In the whole panoply of human idiocy is there anything so ridiculous as the outrage that occurs whenever people are reminded that spies spy? There was just such an outburst recently when Edward Snowden left his job as a contractor to the CIA and NSA, repelled, he said, by the discovery that surveillance programmes carry out surveillance. Snowden discovered that American and British intelligence agencies were involved in data trawling and was so horrified that he found it necessary to flee — first to the freedom-loving People’s Republic of China and then, to seek asylum, to Moscow.
‘Well, what diets have you tried so far?’ asked the GP, flicking through the patient’s notes. I was an innocent trainee doctor on my general practice placement at the time and watched the interaction carefully, sensing a row was about to ensue. ‘Look, I don’t want to go on a diet, I want you to prescribe me these,’ snapped the patient, bringing out a neatly folded page she had torn out of a magazine.
First things first. Yes, Val d’Isère does have a reputation for being expensive — and it is, especially if you’re planning on eating out and embracing the après ski every night. But no matter what anyone says, you can’t argue with the fact that the skiing is fantastic. Combined with its neighbour, Tignes, there’s a total of 330km of piste to explore, with plenty of steep red and blue runs that are perfect for intermediate and advanced skiers.
Malcolm Gladwell, the curly-haired, counter-intuitive guru of modern thought who wrote The Tipping Point and Blink, certainly has a readable style, and often a striking way of turning received notions on their head. His latest book, David and Goliath — about the inspiring advantages of perceived disadvantage — is accompanied by a much-hyped speaking tour, the blurb for which describes him as a ‘global phenomenon’.
On or around 17 October, the United States will stop paying its bills. The US Treasury will reach the limit of the debt it can legally issue — the ‘debt ceiling’ — and unless Barack Obama and Republicans in the House of Representatives come to an agreement, the US will stand on the brink of default.
How did Obama get us into this mess? More importantly, can he get us out before the country (if not the world) plummets into crisis?
The answer to the first question might surprise you: Obama is not an adroit politician.
Jeer if you will, but I was shocked by the latest Bridget Jones book, Mad About the Boy. I was shocked by the sex. No, honestly. Compared with its predecessors, including a one-off series about how Bridget got pregnant but wasn’t sure by whom, this latest book ratchets up the raunch quite markedly.
Granted, Bridget is having it off with a boy of 29 (to her 51), but there weren’t any passages from her previous diaries like this: ‘Oh God.
Until I plotted a book on England’s best views I had not realised how much people cared. Ask them to nominate a favourite church or house or even town and they will casually suggest a few. Ask for a view and you delve deep. A view is personal, intimate. It is not a landscape but the experience of a landscape. Many suggested places where they had fallen in love or found consolation. A number said simply, ‘The view from the end of my garden.