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My one-way ticket out of Moscow

Things fall apart. Moscow friends call to say that I have to urgently send my 19-year-old son out of Russia. He is travelling on his Russian passport and a new law says that he is obliged to register for the military draft. Nikita is on a gap year working at a Moscow theatre and he

Nadhim Zahawi: how I escaped Saddam’s Iraq

One night in December 1977, when Saddam Hussein was deputy leader of Iraq and already the strongman of the government, Nadhim Zahawi’s father was tipped off that Saddam’s secret police were after him. Zahawi, a Kurd working in Baghdad, decided to leave right away. He phoned the office to say that he was travelling to

This be the curse: Philip Larkin’s big problem

In matters of sex, Philip Larkin was late getting away. On his 23rd birthday, he wrote defeatedly to Kingsley Amis: ‘I really do not think it likely I shall ever get into the same bed as anyone again because it is so much trouble, almost as much trouble as standing for parliament.’ His 2014 biographer,

The war is redefining Poland’s place in the world

The Polish government has for years been something of a pariah on the liberal international stage. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, which is firmly on the political right, is at odds with the EU establishment, particularly over its judicial reforms, which critics say will threaten the key democratic principle of separation of constitutional powers.

What if Putin hasn’t miscalculated – but the West has?

Conventional wisdom dictates that Vladimir Putin has ‘miscalculated’ in his invasion of Ukraine. His blitzkrieg has been poorly executed. He has reinvigorated the Nato alliance and the EU and triggered heavy sanctions. And he has lost the ‘information war’ to Volodymyr Zelensky, the TV comedian turned global hero. But what if the West has ‘miscalculated’

Are you man enough to eat raw offal?

The dominant wolf gets the liver, at least according to the American podcaster Joe Rogan. In one episode, a bodybuilder called ‘CarnivoreMD’ (real name Paul Saladino) tells him: ‘If you eat liver, you get to be an alpha male… or alpha female.’ Offal has taken a markedly macho turn in recent years. No longer resigned

Notes on...

The cult of the convertible

The earliest cars were technically convertibles because the technology to fit a roof did not exist. Now the dedicated retractable hardtop roof convertible is a century old – invented in 1922 and transported to America after the war because GIs loved them. These are cars of pleasure, and we know it: less than 2 per