At nine in the morning, Cumnor in Oxfordshire looks like the setting for a Miss Marple mystery. Cotswold cottages run around the outside bend of a narrow high street and on the other side a grassy bank rises up to a graveyard. Nothing moves except the tops of fir trees growing among the tombstones.
Standing in front of St Michael’s church I can see the roof of the Reverend Keith Ward’s house. Cumnor isn’t quite the sort of parish you’d expect to find the former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, a liberal intellectual whom the Archbishop of Canterbury calls ‘a much loved and admired thinker’.
Little old ladies with bottles of ink, mounds of writing-paper and firm hands have long been the bane of government officials. There’s even a name for them: ‘Angry of Tunbridge Wells’. My great-grandmother, Lilla, whom I remember living in that venerable Kentish town, was Super-Angry. She was so angry that at the age of 100, after an extraordinary exchange of correspondence lasting 30 years and consuming many sheets of Basildon Bond, she succeeded in extracting a cheque from none other than the communist government of China.
Russia’s continuing brutality in Chechnya is the root cause of the Beslan massacre. So why does Blair grovel to Putin? The answer, says Simon Heffer, is oilWere any of us unlucky enough to be Vladimir Putin, we too would be keen to make the rest of the world think that what happened in Beslan last week was yet another chapter in al-Qa’eda’s campaign of international terrorism. Luckily, you would have some evidence to bear out your theory.