My foray into the world of online dating was short-lived. Within a few hours of my profile going live, a deluge of young men in their early twenties began to bombard me with messages.
I was shocked and somewhat delighted. At my age, I had expected mostly sad widowers and maybe the odd divorced equine veterinarian, encouraged by the pictures of me on my horses. To attract a clamour of Ashton Kutchers was beyond my wildest dreams because, although I was now undoubtedly in the cougar age group, I really hadn’t seen myself as a Demi Moore.
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[/audioplayer]Most political commentators consider Ed Miliband a useless leader. In a narrow sense they are right. He is not very good at getting a positive press or eliciting the support of important outside voices in the media and the business community.
In 2006, when David Cameron was leader of the opposition, he made an infamous speech that is remembered as an exhortation to hug a hoodie. Feral youth, he said, should be helped rather than demonised. He was reaching towards what he hoped would be a new, ‘compassionate’ conservatism inspired in part by the charismatic social activist Camila Batmanghelidjh.
She was the perfect lodestar for the young Tory leader.
The first pagan temple to be built in Iceland for a thousand years has just been granted planning permission, a wonderful bureaucratic detail that shows up just how much this revival is polite make-believe. Ragnar Hairybreeks or Harald Bluetooth would not seek planning permission before building a place of sacrifice. At Gamla Uppsala, the Viking temple site in Sweden, horses were hanged to please the gods in groups of nine from trees, along with cattle, sheep, and human beings.
Albert Square full of Thatcherites? You ’avin a larf? No, it’s true. EastEnders, conceived 30 years ago partly as a means of enraging the Conservative party, has blossomed into a Tory commercial.
Iain Duncan-Smith could watch all the wealth-creating activity in Albert Square with a syrupy smile; George Osborne could visit Phil Mitchell’s garage in a hi-vis jacket and look perfectly at home (Boris Johnson has already had a cameo pint at the Queen Vic).
I did a film with Dame Joan Collins once. No no, not The Stud. It wasn’t as good as that. It was called The Clandestine Marriage. And although it wasn’t that fun to watch, it was really fun to make. We filmed it one autumn in someone’s stately home. I had a lovely fling with a woman in the art department, who, in order to hide the fling from friends of her faraway boyfriend, came up with the brilliant ruse of pretending to have a fling with the third assistant director to confuse everyone.
If you want something to worry about, you need only cast your eye across the channel to find yourself spoilt for choice. There is the background noise of massive unrepayable sovereign debt levels. There’s huge youth unemployment. There are angry minority political parties — note the rise of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos. There is the battle between those who think the eurozone can survive as just a monetary union and those who know that it will only survive if it gives into political union.
Buy jerry cans and fill them while you can. You won’t want to be caught out by the great oil shortage of 2016. Maybe that is exaggerating a little, but when you start hearing people talking about the world being ‘awash’ with oil, and read of oil companies slashing exploration and towing rigs to be laid up in the Moray Firth, you have to wonder if an oil crunch can be far behind. Someone is going to make a fortune when the balance between supply and demand flips and prices rocket again.
If you want something done properly, it often pays to do it yourself. So it must be good news that as of 6 April, when George Osborne’s pension reforms take effect, it will be easier than ever to run your own pension fund, because you won’t be forced to retire as an investor when you cease to work for a living. Instead, everyone — not just the rich — will be allowed to retain ownership of their life savings and try to live off them by means of what is known in the jargon as ‘income drawdown’.
Fez is one of the seven medieval wonders of the world. An intact Islamic city defined by its circuit of battlemented walls, it is riven by alleyways. You pass doorways that look into a 10th-century mosque, then a workshop courtyard, before coming through a teeming covered market and twisting past the high walls of a reclusive garden palace. The aesthetic highlight of any visit will be the teaching colleges built in the 14th century by the Merenid Sultans, and nothing can quite prepare you for the colours and odours of the open-air tanneries or the drama of listening to the dusk call to prayer from the ruins of the Merenid tombs.