Congratulations, Baby Windsor. You have just been born a subject of Her Britannic Majesty (as it used to say on the passports) and have therefore won life’s lottery. Actually, given the state of the nation and the economy, maybe ‘won life’s dog-eared scratchcard’ is more the phrase juste. Still, you’ve done amazingly well. Thanks to the freakiest odds imaginable you have, merely by the accident of being conceived by the right couple, leapfrogged to the covetable position of third in line to the British throne.
It has been a glorious sunny week in Britain — it feels as if summer is finally here. As Andy Murray was winning Wimbledon, temperatures on Centre Court exceeded 40˚C in the sun. Northern Ireland has been hotter than Cancun. The papers have begun their annual drip-feed of stories about ‘tombstoning’ — young people throwing themselves from cliffs and bridges into water. It is hard to believe that it was just a few weeks ago that the Met Office braced us for a ‘colder-than-average’ July and a decade of soggy summers.
When my parents came to choose a secondary school, they were naturally keen to send little Sebastian to the best possible place — regardless of whether it was state or independent. Their first choice was Emmanuel College in Gateshead, where we lived — one of Kenneth Baker’s original city technology colleges and inspiration for Labour’s academy programme. The next was the fee-paying King’s School in Tynemouth.
Two years ago, the West thought it recognised what was happening in the Arab world: people wanted democracy, and were having revolutions to make that point. Now, recent events in Egypt have left many open-mouthed. Why should the generals be welcomed back? Why should the same crowds who gathered in Tahrir Square to protest against the old regime reconvene to cheer the deposing of their elected president? Could it be that the Arab Spring was about something else entirely?
I believe so.
A female friend asked me to a burlesque night she had organised. She honestly thought I would enjoy it. ‘Come and see naked women who aren’t being exploited,’ she said.
My friend said this because I sometimes hide from the world in the dark caves of Hackney, where ladies collect pounds in a pint glass and then turn around a pole with all the joie de vivre of a rusty weathervane in a light gale. On a wet weekday afternoon there are typically six or seven punters in these stews, who half-watch the show while drinking lager, munching crisps and thumbing through Loot or watching the cricket on the screen in the corner.
His Grace the tenth Duke of Richmond gave my father the job of running his beloved racecourse, Goodwood, when I was four. Memories of my childhood are framed by the sweep of Goodwood estate. I may have learned to walk on Trundle Hill. I certainly learned to drive on the legendary motor-racing circuit — which may explain the points on my licence.
Goodwood Racecourse dates from 1802 when the third Duke — grandson of Charles II — crafted a track in the unorthodox setting of the South Downs.
‘Oh, some of my films have been attacked with absolute vitriol!’ said Nicolas Roeg, 85, and still one of the darkest and most innovative of post-war British directors. We were sitting in his study in Notting Hill; nearby in Powis Square is the house Roeg used for his 1968 debut, Performance, starring Mick Jagger as the rock star who entices a gangster (James Fox) into a drug-induced identity crisis.