A girlfriend who was about to get married was telling me about her wedding plans recently when she said, almost as an aside: ‘Oh, and I’ve converted to Islam.’
Her fiancé was a Muslim but she thought it no more than a minor detail — like ordering the corsages, or finalising the table plan — to arrange a private ceremony before the big day in which she took on his faith. I think she expected me to say ‘How lovely.
Nobody this side of the indecently callous would wish to rain upon the parade in Machynlleth on Sunday. As it slowly wound its way through the streets towards the local church, we turned away, then watched, then turned away again from the raw faces of people who had spent six days in search and hope that dwindled to despondency and despair.
So here we are once again, expecting forthwith to learn more than we would ever want to know, while understanding none of it.
Conference Season: for people watching it on telly, it is noise coming from Huw Edwards’s face, with pictures of people waving. For the rest of us, the devil has blown into town. First come the Lib Dems, in Brighton — the only party sentimental enough to think of candy floss and helter skelters and then of politics. Lib Dems are damp, think damp, love damply: they haven’t been happy since 2010, when power fell on them like a book.
How thrilling it is when someone finally stages a demonstration against you. All right, it was a very small protest (one person), and it was in Southampton on a wet Sunday morning. But it was all mine. Stretched by the roadside was a dank bedsheet bearing the words ‘Peter Hitchens is a hypocritical racist alcoholic. Spread your bile elsewhere. No one cares what you have to say.’ I don’t accept this as entirely accurate, but, under the circumstances, why quibble? Also, it made me think.
If you were to ask the editor of one of our quality newspapers whether he had thought about how to adapt to the internet, he would look at you as if you had been locked in a basement for 20 years, and then tell you that he thinks of little else. And it would be true, sort of. The Kindle, the iPad, new business models for the website: that’s where the clever ideas are. But the printed paper is also affected by the web, and in that realm the conventional wisdom is curiously out of date.
Ronald Blythe, our greatest rural writer, remembers sheep being driven through Lavenham, the Suffolk wool town, before the war. Now he’s lived long enough to see the same street filled with Japanese tourists. On the eve of his 90th birthday, on 6 November, Blythe doesn’t mourn that lost way of life. If anything, Akenfield — his 1969 bestseller about a fictional Suffolk village from 1880 to 1966 — exposed quite how back-breakingly grim country life was for most farmworkers, like his own father, a Gallipoli veteran.