There was something rather un-British about all that grovelling to Fifa last week. That, at least, appears to be the new national consensus after even the combined charms of Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham failed to land England the World Cup. We are not, we now realise, the kind of people who prostrate themselves to fat foreign sports bureaucrats. The mother of parliaments will never yield its cherished prerogatives to the rococo whims of some grubby Swiss tax-dodgers.
For a man who earns his living by publishing other people’s email, Julian Assange has a high opinion of himself. You can hear that in his rhetoric, which combines the paranoia of the early Bolsheviks with the arrogance of a teenage computer hacker. When a subordinate dared threaten him a few months ago, Assange slapped him down by declaring himself ‘the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier, and all the rest’.
There is a word, unknown in this country, which once a year strikes terror into the hearts of millions of young people: Gaokao. This is the slang term for the Chinese National Higher Education Entrance Examinations, and though only a few translated questions have found their way out of the secretive state, their level of complexity raises serious concerns about our own education system. The results released by Pisa (the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment) this week not only raise the same concerns but absolutely confirm them.
Christmas is coming, so that means presents. And for lots of us, that means scent. Some of the hopeful donors will be the sort to wander helplessly around a fragrance department, bewildered by choice until they seize, in desperation, on the stuff that looks nicely packaged. That was the route whereby my father once bought my mother some pleasing aftershave.Others will know exactly what they’re after: the scent their womenfolk have always liked, the perfume their own mothers used to wear.