The People’s Assembly, the self-appointed left-wing pressure group behind the recent anti-austerity demonstrations, portrays itself as the voice of the masses struggling under oppressive Tory rule. It claims that no fewer than 250,000 demonstrators went to its rally in central London last month (a figure dutifully regurgitated by broadcasters). But photographs of the event in London indicate no more than 25,000 attended.
When Bill Clinton was asked if he had ever smoked marijuana he uttered the infamous cop-out that he had smoked it but had not inhaled.
David Cameron’s position on hunting has been similar. He cannot deny that he once rode to hounds with his friends in the beautiful English countryside where he spends weekends. But he has never said much about the experience other than it was terribly challenging to stay on the horse.
One of the finest speeches Benedict XVI ever delivered was about sacred music. It is a small masterpiece, in which Benedict recalls his first encounter with Mozart in the liturgy. ‘When the first notes of the Coronation Mass sounded, Heaven virtually opened and the presence of the Lord was experienced very profoundly,’ he said.
Benedict robustly defended the performance of the work of great composers at Mass, which he insisted was necessary for the fulfilment of the Second Vatican Council’s wish that ‘the patrimony of sacred music [is] preserved and developed with great care’.
In the heat of the midday sun, the fields and woodlands between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia look idyllic: birds sing, the grass is smudged with wild poppies, all seems quiet. But this picture of pastoral peace is, I’m afraid, an illusion. This is Greece’s Wild West, a lawless and desperate place known as ‘The Jungle’, where people are beaten up every day.
‘It’s dangerous out there,’ says the fat Greek policeman standing with me, just north of the village of Idomeni.
Who knows whether Harper Lee, now 89, has given permission for her novel, Go Set a Watchman, to be published next week? Perhaps — as the rumours have it — she really is deaf and blind, and mentally incapable of sanctioning the book’s release, as she sits in a nursing home in her birthplace, Monroeville, Alabama.
But I do know that — contrary to popular opinion — she hasn’t shut herself off from the world since To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960.
An overnight stop on the Ile de Ré taken between the St Malo ferry and the Quercy, where we always spend June, reminds one how closely French history lives entangled with modern life. Sleek hotels, harbours full of private boats, overpriced gift and fashion boutiques are cheek by jowl with ancient monuments and fortifications, in streets of small stone houses so narrow that the ubiquitous bicycles barely get through.
In a documentary filmed at the end of his life, Sir John Betjeman, who lived in the village of Trebetherick on the Camel estuary in north Cornwall, famously regretted not having had more sex. That problem doesn’t seem apply to today’s party crowd in the area. Nearby Rock and Polzeath are thronging with bingeing public-school teenagers, traffic jams of gleaming 4x4s, and new-build houses with plasma screens, wet rooms and all that hedge-funders require.