide-ranging discussion about domestic politics in an international context.
You’ve already seen a picture of the Essex-Suffolk border. Assuming you’ve seen Constable’s ‘The Haywain’, that is: the Stour (the river into which the farmer has cleverly driven his cart) forms the county boundary, meaning the land on the left is Suffolk, that on the right, Essex. Years of David Beckham and jokes about girls in white stilettos had rather inclined me against Essex, so when I moved to Suffolk it was galling to discover I had a Colchester postcode.