‘Gas!’ Bodies piled up grotesquely in a stairwell. No sign of injuries. A father cradles two small children. Still, pale as ghosts. A doctor says the victims died suffocating, foaming at the mouth. One man declares: ‘I could feel my lungs shutting down.’ Babies getting hosed with water in a makeshift hospital. These words and images from the Syrian town of Douma filled the rolling news channels on Monday.
Remember the never-ending handshake? It was 14 July 2017, Bastille Day, and Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump opened their formal relationship as leaders of their respective countries by interlocking palms and refusing to let go. They kept at it for a good 30 seconds. They didn’t release even as Trump began kissing Macron’s wife.
It looked like the beginnings of a bitter rivalry. But Trump and Macron weren’t clashing.
When Anthony Scaramucci announced that he was writing a book about his time with Donald Trump, the joke was that it should be entitled ‘Ten Days That Shook the World’. This, he says, does him an injustice because he managed 11 days as White House communications director before being fired — after a lava flow of stories that seemed extraordinary even by Trumpian standards. But he remained loyal to the President, and has been speaking in his defence ever since.
A young man in a grey tracksuit and silver mask looks straight at the camera. He is flanked by others in black anoraks, heads jabbed sideways, moving to the beat. The young man raises his hand and curls it into the shape of a gun. ‘Bang, bang, I made the street messy. Bang, bang and I don’t feel sorry for his mum.’
Last year 80 people were stabbed to death in London, a quarter in their teens. Fifty have died already this year.
The recent news of a Spice Girls reunion will, I suspect, be greeted by some former fans with nostalgic longing and others with an embarrassed cringe. But whether you’re a fan or foe, I think it’s worth remembering that golden decade of Girl Power — the 1990s — when it was bliss to be young and female.
With our present preoccupation with the abuses of male power, we’ve forgotten about Girl Power. It was a fun-fuelled feminism for the mainstream; a materialistic and hedonistic celebration of female assertiveness, ambition and self-reliance.
As well as writing about religion, I have always been an amateur religious artist. Recently I’ve been getting a bit more serious about it, and have made a few art works for churches. I recently created one for a City of London church. The vicar, a friend, suggested it might appeal to youngish people somewhat at odds with conventional church (his church hosts such a group). I made a large fabric collage depicting an exorcism: Jesus casting out a demon.
When Facebook and co stop selling on our details to third parties, will it be the end of spam? For half an hour every evening my otherwise chatty husband is lost to me as he deletes hundreds and hundreds of emails. My PA does the same, and so do I. The waste of time is criminal. But I doubt the spam will stop. If junk through the front-door mail box isn’t illegal, I guess junk through a virtual mailbox can’t be either.
Long-distance walking is all the rage these days. There are all-nighters staged by charities, for instance the annual MoonWalk in London, which raises funds to fight breast cancer: participants of both sexes walk marathon and half-marathon routes wearing bras. The outfits might have changed, but when it comes to foot-slogging, long-distance has a long history.
Charles Dickens liked a nocturnal ramble.