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The dragon vs the bear

At the height of the Cold War, as the West faced off against Red China and the Soviet Union, people used to joke that optimists learnt Russian while pessimists learnt Chinese. Today, the debate about which of these two great powers represents the biggest threat to our way of life is once again in full

A class act | 10 January 2019

The English love a story of posh people behaving badly, especially one that involves sex, drugs or drink — preferably all three at once — in some stately home or Mayfair pad. In 1963, following the Profumo scandal (yes, the one involving Christine Keeler) the nation was gripped by tales of sex parties involving prostitutes,

Project Fact

Food shortages, diabetics going without insulin, outbreaks of salmonella and swine flu: a no-deal Brexit has become a dystopia of the imagination that gives even the Old Testament a run for its money. To lend it extra credence, the doomsayers are not muttering men with long white beards but business leaders and figures from respectable-sounding

Quiet terror

They don’t like to use the ‘Q’ word in counter-terrorism. It’s a bit like blurting out the name of the Scottish Play in a theatre. At Christmas parties, members of the security agencies insisted they had never been busier but once the year had turned and they were no longer tempting fate, they were prepared

Macron’s prophet

France’s literary event of the year took place this week with the publication of Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Serotonin. Named after the brain chemical that regulates mood, his seventh novel has been described by one French newspaper as ‘prophesying the yellow vest movement’. The critics have lavished praise and the public are plucking it from

Homegrown industry

If you were looking for an international drugs empire, Downham Market would not be the first place you’d think of. With a population of around 10,000, this sleepy Fenland town is probably about as typical as they come — typical, that is, apart from the smell. It was around two years ago that residents first

Meat-free moggies

As I write, my cats and a visitor from the next street are hammering into their food, at nearly £5 a box. Once they only ate greens to make themselves vomit, but now they relish food labelled, ‘garden fresh’, containing carrots, pumpkin and pulses, plus ‘prebiotics to aid digestion’. I watch them eat and wonder

Notes on...

Brits in Paris

‘Yes, it’s here!’ says the sign above the English épicerie in Paris. ‘Yes, at last,’ thinks the starved expat wandering in a desert of croissants, magret de canard and monts blancs. Now for some real food: Fray Bentos pies, Quaker Oats, Fentimans lemonade, HP Sauce, Marmite, Tetley’s, Twinings, Dorset cereals, Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, Altoids